The history of card counting began in 1962 when Dr. Edward O. Thorp published his book Beat the Dealer. The book soon became a blackjack counting bible and Thorp was still considered the father of card counting, although there are now several strategies that do not work any more. After publishing Beat the Dealer, card counting increased to an unprecedented level. The book was so popular that it even got onto the New York Time's best-seller list. Thorp used computers to show which cards are more beneficial for the players and which for the dealer. After calculating which cards have already been played, it was easy to guess what was left. Casinos were shocked and they had to act urgently therefore, they changed the rules. But players revolted. Finally, original rules were restored and casinos began to introduce multiple shoes and if someone was sentenced on counting, they were banned from the casino.
Card counting had existed well before publishing Thorp's book. Prior to the book, Jess Marcum and Joe Bernstein had successfully used methods of counting blackjack against the casino. In 1957, Roger Baldwin, Herbert Maisel, Wilbert Cantney and James McDermott developed a card-counting system using mechanical calculators. First, Ken Uston wrote a book titled Big Player Team on card counting tactics. In the book, he described how he took part in Al Francesco's counting team. During the action, players were sent to various blackjack tables to decide which was the best table. This method bought some $ 3 million to Uston's team, being the most successful card counting action of all times. Later, Uston became sometimes the most famous card counter, thanks to those books he published on the subject, and he also appeared on numerous television programs.
Beside Ken Uston and Al Francesco, Tommy Hyland is often referred to as one of the most famous card counters. He convened a team of card counters, and headed to Las Vegas, Atlantic City and the Bahamas but finally, they were banned from the casinos.
The 70's and 80's were considered as milestones in the history of card counting as the first computers were introduced that time. Applying computers, errors could have reduced and winnings could have increased.
Perhaps the most well-known card counting team was the MIT Blackjack Team. The famous Massachusetts Institute of Technology college students decided to try card counting. Their story is well known from Ben Mezrich's book Bringing Down the House. Based on the story of one of the casino's security investigators, they won $ 400,000 in a week in Las Vegas.
Another big name is Julian Braun, who created an optimal card counting system as a technician for IBM.
Let's not forget about Lawrence Revere though who was a casino pit boss at an earlier time, but later became a professional gambler and blackjack player. He also invented several card counting systems and wrote about the details in his books. One of his best-known books, Playing Blackjack as a Business, discusses the strategies in details.
Apart from the above, in the history of blackjack card counting, only cat-and-mouse failures were going on. Counters are always trying to go one step further, while casinos are trying to catch them.
But as strategies were developing further, casinos invented even more effective methods to identify card counters and ban them. To become a successful card counter, one does not need to be a mathematical genius, just a little concentration and focus needed. There is no need to keep every card in mind, just need to know about what is still left in the shoe.
On the Internet, many personal stories are circulating about successful and not so successful card counters. One of them told a story about how he came across the mysteries of card counting at the age of 21. With their friends, they went to Vegas for the weekend, but before the journey, he decided to read a little bit about casinos. He found that all games in the casinos give the house an edge over the players, but it is possible to win with certain blackjack techniques. He bought a book on card counting, learned the rules, memorized the basic strategies and studied some systems, and then he set off for Las Vegas with $ 40 in his pocket. He played in a live casino for the first time in his life. A few hours later, his $ 40 turned to $ 165 and that was enough impetus to return to Vegas several times exploring other casinos. Later, it turned out that playing in the Frontier Hotel was most favorable for the players. Between his trips to Las Vegas, he read even more books about card counting and mastered the most popular strategies. He developed his knowledge to such a level that he was able to count a deck in 14 seconds. He also learned how the cat and mouse game was going on with the casino's pit boss and how to get more complementary meals in a 30-minute, $ 5 game.
The only risk of card counting is that if somebody is caught, he can be banned for a lifetime from the casino. This player actually moved to Las Vegas but he rarely plays blackjack today. Although card counting did work in his case, he never thought to try to make a living from it. He is counting only because he enjoys playing the game.