Ken Uston

Ken Uston was one of Blackjack's most colorful, well-known and gifted players. He was considered one of the best card counters in his time and worked with a team in a way that allowed them to increase their bets on favorable decks without attracting the attention of security. He was also a master of disguise, a necessity considering that, not only was he barred from many casinos, he also took them to court over banning players.

Uston was a Harvard MBA with a lucrative and successful career as a corporate vice president in San Francisco when he caught the Blackjack bug. After striking up a friendship with a professional gambler, he was extended an invitation to join their team, one of the "big player" teams that worked together to increase their winnings.

These teams would spread themselves out throughout the tables at a casino with each member keeping a count on the deck. When the card count was favorable, the "big player" would be signaled to come to the table and begin making large bets. Using this method, Uston soon proved his worth, becoming the big player himself in a short time.

His run ins with the casinos started in short order, as well. He and his associates where soon barred from most of the casinos in Las Vegas. In 1978, however, Atlantic City opened up its casinos and Uston was not far behind, moving to the city that same year and starting up another team.

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It would only be a year before Uston and his team were barred from most of the casinos in Atlantic City. As is natural for a gambler, Uston decided to press his luck. He filed a suit against the Resorts International chain in 1979, arguing that a casino could not bar a player simply because they were successful gamblers. The suit argued that players such as Uston were simply skilled and not cheaters.

Uston's bet paid off and the casinos in Atlantic City are legally barred from removing a player simply because they exhibit advanced skill at a game. The casinos soon switched to the multi-deck systems in use today, however, negating much of the advantage garnered by systems such as card counting.

Uston, despite his difficulties with the casinos, was not one to be turned away easily. Like many successful gamblers who have gotten themselves barred from the casino scene, Uston began to employ a variety of disguises. He was considered a master of the art, oftentimes being able to get away with casino visits without attempting to disguise his play style, which was known for making him one of the more interesting players to watch.

Uston published books on the subject of Blackjack and was involved in the video gaming industry to a great extent. Uston's luck ultimately ran out in 1987 when he was found dead of heart failure at his Paris flat. His techniques continue to be relevant to players and his image and story very enduring.