Unston and Francesco - Blackjack Legends

Ken Unston and Al Francesco, Blackjack Legends

Most of the time when we talk about legends, we talk about each as an individual, since Ken Unston and Al Francesco were known famously for playing on a team, it only seems justified that we talk about them together for a change. Most of the time we are more familiar with Ken Unston over Al Francesco since his name is published on books and he was found on TV often times when it came to talking about Blackjack, however, those involved in the game are more familiarized with Francesco.

Team Blackjack was brought to our attention and made possible by Al Francesco, the creator of team blackjack. The concept behind it is this; a group of players will work together with one goal in mind, card counting without being noticed by the casino staff. The big player strategy is where the teams will work together around one person who will bring the money home for all of the players on the team.

You might be wondering where Ken Unston is in all of this, he was brought into the equation when first meeting Al Francesco, he was interested in the game of Blackjack as well as card counting. Unston was eager to learn and luckily, Francesco took him in as a player. Some reports state that Unston was the team’s big player however, Francesco denies this and states that Unston didn’t ever make the team all that much money. No matter what the story really is, Francesco took on Unston as an apprentice and this is where their story began.

Unston went on to write a book called The Big Player which was published in 1977 from the learning and teachings from Al Francesco. The book, similar to the Beat the Dealer book that was published in 1962 gave players around the world a card counting strategy that hadn’t been seen before. Unfortunately, with a book like this being published, it was placed into the hands of casino operators who then banned the group from the casinos in Las Vegas.

A tale of triumph comes from Uston’s situation. Despite the fact that they were all banned from the casinos, Uston wrote yet another book and he continued to play Blackjack in the United States even though some of the casinos had him permanently banned. He challenged some of the casinos in Atlantic City in court, the courts sided with Uston as it was apparent to them that it was not fair to ban a skilled player from the game of Blackjack.

Today, Francesco doesn’t play too much Blackjack and as for Uston, he passed away in 1987 so his Blackjack days were limited as well.  

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