The Beginnings of Blackjack

The game of chemin de fer was introduced to the United States in the 19th century but it was not until the mid twentieth century that a system was developed to beat the house in black jack. This article is going to take a swift peak at the creation of that technique, Counting Cards.

When gambling was legitimized in Nevada in 1934, chemin de fer screamed into universal appeal and was most commonly played with one or 2 decks. Roger Baldwin published a paper in 1956 which described how to reduce the house edge based on odds and stats which was very difficult to understand for those who weren’t mathematicians.

In ‘62, Dr. Thorp used an IBM 704 computer to advance the mathematical strategy in Baldwin’s dissertation and also created the first techniques for card counting. Dr. Ed Thorp authored a book called "Beat the Dealer" which illustrated card counting strategies and the practices for reducing the casino advantage.

This created a large increase in Blackjack competitors at the US betting houses who were attempting to put into practice Dr. Thorp’s tactics, much to the amazement of the casinos. The strategy was difficult to understand and complicated to put into practice and thusly heightened the profits for the betting houses as more and more people took to gambling on chemin de fer.

However this massive growth in earnings wasn’t to last as the players became more sophisticated and more aware and the system was further refined. In the 80’s a group of students from MIT made card counting a part of the everyday vocabulary. Since then the casinos have developed countless methods to thwart players who count cards including but not limited to, multiple decks, shoes, shuffle machines, and rumor has itnow complex computer software to observe body language and identify "cheaters". While not illegal being discovered counting cards will get you barred from most betting houses in Las Vegas.

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