Don Johnson & How He Beat Atlantic City Playing Blackjack


For most of the world, when they hear/read the name Don Johnson,the American actor of the same name, most famous for his portrayal of the character Sonny Crockett in the 1980s TV series Miami Vice, first pops to mind. However, for gambling enthusiasts who know a bit about table game Atlantic City lore, this name gets most connected to a corporate executive who cleaned out venues along the New Jersey boardwalk for more than $15 million in six months in 2011.

While in the past, most gamblers turned to card counting as the only surefire way to gain an edge over gambling operators. The Oregon-born Don Johnson did not lean on blackjack strategy or keep a mental tally of the cards dealt as methods to ruin operators. No. He opted to press desperate establishments into giving him rule changes in exchange for his high-roller play.

Following the 2008 financial crisis, American casinos saw a dramatic drop in high-stakes action. That was common at that period, seeing as many US residents experienced massive hits to their investment portfolios and bank accounts during the housing market crash and the global recession that occurred from December 2007 to June 2009.

Thus, they were desperate to get those with deep pockets to enter their properties and sit at their tables. Given that Don Johnson was such a gambler, they bent the knee and caved into his demands, allowing him to play blackjack using a modified ruleset that benefited him, hoping that Lady Luck would not smile at him. Unfortunately for them, good fortune was on his side. Plus, the conditions of the games he played already favored him, so he only needed a little luck to beat those who decided to cater to his needs.

What Blackjack Conditions Did Johnson Get?

Essentially, Johnson earned millions by negotiating the following terms with multiple Atlantic City gaming properties. He would place a million-dollar line of credit in his balance at their venue, and any time he would lose more than half a million, he would quit, getting a 20% rebate on his incurred losses in the process.

At some locales, his max bet option would be $100,000. And at others, the maximum sum he could play per hand was half this. All games would feature six decks, with the dealer standing on soft seventeens, and he would get allowed a late surrender, the option to double on any first two cards, doubling after a split, the choice to re-split aces, and re-split to four hands.

Depending on the circumstances and any additional stipulations Johnson added to his session, he estimates that he had anywhere between 0.75% and a 2.17% advantage over his dealers.

What Casinos Did Johnson Hit?

Don made headlines nationally after his assault on the Tropicana in 2011, when he snagged $5.8 million in profits during a twelve-hour session, playing max bets of $100,000, ruining the casino’s month single-handedly. In three consecutive rounds, he raked in $1.2 million in winnings, shocking onlookers.

But, before this legendary Tropicana streak, Johnson had taken Caesars for $4.2 million and the Borgata for $5 million. After amassing profits of $15 million and sizable fame, his blackjack benefits were revoked at these spots. His winning ways also led Mark Giannantonio, president and CEO of the Tropicana, to get fired.

Tips to Win at Blackjack

Blackjack is the best casino game because it delivers the best player odds. By default, gamblers face a house edge of around 2%. Yet, if they can memorize a chart outlining the best possible move in every possible scenario, this house advantage falls to 0.5%. Counting cards is the only way anyone can tip the winning probability in their favor, but casinos nowadays use multiple decks to make this an impossibility. Moreover, if they spot someone engaging in this practice, they can kick them out through their front door, legally refusing service.

Thus, the most recommended course of action is to fall back on using a strategy card. Then, avoid making side bets, such as the insurance wager, and look for games with liberal rules. The latter refers to conditions akin to some of the ones that Don Johnson asked for in his session. The top three are surrender, doubling down after splitting, and the dealer standing on soft seventeen.

What Is Bankroll?

In simple terms, bankroll is the supply of funds a gambler makes available for specific sessions or periods. It is the gambling budget one has and should not overstep when enjoying games of chance. Standard blackjack bankroll tips include utilizing betting units and wagering based on the risk of ruin. The latter defines a player’s chance of losing all their allocated funds.

Everyone should calculate a per-day bankroll and never wager with money they can’t afford to be without.


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