Keith Taft Blackjack Professional Player

Blackjack School

It is remarkable what a considerable proportion of blackjack legends had roots in the teaching profession. Keith Taft is no exception. He had a background in teaching music and physics, and held undergraduate degrees in both subjects.

Another thing that blackjack legends tend to have in common is that their interests in the game of blackjack was sparked by pure chance. For Taft, this life-changing moment occurred during a family holiday to Reno in 1969.

As he was staying at Harrah's Casino, Taft received a token to gamble with. What happened next is rather remarkable considering Taft's religious roots. He definitely approached the whole idea of gambling with much caution.

However, luck was on his side that day and he won the first three hands he played. The $3.50 which he pocketed from the venture may seem rather irrelevant considering his future riches. This small win inspired an idea that would change Taft's path forever.

He remembered hearing about Edward O. Thorp's work and the ability to conquer the game of blackjack with specific tactics. He immediately hit the books and did as much research as he could on basic blackjack strategy and card counting.

At the time, Taft's master plan turned out to be somewhat of a failure. He did not manage to get a good grasp of Thorp's blackjack techniques and always found himself detected by casino security staff. That's when his true genius idea came to him.

He decided to make a device that would do the work for him. In 1972 Taft finished the first version of his device. He named it 'George'. This was a heavy and clumsy machine that had to be manually programmed. Nonetheless, his first trip to Reno with his son Marty proved incredibly successful. He strapped the machine to his stomach and hid switches on various parts of his body underneath his clothes. With the help of LED-lights hidden in his glasses, he managed to communicate with the machine.

Despite this, Taft's second outing with the machine was incredibly disappointing. He lost everything he had won during his previous trip. This discouraged Taft and caused him to give up the idea.

By a stroke of luck an article he wrote on the subject led him to Ken Uston who showed an interest in the technology. In those days Uston was parting ways from Al Francesco, his card counting mentor and setting up his own team of card counters.

This coincided with the time when Taft developed a smaller device called ‘David’ and Uston’s newly formed card counting team started using it.

There was one major difference between how ‘George’ and ‘David’ operated; ‘George’ would send the information to one player but ‘David’ sent the signals to the ‘Big Player’ in a team of card counters.

The team had an 80% success rate, bagging more than $100,000 in a little more than a month. Unfortunately, the team was eventually discovered, which marked the beginning of the end for that team of players. Luckily, the FBI dropped their charges upon deciding that the devices did not equate a cheating device.

Taft and his family helped many blackjack players, but were not generously paid for their services. This did not deter them from investing a huge amount of time into their passion. During the coming years, Taft and his sons invented a range of creative devices which served a range of purposes. This created a battle between the casinos and advantage players to see whose latest innovation could prove to be most beneficial.

This fascinating life story has earned Taft a permanent place in the Blackjack Hall of Fame. He passed away in 2006, but his efforts and creativity will never be forgotten by blackjack players around the world, despite the fact that nowadays strategy-aiding devices are strictly forbidden in casinos.

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