Professional Blackjack by Stanford Wong

After making substantial gains from the game of Blackjack, Stanford Wong decided to minimize his duties as a professor at Stanford University and fully commit to teaching Blackjack. He relied primarily on a mid-shoe entry that eventually became his trademark, but we will discuss this strategy a bit later.

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What’s interesting about this beloved author is that not only did he truly enjoy the game of Blackjack, but he managed to make a serious living out of this hobby too. Eventually, his influence spread globally, and this was when he realized that this popularity could get him banned from the casino venues everywhere. This was when he started publishing under a pseudonym — Stanford Wong. He was rarely recognized as John Ferguson, and his pen name followed the rise of his popularity. This genius dealt with business administration, mathematics, and even embarked on a military tour in Vietnam. But Blackjack won his heart and changed his life. He was especially inspired by Edward Thorp, who wrote ‘Beat the Dealer’ in 1962, presenting his own card counting strategies. Soon after this publication, Wong realized that this approach could be used on a single-deck game only. And by then, casinos already started foiling card counters by using multiple decks. For Wong, this meant that it was time for a new approach.

The Gold Standard of Card Counting

Every book written by Wong offers outstanding and innovative ideas, but “Professional Blackjack” is what put him on the map. This book was not written for beginners, and the fact that it still remains in print and has been on the bookshelves since 1975 really proves its worth.

In these 350 pages, readers can find all about the High-low card counting system, halves system, and other relevant ‘blackjack news.’ At the very beginning, the author starts with the base description of the game, establishes all the terms needed, and begins with the basic strategy used in Blackjack. After he goes over all the basics a beginner might need, he moves on to the fun part and starts explaining the High-low counting system in detail.

Here, he takes his time to explain all the benefits of this system. It is emphasized that this strategy is one of the easiest to master and that you don’t have to be a math professor to get the hang of it. According to Wong, this system can help you keep track of all high cards that are left in the deck. Each card is marked with a value of -1, +1, or 0, and if you count in all the cards in the deck, you should get the final result of zero. The lower-value cards are counted as +1, while the high ones with -1. The rest of the neutral cards (7–9) are given the zero value.

Most authors only present the technique, but not Wong. After he thoroughly explains the system, he starts the next chapter with the implementation of this system. There, you can read all about the odds you have when using this system, as well as a further explanation on how to manage to be a successful card counter without getting caught. This thorough explanation of the High-low count probably contains more information than one might need, but you can count on all variations of the strategy to be accurate and covered in great detail. This is precisely why this book is often used as a reminder for professional Blackjack players, even though this information is accessible to everyone these days.

The Practise of ‘Wonging’

Besides the High-low system, Wong introduced another useful strategy to his readers. The wonging strategy became a trend after this publication, and it is popular to this day. This way of playing Blackjack can be viewed as a subcategory of card counting, but the difference is that this strategy involves no action. According to Wong, you should keep track of the game’s flow and sit at the table only when the situation is favorable for you. His instructions were very clear — find an inconspicuous position from which you can clearly see the action at the table and stay put until the moment is right. Observe other players and save your bankroll until the count is favorable enough for you to participate.

Wong emphasized that the crucial part of this strategy is your ability to act. You can choose whatever approach best suits your skills, but you need to choose the right one. For instance, some players tend to sabotage themselves by standing in the back, entering the game for a few hands, and then leaving. You can get away with this behavior maybe a couple of times, but be aware that the casino’s eyes are set on you. Instead, the author suggests acting busy from the moment you enter the premises as if you have a plane to catch and are just here to kill some time. Act the same way at the table — busy and not very interested. This way, when the peak of the game arrives, you will not be monitored as carefully, and you’ll be able to take advantage of the situation.

Teamed up ‘Wonging’

Some readers followed Wong’s advice and teamed up for the action. This approach is another tempting strategy that can bring good results. If you join up with your friends in crime, you will have the option of prolonging the card count. Wonging in teams means that one player is sitting at the table and sacrificing a certain amount of their bankroll for the overall benefit of the group. This way, other teammates have the opportunity to concentrate on the card counting with utmost precision. And once the count becomes favorable, they give a particular signal to the leading player, and they then have the opportunity to beat the dealer.

However, it is important to note that this kind of action demands extremely attentive people who can make the most of this strategy. Also, please bear in mind that the situation had changed since 1975. Nowadays, brick-and-mortar casinos are equipped with facial recognition software and cutting-edge monitoring systems, so your team has to be at the top of their game too.

Summary

This book is chock-full of information. The author did more than thoroughly explain Blackjack strategies — he also covered some miscellaneous topics, including the expected win rate, optimal bet sizing, along with over 100 different simulations of hands and glossary terms.

Even though some parts of this book are outdated, especially since many turned to online casino venues to avoid monitoring, Stanford Wong remains one of the greatest authors on the subject. Finally, we would also like to recommend Wong’s “Blackjack Secrets” for further insight into card counting strategies.

This all-time classic surely belongs on the shelf of every committed blackjack player.

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