Stanford Wong - the art of Wonging
Another naturally gifted mathematician with a love of games and talent for
identifying optimal playing strategy, Stanford Wong, (born John Ferguson -
Stanford Wong is a pseudonym) was inducted into the
Blackjack Hall of Fame in 2002 as one of only 7 foundation members.
Introduced to the possibilities of blackjack card counting after reading
Edward Thorpe's Beat the Dealer, he was
soon playing professionally and winning consistently at casinos around the
Teaching for free
Like many of blackjack's better known advantage players, Wong
was an academic, with an MBA from Oregon State and a PHD in finance from
Stanford (he took his pseudonym from his alma mater). Continued success at
the Vegas blackjack tables however found him soon re-thinking his career path.
In 1976, seeking to devote more time to blackjack (which was
earning considerably more money than his full time lecturing position at San
Francisco State University), he negotiated a leave pass from all faculty
meetings in return for a reduced salary - $1 for his last term.
Before long he gave the teaching away altogether and
blackjack became his profession. Playing at casinos in Las Vegas as well
as Korea, Macau, Indonesia and the Philippines - and making a very good living
Analyzing the game of Blackjack
When Ed Thorpe wrote Beat the Dealer, most casinos in
America were dealing blackjack from a single deck, dealing 50 of the 52 cards,
hitting soft 17's and allowing players to double any two cards. His
counting methods were understandably devised to deal only with the game of the
day. As casinos started to try and minimize the damage done by counters by
adding multiple decks and rule variations, tweaks to optimal playing strategies
needed in response.
A consummate student of the game, Wong devised counting
methods to deal with the changes casinos were coming up with, as well as
analyzing the mathematical returns attributable to each variation. His
'Blackjack Analyzer' software, initially created for his own use, became the
first commercially available blackjack odds analysis program. He also
published Professional Blackjack which grew from a handful of explanatory
notes to players asking advice to a full blown book on counting and playing
No Mid-Shoe Entry
Ever been at a casino and seen the sign 'No Mid Shoe Entry'
above a blackjack table? Plenty of casinos have them and they are there to
prevent counters from 'Wonging'. Named for Stanley Wong, who made no
secret of the fact that he refused to play negative decks, Wonging is the
practice of watching a deal and only entering the game when the count is
Wonging offers two very powerful benefits for the
player. First, there is not bet spread and therefore counting bet pattern
to betray your skills to the casino. You start playing a positive deck and
can play aggressively from entry to the game. It's almost like the
Big Player team approach, although you are the
counter and big player all rolled into one.
Second, you are never playing a negative deck, wasting time
with small bets until such time as the count is positive. I guess Stanley
figured why mess around with any negative deck when I can play only positive
shoes if I choose?
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