The No1 Real Money Blackjack Site Online!

Blackjack Team Play

A blackjack team is designed to combine player strengths and finances and exploit casino weaknesses in order to make a profit, and dozens of successful blackjack teams have won hundreds of thousands of dollars since card counting became popular. The Greek team, the MIT team (of the movie “21” fame) and the Hyland Group all come to mind as success stories, but where did team play come from?

Dr. Edward O. Thorp was the first player to chronicle his own computer-generated basic strategy and share with the world the idea behind profitable blackjack play through the use of a card counting system. Early players like Lawrence Revere modified Thorp’s count and wrote about the efficiency of what they considered their own system and their own style of play, but they never moved past playing alone.

In the late 1960’s a few friends from Texas pooled their money and ability to take a shot at the casinos in Reno. Their results were excellent and they moved to smaller clubs around the state before abusing Las Vegas. By combining their resources they built a professional blackjack team bankroll and were able to handle the daily swings of gambling with a tiny edge. When they couldn’t get a fair edge, they cheated. The casinos were like their own private armored cars.

On the more honest side (at least in the eyes of players, not casinos) was a man who went by the name Al Francesco (and Frank Salerno, and Frank Schipani, and, well, you get the idea). Al was a typical player who enjoyed Dr. Thorp’s book and gave his ten-count a try, but the system was very hard, and he gave up playing blackjack for a while. When he learned Lawrence Revere’s Advance Point Count he found it was easy enough to play, and it was, and it was a winner, but Al kept getting thrown out of the casinos.

That was almost a death sentence at the time in the early 1970’s as it was just Nevada back then. There were no legal casinos in other states. So, Al started thinking like Henry Ford: an assembly line and mass production. He needed lots of little people doing the work and one person making the big bucks: him.

The Production Line

Al taught a few friends the Advance Point Count and together they tried a new system, with cover stories. While visiting Harvey’s and Harrah’s casinos at Lake Tahoe Al would talk with a friend playing for the usual $1 or $2 per hand and when the count was positive and they had the edge, the friend (counting the cards) would signal and Al would toss a quarter chip or even a hundred dollar bill in the circle. The bosses were blind to this scheme where a fellow chatted, drank, and didn’t even watch the cards.

They bought the story that their group of friends was waiting for Al’s wife so they could go have dinner, and there you have the concept of team play and the reason it works. One player counts the deck or shoe of decks playing a minimal amount while the money man, or Big Player, waits. When the count is positive, the Big Player makes wagers that are 50 to 100 times more than the counter’s.

The Man with the Act

This system means the real money is only wagered when the team has a 1% edge or more. Pretty smooth. Al was from the San Francisco Bay Area, and Ken Uston was introduced to him at a cocktail party. Ken was a Pacific Stock Exchange Senior Vice President with an Administrative Assistant, an expense account, and a nice penthouse apartment overlooking the city. He was the perfect Big Player for the team and boy could he do the act. A big part of getting it on in the casino is having a good act that fools the bosses. Uston liked to drink, wasn’t afraid to schmooze with the bosses (or the female dealers), and played his part perfectly.

After a couple weeks he had been taught the basics of blackjack, the count system, and the team concept of shared work and shared profits. The team ventured to Lake Tahoe for several sessions and then to Las Vegas, playing to a $50,000 bank they hoped to double. With ten counters and two Big Players the team won more than $50,000 on a long weekend. This was the stuff of James Bond!

Uston went for the whole team concept and the Las Vegas big wigs loved the backstory of the big stock exchange player. They figured that eventually this strange guy hoping form table to table would lose, but it never happened. With team counters on many tables at the Sands, the Frontier, the Flamingo and the Stardust, Uston and the other Big Players were constantly called-into good shoes by the counters. Everyone acted like they were strangers to one another, but at night they met at local restaurants or in hotel rooms to compare stories and share the bootie.

Occasionally a Big Player would get barred from playing, but for the most part, team play fooled the Pit Bosses. Back in San Francisco, Al and his managers would recruit the right type of acquaintances and college students to learn the Advance Point Count and the team system. Hours and hours of basic strategy flashcards and then count flashcards and simulated blackjack play honed their skills and the teams (Uston eventually split from Al to form his own teams) won over a million dollars several years in a row during the 1970’s.

The Finances

Blackjack teams like Al’s and Uston’s used a financial system that rewarded both investors and players. They bankrolled part of their team play with non-playing players, and the investors usually shared 50-50 in the win. The counters, who played minimum-wage blackjack and counted-down six-deck shoes, also got a minimum hourly rate plus a small bonus when the bank was doubled. The Big Players had more heat on them and got a larger share since they were the ones risking a barring from play.

The team administrator was often the money man, arranging financing from outside individuals, and handled a schedule of counters and Big Players to keep them from being seen together too much in any one casino. After banks were doubled and everyone celebrated their windfall, players went back to their regular jobs or college. Some came back for subsequent team escapades, but many formed their own small teams – often will less success. Bankroll management is crucial to gambling enterprises, both the casinos, and the card counters who try and exploit any game weaknesses.

Advantage Players

Today, there are still several card counting teams, but more teams (and individuals) are concentrating on Advantage Play. A typical advantage player may know card counting, but has found that even more money can be made by exploiting dealer weaknesses and employing shuffle tracking to gage when clumps of aces and faces will come out of a shoe.

The best card-counting blackjack teams enjoy an overall house edge of over 1% and can make approximately 1% per hour of their average wagers. Advantage players enjoy a much higher edge due to the fact that they most often target coming blackjacks where they are paid 3 to 2. Their hourly incomes can easily double that of card counters.

Share this article: