Beat the Dealer – Edward O. Thorp
Edward O Thorp became the most hated man amongst casino owners for decades after he released his internationally acclaimed book ‘Beat the Dealer’ in 1962 in which he effectively revealed to the general public how to win at blackjack, exposing casinos to huge potential losses and discredit. It also, sadly, led to O Thorp being discredited as a gambler and being barred from several casinos for his illegal antics.
The MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) professor of mathematics and finance was already an expert in probability theory. He followed the perfect professional trajectory to become the world’s most well-known blackjack expert, and his expertise allowed him to earn the title of the inventor of the wearable computer, a title which certain modern technology brands are trying to claim as their own. Edward O Thorp got there first, though, with a small piece of electronic equipment which he smuggled into casinos to test his theory. His hypothesis was that counting the cards used in 21, or Blackjack as it is most commonly known, could guarantee a win if done correctly. His experiment, which involved a $10,000 field test in Vegas casinos with a notorious mobster to fund the experiment, provided conclusive proof of the theory, and led to the book which is still respected as the ultimate manual for winning at the casino game.
In blackjack the house usually has between a two and eight per cent edge over the player, and in this book the author explains how by counting the cards methodically this house edge could be drastically minimised to the player’s advantage, to the improbable figure of just 1% — to the player’s advantage! Thorp noticed during his research (often based outside of the laboratory, in real-life casinos) that the cards were often poorly shuffled at the end of the pack, making it astonishingly easy to predict when would be a good time to raise bets safely and to profitable ends.
Not intending to use this information for mere personal game, Thorp turned his findings into a 220-page guide to card-counting, which is still revered by blackjack players looking to win by any means necessary. His background as a mathematician and a university professor makes for an instructive and clearly explained book of useful information, which also explains the genesis of the discovery. It must be noted that whilst this method is commonly used, and indeed the practice has evolved to become even more sophisticated and technical, card counters are sometimes prohibited from approaching the blackjack table.
Beat the Dealer is a must-have for anyone looking to learn the art of card counting, and it is a book that can be delved back into to fact-check and look for tips, whilst also inspiring new breeds of the practice. So O Thorp can rest easy at no longer being the foremost figure of loathing for casino owners, but he certainly started the trend. Another review can be found here.