Stanford Wong is one of the world’s best-known blackjack players. Wong’s real name is John Ferguson, but he has become best known by his pen name, which consists of his alma mater Stanford and an Asian last name for added mystique.
Stanford Wong was born in Georgia during World War II. As a child he had a passion for games, and especially for devising winning tactics for games. He says that when he first learned to play tic-tac-toe he wasn’t interested in playing against other people. Rather, he was interested in figuring out which moves he could take to win the game. His deep interest in strategy stuck with him, and he has become one of the most acclaimed blackjack strategists, writing many popular books on the subject.
Growing up, Wong enjoyed playing cards. He enjoyed devising blackjack strategies and calculating blackjack probabilities in his spare time, just for fun. However, it was not until he read Beat The Dealer by Ed Thorp in 1963 that he realized cards could be anything other than a hobby. He then spent time learning how to count cards and when he turned 21 he travelled to Reno, Nevada to try his luck at the casino. He started winning right away.
As the years passed, Wong continued playing blackjack in his spare time until he realized that he was making more money from blackjack than from his job as a teacher at San Francisco State. He taught for one more term and then left to become a professional blackjack player. He began writing books, starting with Professional Blackjack, which is known as the bible of blackjack for many professional players.
When Stanford Wong started out he used Thorp’s 10-count strategy. However, he began working on his own card counting strategies and came up with Wong Halves, a card counting system that is complicated but very accurate. He says that since he came up with the halves system he hasn’t used any other method of card counting.
Wong’s story is unique, as he began building up his blackjack skills before he was even old enough to set foot in a casino. He has perfected basic blackjack strategy as well as card counting skills and has become one of the most profitable blackjack players in the world.