Not many gamblers can claim to have changed how the game is played or have their name pass into punter folklore but Stanford Wong is a true exception. Wong’s real name was John Ferguson and he was a blackjack master who not only made his fortune playing the game but generously passed on his tips and techniques to any who wanted them.
While earning his PhD at Stanford University, California, in the 1960s, Wong was also teaching classes in finance and, in his spare time, playing blackjack. He got so adept at blackjack that it soon became apparent that gambling would be a much more lucrative career path for him. To allow him to pursue his passion, he agreed to be paid a salary of just $1 for his final term at the university, this meant he did not have to attend faculty meetings and could now concentrate on his card-playing exploits.
Player, Writer and a Genius
While raking in the cash at casino tables, Wong was perfecting and recording his techniques to share with the world in his debut bestseller Professional Blackjack(1975). That publication is still considered the authority on the subject and many a card player made their stack swell by following Wong’s expert tips. In 1979, he also started a hugely popular newsletter Current Blackjack News that kept players up-to-date on rule changes and goings-on at tables worldwide. With a devoted following, the newsletter survives to this day and is now published from his website.
There’s even a technique named after the great man. A ‘Wong’ or ‘Wonging’ is the practice of counting cards in an ongoing blackjack game while not actually playing, and then taking a seat at the table once the count is to your advantage and winning big. Wonging lets other players take the bigger risk early on before swooping in to scoop the big money. Because of the popularity of this strategy, most casinos no longer allow new players to buy in mid-shoe – they must wait until the first hand after a shuffle.
As well as publishing several books on the subject of blackjack, genius Wong was also a trailblazer in the field of gambling software. His computer program Blackjack Analyzerwas one of the first pieces of odds analysing software to become commercially available and was a huge boost to beginner players who were baffled by the math behind becoming a blackjack whiz like Wong himself. Nor did he limit his amazing brain to studying just blackjack – Wong has published helper books on aspects of the casino world from video poker to dice games. In his book Wong on Dice, the boffin says he can teach punters how to win at craps through controlled throwing, a technique thought to be impossible, at one time even by Wong himself.
Wong keeps the grand total of his casino winnings close to his chest and these days prefers to bet on sports, wagering $25,000 a week on NFL games. Probably just as well, as some casinos have banned him from playing at their tables, afraid his awesome brainpower would clean them out. Thankfully his tips, tricks, and techniques have been generously passed on to the rest of us mere mortals to seek our fortune on the baize.