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History of Blackjack and Card Counting

Blackjack originated in France in the 1700s. It was known simply as "Vingt et Un" which means "Twenty and One." In the old rules, a player who was dealt an ace and jack of spades for a staring hand won more money. Today a blackjack is any natural 21. It is very popular in the United States and the rest of the world and has no rival among card games except maybe poker.

Several books about blackjack tactics have been made. In 1956, Roger Baldwin published a 10-page report about the mathematics of blackjack in the "Journal of the American Statistical Association." Baldwin demonstrated how the house advantage can be reduced using math-based techniques. It did not, however, show how to actually gain an edge over the house.

Blackjack strategy rose to an all-time high in the 1960s thanks to the work of Edward Thorp. He based his work partly on Baldwin's and partly on his own research. Thorp introduced a card counting system in his book "Beat the Dealer" which gave the player a small advantage over the casino if used correctly. Casinos countered by changing the game's rules and technical provisions.

Julian Brown was a computer programmer who used to work for IBM. He helped develop new blackjack card counting and playing techniques which were used in an updated version of "Beat the Dealer."

Card counting has since inspired generations of advantage players to win in blackjacks.

The next significant development in blackjack came in the 1970s. Stanford Wong published "Professional Blackjack" for beginners and advanced players alike. Wong used computer technology to teach fundamental blackjack strategy. The book quickly became the standard work for all who wanted to learn the game.

The war between the advantage players and the houses escalated. The casinos were getting smarter with their automatic shuffling machines and multiple decks. But the advantage players were getting smarter too. In the 1970s, Ken Uston and his team developed tiny card counting devices that could fit into one's shoes. Uston's team easily made a hundred thousand dollars until one of their devices were found. Authorities ruled that the devices were not illegal; however the casinos would not permit them.

Some 20 years later, the MIT Blackjack Team came to light. These card counters won a great deal of money as well until casinos identified their members and blacklisted them worldwide.

Today, many critics say card counting is a thing of the past, saying he casino technologies used today are too advanced to be overcome. But whether or not that is true, it does not stop people from playing the addictive game of blackjack.