Legendary BlackJack Stories From Players Around the World

min read
Blackjack cards and casino chips on a casino table.
BetMGM Oct 04, 2023, 7:44 AM

Whether you prefer to feel the felt under your fingertips and hold your own cards or take to the internet for some online casino games from the comfort of your own home, blackjack will always be an enthralling casino table game. Much like other members of the card game family, blackjack has a long and storied past containing some incredible games. Sure, most of these gambling stories happened before the advent of blackjack at online casinos, but that only adds to their mystique. 

Also known as 21, the all-or-nothing nature of the game makes it a whirlwind experience to play and watch in equal measure. Hopes and dreams hang on the whim of simple addition and the infinite potential of royal faces on the cards given to both the player and dealer. So, without further ado, check out some of the most memorable moments and intriguing blackjack success stories from this game’s intriguing past. 

1. They Called Him Shoeless Joe

As legends of blackjack go, Shoeless Joe’s story can’t go unmentioned. Not only was his one of the biggest blackjack wins in history, but it was also one of the most memorable, especially for those who witnessed it.

To date, his true identity has never been discovered, but the man named “Shoeless Joe” took the Treasure Island Casino by storm in 1995. Legend has it that he converted a $400 Security Check into $1,6 million within the space of 36 hours. “Joe” proceeded, via a combination of outrageous luck and a very unconventional style of blackjack play, to relieve the casino of a substantial amount of money in double-quick time. Unshaven, unkempt, and even accused of being smelly, he won a lot of money but not many friends. Thankfully, the modern age, which allows people to play blackjack online, has made players’ personal hygiene less of an issue. 

But despite the fairytale nature of the story, he was, by all reports, not a very popular winner, owing to his brusque manner and poor tipping. His constant quaffing of Jack Daniels and gorging himself on the resort’s sumptuous buffet certainly didn’t improve his demeanor. Had he been playing blackjack at an online casino, you may wonder if he could have prevented what followed. Sadly, he wasn’t and his awful mood saw him lose his freshly-won fortune shortly afterward.

2. The Not-So-Destitute Legend Kerry Packer

Controversial Australian billionaire Kerry Packer was renowned for his love of a punt, whether in business or the multiple casinos he visited. Packer was highly successful at pretty much every endeavor in which he so enthusiastically involved himself. His most famous win happened at the MGM Grand in 1995, where he delighted in taking around $40 million off the blackjack tables within an hour. 

It’s widely reported that he was betting $250,000 per hand as he proceeded with his Genghis Khan-like assault on the precious treasury of the legendary casino. Incredibly, he was also a multiple casino owner in his native Australia, thus being a winner on both sides of the table.

3. Goksel Selay’s Southend Success

Everyone has a dream at some time in their lives during which they win the Lotto, a car, or a competition of sorts. Goksel Selay, born in Cypress and working as a taxi driver in Southend, England, had exactly such a dream one night in 2015, except that he dreamed about winning big money in a card game. 

As luck would have it, he was having a particularly quiet nightshift and decided to step into the Genting Club Westcliff in Southend. His preferred casino table games were roulette and craps but, as a result of his dream, he gave the blackjack tables a whirl. After an incredible run of luck, he left the club with a handsome sum of $176,000 in his wallet. Who says dreams don’t come true?

4. Michael Geismar: Corporate Raider

While attending a three-day conference in Las Vegas, one of the founders of Quantitative Investment Management, Michael Geismar, was having a hearty breakfast when he decided on a quick visit to the blackjack tables. With only $300 in cash and a $10,000 line of credit from the casino, Geimar proceeded to rack up winnings over $700,000 over the next 48 hours playing blackjack. A big believer in the strategy that requires a player to increase the stake after each losing hand, his tactic proved immensely successful during this sortie. 

When compared to players like Shoeless Joe, Geismar’s is one of the happier casino stories. He’s fondly remembered by casino staff for his generous tips, many running into tens of thousands of dollars at a time. While not a daily visitor to casinos, Geismar makes a couple of visits per year to enjoy a few hands of blackjack. However, this particular visit provided one of the biggest wins the Bellagio casino tables had ever seen.

5. The Unexpected Generosity of Shane Smith

While not one of the biggest one-time winners of all time, Shane Smith, the Chief Executive Officer of Vice Media, still holds a special place in blackjack’s pantheon of heroes. While attending an electronics exhibition in Las Vegas, he decided to relax by playing a few games at the MGM resort and sat down at a blackjack table. Within a few hours, Smith had amassed a pot of $100,000. 

This is by no means a staggering amount of money given the enormous amounts won by the Kerry Packers of this world, but what sets Smith’s win apart from his fellow winners is that he blew approximately one-third of his winnings on a celebratory dinner. The Prime Steakhouse was the lucky recipient of his charity, together with a large crowd of supporters who had been cheering him on during his winning streak. What a guy.

6. Ben Affleck’s Incredible Blackjack Streak

Apart from being one of the biggest names in show business, Ben Affleck is actually an extremely impressive card player. So impressive, in fact, that he has been banned for life from playing blackjack at the Hard Rock Cafe in Vegas for allegedly counting cards in 2014. 

This ban, however, came 13 years after one of his most notable wins at that very casino. The Oscar-winning actor ran up a staggering $800,000 stack at the Hard Rock Casino in 2001 after playing three $20,000 hands in one night. He even left the staff with a generous $145,000 tip as a thank-you. 

Despite his blackjack ban, Affleck hasn’t turned his back on casino gambling but rather set his sights on poker. While his poker wins may not go down as a great poker player success story, he has had some noteworthy moments. He even won the no-limit Hold’em Championship in the 2004 California State Poker Championships, winning a reported $356,400, and participated in the World Series of Poker on numerous occasions to take part in the Ante Up for Africa charity tournaments. During the mid-2000s, he also played high-stakes poker games with Molly Bloom, which were featured in the 2017 movie “Molly’s Game.”

Take Your Seat at the Table and Become a Legend With BetMGM

If these historical moments and blackjack winners’ stories prove anything, it’s that you’ve always got a chance to win big, even with humble beginnings. Register with BetMGM to play live dealer blackjack and a plethora of other exciting online casino games, including slots, poker, roulette, and Slingo.  

Actress Vanessa Hudgens flipping casino chips next to the text "The King of Casinos"
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Our BetMGM editors and authors are casino experts with a wealth of knowledge of the online casino industry at all levels. Their coverage includes company news, game reviews, how-to instructional articles, strategy guides, and editorials showcasing BetMGM’s superior product and game library.

Our BetMGM editors and authors are casino experts with a wealth of knowledge of the online casino industry at all levels. Their coverage includes company news, game reviews, how-to instructional articles, strategy guides, and editorials showcasing BetMGM’s superior product and game library.