For most of us, coming home from a casino or finishing a blackjack session online with a few hundred dollars of profit warrants a good day at the office. But not so for Don Johnson, the skilled blackjack player who took an astounding $15m from three casinos in a five month period from December 2010 to April 2011. Here we tell you how he did it… and he didn’t cheat!
As you will know if you know anything about blackjack, the appeal of the game for many is that the house edge is a lot lower than with most other casino games, and can be less than 1% depending on the game conditions. What is also apparent is that it is not a game of skill in the same way that poker can be in that you cannot influence the decision of the one player you have to beat, the dealer. The dealer follows a set of rules that mean blackjack is a game of percentages whereby playing the optimum strategy – called basic strategy – gives you the best mathematical chance of success.
Of course, if you can diminish the house edge to zero, or even gain a mathematical edge yourself, you really can be in the money. And that’s exactly what Johnson did. Casinos were struggling for revenue at the time and Johnson – known for being a high-stakes blackjack player – was invited to play at Atlantic City’s Tropicana casino. His skill, seemingly, was not in playing the game itself but in negotiating an astounding 20% discount on his losses, giving him a massive advantage that meant he just needed to keep playing the big hands and he was assured of success. And some success it was too: he netted $6m and blew out the casino’s monthly blackjack profits.
Prior to that Johnson had done well at the Borgata, earning a cool $5m, as well as Caesars where he landed a $4m bounty. Wagering $100,000 a hand and safe in the knowledge that he’d negotiated preferential gaming conditions, Johnson knew that unless luck was very much against him, he was onto a winner as long as he played for long enough. In getting the casinos to agree to “loss rebates” of up to 20%, Johnson managed to swing the odds in his favor, something the casinos should never have allowed.
Of course, not all of us have the financial clout to start negotiating with casino bosses for a better deal. But online casinos at least give us the chance to search around for the games with the most favorable conditions (i.e. the lowest house edge) and the addition of bonuses and promotions can help stack the odds in your favor on occasion. $15m might not be on the horizon, but some healthy profits from blackjack could well be.