In Blackjack There’s A Right Way…And a Wong Way

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.

The Legendary Luck of Blackjacker Packer

For most people, placing an enormous bet at the casino isn’t something done on a whim. Each punt taken might have the chance of making a tidy pile, but losing the stake is a risk not taken lightly. But imagine if you had a practically unlimited fortune to back you up, then your bets might be a little more devil-may-care. Such was the case with blackjack legend Kerry Packer.


The Australian mogul had inherited a mind-bogglingly huge fortune of 100 million Aussie dollars (now €67 million) from his father’s media empire at the age of 37. Packer was an astute businessman and made some canny investments, most notably he was the first person to make money by televising cricket matches. By the end of his incredible life, he was reportedly worth $AUS 6.5 billion – that’s almost four and a half billion euros. But it was in the casinos where Packer really excelled, his blackjack skills, luck, and penchant for outrageous bets have made him legendary in gambling circles.


High Roller Betting Style


The casinos trod a thin line with Packer. He was prone to make bets of $300,000 on a single hand of Blackjack, and when he didn’t hit the mark, the casinos did well. When his luck was on, though, it could spell near ruin for the casino. Luckily for them, he didn’t always have the winning hand, reportedly losing $19 million at the Ritz Club in Las Vegas, and on another occasion, dropping an astronomical $20 million at the Bellagio, the sort of wedge that would make your eyes water! But when he won, he won big. The MGM Grand in Vegas had to cough up sums of $24m and $33m to Packer when he went on a hot streak at Blackjack and Baccarat. The story goes that he almost broke the MGM Grand and several employees at that casino were fired shortly after for allowing his outrageous bets. Aspinall’s Casino in London also suffered at the hands of Packer’s ‘bet big, bet often’ strategy, and they were forced to close down after he cleaned them out playing blackjack.


It wasn’t just in his casino career that Packer’s luck paid out, though. In an extraordinary stroke of luck, his huge landholdings paid off when a deposit of rubies was discovered on his property. And when he suffered a massive heart attack in 1990, it was only by chance that the ambulance called out had a defibrillator fitted, not standard practice at the time. Packer was dead for six whole minutes before the paramedics revived him, his luck holding fast when he needed it the most.


The legend of Kerry Packer is revered in the casino world and while we may never get to bet the staggeringly huge amounts he could afford we can be inspired by his bravado and huge wins. A much-recounted Packer tale is of when a Texan oil tycoon was trying to bait Packer into playing poker with him. “I’m worth $60 million!” said the Texan. Taking out a coin, the ice-cool Packer replied: “Heads or tails, I’ll flip you for it.” Some legends deserve their status, Packer amongst them.


The Sweetest Win on a Holiday

Taking a holiday is probably the one thing we all look forward to the most. After months of slaving away in our day jobs we set our sights on those two weeks in the sun as something we have earned. The problem is, holidays aren’t cheap and if we really want to treat ourselves on vacation, then we’re looking at paying for it all the rest of the year. But what if we could combine that break with making a little extra dough?


Wouldn’t it be all the sweeter if the holiday could pay for itself, or even better, if you could come home with some extra cash as well as an enviable suntan? Well, it can be done and it has. By choosing to holiday in Las Vegas more than a few tourists have returned home both bronzed and better off financially than when they left.


And it makes sense, too. Let’s face it, after about day three of lounging by the pool or staring at ancient ruins following a six-hour bus trip, even the most chillaxed of us start to get antsy – we need some excitement. So checking in to Wynn resorts at the north end of the Vegas strip is a smart move. With surprisingly affordable room packages you can also forego any museum visits as the resort is bedecked with amazing modern art and cultural classics. That should leave you free to spend plenty of time in the luxurious gaming rooms on offer. Wynn’s poker room, if that’s your game, is the place to be seen. And while there are $5,000 slot machines, there is also a host of regular slots; this could well be where you make your holiday pay off.


One Crazy Chocolatier


One savvy traveller did just that at Wynn Resorts recently when they played the Willy Wonka slot machine. A throwaway flutter on the hugely popular game based on Roald Dahl’s crazy chocolatier netted that tourist a stunning $375,000.24, more than enough to cover their holiday expenses and keep them swimming in candy for the foreseeable future. When Wonka sang about his ‘world of pure imagination’ that lucky visitor couldn’t have dared to imagine the fortune that awaited him. Instead of returning homeward with a host of tasty treats, he got something even better from the Chocolate Factory; cold, hard cash that must have had him Oompa-loompa-ing all the way to the bank!


So the next time you’re sitting at your desk dreaming of where your next vacation will take you and how much it will cost, try planning a trip that could mean returning a whole lot wealthier instead. Imagine, if all goes well, you may never have to go back to that desk at all! If the Wonka game, or any other of the thousands on offer, goes your way you could be the next Charlie Bucket. Who knows, your airline ticket to a casino resort might also be your golden ticket to a whole new life, how sweet would that be?