By David Drury
The Blackjack Hall of Fame at Barona Casino in San Diego, California stands as a curious testament to the giants who mastered the game of 21 and/or paved the way for its continued mastery.
The shrine is more than curious; it is paradoxical. Unlike the “Winners Wall” you can find down one hallway or another in every casino, filled with old bats smiling at having lucked their way into a big slot payout—this is different. Casinos are happy to celebrate luck. They are loathe to celebrate mastery. Luck represents a mere tax on their mathematically guaranteed profits. Mastery represents where profit got away from them. More often than not, Casinos boot people from the premises for mastery at Blackjack. Yes, even Barona Casino where, after being booted for mastery, you can walk a few feet and see them celebrating it with great gusto. It all is very strange if you allow yourself to stop and take it in, which I did one day on the way to the gaming floor at Barona Casino. Or I tried to do. I had no idea it was there to begin with.
Glass cases lined a moving walkway between the parking garage and the casino floor. I saw the names and faces and books that I knew from learning to beat the game. I did a double take as they glided by. I couldn’t believe what I had just seen and I had to double back. Founded in 2002, The Hall of Fame honors the greatest blackjack experts, authors, and professional players in history. These aren’t the luckiest players. These are the smartest. And while issues of secrecy, security and fear have kept these pioneers of the game under wraps, here they get the respect they are long overdue.
Max Rubin seems to be one of the men at the center of the operation. A former blackjack professional , Rubin now works with Barona Casino consulting them on gaming and advantage play, it is likely no coincidence that Barona offers blackjack games which are the most statistically advantageous(to the player) in the country. Likewise, they have a reputation for taking the time to thoroughly evaluate a player on their skill before making a decision about whether they will be allowed to continue (as opposed to acting based on hunches or treating players rudely).
Rubin also hosts the secretive Blackjack Ball once a year, which is sponsored by Barona Casino and in which new inductees are voted into the Hall of Fame by the blackjack professionals in attendance. Voting for the Blackjack Hall of Fame is carried out by the modest gathering of pro players at the Ball. It goes without saying that blackjack careerists are the ones who know well the accomplishments of their peers, both publicly and at the tables, and that pros are the best judges of how a nominee’s work has translated to success at the tables for them and their fellow blackjack pros. Anyone who has derived his/her primary income from the game for at least five years is eligible to vote. The public gets a single vote, as determined by online voting, plus select casino honchos (who aren’t allowed to attend the Blackjack Ball) get to vote via absentee ballot. The first seven members of the Hall of Fame were chosen after a nomination process in 2002. After the public was allowed to weigh in, Final voting took place at the January 2003 Blackjack Ball. Al Francesco was a founder of the blackjack team concept. Peter Griffin authored of The Theory of Blackjack and pioneered mathematical theory in relation to the game of blackjack. “Blackjack Hall of Fame” by Visitor7 – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.
– David Drury aka “Loudon Often”