Casino Games History or How People Have Learnt to Count Cards; Part 2

Thorp’s Era.

If you don’t know, now we are living in 43th year of Thorp’s era. This person had such a great influence on the blackjack and all the gambling industry, that I seriously consider that he is worth of setting up a monument while alive, by the way at the casino’s expense.

Being a young scientist, Edward O. Thorp regularly read mathematic journals. When he was a student, he was pressed for money. The idea of outplaying the casino on the basis of calculations appealed to Thorp and he decided to check the results of the “excellent four” and see what will come out of it. The result of his activity was a phenomenal book Beat The Dealer, now its sales are approaching million of samples.

Thorp chose the other way – he did not make analytical calculations, but with powerful at that time computer IBM (they were also called mainframe) he wrote several programs on Fortran, creating quite original methods for 60s. By the way, Thorp together with his research instructor Claude Elwood Shannon, a great scientist, were also involved in solving the problem “how to outplay the roulette?”

From his calculations Thorp understood that dead cards had a considerable effect on the gambler’s chances this or that way. His main idea was about memorizing the dead cards in somewhat simplified way and when the situation is beneficial for the player, make high stakes. By the way, this system still remains the basis of any methods and counting systems of blackjack.

The counting system introduced by Thorp, was rather complicated for usage in real casinos, required great concentration and large amount of mentally arithmetic actions. However with good training there was nothing impossible in its application.

Thorp’s book immediately became a success and bestseller. Everyone understood that with quite simple actions you can get an advantage. Every reader dreamt of enormous prizes. However, the casinos also knew the score.

Panic seized them. And in 1962 after Thorp’s book, all Las Vegas Casinos without exception changed their rules being afraid of mass influx of “system players”. The quality of the rules worsened terribly and no counting system could ever help you to win. Though the effect for casino turned out to be quite unpredictable and reverse – people stopped playing blackjack. And during several months, all the casinos had to return to the former rules for their own survival.

Another interesting effect caused by Thorp’s book- incredible popularity of blackjack outrunning the favorite American craps. A lot of people, after reading the book considered themselves potential winners and rushed to the blackjack tables. However, most of them had a bad understanding of the mathematical principles of the game did not become winners but quite vice versa. Therefore, casino got more clients and moreover losing clients. Since then their number is only increasing.

The system presented in the first edition of Thorp’s book was quite difficult even for professionals and only the few could apply it under the conditions of a real game. Something should be simplified.

The power behind the throne.

Julian Braun is quite a unique personality. He had hardly ever played a deal in real blackjack. But he played millions and maybe even billions of deals on the computer. Braun was a good mathematician and programmer and he got interested in Thorp’s idea and offered him cooperation in the sphere of calculations and programming.

Braun became the person who first invented the counting system Hi-Lo. He was behind the development of all modern systems the authorship of which belongs to Revere, Humble, Wong and Uston. He wrote the only book How to Play Winning Blackjack, but what a book!

Braun upgraded Thorp’s system on FORTRAN and made considerable changes and the second edition of Thorp’s book also contained Hi-Lo system in its modern form. It was quite a revolution in gambling world. Braun worked in IBM corporation and had access to probably most powerful computers of that time. This fact helped to build simple and efficient tool in struggle with casino.

Using Braun’s calculations the gambler mostly known as Lawrence Revere developed his own counting system and presented his results in the form of convenient tables which are applied in most counters of the world. Lance Humble based his HiOpt systems on Braun’s experience.
Regardless the fact that Julian most probably had never been to the casino, he became a power behind the throne of the blackjack and all the mathematical modeling of the game fell on him.

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