Edward Thorp, Blackjack Legend
What a title, to be a Blackjack legend, you would have needed to make the news in the gaming community in a big way. Whether it’s card counting, writing books, hitting it big or creating a strategy that would benefit us all, Blackjack legends are few and far between. There is no one Blackjack legend that is more prominent and famous than Edward O. Thorp. The man is responsible for the winnings of hundreds of successful card counting players over the years.
Starting at MIT, Edward Thorp began his journey. He, unlike others, was not trying to start up a card counting ring of players to hang out with. The UCLA grad was a teacher at MIT in the realm of mathematics which all of us know, goes hand in hand with a successful Blackjack card counting strategy. In addition to teaching math, he was, of course, a Blackjack enthusiast. The two combined skills left Edward Thorp a powerhouse when it came to gaming at a casino Blackjack table. At this time, land-based casinos had no idea that card counting was even a possibility which came as an advantage as well.
It wasn’t right away that Thorp started putting the two together, it wasn’t until a while later and at first, his strategy for the game was very basic. Because players were already surrendering a 5% edge to the casino, that alone made things easy for Thorp to come up with a way to make it seem like he was helping players beat the system. Card counting was a part of the everyday casino however a proven strategy was yet to be born. Though many like to call Thorp the inventor of card counting, this is not true but it does seem fitting as methods previously talked about were not profitable and did not rank remotely close to the method Thorp had in the works.
Thorp would eventually come out with a strategy that would actually give players a 1% edge over the house. This could be done by the players keeping track of the cards that are dealt, they would then make guesses on when to increase their bets for profit based upon which cards that are left within the shoe at the casino. Though the strategy seems quite difficult, the players who were in it for the million dollar payouts stuck with it and made themselves quite a bit of money for a while.
To get things going, Thorp teamed up with an engineer named Claude Elwood Shannon. Together they took their knowledge to the best place on earth to play, Las Vegas Nevada The results brought much success to the tune of thousands of dollars each time they visited Las Vegas. Each weekend, they would head out and rack up around $50,000 in cash just from a few tweaks to the regular gaming style of Blackjack.
Next came the book, his method of playing spread like wildfire after Beat the Dealer was published. This detailed how players could successfully count cards and beat the dealers on games like Blackjack. The book was published in 1962 and became an instant classic. Also with the publishing of this book, careers blossomed within the card counting community. After the word got around, casinos began to ban and restrict players from counting cards. The book is still used and found widely today.