A Glimpse At The Beginnings of Card Counting

Dr. Edward O. Thorp, an American mathematician, is regarded as the father of card counting. His book Beat The Dealer, which was published in 1962, described various betting and playing methods ideal for optimal play. While they may be statistically perfect, some of these techniques are no longer applicable due to the implementation of strict counter-measures by casinos.

However, prior to the release of Beat The Dealer, a few gamblers were already trying to count cards in blackjack. Among the pioneer card counters was Jess Marcum. He is believed to have been responsible for the development of the initial point-count method. Likewise, another popular card counter was Joe Bernstein, who was one of the most feared counters in Nevada casinos. Wilbert Cantey, James McDermott, Herbert Maisel, and Roger Baldwin – known in the card counting world as “The Four Horsemen” – pioneered an accurate blackjack technique as well as a basic method of counting cards designed with the help of simple mechanical calculators.

During its early years, there were successful attempts to card count in blackjack, among them Al Francesco, who invented team play in the game and was the teacher of Ken Uston and Tommy Hyland, who managed the longest-running team in the history of blackjack.

From the 70s to the 80s, as computers started to grow, more advanced card-counting systems came into being. Most card counters have the consensus that a more basic but less favorable method can be utilized to play perfect blackjack for endless hours compared to a more complicated method which is prone to errors.

In the 1970s Ken Uston wrote about a strategy used to count cards in blackjack called the Big Player Team. Using this method, designated spotters are assigned to various tables in a casino. Their job is to monitor the count and alert the big player when the count will favor the player. The designated big player will then join the game, making maximum wagers that will favor them. When the spotter signals that the count has been reduced, he informs the big player to stop playing. With this method, the BP is able to prevent themselves from being in an unfavorable position.

Aside from that, since the big player plays on a random basis, they will keep themselves from being caught by the casino. The spotters, who are tasked with counting the cards, are not making any changes to the size of their bet or strategy so they would not be suspected. The only means of catching these teams is through their gestures.

With this strategy, various blackjack teams have won millions of dollars over the years. Some of the notable teams that have won millions are those run by Al Francesco, Tommy Hyland, Ken Uston, the MIT Blackjack Team.