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The History of Card Counting in Blackjack

ByDave Stopher

Jan 27, 2019 #Gaming

Blackjack is a very popular casino game, especially for beginners, as it’s easy to understand, easy to play and you can even use small wagers to bet. Also known as 21, the aim of the game is simple – to beat the dealer, either by getting as close as possible to the total of 21 or by the dealer going bust.

But as you get more advanced in this casino game, whether you’re playing Blackjack online or in a land-based casino, you can start to learn to read the deck and try to master the skill of card counting. This can help you to decide what step to do next, and whether to increase or decrease your bet size. So, let’s take a look at what card counting is, the history behind it and how it applies to online Blackjack.

What is card counting?

Before delving into its invention, it’s worth knowing what exactly card counting is. In terms of Blackjack, it’s a technique that counts the cards left in the deck, keeping track of the number of high and low cards. This technique then can help players predict whether a high or low-value card will be dealt next.

So, if the player knows the odds are in their favour rather than the dealer’s, they can raise their bet and make it more likely that they win big. It can also influence whether they hit, double down, split or stand. However, this technique doesn’t mean a win every time, but just helps the player learn what’s in the deck, and a skill they can apply in addition to their normal game play.

Who invented card counting?

Edward O. Thorp, an American mathematics professor, is thought to be the creator of the card counting technique as he was the man behind the book, Beat the Dealer. Published in 1962, it originally proved that the techniques of card counting can improve your Blackjack game play and theoretically overcome the house edge, and improve the odds of winning. He deeply analysed the game of Blackjack to create the card counting strategies, successfully putting his theory into practice in the casinos of Reno, Lake Tahoe, and Las Vegas.

As a result, he became a huge figure in the Blackjack Hall of Fame, but the publicity of his book meant that the casinos retaliated and brought in measures to counteract his card counting techniques, including reshuffling before the end of the deck has been reached.

Card counting and online casinos

Although this strategy can be used in a land-based casino, for online Blackjack, it is near impossible to apply a card counting technique. In a land-based casino, the dealer will shuffle a single, or multiple decks, and use a device called a shoe to hold all the cards during the game. This same deck is then played throughout the game, until the cut card is dealt, and its then that the deck is usually reshuffled, therefore making it possible to count the cards.

For an online casino, the random number generator (RNG) software and algorithms randomise the outcome of each hand, and essentially shuffles the dealer’s deck continuously, always using multiple decks for each game. You can still give card counting a go when playing online, but other strategies can give you a better chance of winning.

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