Origin of Blackjack Card Counting Systems

The exact origin of card counting as a method of winning in blackjack is unknown. One man, Edward Thorp, is universally accepted as the progenitor of modern card counting as we have it today. However, he was not the inventor of the technique. There were other gamblers who knew about card counting although he was the first one to give a method that was proven to beat the casino.

In 1957, the book "Playing to Win" was published. It is of historic significance since it is the first book to discuss card counting as a technique in blackjack. Over a dozen card counting systems were presented in the book. However, it did not suggest varying one's betting amounts so there was no way to gain an edge over the casino with these systems. Further, these systems were crude by today's standards.

Thorp himself never claimed to be the originator of card counting. He cited other gamblers and their methods in his monumental work, "Beat the Dealer". These gamblers and their systems are known to us only through the book.

Jess Marcum was a physicist who quit his job to become a professional gambler and full-time blackjack player in the 1950s.

Harold Smith Sr. was another card counter. He would increase his wagers when the deck was full of aces. His book, "I Want to Quit Winners" was published in 1961, one year prior to Thorp's work.

Finally in 1962, Professor Edward Thorp released "Beat the Dealer." This famous book revealed to the world a mathematically proven counting system that would give the player an edge against the house. This book was taken so seriously by the casinos that they tried to change some of the rules of blackjack. They did not succeed, but they did manage to replace the single decks with multiple decks called shoes. This was to make deck penetration harder.

Casino supporters did much in an attempt to discredit Thorp. One such man was John Scarne, who until Thorp came along had been the leading gambling authority of his day. Scrane was a trusted advisor of the casinos and a flamboyant man who wanted attention to himself. The bookish professor Thorp had stolen the spotlight from him and he did not like that, of course. Scrane challenged Thorp to play blackjack with himself as dealer, but Thorp refused knowing Scarne was a master card trickster.

Thorp's later published an updated version of his book to counter the modified casino rules for blackjack. His work has spawned a small industry of professional blackjack players. These gamblers continuously develop and refine card counting and other blackjack techniques in their war against the casinos.

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