Top 10 Most Famous Professional Blackjack Players

Blackjack is one of the most famous card games played in high-stakes games in some of the world’s most famous casinos. It is no surprise that it has produced semi-celebrities amongst its players, some of whom have been big winners and made a career of it. Who are these people and what are they all about?

Ken Uston

He died in 1987 at the age of 52 and is largely credited with popularising team play. An excellent player on his own, he took advantage of the concept of card counting and after several high wins, was banned from some of the world’s top casinos. He got around that by adopting disguises in order to enter and continue his winning ways. He later challenged his ban and won that too.

Cathy Hulbert

Though more famous as a poker player, she has also gained notable fame as a blackjack player. To many, she is one of the most successful professional gamblers in the history of gambling. She started playing cards as a student in order to fund her education; she proved successful at it during her time at college, coming to rely on her winnings. After a few years in an unrewarding job, she moved from NY the Vegas to learn Poker.

Steve Forte

His successful game play led to the publication of a book to help gamblers “read” tactics and policies of casinos in order that players can maximise their winnings. It was called “Read the Dealer”. The fact that the book was publicly available meant that the casinos themselves also read the book, adapted their methods in order to counteract the advantages the book offered.

Alice Walker

The first woman to win World Series of Blackjack in 2007, she began playing the game at just three years old. She isn’t just a blackjack player though, she has also won several big poker tournaments. She is the first person ever to have won back to back poker (in this case, the Three Card Poker tournament) and blackjack tournaments which she did in 2008.

Edward Thorp

Much of Blackjack deals in probabilities – unlike other games, there is not much you can control. Edward O. Thorp is a professor of mathematics in the field of probability theory. This makes and made him a nightmare customer for casino. He published a book on probability in the 1960s by (called Beat the Dealer) which proved the “house advantage” hypothesis. He learned a computer language and used an advanced IBM to work out his calculations.

Erica Schoenberg

Schoenberg is famous for playing both poker and blackjack but in a previous career was a model, volleyball player and personal trainer. Though she has not yet won a major tournament in blackjack, she has made money through poker where she is arguably more successful. Schoenberg is considered a strong and consistent player in both games. She received training from the MIT Blackjack Team and appeared many times in World Series of Blackjack.

Jimmy Pine

Pine faces the dubious honour of having his face known in every casino around the world; some think security personnel are trained to look out for him and remove him from games when spotted. But why? He has some of the best “card counting” skill in the world. The practice is not illegal, but anyone caught doing it will often be asked to leave the game, if not the casino.

Eleanore Dumont

The world’s first professional blackjack player and maybe even the world’s first professional gambler, “Madame Moustache” was so-called because of a dark rug of hair above her lip. French born, she moved to the USA during the Gold Rush and quickly made a lot of money from variations in the “21” game (of which blackjack is one). She died in 1879, probably of a morphine overdose.

Brian Zembic

One of professional gambling’s most colourful characters, Zembic is also a magician. In the 1990s during his heyday, he became known as the man who’d do almost anything for a bet. In 1996, he wagered somebody that he would get breast implants for a year but he liked having them so much that he kept them. The bet won him $100,000.

Joanna Wlodawer

The “Queen of Spades” is another maths genius and one of the most celebrated players in the history of the game. Her quick maths brain has allowed her to become one of the quickest and best card counters, a significant advantage in the game that some casinos frown on. She made it to the final table at the first Ultimate Blackjack Tour against some big names.