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Best of Frank Scoblete

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Gambling's Greatest Wins, Runs, Records and Legends - Part 4

22 December 2001

BLACKJACK

Would you rather be lucky or skillful? Many gamblers have asked that question, even Santiago, Ernest Hemingway's ancient fisherman from the classic The Old Man and the Sea, wondered about this. His conclusion was that it was better to be skillful so that when luck came you were ready for it. Blackjack is a game of skill but some people have ridden lucky streaks to incredible wins.

In the spring of 1995, an old man found treasure at Treasure Island in Las Vegas. This was a rags to riches to rags story that has now taken on the aura of legend. While some writers think this tale is mere fiction, I can tell you it did happen. I personally interviewed dozens of eyewitnesses from Treasure Island for my book Best Blackjack, which has the complete story of the man sometimes referred to as "the million dollar bum." These interviews were done mere weeks after the events.

In a nutshell, here is the most amazing blackjack streak of all time as I wrote about it for Casino Player's "100 Greatest Events in Casino Gaming" issue:

"A smelly bum, whose wife has just kicked him out of the house, cashes in his $400 Social Security check and proceeds to win between 1.3 and 1.6 million dollars in a week-long orgy of good luck at the blackjack tables. The folks who deal to him and the folks who serve him say he is the rudest, crudest, but luckiest bastard they ever saw -- with the emphasis on the "b" word. At the height of his winning he alienates just about everyone he comes into contact with at Treasure Island. When he finally blows his incredible bundle (oh, yes, he loses just about all of it back to the casino), Steve Wynn steps in and has him escorted out into the neon night and into the dawn of a new Las Vegas legend."

The "million dollar bum" might have had the greatest sustained rags-to-riches streak -- over a week of winning -- by a player who did not play basic strategy but did play the gods of chance for all they were worth, that is, until they turned on him. However, a shorter but also improbable streak took place at the Maxim Casino in Las Vegas in July of 1995 (just weeks after the bum's rush), when a $5 player won 23 straight hands -- some with doubles, splits (wins on both!), and splits with doubles (wins on them all!) -- in blackjack playing heads up against a dealer in a six-deck game. This player was playing perfect basic strategy but, still, 23 straight hands is an amazing run. On the fourth hand, he started to increase his bets and he won several thousand dollars in that streak.

But luck comes and goes -- mostly goes since casino gaming for most folks is a negative-expectation endeavor -- but skill lasts. In the early and late 1970s the most exciting blackjack player in history, Ken Uston, beat the casinos in Vegas and Atlantic City out of over five million (some say 10 million) dollars utilizing a concept called "team play."

Here is a sample of how team play worked: Relatively small-stakes players took seats at various blackjack tables throughout the casino where they counted cards and used basic strategy to play their hands. When the shoe became positive for the player (many big cards were left), a small-stakes player signaled a "big player" (Uston) to enter the game, make large bets, sometimes table maximum bets of $500 to $2,000, and depart once the shoe went negative. It was a remarkably effective system that some teams still utilize to this day. It got Uston fame, fortune and the boot from just about every casino he played in.

Next time: "Here are four of the most famous 'legends' in the last 20 or so years."
Articles in this Series
Best of Frank Scoblete
Frank Scoblete

Frank Scoblete is the #1 best selling gaming author in America. His newest books are Slots Conquest: How to Beat the Slot Machines; Everything Casino Poker: Get the Edge at Video Poker, Texas Hold'em, Omaha Hi-Lo and Pai Gow Poker!; Beat Blackjack Now: The Easiest Way to Get the Edge; Casino Craps: Shoot to Win!; Cutting Edge Craps: Advanced Strategies for Serious Players; Casino Conquest: Beat the Casinos at Their Own Games! and The Virgin Kiss.

Frank and Casino City Times columnist Jerry "Stickman" teach private lessons in dice control. Frank's books are available at Amazon.com, in bookstores or by mail order. Call 1-800-944-0406 or write to Frank Scoblete Enterprises, PO Box 446, Malverne, NY 11565. Frank can also be reached by email at fscobe@optonline.net.

Frank Scoblete Websites:

www.goldentouchcraps.com
www.goldentouchblackjack.com

Books by Frank Scoblete:

> More Books By Frank Scoblete

Frank Scoblete
Frank Scoblete is the #1 best selling gaming author in America. His newest books are Slots Conquest: How to Beat the Slot Machines; Everything Casino Poker: Get the Edge at Video Poker, Texas Hold'em, Omaha Hi-Lo and Pai Gow Poker!; Beat Blackjack Now: The Easiest Way to Get the Edge; Casino Craps: Shoot to Win!; Cutting Edge Craps: Advanced Strategies for Serious Players; Casino Conquest: Beat the Casinos at Their Own Games! and The Virgin Kiss.

Frank and Casino City Times columnist Jerry "Stickman" teach private lessons in dice control. Frank's books are available at Amazon.com, in bookstores or by mail order. Call 1-800-944-0406 or write to Frank Scoblete Enterprises, PO Box 446, Malverne, NY 11565. Frank can also be reached by email at fscobe@optonline.net.

Frank Scoblete Websites:

www.goldentouchcraps.com
www.goldentouchblackjack.com

Books by Frank Scoblete:

Craps Underground: The Inside Story of How Dice Controllers are Winning Millions from the Casinos!

> More Books By Frank Scoblete