The man who beat Atlantic City

March 14, 2012 11:26 am

Turns out the house doesn’t always win. Mark Bowden has a great yarn in The Atlantic about Don Johnson, the blackjack player who won a combined $15 million from three casinos in Atlantic City, including $6 million in one night.

Johnson, an average looking guy from Bensalem, has become a gambling hero among the many losers who try to take on the casinos. But Bowden’s piece shows how Johnson’s hot streak was extremely rare. Indeed, the deck is usually stacked against even the best blackjack players. But Johnson – a skilled player who doesn’t count cards – was able to negotiate favorable terms with the struggling AC casinos that helped even his odds. From there, he played perfect hands and walked away with millions, including winning $800,000 on one hand. (He celebrated big time later at a London nightclub and recently won another $2 million at the Tropicana.)

Bowden’s piece also shows how casinos court high rollers – or whales – who can make or break the casino’s bottom line in any given month. The fancy rooms and private jets pay for themselves when the whales lose big at the casinos. But now that Johnson has shown he knows how to turn the tables on the casinos, most are not eager to have him back. Casinos only want suckers.

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