Edward O. Thorp: The man behind card counting

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Blackjack is a classic casino game, requiring skill, concentration and luck among other factors to emerge victorious. It’s part of what makes the game so thrilling. However, with the money at stake, it’s inevitable that players would do anything to win, and one way to ensure an advantage is by card counting.

You may have seen card counting in some movies or read about it online and whilst it’s not illegal, casinos are within their rights to remove players who card count when they play. And, the man who started it all off is Edward O. Thorp, a pioneer and inventor who also had a strong passion for blackjack.

Blackjack with gambling chips

Who is Edward O. Thorp?

Born in Chicago in 1932, Edward Oakley Thorp would go on to receive a Ph. D in mathematics from the University of California and then worked at the renowned MIT. Thorp was also a professor of mathematics at various universities after.

As well as that, Thorp would be known for inventing the world’s first wearable computer in 1961 and pioneering modern applications of the probability theory. However, another reason he is so well-known is for writing Beat the Dealer, the first book ever to prove that the house advantage in blackjack could be overcome by card counting.

For those that don’t know, card counting is a strategy used that sees a player keep a running tally of the cards that have been dealt in blackjack. Therefore, it gives you an advantage of knowing whether the next card is likely to give you an advantage or not, meaning you can bet accordingly. Obviously, this is an extremely difficult strategy to master, yet some are capable and that included Thorp.

As mentioned, Thorp had a real passion for blackjack and began working on his theory that you could gain an advantage years before he released his book. Using research tools to check the probability, he analysed each hand and worked out how to gain the edge.

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Putting his theory to the test

After spending time perfecting his new found strategy, it was time to put it to the test and Thorp visited several casinos across America, including visiting Vegas. Backed by a professional gambler, he had $10,000 as a starting pot and it was immediately successful. By the end of the first weekend, they had made a profit of $11,000 and that was despite several Vegas casinos rejecting them given their new, consistent habit of winning.

His prominence among blackjack fans was rising, along with casino security officials – prompting Thorp to use disguises such as wraparound glasses and fake beards when playing at the tables!

However, this popularity led to him writing his very popular book, which effectively became the first ever card counting manual. It detailed every aspect of his research and was available to the public. Even though it has a niche audience, over 700,000 copies were sold, giving it a place on the New York Bestsellers list. To this day, it’s still in print and sells thousands of copies each year, inspiring blackjack players.

With that in mind, Edward O. Thorp is a name that will always be remembered by blackjack fans. He had an undeniable passion for the game and if you want to experience the excitement of blackjack then visit Lucky Nugget Casino.