Skip to content


The History of Twenty-One

[ English ]

The casino game of twenty-one was introduced to the United States in the 19th century but it was not until the mid 20th century that a system was developed to beat the house in black jack. This material is going to grab a rapid look at the creation of that system, Counting Cards.

When wagering was made legal in Nevada in ‘34, chemin de fer sky-rocketed into universal appeal and was commonly bet on with 1 or 2 decks of cards. Roger Baldwin wrote a dissertation in ‘56 which explained how to lower the casino advantage founded on probability and stats which was quite bewildering for players who were not mathematicians.

In ‘62, Dr. Edward O. Thorp utilized an IBM 704 computer to better the mathematical strategy in Baldwin’s dissertation and also created the 1st card counting tactics. Dr. Ed Thorp wrote a book called "Beat the Dealer" which summarized card counting strategies and the tactics for lowering the house edge.

This spawned a large growth in twenty-one competitors at the US casinos who were attempting to put into practice Dr. Thorp’s techniques, much to the awe of the casinos. The strategy was difficult to understand and difficult to put into practice and thusly elevated the earnings for the betting houses as more and more people took to betting on Blackjack.

However this massive increase in earnings was not to continue as the gamblers became more sophisticated and more insightful and the system was further improved. In the 80’s a bunch of students from MIT made counting cards a part of the regular vernacular. Since then the casinos have introduced countless methods to counteract card counters including, more than one deck, shoes, constant shuffle machines, and rumor has it, complex computer software to read body language and identify "cheaters". While not against the law being discovered counting cards will get you blocked from many casinos in Las Vegas.

Posted in Blackjack.

0 Responses

Stay in touch with the conversation, subscribe to the RSS feed for comments on this post.

You must be logged in to post a comment.