The term ‘Wonging’ sounds fairly ridiculous, but the amount of money that has been made over the years by employing this technique is anything but.
The term itself comes from the famous blackjack player, Stanford Wong, who popularised it in his 1975 book, Professional Blackjack.
That’s not to say he invented it though. We can’t be sure who was the first to try this technique as card counters all over the world could have been doing it for years before Stanford Wong made it common knowledge.
It is essentially timing your entry point in a game of blackjack to give yourself and advantage, and then exploiting that advantage with large bets.
It requires excellent card counting abilities as well as a degree of hiding in plain site.
Wonging can also be known as back counting.
How Does Wonging Work?
Wonging is nothing more than watching a game of blackjack from afar and only actually taking a seat at the table when the odds are in the players’ favour.
How does the player know when this is the case?
They have been watching the game and keeping a count, known as card counting, from somewhere discreet, so they know when the shoe is stacked with more high cards than low ones. This means there is more chance of getting dealt hand winning cards.
Of course, this is a very simplistic explanation.
A skilled card counter who wants to engage in a little wonging might be able to keep count at a few different tables at the same time, and will leave one table for another when the count turns against them.
The technique obviously requires the ability to count cards extremely accurately, as well as understand basic strategy and how much to stake based on the current state of play. They may also make losing bets that go against their strategy to throw casino employees hunting for card counters off the scent.
So there is a lot going on in a player’s head when they are wonging, which is why not just anybody can do it successfully.
Wonging as a Team
To make things easier to manage mentally, and also to help cover up the trick, some players work in pairs.
One will sit at the table and count the cards, playing small stakes and not drawing attention to themselves by winning too much, and the other will be somewhere else in the casino, blending in but keeping an eye on their partner.
When the shoe is strong, the player at the table will signal to their partner that it is time to join the game, and also let them know what the count is when they join.
The second player will then sit down, knowing that the shoe is in their favour, and exploit this knowledge by making much larger bets and walking away either when the count goes against them or when the shoe is changed/shuffled.
In this way, the team make big money at the optimal time, and lose very little while waiting for the count to move in their direction.
Who is Stanford Wong?
He is actually a Californian man whose real name is John Ferguson, and he was a teacher, a soldier in the Vietnam war, and an enthusiastic gambler.
He had been a successful card counter for years, inspired after reading the famous Beat the Dealer book by Edward O Thorp, and he eventually earned more money with recreational gambling than he did from his job.
Throughout his time gambling he had been writing notes and working out theories, and he eventually released these in a book of his own; Professional Blackjack.
However, as he was still a player too he couldn’t publish under his real name or he would never see the inside of a casino again, so he needed a pseudonym.
Stanford Wong was what he came up with, wanting something Asian sounding as he felt it fit the theme, and also throwing the name of his college in there too.
The book explained wonging, although it was the blackjack community that gave the practice its name rather than Stanford himself, and thus the technique went mainstream.
Many casinos have a ‘no mid-shoe entry’ policy precisely to stop wonging.
Questions About Wonging
Is Wonging Against the Rules?
You can’t really wong without card counting, and card counting is against the rules, so by default wonging is against the rules yes. It’s not illegal though, you can’t get in trouble with the law but you can be banned from the casino or asked to leave.
There’s nothing wrong with watching a game for a while before taking a seat, although some games at some casinos will have a rule which stops anyone entering the game mi-shoe.
This means you will have to wait until the deck is shuffled or changed before joining the game.
Can You Still Make Money from Wonging?
If you can find a casino with tables that allow mid-shoe entry and you are clever enough to disguise what you are doing then there’s no reason why not.
Bear in mind though that casino staff are trained to spot this sort of thing, and card counting/wonging are some of the most well known player tactics out there, so you would have to be incredibly good to get away with it for long.
Is Wonging Online Possible?
If you play an RNG based game then no, sadly not.
The computer digitally shuffles the deck before each and every hand so it’s impossible to count cards, and it is also impossible for a hand to be played while you watch.
If you play at a live casino then in theory you could have a go at wonging, but some casinos use automatic or constant shuffling machines which present the same problems as RNG based games, and those that don’t change shoes fairly regularly so there isn’t much of an opportunity to get into positive count territory.