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Edward Thorp The Father Of Blackjack Card Counting

Edward O. Thorp, born in 1932, is extremely famous in the world of blackjack, not necessarily as the best player to have ever lived but as the father of blackjack card counting. He created it and has therefore made quite an impact on the game of blackjack. Thorp received a Master’s degree in physics and a doctorate in mathematics from UCLA, and went on to become an accomplished PhD professor of Mathematics at UCLA, NMSU and UC Irvine and Massachusetts Institute of Technology. It was whilst he was working in the latter that he used his proficiency at maths to devise a mathematical system to beat the casino at blackjack. He published his book ‘Beat the Dealer’ forty five years ago, which introduced his card counting system to the public.

Thorp used one of the earliest IBM computers to shed light on the statistical aspect of the game. He realised that if you could keep track of the cards, then you would have a better idea of knowing which cards were left, and could therefore increase or decrease your bets in view of that. This of course gave blackjack players a huge advantage and card counting was born. Thorps initial method is the ‘Ten count system’ which all serious players took on board, but the effect was so great on the casinos that they changed their tactics by increasing the number of decks from one to four. Thorp quickly introduced his next system, the High-Low count, which was included in the 2nd edition of Beat the Dealer, and proved to be even more effective than the Ten count system.

Thorp didn’t just prophesise ? he himself took his theories to the Las Vegas casinos before publishing them, winning $11,000 in a weekend (equivalent to $70,000 in today’s dollars) and would have won more if the casino security hadn’t kicked him out for doing so well!

Not only has Thorp been successful with blackjack, but has also used his mathematical prowess to ‘play’ the stock market. Using probability and statistical computations he has made a fortune through investing in the market, particularly in the securities market and his own hedge fund. Being the kind man that he had already proved himself to be, he shared his secrets in the book ‘Beat the Market’ which was published in 1967.

Thorp was made an inaugural member of the Blackjack Hall of Fame and his story was dramatized in the recently released movie ’21’, starring Jim Sturgess, Kate Bosworth, Kevin Spacey and Laurence Fishburne as well as the book ‘Bringing down the house: How six students took Vegas for millions’ by Ben Mezrich.

It is worth noting however that counting cards is not a workable strategy for online blackjack playing. This is because the online casino software will shuffle the cards after each hand, so there is nothing for the player to count. But it is definitely worth knowing the strategy if you go to a ‘real’ casino or Las Vegas!

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