Ken Uston Biography and Card Counting History

Ken Uston was one of the premier blackjack players of this century. He's so impressive, I thought I'd do an article on him and shed light on his accomplishments.

He was born in New York City. This brilliant man started at Yale at 16 and later received an MBA from Harvard. He had a few executive jobs culminating in the senior vice president for the Pacific Stock Exchange. He was also a talented jazz musician who played in local jazz clubs in San Francisco. After reading Ed Thorpe's Beat the Dealer, he took an interest in blackjack card counting and spending more time in casinos.

He met Al Francesco in a poker game. It was by chance meeting but Francesco asked him to be a member of his newly forming blackjack team. It was through him he learned and applied blackjack card counting. Members would work the casinos with players and spotters who would go from table to table when it was a good time to go in. In a week, the team won over $44,000 of which more than $2000 was Uston's share. In today's dollar the $44,000 is over $200,000 and the $2000 is over $9000 for the week alone! He co-athored a book , The Big Player, where he described his successes. But, shortly after publication, the group found themselves barred from many casinos. He also wrote Million Dollar Blackjack and co-wrote Ken Uston on Blackjack.

In 1978 after the legalization of a casinos in Atlantic City, Uston moved to the local and was soon playing and winning in casinos there as well. He was barred by many casinos but later sued and won. The casinos barred him because was a skilled player. The courts sided with Uston on the grounds that skilled players shouldn't be barred. Instead casinos added multiple decks and moving up shuffle points and other measures to make it harder for card counters to work effectively.

In addition to blackjack, Ken Uston was an avid gamer . One his favorite games was Pac Man . He found he could only get up to certain level playing the game till two Chinese American boys showed him how. He went on to write Mastering Pac Man which went on to become a New York Times Bestseller.

He wrote several other books as well on video games and computers. He also had several video games named after him including Ken Uston's Profe$$ional Blackjack. This brilliant man packed alot of living into his life. He died in Paris at age 52 with the cause of death being heart failure.

Of course, there are many conspiracy theories. But it's best to look at the body of work he left behind.

Million Dollar Blackjack

Card counting works and the Uston card counting strategy was the strategy practiced by several top blackjack teams.

Of all his books still in print is Million Dollar Blackjack. For some it's like the Bible for blackjack players. Here's some reviews:

This is my favorite book out of all the blackjack books I've read. (I've read The World's Greatest Blackjack Book, Blackjack for Blood, Beat the Dealer, Professional Blackjack and Playing Blackjack As a Business)

The counting systems mentioned in this book work. I've been using the Uston Advanced Plus/Minus count for over 5 years now and have an awesome winning record. The Uston Advanced Point Count is also outlined in this book (It's extremely complicated though.)

I would recommend this book to anyone who is serious about counting cards or anyone who wants a really entertaining read.


Ken Uston (God rest his soul) was the KING of 21 during the 1970s and early 1980s. Million Dollar Blackjack is a masterpiece of the game, and the scene around it in Las Vegas and A-City during that time. Many casinos have knocked out single- and double-deck games, moving to 6 and 8 deck shoes. Uston did not have to deal with that back in the day; yet his stories about fighting off Griffin agents, pit bosses, and squirrly female dealers are the stuff of legends. The stories in this book pay for the price itself. As for the blackjack knowledge, the card counting pages are excellent, and while the comps information is 20 years too late, it still makes for interesting reading.


I'm a computer programmer who wrote a program to test counting cards and various scenarios.

This book will teach you a variety of systems to count cards. If you're going to play you might as well give yourself the best shot at winning.

First off, if you're going to count cards know that it's not easy. You have to be able to keep the count and memorize several grids, so that, you know every possible move. I would suggest playing at home for months and when you think you got it practice some more. Count the cards dealing to your self two cards at a time. You should be able to pull off two cards and have your new count figured in under 3 seconds. Once you're ready to play start off with the cheapest table and play for 6 months or more just to learn counting. You'll be amazed at the number of times you lose the count or can't remember a grid.

Also, just because the count is high and blackjacks are expected doesn't mean you're the one who's going to get them. The dealer might start getting blackjacks like crazy. I like to combine progressive money handling with my winning streaks and counting.

The computer program I developed showed that counting works but you have to play perfectly. I had the program play millions of hands at 25 dollars per hand. At it's worst it got down 30,000 dollars but then started an upward trend, recovered all the money and made a profit. So, ask yourself, if you walked into a casino just as that bad streak was coming do you have the 30,000 to play and are you willing to come back to the casino everyday for months and keep losing until the streak turns back the other way? If you have the 30,000 are you willing to risk it all?

Anyway, I haven't said much about the book but it is very good and you can learn the principles of counting cards. I did give the book 5 stars, so, I must believe that it teaches what it says.

I'm not giving anyone advice, play at your own risk.

Blackjack Card Counting Strategies

Card counting

Card counting is a strategic plan to assess when there is an advantage.It calls for tracking of ratio of cards from high to low.The basics are that high cards aces , kings , queens , jacks and tens are better and indicate a more favorable outcome than low cards whose appearance may indicate a bust.A running count is kept by a point score of the value each card .Each card is given either 1+ , 0 or -1. There are others card counting strategies that rank up to 5+ but due to time in a casino might not be applicable for an actual game.Below is several types of card counting systems and strategies


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