Casino Games – How Professional Blackjack Started

There are a lot of myths about gamblers who were playing professionally before publication of the basic strategy for one-pack game by Americans Cantey, McDermott, Maisel and Baldwin in 1958. But all that was before them still remains a legend. The four statisticians performed their calculations just with the help of hand calculator. However it was their publication in the American Journal of the American Statistical Association causing much excitement among both gamblers and statisticians, and blackjack was considered a game a common player might probably win. Encouraged by popularity of the article in the magazine, copied and learnt by heart by many players, the originators published a book “Winning Blackjack”. Nowadays this book is a scarce edition and it enriches the home library of many professional gamblers.

In 1962 Edward Thorp this time using computer technologies calculate and published in his book Beat The Dealer not only the basic strategy of playing but also card counting. Thorp states that blackjack differs from roulette, craps and other games of luck, the result of every hand in blackjack depends on the previous dealing – it really matters which cards drew back form the game and which remained in the pack. Most of the stuff calculated by Thorp is still precise, but all the serious modern gamblers should read this book only for historical interest.

Thorp’s system called “10 count system” was meant for one pack game which enjoyed great success in all casinos of Nevada. It was extremely difficult for learning, so most of the gamblers gave it up. However, Nevada’s casinos restricted some rules, for example, doubling down only on 11 points. The media told the whole world about it, and Thorp with his book became known all over the world and the casinos that showed themselves to disadvantage had to return former rules. Realizing that under such circumstances crowds card counters would be trying to beat the house, operators of gambling houses introduced two procedures – shuffling after withdrawal of the trim card and multi-packed games.

Thorp’s systems was very difficult to use in practice. But for the computer conference in Las Vegas in 1963, the game would remain on the same level. On a whim, the conference organizers decided to include a Panel Session on “Using Computers in Games of Chance and Skill.” It was just a whim of the organizers to include a section “Using computers in games of chance and skill”. Thorp was designated as Chairman of the Panel and experts on the various casino games, including blackjack, roulette and baccarat. The room filled up and overflowed with computer gamblers. Hundreds of conference attendees were pushing and shoving to get into the room.

The crowd, of course, had been drawn by Thorp. They were expecting revelations on the game and anticipated using his imparted wisdom immediately following the session to make a killing at the blackjack tables.

After one or two more presentations that mainly corrected and modified Thorp’s system, Harvey Dubner was introduced. He described the approach. Dubner kept a count of remaining high cards (10,J,Q,K,A) and low cards (2,3,4,5,6) as the cards were played and divided its difference by total cards left to play. He called the result the High-Low Ratio. His presentation was enthusiastically received by the standing room only crowd and he was given a round of applause at its conclusion. Here at last, many were saying, is a system that is practical, that can actually be used in the real world of casino play. Thorp incorporated “high-low” system into the second edition of Beat the Dealer published in 1966 and since then over 100 professional books on blackjack, team games, hidden computers, shuffle tracking and sleepless nights for casino securities all over the world.