Keith Taft – The Blackjack Ninja

This article is all about Keith Taft and his legacy. Being inducted into the Blackjack Hall of Fame is the greatest honor that any blackjack player can receive. Induction is recognition of how a player has truly mastered the skills and strategies in blackjack and that they can win consistently. One of the very first players to find themselves in the Hall of Fame was a certain Keith Taft.

Keith Taft transformed the face of blackjack forever. It was his innovation that led us to the techniques and skills that many players use to this day. In this article, we’re going to take a closer look at Taft and explore what made him the master that blackjack players recognize today

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Keith Taft

The early days of Keith Taft

Just before the war of 1930, Taft found himself entering the world in the town of Cut Bank, Montana. From a young age, Taft proved himself to be an innovator and he seemed to possess a gift when it came to inventing things. Just some of the things that he created in his early days were a three-wheeled car made from exhaust pipes and some impressive explosives that he had the school’s chemistry supplies to thank for. 

Teachers were often left impressed by Taft’s exploits and he continued to push and produce even better things. Much was down to his mindset: if he wanted to create something, he wouldn’t stop until he found success. 

A sense of being trapped

Taft finished college having majored in both physics and music. He then went on and became a music teacher and spent 5 years doing this. He would later make a switch and move across to teaching physics for a 3 year period. Craving more knowledge, he returned to learning himself and gained a masters in physics. This studying all took place while he had a wife and 4 young children.

His new qualification saw him quickly being offered a new job as a semiconductor engineer. Taking the role saw the family moving to California to start a new life. While Taft enjoyed his new career, he started to question if this was all that life was about. 

Keith Taft and his first blackjack experience 

A road trip saw Taft and his wife visiting Hurrah’s Auto Museum in Nevada. At this time, a promotion was underway that saw visitors being allocated Lucky Bucks. These Lucky Bucks were to be used at the in-house casino so that visitors could experience something a little different. Taft had never stepped foot in a casino but his wife persuaded him to give it a go.

After time playing slots, Taft turned his attention to some of the table casino games and, before long, he was using Lucky Bucks to play his first-ever game of blackjack. While he was far from successful, he found himself leaving the casino with a seed of a thought. 

Keith Taft and a new lease of life

Having been bogged down with the reality of his career, this first casino experience left Taft with a sense of intrigue. With a basic understanding of the game, he was intent on developing something that would help to win blackjack. He spent the next few months reading all that he could on basic blackjack strategy and general gameplay. 

Determined as he was, Taft even went a step further and dedicated time to mastering the skill of card counting. Even with this knowledge, he was unable to find the success that he desired. This meant that he needed to take an entirely new approach to the problem. 

The technical solution to blackjack 

Using his engineering background, Taft decided that technology presented the best chance for him to find winning ways at blackjack. This led to him developing a computer that would count cards for him. It took him 2 years to create but at the end of that time, he had the very first blackjack computer.

His extraordinary device weighed some 15lbs and he affectionately named it George. It was operated by using the player’s toe and it would transmit data to and from a unit that was hidden in a car in the casino’s car park. 

Taft first put George to the test by visiting a casino with his son, Reno. By the end of this outing, it was clear to see that George was a resounding success with Taft and his son winning big at the blackjack table. 

The end of the road

Taft benefited from using George for several years and benefited from some seriously big wins. The family later decided to invest a percentage of these winnings into a new house. This led to Taft taking a couple of years off from playing blackjack as he and his family settled in.

When he decided to return to the casino scene, he packed up George and took a bankroll of $4,000 with him. This should have seen him ending the night with around $10,000 in his hand. Instead, for reasons that no one understands, he lost it. Taft would never play blackjack again.

George is made public

The sad side of this story is that Taft could have benefited so much more than he did. The fact that he walked away after his first loss meant he potentially left hundreds of thousands of dollars on the table. The truth was that no one had ever realized that George existed. It only came to light after Taft revealed all in a newspaper interview.

The birth of David

When Taft had revealed all, he was approached by a certain Ken Uston. He would go on to pay Taft to create a new version of George. One that was smaller and easier to operate. This led to the creation of David.

David was a slimmed-down version of George and was the size of a pocket calculator. This meant that it was much easier to conceal and could be operated by the player’s finger rather than toe. David proved hugely successful and only fell into disuse after casinos brought in shuffling machines and multiple decks. 

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Blackjack Hall of Fame