(aka Frank Schipani, Frank Salerno) professional
gambling career began back in his hometown of Gary, Indiana, where
he played Greek Rummy and other games. He won practically every time he
played, and made about $5,000 a year--not a spectacular fortune, but at
least equivalent to what he could have made at a "real" job at that
Al moved to California and, in 1963, he read Ed Thorp's book Beat
the Dealer. The first time he went to a casino and played blackjack
with Thorp's Ten Count system, he got a headache and had to leave after
20 minutes. The system was that difficult. Undeterred, Al went home and
studied some more. When he returned to the casino, he had mastered the
system and could, as Thorp's book title promised, beat any dealer. After
a year and a half, he started getting barred by the casinos and he
stopped playing blackjack for a period of eight years.
Subsequently, Francesco learned Lawrence Revere's Advanced Point Count
system and started playing blackjack again. After about a month,
however, he started getting harassed by the casinos again and stopped
playing. Years later, looking back at that period in his life, he
remarked: "I knew that I had to come up with a better way to play."
In 1971, Al started playing with teams of seven: six counters and one
Big Player. Al recruited the team members and taught them basic strategy
and Lawrence Revere's Advanced Point Count system. When they were ready
to play, the counters would sit at different blackjack tables, each one
counting the cards and making small bets. When the count was favorable,
the counter would signal the Big Player, who would come over to the
table and bet big until the count turned against him, and then walk
away. Like Al Francesco in Lake Tahoe, the Big Player never appeared to
be anything other than a wealthy, unsophisticated tourist who happened
to get lucky. In this way, Al Francesco's teams won millions of dollars
over the course of a few years.
One of the blackjack players recruited and trained by Al Francesco was
Ken Uston. To the dismay of Al and the other team members, Uston
revealed their secrets to the world in his 1977 book The Big Player.
The publication of Uston's book effectively spelled the end for
Francesco's teams. Many of the team members hated Uston after that, but
Francesco refused to carry a grudge.
Virtually all of the most successful
Real Money Blackjack teams that came after
The Big Player was published—the Hyland team, the MIT team,
the Czech team, the Greeks—used Al’s BP concept to disguise their
attacks, and that approach is still being employed profitably by
Al Francesco is now retired from blackjack and is involved in horse
racing, sports betting, and other interests.