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What is Wonging?

By Darrell Laurant
Updated May 23, 2024
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Wonging is a form of card-counting at blackjack tables, as well as a slice of immortality for the man after whom it was named. Interestingly, though, "Stanford Wong" isn't the real name for the economics professor who developed the wonging technique. He is actually John Ferguson, author of "Professional Blackjack," who adopted the pseudoname "Wong" because it sounded mysterious.

If you've ever spent much time people-watching around blackjack tables at a large casino, you've probably seen wonging in action. The idea is to stand to the side and count the progress of each "shoe" (the dealer's deck) until it appears that the remaining cards seem promising for a final "21." Then, the "wonger" quickly moves in to take a seat in the action.

This is not technically illegal, although casinos frown upon it as they do all forms of card-counting. A blogger on the site Playerperfect Blackjack puts it this way: "Though it makes perfect sense for any player to want to lessen the chance of losing money, and wonging of course does this, the problem is that wonging does seem to be a bit unfair to other players since they bear all the brunt of getting the unfavorable bunch of cards while the wonger shares only the favorable cards. Wonging is like sharing a cake that everybody else helped bake."

There is, however, an informal code of etiquette among wongers. The first rule is: "It is rude to insert yourself into a game that is already being wonged." Wonging escalated the never-ending game of wits between players and casinos. Card counters used to reveal themselves by their betting spreads over time, but wonging allows its practitioners to avoid patterns by the sheer randomness of their strategy.

Another advantage to wonging (and disadvantage to the casino's bottom line), is that wongers tend not to lose as much money in "tuition" fees. Some casinos have begun posting signs warning: "No mid-shoe entry," but this is difficult to enforce in the free-flowing culture of blackjack. Meanwhile, Stanford Wong/John Ferguson keeps selling books.

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