On February 22, 2020, the 24th Blackjack Ball was held in Las Vegas. I was privileged and honored to be one of the approximately 100 attendees. This is the one big yearly event that professional blackjack players, experts and authors gather to reconnect, renew old relationships and create new ones. It is an honor to be invited!
The very first Blackjack Ball was held in 1997, by casino executive and advantage player Max Rubin, who called it “… a double secret party that pits the world’s most dangerous blackjack players in a battle for the coveted ‘Blackjack Cup’ “. Each guest is required to bring one chilled bottle of premium champagne to get past the security at the door and starting in 2019, each guest must also pony up $100 to seed what is called the “Calcutta” and provide funds for future Blackjack Balls and the Blackjack Hall of Fame. Beginning in 2017, long-time advantage player Richard Munchkin began co-hosting the event.
The Blackjack Ball begins with two hours of cocktails and mingling. Then, a dinner is served and betting is done on who thinks will win the coveted Grosjean Cup and title of the “World’s Greatest Blackjack Player“. Voting is done for nominees into the Blackjack Hall of Fame and finally, an incredibly hard 21-question test is performed to determine the five finalists who compete in a skills competition on a blackjack table. This year, Arnold Snyder, former publisher of Blackjack Forum magazine, snagged the Grosjean Cup award and the owner of his team won $14,030!
Well, they also have a secondary prize for the runner-up. They call it the Munchkin Award (after Richard Munchkin of course). This year, an individual that goes by the name Dunbar won it. Actually, Dunbar is the author of Dunbar’s Risk Analyzer for Blackjack.
All of this is sponsored by the Barona Casino in San Diego. Yes, a casino sponsors the event. The reason is that each player who attends the ball agree to never play blackjack in their casino for life. Also, the Barona offers a “lifetime comp” consisting of free room, meals and beverage to all inductees into the Blackjack Hall of Fame, as long as they agree to never play blackjack at Barona.
This year we had the honor of the following Blackjack Hall of Fame inductees in attendance:
- Edward Thorp
- Arnold Snyder
- Bob Nersesian
- Darryl Purpose
- Bill Benter
- Wally Simmons
- James Grosjean
- John Chang
- Don Johnson
- Richard Munchkin
- Al Francesco
- Tommy Hyland
- Zeljko Ranogajec
- Max Rubin
- Rob Reitzen
Voting also occurred for the Blackjack Hall of Fame. The nominees were, Mark Billings, Anthony Curtis, Richard Dougherty, Cat Hulbert, Blair Hull, Lance Humble, Maria “The Greek”, Mike Michalek and Norm Wattenberger. When voting was completed, Anthony Curtis won overwhelmingly. Anthony Curtis is the editor/publisher of Huntington Press‘ Las Vegas Advisor newsletter.
For more information and to see who won each year be sure to check out the Blackjack Ball section of the Encyclopedia of Blackjack on BlackjackReview.com. Also, be sure to check out Henry Tamburin’s articles on past Blackjack Balls for a more in-depth review including example test questions.