To count cards in blackjack is a renowned phenomenon and there are many misconceptions about what card counting in this game really is. To be able to count cards in Blackjack, you do not have to be a savant like Dustin Hoffman’s character Raymond Babbitt in the movie Rain Man . That is not to say that it is quite simple. Card counting in Blackjack can be seen as a further development of optimal game strategy (note that optimal game strategy may vary depending on the card counting system used). The essence of card counting in Blackjack is to be able to win extra on the meager minority of the total amount of outcomes that make up your winning hands and not lose more than usual on the meager majority that make up your losing hands.
The person who made himself known as a pioneer in card counting in Blackjack was Edvard O Thorp. Thorpe was a mathematician and after reading the article “The Optimum Strategy in Blackjack” (written by Roger Baldwin, William Cantey, Herbert Maisel and James McDermott and published in a magazine in 1956), he got the idea that would result in a new ways to play Blackjack. He familiarized himself with the game strategies that were presented and soon realized what could be done based on this if an additional tool was used.
This “tool” was something that revolved around counting cards . The idea is simple but ingenious and is based on the conditions that are conditioned by the changing composition of the deck during the game. More on the details soon. When Thorpe tested his system for the first time at a real casino, it was perhaps the most sophisticated from a mathematical aspect, although it was not the first time any form of card counting was applied. For example, at this time Joe Bernstein had made himself infamous among casinos for winning against the dealer by counting cards. At this time, only one deck of cards was still used, which was a significant advantage for players. However, Thorp did not choose to keep his discovery to himself for very long, but published everything. This was also followed by a book release with Beat the Dealer which became a great sales success when it came out in 1962 – however, it was not until the second edition from 1966 that the point-count system was published. In the coming years, Thorpe’s system would be further refined by other skilled Blackjack players. This development has also led to major upheavals in the casino industry, more about this at the end of the article.