The Origin of Twenty-One

The game of twenty-one was introduced to the U.S. in the 19th century but it wasn’t until the middle of the 20th century that a technique was developed to beat the house in chemin de fer. This material is going to take a quick peak at the development of that strategy, Counting Cards.

When casino gambling was legalized in Nevada in 1934, Blackjack sky-rocketed into popularity and was usually played with 1 or two decks of cards. Roger Baldwin published a paper in 1956 which described how to reduce the casino advantage founded on odds and performance history which was quite difficult to understand for individuals who were not math experts.

In ‘62, Dr. Ed Thorp used an IBM 704 computer to enhance the mathematical strategy in Baldwin’s dissertation and also developed the 1st techniques for card counting. Dr. Thorp authored a tome called "Beat the Dealer" which detailed card counting techniques and the tactics for reducing the house advantage.

This spawned a large increase in black jack players at the US casinos who were attempting to put into practice Dr. Ed Thorp’s techniques, much to the awe of the casinos. The technique was difficult to understand and complicated to execute and thusly heightened the earnings for the casinos as more and more people took to gambling on black jack.

However this massive increase in profits was not to continue as the players became more highly developed and more aware and the system was further perfected. In the 1980’s a bunch of students from MIT made card counting a part of the regular vocabulary. Since then the casinos have introduced numerous measures to thwart card counters including but not limited to, more than one deck, shoes, shuffle machines, and speculation has it, complex computer software to scrutinize body language and detect "cheaters". While not against the law being discovered counting cards will get you banned from many brick and mortar casinos in sin city.

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