The Beginnings of Twenty-One

The card game of chemin de fer was introduced to the U.S. in the 1800’s but it wasn’t until the mid twentieth century that a strategy was developed to beat the house in black jack. This material is going to take a rapid look at the development of that strategy, Counting Cards.

When wagering was approved in Nevada in 1934, chemin de fer screamed into universal appeal and was most commonly played with 1 or 2 decks. Roger Baldwin wrote a paper in ‘56 which explained how to lower the casino advantage founded on odds and performance history which was very confusing for those who weren’t math experts.

In 1962, Dr. Thorp utilized an IBM 704 computer to refine the mathematical strategy in Baldwin’s paper and also created the first card counting tactics. Dr. Thorp authored a book called "Beat the Dealer" which detailed card counting techniques and the tactics for reducing the casino edge.

This created a huge growth in chemin de fer competitors at the US casinos who were trying to put into practice Dr. Ed Thorp’s techniques, much to the alarm of the casinos. The system was challenging to comprehend and difficult to carry through and therefore heightened the profits for the casinos as more and more people took to betting on twenty-one.

However this massive increase in earnings wasn’t to last as the players became more highly developed and more cultivated and the system was further perfected. In the 80’s a bunch of students from MIT made card counting a part of the regular vocabulary. Since then the casinos have developed countless measures to thwart card counters including but not limited to, multiple decks, shoes, constant shuffle machines, and rumor has it, sophisticated computer programs to analyze body language and identify "cheaters". While not prohibited being caught counting cards will get you banned from most if not all casinos in Las Vegas.

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