Stanford Wong – Blackjack Champion

John Ferguson, better known by his pen name Stanford Wong, is
a very well known author who has written a variety of gambling
related books. The book that sold the most copies thus far is,
Professional Blackjack, but he wrote several other popular ones
as well.

Stanford Wong didn’t just write about blackjack, but he
actually played it too. He created a plethora of unique card
counting strategies that helped him win thousands of dollars
from the casinos over the course of his career. To learn more
about the books he wrote, the techniques he developed, and to
see why he was inducted into the Blackjack Hall of Fame, please
feel free to read his extended biography.

Before “Stanford Wong”

Although John was born in Georgia in 1943, that isn’t where
he would consider his home town to be located. His family moved
several times when he was younger, as both of his parents found
it difficult to hold a job for very long. The family finally
settled in Beaverton, Oregon by the time John was ready to start
kindergarten. His teacher taught the class how to play
tic-tac-toe, and John became obsessed with finding the best
possible strategy to beat his classmates. No one in his class,
including the teacher, could beat John at a game of tic-tac-toe,
and he was very proud of that fact.

John was a very competitive individual who would get very
frustrated if he didn’t win. He enjoyed family game nights, if
he won every game they played. He enjoyed playing card games
with his friends, but he would obsess over every detail of the
game to ensure that he would win. When he was twelve years old,
one of his friends introduced him to blackjack. He immediately
started calculating the odds to see which hands would produce
the best opportunity to beat the dealer.

By age fourteen, John believed he had developed a basic
strategy for playing blackjack that was almost guaranteed to
produce him a win. Since he was confident about his blackjack
playing abilities, he longed to go to a casino and try out his
techniques there, but he was years away from being old enough.

Some people would have acquired a fake id or found another
way to sneak past the security at the casinos, but that wasn’t
John’s approach. Instead, he chose to read as many books as
possible on the subject including Edward O. Thorp’s, Beat the
Dealer. He wanted to learn as much about blackjack and card
counting strategies as possible before he set foot in the

Since John was still quite a few years away from being
twenty-one, he decided to pour his time and energy into his
school work. He excelled in almost all of his core classes,
eventually graduating at the top of his class. He was awarded a
generous scholarship to attend Oregon State University, which he
happily accepted.

The day came when John turned twenty-one, and he was finally
old enough to enter the casinos legally. John and several
friends from school travelled to Reno to step foot in a casino
for the first time together. John decided to use Thorp’s
10-count system at the tables, as after he thoroughly researched
different card counting strategies, he deemed that one to be the
most reliable.

John had $300 in his bankroll, and was impressed with how
quickly he was able to earn $150 through playing $1 to $4
minimums. This initial success, got John hooked on blackjack for
life. He spent most of his weekends at the casinos, using the
money that he won to pay his way through grad school. Although
he applied to Harvard University and had his mind set on going
there, he was rejected and had to turn to plan B. He stayed at
Oregon State University, earning a Master’s Degree but having
very little school debt to show for it thanks to his card
counting abilities.

John started teaching at Oregon State University immediately
after graduation; he enjoyed teaching and loved his students but
it gave him very little time to go to the casinos. Over the
course of these two years, he gave up gambling completely, he
married his high school sweetheart, and he was finally ready to
settle down and start a family.

In 1968, he was drafted by the Army in order to serve in the
Vietnam War; his whole outlook on life changed when he returned
home nearly two years later. John immediately enrolled at
Stanford University to pursue a Ph.D. in Finance, as he had a
burning desire to be successful and make a lot of money.

Introducing Stanford Wong

To keep his mind off his life-changing experiences in the
war, John spent more time at the casinos, playing blackjack
every spare moment he had. Rumor has it that he won over
$100,000 during his first couple months back. It was around this
time that John started writing his first book titled,
Professional Blackjack. Just a few weeks before John was ready
to submit his finished work into the publisher, he thought about
how much he enjoyed playing blackjack at the casinos. He knew
that if his true identity was linked to the books that he would
get barred at every casino he visited.

There were moments within these two weeks that John thought
about not publishing this book altogether, but at the end he
knew he wanted these secrets to be made known to the public.
After much contemplation, John decided he needed a pen name, so
that the casinos wouldn’t correlate his success at the tables to
the strategies he wrote about in his book.

Initially he was interested in using the name Nevada Smith,
but he later found out that someone was already using it. He
settled on the name “Stanford Wong,” because he was attending
Stanford University at the time and because he liked the idea of
using a name that was associated with a different ethnicity than
his own. This would throw off anyone who might suspect him of
being the man behind the book.

By the time he finished the first edition of the book in
1975, it was over 350 pages long and contained over one hundred
supplementary tables. Many copies of this resourceful book have
been sold worldwide. In an interview with Rick Swogger in 2005,
John commented on the sales of his first book, “I’m really not
sure how many copies of Professional Blackjack have been sold.
The interesting thing about that book, unlike most books in
publication, is the fact that sales have grown every year. Most
books have a big spike at introduction, and then taper off
slowly. Right now it is selling at about 5,000 copies a year, so
I would guess in thirty years it has sold probably 50,000 to
100,000 copies.”

One technique that John explained thoroughly in his book is
now known today as “wonging.” Wonging focuses on players making
less bets, spending more time watching their opponents, and
calculating the odds of winning in their head. When it becomes
apparent that the odds are in their favor, players are
encouraged to jump in and place large bets with confidence.

Soon many people started applying this technique to the
tables, but the casinos were determined to strike back. They
introduced a new rule called, “No Mid Shoe Entry,” which
basically meant that players could not just jump into the game
whenever they please. Unfortunately, this made “wonging” almost

Other Books Written by Stanford Wong

“Stanford Wong” is the author of many highly recommended
books. In order from least to most recent they are: Winning
Without Counting (1978), Blackjack in Asia (1979), Tournament
Blackjack (1987), Tournament Craps (1987), Professional Video
Poker (1988), Optimal Strategy for Pai Gow Poker (1990), Basic
Blackjack (1992), Casino Tournament Strategy (1992), Betting
Cheap Claimers (1992), Blackjack Secrets (1993), Sharp Sports
Betting (2001), and Wong on Dice (2005).

John started playing in blackjack tournaments at the Hilton
Hotel and Casino in 1985. He thought a tournament would be an
excellent way for him to put his latest device to the test. He
had recently developed a computer program named, “Blackjack
Analyzer,” which he used to calculate his odds of winning based
off of the cards dealt to him. This machine made it possible to
calculate these odds faster than ever before.

He encouraged several of his friends to join the tournament
too, offering to pay some of their entry fees. In doing this, he
only asked for a small percentage of their winnings; the exact
percentage depended on how well he knew the player.

John’s team met ahead of time to go over different scenarios
that they might run into while playing, so that each team member
would know the optimal way to approach a situation in order to
earn the highest amount of money in the smallest amount of time.
Some teammates used the Blackjack Analyzer, while others used
different approaches recommended by John. His teammates included
Ernie Amore, Anne Amster, and Dave Douglas to name a few.

John would evaluate his actions and compare them to the
actions of his teammates. The purpose of having a team was so
that he would have more data to analyze the best strategies that
can be used when playing blackjack in various tournament
formats. As you may have already guessed, John used this
information to write his book, “Tournament Blackjack.”

“We played together for about two years, at that point we no
longer came across different formats, and I had gathered enough
information for the book. I no longer have the records, but our
team won something in the low six figures. I personally won only
a nominal amount; I was not the star of our team when it came to
actually playing tournaments.”

Currently, John has no intentions to write any more gambling
related books at this time, but instead wants to focus on
editing and publishing other writer’s book through his own
publishing company: Pi Yee Press. He has already published books
by Tino Gambino, Bob Nersesian, and several other authors.

More Blackjack Related Endeavors

John and his family moved to La Jolla, California; it’s
located just outside of San Diego. They have one daughter and
one son, both of which are college graduates now. The family has
taken many trips together, visiting a wide range of countries
including Korea and the Philippines. He made it a point to play
blackjack at every country they visited, teaching his children
how to play once they were of age.

John launched the website called, in 1996. This
website is filled with the latest information on blackjack and
other casinos games, advice on how to manage your bankroll, and
details on the best card counting techniques. Visiting his
website provides you with the opportunity to purchase any of the
books he has written and any books that have been published by
Pi Yee Press.

What made stand out among other sites that were
available during this time is that it contains both a free
message board and a membership message board where people could
exchange information about blackjack with ease. This website,
his many books, and his innovative card counting methods is why
John was inducted into the Blackjack Hall of Fame in 2002. This
was an esteemed honor, as he was one of only seven members to be
inducted that year.

In 2006, “Stanford Wong,” was asked to join the CBS Sports
television program, The Ultimate Blackjack Tour (UBT). The
Ultimate Blackjack Tour is a series of blackjack tournaments
that take place in Aruba, Atlantic City, Las Vegas, and Paris.
John was honored to be able to travel to different parts of the
world and compete against other types of players. At the end of
the season, those who qualified participated in an ultimate
competition to see who would become the Ultimate Champion for
that season. Unfortunately, “Stanford Wong,” didn’t make the

Ever since his true identity has been leaked, it has become
more difficult for John to remain unnoticed at the casinos of
Atlantic City and Las Vegas. When the Golden Nugget casino was
under new ownership, they stopped John at the craps tables and
warned him not to return ever again. Some players who have read
his books started approaching him at the casinos, thus exposing
his identity and causing him to get thrown out. Due to these
reasons, he now spends less time gambling and more time with his