Surfing the web, you can notice numerous questions that are often asked: “Is it funnier to play slots or lotteries?”, “What to choose: games of chance or games of skills?” or “Baccarat vs. blackjack: what is better?” Obviously, blackjack is due in no small part to the world of gambling and, surely, deserves the attention of players. The blackjack history takes its roots in Europe as early as the seventeenth century, and until the end of the nineteenth century, it was known by the name of 21. The game itself is based on math, since it offers a certain house edge and profits the one who runs it, but players didn’t seem to use this fact to their advantage until the 1960s. Now, it’s quite apparent that you can count cards in any casino game to estimate the possibility of a particular outcome, but back then it wasn’t so. The Four Horsemen of Aberdeen, to whom this article is dedicated, have started a trend for counting cards and developing mathematical strategies for all popular table games.
The brilliant idea came to Roger Baldwin, who was serving at the Aberdeen Proving Grounds in Maryland. It was a military facility, where soldiers stress tested new weapons and gave their recommendations about safety, convenience, and other factors. It’s a risky business, and many factors were involved, so soldiers had to deal with the tension, and some of them decided to spend their downtime playing blackjack. Private Baldwin chose to join the game in the barracks, and after some fieldwork, he realized that the rules are very strict for the dealer. A dealer has to hit on 16 or lower and stand on 17, which might give a significant advantage to those who can count cards, remember which ones are left in the deck, and predict the possibility of a winning combination.
One thing led to another, and after spending several hours on calculations, Baldwin didn’t give up but instead asked for permission to use the adding machine that belonged to the base. It was a huge machine, which passed for a computer in those days, but it did the job. He also asked for the help of his sergeant, Wilbert Cantey, and his two fellow privates, James McDermott and Herbert Maisel. That’s how they started to work on the first efficient blackjack strategy and cemented a place for themselves in blackjack history.
The band of soldiers spent a year and a half on calculations and tests, and after the work was complete, they published their findings in the Journal of the American Statistical Association. The article came out in September 1956 and became immensely popular among blackjack players. They published a more complete guide in their book, titled Playing Blackjack to Win, in 1957, which has drawn the attention of other mathematicians, including Edward O. Thorp, who dedicated his life to improving the basic strategy. Thorp later released a book of his own which made a huge impact on the history of blackjack. As for the four horsemen – they continued living their lives, creating businesses, teaching people, and conducting mathematical research. It’s quite interesting that none of them have used the strategy they’ve created to play at a real casino.
In 1962, the original “Playing Blackjack to Win” book was followed by another book based on the research of the Four Horsemen. It was written by Edward O. Thorp and called Beat The Dealer. This one became even more popular than the original work and sold more than seven hundred thousand copies worldwide. It was an efficient way to beat a casino in the long run. A tidal wave of wannabe-gamblers rushed into Las Vegas and rolled over the Strip like a tsunami, leaving casinos way richer than they were. The reason was simple: reading a book doesn’t make you a professional blackjack player. The basic blackjack strategy is quite intricate and requires a lot of thinking and memorizing to be effectively applied. Casinos actually benefited from the book that was meant to help players beat them, because even though a small percentage of players won, the vast majority lost.
The casinos were still afraid, because a lucky player who knows the strategy and has a significant bankroll can get lucky and bleed a casino dry in a few hours. The future profits can’t save you if you own a relatively small casino and have to pay out, let’s say, twenty million dollars to a lucky high roller. Therefore, casinos tightened the rules, which resulted in an increased house edge. And the traditional form of blackjack, played with one deck, passed into oblivion. Now you can seldom find a blackjack table with two decks in a shoe. Four-, six-, and eight-deck versions are more popular, and it makes card counting way harder. In the classic version of the game, you had to keep track of 16 tens in the deck, but when it comes to a game with eight decks of cards with duplicate symbols, it will be 128 tens. Some people still can do that, and to make it even harder, casinos stopped playing the deck through. Now a shoe is shuffled halfway through so that you can’t possibly count the cards correctly.
Roger Baldwin, Wilbert Cantey, James McDermott, and Herbert Maisel changed the history of blackjack. They put every single gambler in the United States in a position where they could become rich playing their favorite game. Their achievements were fully acknowledged only in 2008 when they were inducted into the Blackjack Hall of Fame, alongside other great players and enthusiasts. Even though we play an eight-deck game today mostly because of them, they are the ones who opened countless possibilities to all of us. These four are the real heroes of gambling, and they’ve earned their place in the Hall of Fame.
Mining! Bitcoins! Cryptocurrency! These words seem to have taken the Internet by storm. You hear them so often, seemingly from everywhere. Cryptocurrency is on top of the world banking system, and even if you’re skeptical about it, you’ve got to admit the idea has power behind it. No wonder bitcoins (and altcoins, any cryptocurrency besides […]
Ever-increasing competition in the gambling world leads to new inventions in online casinos. Online casinos are searching for more and more ways to attract new players and keep their regulars interested. One of the most widespread ways to promote a business is to create a decent loyalty program. Bonuses and special offers are an integral […]
Not long ago, we looked at three questions you should ask yourself about your hand before you decide to bet on the river. Now we’re going to look at how you can get the most value out of your hand when you do decide to wager. Talking value better here, ladies and gentlemen! Once you […]
Poker is an exciting and unpredictable game, which has found fans all across the globe. Poker films are as unpredictable and exciting as the entertainment itself. They are shot in different genres and with varying focus on gambling in the plot: sometimes it unnoticeably passes through the whole flick, and sometimes it becomes truly momentous […]
Since the very beginning of the cryptocurrency era (its exact launch date is still disputed, though), it was clear that crypto-money as such was set to conquer as many areas of use as possible. The rule is that when the theoretical benefits of using cryptocurrency for this or that practical purpose becomes apparent, then it […]
The boom in mobile gaming apps is just one of the examples of modern technology’s impact on people’s everyday lives. Mobile apps are gaining ground globally, advancing and forthputting in every possible way and area of implementation. It looks like whatever use of our mobile devices we could even theoretically think of — sooner or […]
Legalization of sports betting in the U.S. seems to be moving full tilt ahead. Over the last weekend in Illinois, a capital funding bill was finally approved. It implies a broad expansion of gambling, including sports gambling. It has already become almost a proverbial story that the state of Illinois passes many important decisions at […]
On May 14, the AGA (American Gaming Association) finally announced its long-expected Responsible Marketing Code. It is aimed at regulating the Association’s activities in advertising sports betting. In many ways, this is a remarkable event. It was well-timed to coincide with the 1st anniversary of the historic decision of the US Supreme Court to lift […]