Stanford Wong is the nom de plume, or pen name, of John Ferguson, a gambling author who wrote his first book, ‘Professional Blackjack’, first published in 1975, while studying for a Doctorate of Philosophy in Finance at Stanford University. Ferguson had been introduced to playing blackjack after reading ‘Beat The Dealer’ by Edward Thorp, first published in 1962; as an accomplished card counter, he required a pseudonym to prevent his true identity from being revealed to casino authorities.
Ferguson is credited with popularising a technique known as ‘back counting’, or ‘wonging’, as he called it. Standard ‘High-Low’ card counting involves starting at zero after each shuffle and adding or subtracting, according to the assigned point value of each card, until such a time that the count becomes positive. A positive count indicates that undealt cards in a blackjack shoe are rich in tens, court cards and aces, which are beneficial to the player, affording those ‘in the know’ to capitalise by increasing their bet size. Rather than playing hands during which the count is negative, back counting involves counting cards, from the sidelines, until the count is positive; at that point, a player can or, at least, could join the game and place large bets with confidence.
Nowadays, some casinos have a ‘no mid-shoe entry’ policy at some, or all, of their highest-limit blackjack tables, which prevents players from entering the game until the next shuffle. The purpose of the policy is not only to prevent interruptions to the smooth flow of the game, but to render back counting impossible.