Blackjack is one of the most popular card games ever invented, perhaps because it is also one of the easiest casino games to pick up. Over the years, mathematicians and professional gamblers have strived to find the perfect formula for playing the game, with many believing that there are ways to beat the odds.
Some players have found great success over the years. This has led to some seriously huge payouts and accumulated winnings which have gone down in history. So, what have been the biggest blackjack payouts ever? We highlight five of the very biggest. And are these feats still possible today?
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1. Shoeless Joe – $1.5 Million
A mystery man won $1.5 million after entering a US casino without any shoes on. As the story goes, he used a $300 security check and played a terrible game in terms of strategy, splitting and doubling when all the theory says you shouldn’t. He managed to take up quite the cash pot, but kept on playing and eventually lost the lot.
2. Dana White – $2 Million
Dana White is well-known as the president of UFC, and the American businessman is used to being in the public eye. In 2012, he was in the media for the wrong reasons, though. At this time, White was accused of card counting by Palms Casino. He had won a considerable amount of money on blackjack but the Las Vegas resort refused to pay up and banned him.
In 2014, White was allowed back into the casino after the CEO changed. Over the course of a few months, the man with a net worth of $500 million managed to accumulate winnings of $2 million. He may have been able to earn more if he hadn’t faced a cap in the amount he could win. First, the casino made him lower his bets from $25,000 to $5,000, and then they capped his wins off at $2 million to end his streak.
White continues to be a major blackjack fan and can be found playing at casinos that will have him. But up to now, he has never recreated the streak which gained him such notoriety back in 2014. White is not completely banned from Palms Casino either, as he still holds UFC events at the Pearl Arena in the complex.
3. Ken Uston – $4.5 Million
Ken Uston was often referred to as the King of Blackjack Strategy and one of the technically most successful players ever to sit at the felt. It was this American player, strategist, and author who actually came up with the idea of teaming up to play blackjack. Along with mastering strategy and the mathematical side of the game, Uston is credited with having pretty much invented card counting.
During the late 1970s and early 1980s, Uston led a blackjack team around various casinos in the USA. They would place outrageous bets which would sometimes value at around $12,000 per hand, and rake in millions in winnings from the process.
It is estimated that Uston and his team gathered around $4.5 million in winnings during their operational period. This could be considered among the first big blackjack wins and a catalyst that influenced a great number of other players.
4. Kerry Packer – $40 Million
Kerry Packer was a millionaire before he even played blackjack and he used his wealth to place gigantic stakes on the cards. At the time of his death in 2005, the Australian had a net worth of AUS$6.5 billion (over £3.3 billion or USD$4.3 billion). Obviously, the bigger the bet, the bigger the payout, and Packer made a name for himself by taking down two of the most insane blackjack pots ever seen. The first was in 1991 at the Hilton in Las Vegas, where he picked up a cool $7 million in a single night.
Unsatisfied with such meagre winnings, Packer returned to Las Vegas in 1995 and played blackjack at the MGM Grand. The media tycoon placed a series of $250,000 bets and within forty minutes had racked up a stack of $40 million.
The dealers had a good time on that incredible night, too, as Packer decided to leave a $1 million tip. While the casinos may not be too happy about players taking down huge blackjack pots, it is certainly the dream of most dealers to be at the table when it happens.
5. MIT Blackjack Team – $50 – $100 Million
The MIT blackjack team is well known in popular culture from the film, 21, and the book that it was based on, Bringing Down the House. The team operated over a number of years and featured around eighty different members.
They went to a wide variety of casinos across Atlantic City and Las Vegas from the 80s and 90s in order to avoid suspicion. This was because they employed a card counting technique which helped to influence their bets on the games. If a shoe contained a lot of cards of high value it was regarded as hot, which meant that the players should bet big on it. If the majority of remaining cards were instead low in value, it would be a cold shoe.
During their prime, it is estimated that this world-renowned blackjack team earned anywhere between $50-100 million. Understandingly, then, the major casinos didn’t look lightly upon the methods used by these genius mathematicians and the film plot rests on an attempt to thwart the students’ efforts.
If any of these success stories have inspired you to try your hand at mastering the classic casino game of blackjack, you could play live blackjack online to develop your skills.