What is the Story of the American Blackjack Player Don Johnson?

The Great Recession that started in 2007 to 2009 affected many business sectors in the US. Consumers significantly cut their spending and lived on lean budgets. By 2009, some companies had declared bankruptcy. The ripple effect of the recession went into 2010 and on to 2012. The casino industry was not spared by the recession. To survive, casinos in Atlantic City began to aggressively lure high rollers to play on their casino floors. That is when they approached Don Johnson, and he took full advantage of the opportunity. 

Who is this Blackjack player Don Johnson?

Many Americans are familiar with the 1980 Miami Vice TV series actor Don Johnson. He is often confused with the Blackjack gambler Don Johnson. Though they bear similar names, they are entirely different people. The gambler Don Johnson was born and raised in 1962 in Salem, Oregon. He loved riding horses, and his experience landed him a job at the Philadelphia Park, now Parx Casino, in the early 1990s. He developed the skills of playing casino games, but Blackjack was his favorite. He even developed a software program to help horse racing bettors make more accurate betting predictions. 

Once-in-a-lifetime gambling opportunity

A once-in-a-lifetime opportunity dawned on Don Johnson in 2010 when casinos in New Jersey began offering unbelievable deals to survive the recession. The casinos offered him lucrative deals, but Don quickly developed a less familiar gambling strategy to win big. Instead of the casinos presenting him with their offers, he negotiated his terms as follows:

  • He gets discounts as high as 20% every time his losses hit $500,000. That means he would receive $100,000 from the casinos. 
  • The casinos re-split aces.
  • Six decks.
  • The dealer is to stand at a soft 17.
  • He gets 3:2 natural blackjack payouts.

Surprisingly, casinos accepted his terms, and Don Johnson got ready to roll the cards for a big win. By accepting his terms, it meant the casinos worked with a thin house edge of 0.263%. 

Making history by accumulating $15 million in winnings

It was time for Don Johnson to set a new wagering record in gambling in the US. News spread fast about a high roller who was staking $100,000 a hand, and Atlantic City was filled with spectators. His first stop was at the Tropicana high roller table, where he won $800,000 in one hand. He didn’t stop but staked again and scooped $1.2 million in a 3-hand sequence. His next stop was Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa, and then he went to Caesars Atlantic City Hotel & Casino. At the Tropicana, Don won almost $6 million within 12 hours. At Caesars, he won $4 million in one day and $5 million in three trips to Borgata. The dealers no longer agreed to refill the tray, and that’s how he stopped playing.  

Was Don Johnson’s massive winnings justified?

Since Don Johnson was wagering high in a recession period, he attracted a lot of attention from spectators, pit managers, casino owners, and other people. Due to this, he was closely monitored, and video cameras kept rolling to record the games. There were no cases of cheating or card counting recorded. It was revealed that Don’s winnings were fair and legal. 

He had developed a blackjack strategy for nearly a decade which was what helped him win. His strong negotiation ability also helped him make the games favor him. Today, casinos may not agree to bind themselves with such terms, but players can still use several game strategies to win big. The secret is to stick to the strategy, play the best odds, and pick the perfect game. 

Richard Maxwell

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