Darryl Purpose - Master Card Counter and Famous Musician
Being a part of Ken Uston's blackjack team, Darryl Purpose has travelled across the world as a card counter, has been barred from several casinos, and has even used a shuffle tracking system named "Thor" to gain an edge over the house. Darryl managed to make millions of dollars from playing blackjack over the years, and from the outside looking in, life for Darryl couldn't have seemed to be any better.
Although the money was enticing, Darryl still felt something missing in his life; no pun intended, he still needed to find his purpose. His purpose, we discover, involves spreading his musical talents all around the world. Throughout this biography, we will explore the colorful history of Darryl's past, while getting insight into who he is today.
Finding His"Purpose" Early On
Darryl Purpose was the kind of person in school that most people envied. Not only was he extremely intelligent, especially when it came to mathematics, but he was also a very skilled guitar player. Darryl's mother was hoping that he would invest more of his time into mathematics, so she purchased him a copy of Edward Thorp's, Beat the Dealer, for Christmas when he was sixteen. She had no idea how much impact this would have on him later on in life.
As he often played cards in his free time, Darryl was intrigued to read the book and was surprised about how quickly he was able to pick up the concepts Thorp addressed within it. Although he was curious about whether or not the strategies in the book would actually work in a casino, he knew he wouldn't be able to try it out until he was twenty-one.
He kept the book in the back of his mind, but chose to devote his last two years of high school to enhancing his guitar skills. Upon graduation, he enrolled at California State College in Northridge to major in classical guitar, as his dream in life was to become a musician. Initially things were going very well for him; the professors acknowledged his abilities and his grades were excellent.
His left hand started hurting one evening while he was practicing the guitar; he was hoping the pain would subside by the next day. After persistent pain for several weeks though, Darryl decided to make an appointment with the Doctors to have everything checked out. They forced him to put a splint on his wrist, which greatly hindered his guitar playing abilities. Although he was discouraged, learning how to fingerpick allowed him to continue on.
Unfortunately within a few months, his right hand was starting to have the same problems as his left. He eventually would be forced to wear two splints, making dropping out of college inevitable. He left school with just a few of his personal belongings, his 62' Chevy, and $50 to spare. He was heading to Las Vegas, hoping to apply what he read in, Beat the Dealer, to become a professional blackjack player.
Making a Living in Las Vegas
In order to live in Las Vegas, Darryl needed to find a job that would support him as he built up his bankroll. The first job he found involved selling ball point pens over the phone to various companies around the world. It was a commission based job, so sometimes he would only get $20 a week while other times he would get up to $200. He lived on the streets for several weeks before a co-worker offered him a spare bedroom.
As soon as Darryl had an extra $50, he headed down to the Stardust Casino and Resort, quickly turning $50 into $500. It was only beginners luck, however. Darryl spent the next year and a half working at the same phone company, living paycheck to paycheck. Sometimes he would win money at the casinos, but all too often he would give it all back.
It was just an average night for Darryl at the Horseshoe Casino and Resort, until he noticed that the man sitting next to him at the table was trying to apply the same card counting techniques that he was. When the man sitting next to him got up to leave, Darryl decided to follow him out of the building. He told him that he knew he was a card counter and asked if they could talk.
The man's name ended up being Art, and the two instantly became friends. Art had a bankroll of $2000 and was willing to let Darryl play off of it for a while to see if they could make more money by working together. They weren't doing very well, so Darryl decided to seek the help of a professional. He got word that a former Big Player from Ken Uston's Blackjack Team was staying nearby his apartment. He courageously knocked on this man's door, explained who he was and what his problems were. The man, Ron Karr, graciously invited him in and shared some valuable tips for card counting with him.
A few weeks later Darryl knocked on Ron Karr's door again, as he had more questions to ask him. This time Ron offered both Darryl and Art a spot on his team. They would be paid $25 per shift to count down decks and call in Big Players. Any sort of consistent money sounded good to them, so they happily accepted the offer. Darryl was easily able to make $200 a week doing this, so he quit his job at the ball point pen factory.
Someone invested $10,000 into the team, but forced each player to make $100 bets. Although betting that amount of money made Darryl nervous, he stayed with the team. In just a couple of weeks, that $10,000 turned into $60,000 and the whole team was celebrating.
Behind the scenes, Ron and some of the players on the team had been experimenting with a shuffle tracking computer they wanted to use in the casinos. The team was ready to focus on this, offering each active player a small percentage of the team's future winnings based on how well they thought they were at card counting. Both Darryl and Art were only offered .075%, which was insulting.
Ron gave these two men a second option; they could leave his team and join Ken Uston's team instead. This is where Art and Darryl said their goodbyes; Art stayed with the computer tracking team, while Darryl ventured off to Ken Uston's team who would ironically use their own version of a shuffle tracking device in the near future.
Becoming a Part of Ken Uston's Team
Darryl had to undergo a series of tests before he could actually be a part of Ken Uston's team. One of the major tests he was given involved counting down various shoes. They also flashed various hands at him through a slide projector to see if he could identify their correct index number. Darryl did surprisingly well on all of his exams, being invited to join the team as a spotter.
Darryl would count the cards, and signal in a Big Player when the count was good. The Big Player would signal to Darryl what his hand was, and Darryl would signal back with what the best move to make would be. From the beginning they had him call in Big Players that the casinos were already suspicious of; it wasn't long before Darryl started feeling the heat too, getting barred from casinos on an almost weekly basis.
Sometimes he was led to the casinos backroom, but he was only ever threatened to never come back. Some of his other colleagues were badly beaten in these backrooms, so he actually considered himself one of the lucky ones. Despite the barrings, Darryl continued to play for the team, actually becoming known as one of the fastest card counters they ever had. He could consistently count a single deck in under ten seconds, which is nearly twice as fast as anyone else.
The only downside to working on Ken Uston's team, is that he often let his ego get the best of him. Darryl took a break from playing for a couple of months, because he was sick of the way Ken was treating him and the other members of the team. Ken called him up after a while, telling him that he should join him in Atlantic City, as the casinos had a no barring rule there. Darryl couldn't resist. The team had a bankroll of nearly $25,000, which steadily increased as Darryl led the team on a 15 session winning streak.
The team eventually started using a new shuffle tracking system called "Thor" to gain an even bigger edge over the casinos. With their feet, they had to enter the exact value of the cards they received. Thor would then respond through vibrations to tell the players what moves to make next. Darryl expressed his opinion of Thor in an interview with Richard W. Munchkin,
"I wish I could remember some of the bizarre plays Thor would have you make, because Thor didn't have any discretion. If it felt you could gain half a percent by hitting a hard 18, it would tell you to hit it."
The team had their biggest gains and largest losses while using Thor. Darryl once won over $150,000 at the Cambridge Hotel and Casino of Atlantic City thanks to that small device. However, he also lost over $80,000 at MGM in Las Vegas, as a result of listening to the bold moves Thor told him to make. Darryl's experiences with Thor weren't limited to casinos in the United States, as the team actually brought the device with them when they travelled overseas.
Playing Blackjack in Europe
Darryl and the team started off playing in Germany and Belgium, quickly realizing that Thor wouldn't work there because the shuffles were so intense. They headed over to England, where they hoped using Thor would be much easier.
One of the first casinos they played at warned other casinos in the area to be on the lookout for a group of American players they suspected were cheating. The team was unaware of this warning, so they continued to play as normal, using Thor to get ahead. When Darryl went to cash out at Annabelle's Casino, the front desk claimed that they didn't have enough money on hand to cash him out and would instead have to write him a check that could be cashed in the next morning.
Darryl assumed there must be another reason why he wasn't able to cash out that night, and he was certainly right. Before they could pack their bags, the entire team was dragged in for questioning and it was obvious that the casino knew they were up to something.
Their cars, their hotel rooms, and their briefcases were thoroughly searched, but the casino personnel had somehow managed to overlook searching the actual players, most of which had Thor devices strapped to their ankles. Had the casino found these devices, they would have had enough evidence to lock Darryl and his friends up for years. Even though the team was eventually paid their dues, it was clear that they would be unwelcomed to ever come back again.
Taking Disguises to a Whole New Level
Using disguises became inevitable for Darryl, as someone seemed to recognize him almost everywhere he went. After he came back from Europe, he made some drastic changes to alter the way he looked. He died and curled his hair, he started wearing veneers on his teeth, and he even had a mole removed. In addition to that, he lost a significant amount of weight.
At some casinos he would put on his fake goatee, while at others he would wear a three piece suit to change his appearance. One time, he even put a dark toner on his skin to make him appear Mulatto. He would do just about anything it took to get the casinos off of his back. Eventually though, Darryl grew tired of having to hide his true identity.
A New Phase in Life
By 1986, Darryl was ready to move on from his blackjack playing lifestyle, so he packed up his guitar and joined the Great Peace March from Los Angeles to New York. They marched and played across the whole country, and it was nearly eight months until they were finished. He participated in a similar march the following year from Leningrad to Moscow. Famous artists including James Taylor and Santana joined in his efforts this time.
Nearly a decade after his first march, Darryl dedicated his entire life to being a full time Folk Musician. He travelled to various countries around the world, performing in hundreds of concerts each year. He released several CDs, and had a steadily growing fan base. From 2005 to 2012, Darryl took a seven year break from his profession, spending the majority of that time relaxing in the Rocky Mountains.
Everyone thought he was done playing music for good until he released, "Next Time Around," in 2012. That song actually reached #1 on the Roots Music Report Folk Chart for National Radio, which is an impressive accomplishment. Although music is his true passion, Darryl will still visit the casinos of Las Vegas from time to time, reminiscing about that chapter of his life.
Author: Nicole Miller
Updated: June 2016
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