The Book That Changed Blackjack For Ever
Fifty years ago, blackjack was not the game it is today. We have to remember that in a way, gambling is warfare. It is the gambler warring against the house, the casino. When a gambler attacks with a new way to cheat or beat the house, the house retaliates. We will share some of the ways casinos have responded to the book that we will discuss.
On a basic level blackjack, like all casino games, is a game of mathematical odds. Thus, the house knows exactly what their take should be over time. This is called the house edge. A player can beat the house short term with a dose of luck, but over time, the player will finally lose. You can’t defy the math anymore than you can defy gravity.
Since blackjack is a game of math, a man, Edward O. Thorp, who earned a PhD in mathematics, threw the casinos a deadly curve. He learned how to count cards and greatly increase his chances of winning and reduce the house edge.
If Mr. Thorp had kept this technique to himself, it would not have been the problem it was for the casinos. But, in 1962, he decided to write a book; a book that changed blackjack forever. The book: Beat The Dealer: A Winning Strategy For the Game of Twenty One.
If a casino could have a nightmare, this was it. The casinos started getting waves of people who were going to try their hand at Thorpe’s system, even though it wasn’t, and isn’t, that easy to apply. In any case, the casinos were greatly concerned, as they should be, and they took defensive action.
So, what was the casino’s counter attack? Two counter strategies were implemented soon after they understood the threat posed by Thorpe. One change was to increase the number of decks in play. Instead of one deck, they used more. Today 6-8 decks in a blackjack game is not uncommon.
And, secondly, dealers stopped dealing all the cards. They would shuffle before the shoe was empty. This decreased the effectiveness of card counting.
If you play blackjack today, you will notice that after a player cuts the cards, the dealer puts the yellow cut card about 3/4ths into the decks leaving 1/4 not dealt. In addition, some casinos use automatic or continuous shuffling machines that shuffle the decks after each play. Serious players won’t play these games.
Thorpe’s book is certainly a gambling classic. Even though the book is over 50 years old, it is still a great and necessary read for the serious student of the game of blackjack.
Loudon Ofton wrote a concise history of blackjack: Click Here