Don Johnson — no relation to the Miami Vice actor from the 80’s – is the CEO at a Wyoming company that makes online horse race betting software. He took $6 million in one night from the Atlantic City Tropicana casino. Not long before, he hit Caesars for $4 million and the Borgata for $5 million.
And he did it all playing blackjack.
A couple of years ago, says Johnson, several cash strapped casinos started getting desperate to secure more high limit players. In their zeal, it is reported that some in Atlantic City offered high limit players up to a 20% discount on their losses. This means that for every $100 lost at the tables, the casino would return $20. Offers like this were unheard of in Atlantic City in the past and those who had mastered the game and were in the position to take advantage of it did.
Johnson figured out how to drive the house edge even lower. Through tough negotiations, he convinced the casinos to offer him the most liberal rules possible (see Resources – Casino Rules & Conditions). He won’t say what all the conditions were in the final e-mailed agreement with the Tropicana, but Johnson and the casino management finally agreed, he had whittled the house edge down to one-fourth of 1 percent, by his calculations. In effect, he was playing a 50-50 game against the house, and with the discount, he was risking only 80 cents of every dollar he played. He had to pony up $1 million of his own money to start,while other casinos refused to let him play, the Tropicana limited his hands to $100,000.
But how did he clean them out for 6 million in 12 hours?
Although Johnson, had been playing blackjack since the 1990’s and had won several million, he was considered a green pea in Atlantic City, and went fairly unnoticed. At the Tropicana, he reportedly played one hand of blackjack per minute, which raised suspicion from surveillance cameras that he was cheating or counting cards. However, his streak was investigated by officials in Atlantic City and they deemed he was not cheating but has beaten the casinos fair and square, in the words of the Atlantic, by studying the game before setting foot in a casino.
What has dumbfounded skeptics is that it wasn’t card counting that helped Johnson win, but rather basic blackjack strategy, and a large enough bankroll to survive the variance swings. He was quoted as saying, “They (casinos) beat most people in the long run because the average person won’t have the bankroll – but I have my own bankroll. If you can take the swings, you’re going to win. You also have to understand the math.”
According to Tropicana CEO Mark Giannantonio, Johnson’s winnings at the Tropicana set back the casino in its monthly profits for April 2011, placing Trop at the second lowest slot of the 11 casinos in Atlantic City in terms of revenue. Giannantonio was subsequebtly fired.
Will any casino in the world ever allow Don to set foot in their establishment again?
After a $15,000,000 winning streak in 6 months that remains to be seen, but my money says, “No way, Jose!”