Al Francesco is the developer of the Big Player method of blackjack. Using this method, blackjack teams have won millions of dollars and continue to do so even today. Francesco's career with cards began when he was just a teenager in Gary, Indiana. He proved himself playing Greek Rummy and other games of chance. He was a formidable player and earned roughly $5,000 a year from his winnings.
After moving to California he read Edward O. Thorp’s book, 'Beat the Dealer'. It was 1963 and he had yet to visit Las Vegas but Francesco was inspired to learn the ten-card counting system and then he headed for the casino blackjack tables.
After overcoming initial teething troubles he found that he could command the table with any dealer and winning was almost a forgone conclusion. In those early days the full potential and threat of card counting methods to casinos was still unknown and Francesco had a field day at the tables. But fate was catching up with him and as casinos realized they were being beaten they started banning Francesco. The pressure eventually forced Francesco into retirement. At the same time the casinos began using 4-deck cards but this was countered by Advanced Point Count method described in Lawrence Revere's book 'playing blackjack as a Business'. Francesco returned to the tables armed with the new method, however, the casinos had long memories and Francesco was quickly barred again.
The idea for team play came to him as he and his brother played blackjack in a casino in Lake Tahoe during 1971. Francesco noted how the pit boss was attracted by his casual attitude during the game, little realizing that he was relying on his brother's accomplished card-counting skills. Francesco envisioned a team of players in which only the 'Big Player' would be laying down significant bets. The rest of team could count cards at different tables signaling to the Big Player which tables were worth joining because the cards favored the player.
Francesco put together his first blackjack team in the early 70's and because his methods were then unknown to the casino the team walked off with millions of dollars in a few short years. The run continued until Ken Uston published 'The Big Player' in 1977 that described how Francesco's method works. The cat was out of the bag and once the casinos understood the threat they quickly took counter measures and kept a sharp eye out for teams. Francesco was once again persona non grata. However, Francesco's methods had paved the way for many of the most successful blackjack teams that were to follow. Notably, the Hyland team, the Czech team, and the infamous MIT team all successfully applied Francesco's methods.
Today Francesco follows his other great love, horse-racing. In 2003, in recognition of his remarkable career in the game he was made an inaugural member of the Blackjack Hall of Fame.