The Origin of Twenty-One

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The card game of twenty-one was brought to the US in the 1800’s but it was not until the mid twentieth century that a technique was created to beat the casino in Blackjack. This material is going to grab a quick look at the development of that system, Counting Cards.

When betting was legitimized in Nevada in 1934, chemin de fer sky-rocketed into universal appeal and was usually played with one or two decks. Roger Baldwin wrote a paper in 1956 which detailed how to lower the house advantage based on odds and statistics which was really confusing for those who weren’t math experts.

In 1962, Dr. Edward O. Thorp utilized an IBM 704 computer to refine the mathematical strategy in Baldwin’s paper and also created the first card counting techniques. Dr. Ed Thorp wrote a tome called "Beat the Dealer" which illustrated card counting strategies and the practices for reducing the house edge.

This spawned a large increase in twenty-one players at the US casinos who were trying to put into practice Dr. Ed Thorp’s strategies, much to the amazement of the casinos. The strategy was difficult to understand and hard to implement and thusly elevated the profits for the casinos as more and more folks took to playing black jack.

However this huge growth in profits was not to last as the players became more refined and more insightful and the system was further improved. In the 1980’s a group of students from Massachusetts Institute of Technology made counting cards a part of the regular vocabulary. Since then the casinos have developed countless methods to counteract card counters including but not limited to, more than one deck, shoes, shuffle machines, and speculation has it, sophisticated computer programs to read body language and detect "cheaters". While not against the law being caught counting cards will get you barred from many casinos in sin city.

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