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Al Francesco

Also known as Frank Schipani or Frank Salerno, Al Francesco is credited with inventing the blackjack team play concept as well as creating the Big Player persona. This method was later used by the MIT blackjack team. With the help of his card-counting strategies, Francesco and his teams were able to win millions of dollars at the blackjack tables without the casinos knowing what was going on.

As one of the most highly respected blackjack players in world, Francesco and his team received the recognition they deserved when their system was revealed in Ken Uston’s 1977 book The Big Player. Unfortunately for the team, the publication effectively put an end to their activity, which left the other team members quite upset with Uston. Francesco, however, refused to hold a grudge against Uston. In addition, Uston still holds Francesco in high regard, having said “I owe everything to Al. He really might be the greatest blackjack player there ever was.”

Although Francesco didn’t achieve notoriety until after the release of the book in 1977, he had actually started playing professional blackjack years earlier. Prior to establishing his teams, Francesco had started his professional gambling career in his hometown of Gary, Indiana during the 1950s. At this time, he managed to win nearly every game he played and brought in about $5,000 per year, which was equivalent to what he could have earned if he would have worked a “regular” day job.

In 1963, Francesco moved to California and started implementing the Ten Count system in Ed Thorp’s Beat the Dealer book. After initially struggling with it, he ultimately mastered the system and managed to get himself barred from the casinos within a year and a half. As a result, he actually stopped playing blackjack for about eight years. He then learned about the Advanced Point Count system developed by Lawrence Revere, but it wasn’t long before he was once again getting harassed by the casinos and was forced to quit playing. It was then that he decided he needed to come up with a system of his own.

In 1971, Francesco began playing with a team of 7 players consisting of one Big Player and six counters. Each member of the team was taught the Advanced Point Count system. They would each play at a separate table, where they would place small bets while counting the cards. When things looked favorable at the table, the Big Player would be signaled to come to the table. He would then place a large bet and apparently “get lucky” at the table. In this way, Francesco and his team managed to win millions of dollars within just a few years.

Today, Francesco still plays blackjack on occasion and participates in special events. He was also inducted into the Blackjack Hall of Fame and has launched his own Web site.

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