The Birth of Blackjack Team Play in the 1970’s

The Birth of Blackjack Team Play in the 1970’s

In the early 1970s, card counting became big business. One of the most creative and successful players from that time (or any time) was Al Francesco, who had been playing since 1963 and had traveled with Lawrence Revere for a while. As a poker player, Al knew that the best way for a player to make money was to disguise his strength from his opponents, but he couldn’t figure out a way that a card counter could do this at a blackjack table. Then, in 1971, it hit him. That year, Al started his first blackjack teams, using the Big Player (BP) approach. It was the method he’d been seeking for eight years.

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Here’s how it happened. Al was in a casino with his brother, who was also a card counter, and his brother was playing dollar blackjack, spreading from $1 to $5 while they were killing time before dinner. Al wasn’t playing, but was standing beside the table talking to friends. On a whim, whenever he noticed his brother had a $5 bet on the table, Al would shoot out a $100 bet, knowing that the count must be high, but otherwise paying no attention to the game. He did this for about half an hour. As he was walking out of the casino, however, the pit boss chased him down. To Al’s amaze¬ment, the boss had caught up with him in order to offer him dinner or a room, telling Al that he was the type of player the casino wanted to cultivate as a customer.

Within weeks, Al was training three players to count cards and signal him when the count was high. He was the first Big Player. The strategy proved to be a huge success, and within a year, Al Francesco had more than twenty players trained as spotters, and three BPs that he could mix and match with his spotters in different casinos on playing trips. This team approach was a major advance in professional blackjack strategy. Blackjack teams today still use Al’s BP approach with great success.