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The Origin of Black Jack

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The casino game of chemin de fer was brought to the U.S. in the 19th century but it wasn't until the mid 20th century that a system was developed to beat the house in chemin de fer. This material is going to take a swift peak at the development of that technique, Counting Cards.

When wagering was legitimized in Nevada in '34, twenty-one screamed into popularity and was most commonly bet on with 1 or 2 decks of cards. Roger Baldwin published a dissertation in '56 which explained how to reduce the casino advantage based on odds and performance history which was quite difficult to understand for individuals who weren't mathematicians.

In '62, Dr. Edward O. Thorp used an IBM 704 computer to better the mathematical strategy in Baldwin's paper and also developed the 1st card counting tactics. Dr. Thorp authored a book called "Beat the Dealer" which illustrated card counting techniques and the practices for reducing the casino advantage.

This spawned a huge growth in Blackjack players at the US betting houses who were attempting to implement Dr. Ed Thorp's tactics, much to the consternation of the casinos. The system was challenging to comprehend and difficult to implement and therefore heightened the profits for the betting houses as more and more people took to gambling on Blackjack.

However this massive growth in profits wasn't to last as the players became more sophisticated and more aware and the system was further refined. In the 1980's a group of students from MIT made counting cards a part of the everyday vocabulary. Since then the casinos have developed countless methods to thwart players who count cards including, multiple decks, shoes, shuffle machines, and speculation has it, sophisticated computer programs to observe body language and identify "cheaters". While not against the law being discovered counting cards will get you blocked from the majority of betting houses in vegas.

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