The History of Twenty-One

[ English ]

The card game of black jack was introduced to the U.S. in the 1800’s but it wasn’t until the mid 20th century that a strategy was developed to beat the house in Blackjack. This material is going to grab a quick look at the birth of that strategy, Card Counting.

When casino gambling was legitimized in the state of Nevada in 1934, twenty-one screamed into recognition and was commonly wagered on with 1 or two decks. Roger Baldwin published a paper in 1956 which explained how to lower the house edge built on odds and performance history which was really confusing for those who weren’t math experts.

In ‘62, Dr. Edward O. Thorp utilized an IBM 704 computer to better the mathematical strategy in Baldwin’s paper and also created the 1st card counting tactics. Dr. Ed Thorp authored a book called "Beat the Dealer" which illustrated card counting strategies and the tactics for reducing the casino advantage.

This spawned a massive increase in Blackjack competitors at the US casinos who were attempting to implement Dr. Ed Thorp’s strategies, much to the anxiety of the casinos. The system was challenging to comprehend and hard to put into practice and thusly increased the earnings for the betting houses as more and more people took to wagering on twenty-one.

However this large increase in earnings wasn’t to last as the players became more sophisticated and more insightful and the system was further perfected. In the 1980’s a bunch of students from MIT made counting cards a part of the everyday vernacular. Since then the casinos have introduced countless measures to counteract players who count cards including but not limited to, multiple decks, shoes, shuffle machines, and speculation has it, complex computer programs to analyze actions and identify "cheaters". While not illegal being discovered counting cards will get you barred from the majority of betting houses in Las Vegas.

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