Blackjack » Blog Archive » The Origin of Twenty-One


The Origin of Twenty-One

[ English ]

The casino game of chemin de fer was introduced to the US in the 19th century but it wasn’t until the middle of the twentieth century that a strategy was created to defeat the house in Blackjack. This article is going to grab a rapid look at the creation of that technique, Counting Cards.

When betting was made legal in the state of Nevada in ‘34, twenty-one sky-rocketed into popularity and was most commonly gambled on with one or two decks of cards. Roger Baldwin wrote a dissertation in ‘56 which detailed how to reduce the casino edge founded on odds and stats which was really difficult to understand for people who weren’t math experts.

In ‘62, Dr. Ed Thorp used an IBM 704 computer to better the mathematical strategy in Baldwin’s paper and also created the 1st techniques for card counting. Dr. Thorp authored a tome called "Beat the Dealer" which detailed card counting techniques and the practices for lowering the house edge.

This created a huge growth in Blackjack gamblers at the US betting houses who were attempting to put into practice Dr. Thorp’s techniques, much to the alarm of the casinos. The system was challenging to understand and hard to carry through and thusly heightened the earnings for the casinos as more and more people took to wagering on twenty-one.

However this huge increase in earnings wasn’t to continue as the players became more sophisticated and more accomplished and the system was further improved. In the 80’s a bunch of students from MIT made card counting a part of the regular vernacular. Since then the casinos have brought in countless methods to counteract players who count cards including, more than one deck, shoes, shuffle machines, and speculation has it, complex computer programs to scrutinize body language and identify "cheaters". While not prohibited being discovered counting cards will get you barred from most betting houses in vegas.