Don Johnson (gambler)
May 10, 1962 1962 (age 58–59)
At age 30, Johnson was hired to manage Philadelphia Park, a racetrack that evolved into the Parx Casino. After managing that and other racetracks, he served as a state regulator in Oregon, Idaho, Texas, and Wyoming. In the early 2000s, he founded Heritage Development, a Wyoming-based company that uses computer-assisted wagering programs for horse racing.
During the financial crisis of 2008, casinos became desperate to entice high rollers. In 2010, Johnson was made offers to play at the highest stakes. He negotiated several changes to standard casino blackjack in order to gain a mathematical edge. These changes included dealers being forced to stay on soft 17, a 20% rebate where casino would refund 20% of his losses (20 cents to every dollar) for losses exceeding $500,000, six decks, re-split aces, and others.
During a 12-hour marathon at the Tropicana, Johnson recalls three consecutive hands where he won $1.2 million, including one hand where he profited $800,000. Johnson bet $100,000 and was dealt two eights, which he split. Surprisingly, another two eights came, and he split again, wagering a total of $400,000. He was then dealt a three, a two, another three, and another two on the four hands, allowing him to double down on each hand. He was now wagering a total of $800,000. The dealer busted and Johnson ended up winning $800,000 in profit.
Under these conditions Johnson was able to beat Tropicana out of nearly $6 million, Borgata out of $5 million, and Caesars out of $4 million. His total profits neared $15.1 million and seriously hurt casino profits. Though not banned from Tropicana and Borgata, the two casinos stopped Johnson from playing under those conditions and limits, while Caesars effectively banned him from playing.
- Donald Wittkowski (May 23, 2011). "Meet the blackjack player who beat the Trop for $6 million, Borgata for $5 million and Caesars for $4 million". Press of Atlantic City.
- Alan Farnham and Susanna Kim (March 21, 2012). "Blackjack Player Who Won $15 Million From 3 Casinos Reveals How". ABC News. Retrieved March 4, 2014.
- Bowden, Mark (February 27, 2012). "The Man Who Broke Atlantic City". The Atlantic.
- "This Man Won $15M at Blackjack, How Did He Do It?". Bloomberg. January 21, 2014.
- "Don Johnson #2: How He Beat Blackjack". AP Heat. March 8, 2013.