Flashback

I thought I’d start a new trend and every week or so devote one post to a news story from the past. In honor of my first post I thought I’d share this article with you from Time Magazine dated May 25th 1981. The Article covers Kenneth Uston who at the time was 47 and already a famous blackjack player. Enjoy. (here’s a link to the actual article)

Blackjack Buckaroo
Kenneth Uston, 47, is an American success story: Phi Beta Kappa in economics at Yale, Harvard M.B.A., a former senior vice president of the Pacific Stock Exchange in San Francisco, who in 1975 quit his $50,000 job to follow an offbeat, not to say raffish, entrepreneurial dream—and made it work.

In 1968 Uston read Beat the Dealer, a 1962 book by Mathematician Edward Thorp, the “father” of card counting. Uston, a statistics, mathematics and computer buff, was fascinated, and while still serving as a pillar of the West Coast financial establishment, began imagining himself a buckaroo blackjack hero. For six years he worked feverishly to acquire the necessary skills, practicing rigorous memory drills and doing complex statistical calculations. In 1974 he went to Harrah’s Casino in Reno to put himself to the test. He won $3,000 and never looked back.

In countless blackjack hands since then, Uston and the team of players he generally works with have piled up total winnings of more than $4.5 million. His biggest individual killing was $27,500 in 45 min., at Fremont Casino in Las Vegas in 1975. He once played eight hours a day for 23 straight days, falling behind as much as $35,000 before recouping and finally going ahead.

After basing himself for several years in Las Vegas, Uston now lives in Margate City outside Atlantic City, where he makes a living by remote-piloting his blackjack team. He is a busy and popular instructor and lecturer, who charges students $500 for a course but lectures for free. He has written three books—one of which, the autobiographical The Big Player, is slated to be produced as a film by Frank Capra. He is a swinging bachelor who tries to conceal his age (”I date a lot of young girls”) and a celebrity in the gambling world. That, of course, is a disadvantage. To play undetected—hence unevicted—at major casinos, he resorts to a disguise kit designed for him by Hollywood Makeup Expert Mike Westmore. Says Uston: “I have been a British aristocrat and I have been a cowboy. I have false teeth, false noses and many wigs. With each disguise I use the appropriate accent. But the best ploy is to impersonate a sucker who is there to be milked.”

With the supreme confidence of a true believer in his own system, Uston insists there is one role that he does not play: gambler. Says he: “I have never gambled in my life.”

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