Ken Uston


Ken Uston was a professional American Blackjack player, author and strategist and got credited for his popularizing the concept of Blackjack team play. Uston gained notoriety in the early to mid-’70s for perfecting techniques that involved team card counting in casinos worldwide. It earned him millions of dollars, with bets reaching as high as $12000 on a single hand. Of course nowadays with online casino sites, the landscape and these approaches have moved on, but its fascinating to see how card counting really shook things up.

Casinos banned him, and he would wear various disguises concealing his identity so that he could continue to play.

His Fascination with Blackjack

Uston was born Kenneth Senzo Usui in New York City and got accepted into Yale at 16. Shortly after graduating from Yale, he earned an MBA from Harvard; he held various high positions, including Senior Vice President at the Pacific Stock Exchange.

He read up on Blackjack on the weekends, and one of the books he read was Thorp’s Beat the Dealer, which led him to frequent casinos becoming a genius card counter. Al Francesco recruited him as one of his prominent team members where members of the team would play at different tables counting cards, and when the count became positive, the “big player “ would get flagged and place large bets. After two months of being the counter, he got promoted to the “big player.”

In 1978 Uston formed a formidable blackjack team of his own and was soon banned from playing at casinos in Atlantic City, and without a team, he adopted various physical disguises. His style was flamboyant and aggressive and described by Arnold Snyder’s as the Circus Circus Las Vegas. Once Uston disguised himself as a worker from Hoover Dam and got away with spreading his bets from table to table and was considered a genius at card counting camouflage.

Where is he now?

Sadly Upton passed away at 52 in September of 1987, and the cause of death was heart failure. As stated it was a different world to the likes of and other online casinos nowadays, but is a great example of how to monopolise on an opportunity when you spot one. You simply have to take your hat off to him.