<h1>Blackjack Hall of Fame and Edward Thorp, Peter Griffin, Arnold Snyder, Stanford Wong, Lawrence Revere, Keith Taft, Tommy Hyland, Max Rubin, Ken Uston, Al Francesco, Julian Braun.</h1>
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Blackjack Hall of Fame and Edward Thorp, Peter Griffin, Arnold Snyder, Stanford Wong, Lawrence Revere, Keith Taft, Tommy Hyland, Max Rubin, Ken Uston, Al Francesco, Julian Braun

© 2005 Blackjack Forum Online

In the Winter of 2002 a diverse selection of seven blackjack researchers, innovators, and great professional players were elected by 100 of the top professional blackjack players in the world to the Blackjack Hall of Fame.

To read more about the seven original inductees, and the players and researchers of great achievement elected since then, see The Blackjack Hall of Fame in the Blackjack Forum library.

In 2006 and in each year hereafter, one new player or researcher of great achievement will be inducted into the Blackjack Hall of Fame, and you are invited to participate in the voting that will help decide who that new member will be.

Seven nominees have been chosen by the current Blackjack Hall of Fame members. Below you will find, in chronological order, a short description of the achievements of each of the nominees, with a link to a more information on each.

You will also find a ballot, on which you may vote for one, and only one, of the nominees. One vote per voter, please.

Thank you for participating in the public voting for the 2006 inductee into the Blackjack Hall of Fame.



Eleanore Dumont, aka Madame Mustache

No one knows exactly where she came from, but we do know that while still in her early twenties, she arrived in the California town of Nevada City, a few hundred miles northwest of San Francisco, a town that had sprung up when a rich vein of gold was struck in the Empire mine. Within a few weeks of her arrival, she rented a place in the center of town and hung a sign out front that named her establishment, appropriately, the “Vingt-Et-Un.” Her saloon soon became the number one gambling establishment in the town. According to Robert DeArment (Knights of the Green Cloth), “After closing her game, she would uncork bottles of champagne and treat the losers. More than one miner averred that he would rather lose to the Madame than win from somebody else.”

In 1857, she moved to Columbia, then in 1859, she moved to Virginia City, and again in 1861 to Pioche, basically following the gold strikes and amassing a small fortune via her skill at cards. In Pioche, she began dealing twenty-one in a saloon owned by a man named Jack McKnight, fell in love with him and married him. Shortly after their marriage, however, McKnight deserted her, disappearing with all of her money!

She went back to dealing twenty-one, following the gold strikes, always on the move, now traveling with a pistol—hoping to someday cross paths with Jack McKnight. She moved to Fort Benton, Montana, then to Helena, then to Salmon, Idaho, back to Virginia City, and finally to Bodie, California.

Eleanore Dumont is the first known professional twenty-one player in history. Surely there were other cardsharps before her, but none whose names are known and who specialized in the game of twenty-one exclusively. Throughout a gambling career of almost thirty years, Madame Mustache played only one game—twenty-one—and in the gambling dens of the old West, she became a legend in her lifetime. In addition to Knights of the Green Cloth, you can read about Eleanore Dumont in Notorious Ladies of the Frontier, by Harry Sinclair Drago, Play the Devil, by Henry Chafetz, and the Gambler’s Bedside Book, edited by John K. Hutchens.

Jess Marcum

Late in his life, Jess Marcum was a highly-paid consultant to Donald Trump. He’s mentioned in the book Temples of Chance. Early in his adulthood, he was a Rand Corporation nuclear physicist who quit working for the government in the early 1950s to become a professional gambler. In The Automat: Jess Marcum, Gambling Genius of the Century, self-published in 1993 by Sam Cohen, a lifelong friend of Marcum’s, Cohen relates how Marcum, in the 1950s, bankrolled by millionaire friends, burned out his welcome at the blackjack tables not only in Las Vegas, but in Havana and throughout the casinos in the Caribbean islands. Marcum never published his blackjack system. Allan Schaffer, a personal friend of Marcum’s, says that without using a computer, Marcum had pretty much figured out card counting at blackjack in 1949. He was barred from playing the game at one casino after another in Las Vegas, though the casinos had no idea how he was beating them. (At this time, the casinos recognized only “ace counters,” players who made very large bets near the end of the deck when no aces had yet been dealt.)

In a fascinating as-yet-unpublished autobiography by Jack Newton, one of a handful of pre-Thorp card counters from the 1950s, Newton says that it was Marcum who invented the first “point count” system for blackjack. He tells a very funny story about Marcum and Manny Kimmel (another pre-Thorp counter). They went to Havana (pre-Castro) and beat one casino for $250,000 over a period of a few days. Part of their “system” was very clever. The casino allowed doubling down on 9, 10 and 11, so when Kimmel was dealt a pair of 9s versus a dealer ace upcard, he asked the dealer if he could split the 9s, then double down on each 9 before he took a hit card. The dealer asked the boss, who called over the shift manager. Manny explained that since the casino allowed doubling after splits and doubling on 9, 10, and 11, he felt he should be able to double down on each 9, if he split the pair. As he was looking at an ace upcard, the boss thought he was crazy and told the dealer he would allow it. Manny split, doubled down on both hands, and lost both. The boss instructed the dealer that this would be allowed on the table. From that point forward, any time Manny or Jess were dealt a 2-card 20 against any dealer low card, they would split the tens and double down on each one! Unfortunately, according to Newton, Batista’s mob intercepted Manny and Jess at the Havana airport as they were preparing to depart. They accused the pair of cheating the casino, and confiscated all the money.

Jess Marcum died in 1992. There is an article about Jess Marcum by Allan Schaffer in the Blackjack Forum Online Library.

The Four Horsemen

In 1956, they developed and published the first accurate basic strategy for blackjack, bravely refuting the work of the well-known John Scarne. They had spent three years crunching numbers on mechanical adding machines to develop this strategy. They also published the first card counting strategy in 1957, five years prior to Thorp. It appeared in their book, Playing Blackjack to Win, in a chapter titled “Using the Exposed Cards to Improve Your Chances.” Their counting system may have been weak, and they may have underestimated the value of counting, but Thorp acknowledges that it was the work on blackjack by the Four Horsemen that initially encouraged him to use a high-speed computer to take their findings further.

Allan Wilson

Wilson’s only book, The Casino Gambler’s Guide (1965), contained the best descriptions of standard deviation, risk of ruin, the Kelly Criterion, the uselessness of betting progression systems, and bet-sizing advice based on bankroll considerations specifically for blackjack card counters, that were in print for many years to come. He also published in this book some of the first computer simulations comparing blackjack card counting systems. Most blackjack pros in the 60s and early 70s acknowledge Wilson’s book as being monumentally important to serious players, as it was the only book for decades that provided advantage players with practical advice on managing negative fluctuations. Allan Wilson died about five years ago.

Bill Erb

Bill is mentioned in a number of Ken Uston’s books. Al Francesco initially met Bill in 1972 while playing poker and realized immediately that Bill was very smart, a savvy gambler, and might make an excellent Big Player. For three weeks he trained Bill—who had never counted cards—to play the Revere APC; then Al and Bill took a trip to Panama. Playing the 4-deck games, mostly with $100 maximum limits, over a period of three weeks, playing 8 hours a day, the two of them won $38,000.

Al described one hand on this trip that convinced him that Bill was beyond the norm in talent. Al had finished playing at his table and wandered over to the table where Bill was playing. At this casino, the table limit was $200 per hand, and Bill had out five hands of the table max. As Al approached, the dealer was just completing the deal (face up) and Bill had been dealt four hands totaling between 18 and 20. The dealer had a ten up. The casino knew that Al and Bill were friends and had come together. Al looked at the table, pointed to the dealer’s ten up, and said, “Hit.” (In Panama, dealers did not take a hole card until after the players completed their hands. This is important.) The dealer slid the next card out of the shoe, which turned out to be an ace, giving himself a blackjack. As he began sweeping the bets off the table, Bill raised a ruckus. “What the hell are you doing?!” The dealer seemed confused and started to point to his blackjack, when Bill said, “I didn’t tell you I was standing on any of my hands yet! I haven’t made a single decision yet! That guy can’t tell you how to play my hands!” The dealer called over the pit boss, explained the problem, and the boss asked Bill how he wanted to play his hands. Bill said that all of his hands were fine, except for the 20. He wanted to split his tens. The boss told the dealer to split the tens and to put the ace he had dealt to himself on one ten. Then he hit the other ten with an eight, giving Bill two hands of 21 and 18. The dealer then dealt a card to complete his own hand, a seven, making a 17 total. Bill was paid off on all six bets, $1200 total, instead of losing $1000!

In 1973, Al had a Big Player team in Vegas. There were two groups of six spotters, and two BPs, Bill and Ken. Ken had won about $27K at the Plaza, and felt that that was about all the punishment the casino could take. He called off the play, and disappeared. The spotters contacted Al, and Al told them to go to the Aladdin where Bill was BPing on two-deck games, playing the table max of $500/hand, two or three hands at a time. So, Bill had twelve spotters in a casino with two-deck games where big advantages were occurring much faster than he could keep up with them. Then, Bill got the idea of having the pit bosses place bets for him on other tables. He played for hours, three to four tables at a time, orchestrating bosses to place bets at various tables, then telling them how to play the hands when they’d yell to him what the cards were. A few years later, Uston wrote about this play as if he had done it himself. According to Al, it was Bill’s play and it was even crazier than Uston’s description. Bill had an ability to think fast under pressure and he would try almost anything to get the money.

In 1974, Al and Bill took a trip to Europe and found a casino in Dieppe, France with 4-deck games dealt literally to the bottom. The casino had only three blackjack tables with $100 maximums. Over a period of about ten days, with both Al and Bill placing max bets of 3 x $100, they had won a combined total of $220,000 (US), when the pit boss called off the game. He apologized to them because he said the house did not have enough money to pay them. It turned out the boss was also the owner of the casino, and he promised that he would “sell his farm” to pay them. They did eventually collect all but about $20K from the casino. According to Al, “This is the only instance I know of where two card counters literally put a casino out of business.”

Bill also became an expert hole card player. According to Al, he won about $30K at the Cal-Neva in Reno, and about $20K at a little joint in Jackpot, Nevada. The Cal-Neva had $100 maximum limits, and the casino in Jackpot had a $50 table limit. Bill was able to extract large amounts of money from even the smallest casinos!

Bill was also able to take even greater amounts of money out of casinos that could afford big action. He was the first blackjack player Al knew who figured out how to get a huge edge on the house by milking loss rebates. The only author who has written about rebate milking that I know of is Ian Andersen, in his new book, Burning the Tables in Las Vegas. Andersen was a friend of Bill Erb’s, and it’s likely he knew about Bill’s rebate hustling. Bill Erb was creative in the extreme, had courage, and was way ahead of his time. According to Al Francesco, Bill was one of the three best players, in terms of total money won, that he ever worked with.

Ian Andersen

Author of Turning the Tables on Las Vegas (1976) and Burning the Tables in Las Vegas (1999). His first book was unique and very important to pros. He was the first author to concentrate on casino comportment and getting away with advantage play at high stakes. He was hustling comps before Max Rubin and playing tells before Steve Forte. (Note: Also see comments on Ian Andersen under Bill Erb’s bio.)

James Grosjean

His book, Beyond Counting, became an instant classic with professional players. Meticulous analyst of off-beat advantage techniques, such as hole card play, milking promo chips, rebates, etc., he was recently awarded $400,000 by a Las Vegas jury in a case he brought against the Imperial Palace. The IP security guards had back-roomed him, put him in handcuffs, couldn’t find any reason to hold him, and after an hour, let him go. He sued them for violating his civil rights. The jury’s award was directly due to his attention to detail in the suit and the determination and personal resources he brought to bear on the case. He has since won undisclosed amounts against both Caesars Palace and the Griffin Investigations agency for civil rights violations, forcing the Griffin Agency into bankruptcy. James Grosjean has published numerous articles and technical papers that can be found online in the Blackjack Forum Library.

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