Ah, the Blackjack Hall of Fame—nothing can define the mastery in the art of blackjack than being honored and inducted in the list. Keith Taft, our blackjack hero, is one of the first inductees and one out of the few since its inception. Granted that some have been privileged to receive the honor, none has quite made it in such a fashion as Keith Taft. The world of blackjack casino will never be the same. Let’s look at his story.
Life Before Casino
Keith Taft was born in Cut Bank, Montana in 1930. An innovator at heart, Taft has shown incredible talent in invention from an early age. From three-wheel car made of old exhaust pipe, explosives using materials from chemistry class, to shocking his teachers using hot-wired doorknobs, Taft’s creativity is endless. That is, if he has something in mind, he will make sure that no matter what, he will find a way to make it.
In college, he majored in both physics and general music. He subsequently taught music for five years and another three years in teaching physics. Afterwards, he returned to school and earned his master’s degree in physics. In the meantime, he married his high school girlfriend and had four children. The family eventually moved to California when Taft was hired as a semiconductor engineer in the region.
While Taft enjoyed teaching, he knew that the profession was not what he wanted to do for the rest of his life.
Blackjack Casino Escapade
Taft’s new job requires longer hours than expected. He then decided to leave his children to their grandparents. While on their way, they visited the Harrah’s Auto Museum. At the time, visitors were given lucky bucks that can be used at the property casino and resort.
Upon convincing from his wife, Taft eventually used the lucky bucks and tried their luck in the casino. First, they started with the slot games, then moved on to the table games. With no luck in sight, they moved from one table to another until they finally won some money in the blackjack table.
After they left, all Taft could think of was strategies on winning the game. At home, he researched educational materials on the matter. He learned of counting cards which he then tried to do but with no luck.
The Blackjack Computer
At this point, Taft shifted his attention to designing a machine that would count the blackjack cards for him. As a result, he introduced to the world the first blackjack computer he aptly named George. Weighing about 15 pounds, George operates with the player’s toes.
In 1972, Taft and his family went back to Reno and tried out George. The machine proved fruitful as their blackjack wins outnumber their losses. This was when the house looked closely at the family. Nonetheless, the casino never caught on that Taft was using a controlled machine in helping them win.
While Keith Taft invented a useful tool in counting cards, he never used it to its fullest potential and won bigger. Instead, he quit playing blackjack and would eventually tell his story to local news.
Subsequently, a blackjack mogul named Ken Uston approached Taft and asked him if they could adjust his machine. As a result, Taft created David, a version of George with the size of a house calculator that could fit in everyone’s pocket.