Born in Georgia in 1943, Stanford Wong’s family moved around a bit before settling in Oregon. Wong had a fascination with solving puzzles for as far back as he could remember. Beginning with childhood games such as tic-tac-toe, Wong sought out to determine the winning strategy of every game that he played.
After being introduced to blackjack when he was about 10, Wong used statistics to analyze the best way to play every possible hand. In 1963, when Edward Thorp published his card counting book Beat the Dealer, Wong got his hands on the book and mastered counting cards long before he was even old enough to legally step foot in a casino.
Wong received his Masters in Business Administration (MBA) from Oregon State University. He went on to teach math classes at the university for a few years before serving two years in the United States Army.
Playing blackjack was Wong’s source of income while working on his Ph. D. in Finance at Stanford University in California. He also taught courses at San Francisco State University but came to realize that he was making more money from playing cards than he was from teaching. As a result, Wong decided to leave teaching to pursue his career as a professional blackjack player.
Taking what he had learned from Thorp and expanding on it, Wong created his own advanced card counting strategy, called “Wong Halves.” His strategy was complex but extremely accurate.
Wong developed another technique to gain an advantage in blackjack. His method involves a player watching the cards and waiting until the count is to his advantage before stepping in and playing. Then, the player only remains at the table as long as the count remains in his favor. As soon as the count isn’t advantageous, the player steps out of the game. This technique came to be known as “wonging.”
It was in 1975, while Wong was still a grad student, that he published his first book, Professional Blackjack. Professional Blackjack is packed with Wong’s advice on card-counting and is Wong’s best-known book. In fact, it is often referred to as “The Bible of Blackjack.”
The name “Stanford Wong” is actually a pen name. Stanford Wong’s real name is John Ferguson. Naturally, he did not want to associate his real name with card counting, since he always used his real name at the blackjack tables. So, when he was publishing his first book he decided he needed to publish under a pen name. Wong and a grad school friend came up with the pen name by combining his alma mater, “Stanford,” with the Asian last name “Wong,” which has, as Wong put it, ” the mystique of the Orient.”
In 1979 Wong began publishing monthly blackjack newsletters, filled with current news in the world of blackjack. These newsletters went on to become Current Blackjack News, one of the most popular journals for professional blackjack players. The journal, now published on Wong’s official website, contains information on the latest conditions and rules of blackjack games in casinos in the United States as well as internationally.
In 1985 Wong brought together a team of six skilled players that targeted Las Vegas blackjack, video poker, and craps tournaments. The players worked as a team and split the profits. The team was successful and won at least eight tournament prizes, totaling over $200,0000. Wong analyzed the team’s play and used the information to help write the book Casino Tournament Strategy, which he published in 1992.
Wong went on to develop Blackjack Analyzer, one of the first blackjack odds analyzing software programs, which he used to derive the statistical probabilities for different scenarios in a blackjack game. Although the program was designed solely to be an analytical tool for his personal use, Wong released the software to the public after it proved to be a fantastic program for practicing blackjack strategy.
Wong launched his official website, BJ21, in 1997. In addition to a wealth of freely available information on gaining an advantage at casino games and free message boards, the website also features a members-only area called Green Chip. Users must pay a monthly fee for access to the Green Chip area of the site. The highlight of the Green Chip area is the Green Chip message boards, where members can discuss advantage play with other professional players, including even Stanford Wong himself.
Although Wong didn’t always have faith that craps players could gain an edge over the casino, he eventually changed his mind on the subject and went on to research methods of dice control. In 2005 he published a book of practical advice for craps players titled, Wong on Dice. The book covers everything from the rules of craps to controlling the dice on your toss.
In addition to the books previously discussed, Wong has published the following books: 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), Betting Cheap Claimers (1992), Blackjack Secrets (1993), and Sharp Sports Betting (2001).
The Black Jack Hall of Fame, which honors top blackjack experts and professional players, inducted Stanford Wong at its debut in 2002. Wong has also appeared on television numerous times as a gambling expert or tournament contestant.
Today, Wong doesn’t frequent the blackjack tables as often as he used to.
“I found the game to be a huge challenge when I was young. But, today, I’ve mastered the challenge, and I no longer need the money. That’s the thing about blackjack, you have to be hungry to win at it. You have to go to casinos at four in the morning when the tables are empty, and you have to go for it. I no longer have the desire to do that.”
Currently, Wong and his wife are happy grandparents, residing in La Jolla, California. Wong continues to work with his publishing house, Pi Yee Press, on publishing the gambling-related work of fellow professional gamblers such as King Tao and Bob Nersesian.