Complete History of Card-Counting

The father of card-counting, Edward Thorp

Card-counting, the famous blackjack strategy was created by Edward Thorp. He is the author of the first card counting strategy to be published in a book, “Beat the Dealer” published in 1962. But in fact, he was not the first to create or use this method to increase the players edge. Familiarize with blackjack history in details to get the whole picture how the game developed.

Edward Thorp remains the father of card counting due to the fact that his method proved to be the most powerful and effective system for counting cards and thanks to him players got better odds and could use it in any game.

But let's go back to where it all began and familiarize ourselves with first steps made to count cards.

Jess Marcum and point-count system

Jess Marcum was perhaps the first person who got the idea of searching for an edge in blackjack game by counting the cards that had already been dealt in the game. It was he, who in 1949 created the counting method that enabled him to quit his job of Nuclear Physicist at the Random Corporation and become a professional player. Marcum's counting method is considered to be the first fully-fledged points-counting system.

Famous book

I Want to Quit Winners

In 1961 Harold Smith Sr. published a book «I Want to Quit Winners». Which advised players to bet more when there were lots of Aces left in the deck. Harold Smith Sr. owned and operated Casino Smith's Club in Reno in the 1930's.

The book tells the story of a famous card-counter, Joe Bernstein, who was a frequent visitor to Nevada casinos in the 60's.

Book Playing blackjack to win

Playing Blackjack to Win

The first accurate book published about card counting strategies was one called "Playing Blackjack to Win", (1957). There are 16 strategy tips on card counting in the book. But there were no blackjack tips that would tell how and when to vary the players bets.

This book was only published in a limited quantity in 1957 although it has been reprinted as new editions now feature the latest info on the game and winning methods.

The authors of the book were soldiers stationed in the US Army's Aberdeen Proving Grounds in Maryland - Roger Baldwin, Wilbert Cantey, Herbert Maisel and James McDermott. They become known as the "four horsemen" and became very popular for publishing the first complete mathematical analysis of blackjack game.

Their analysis was developed with the help of the first crude mechanical calculators, known then as "adding machines".

Beat the Dealer

Beat the Dealer the book by Ed Thorp was the first book that contained mathematically correct card-counting systems used to beat blackjack. The book boosted the confidence and gave a greater chance to beat the casino. At first there were some doubters and the strategy was not accepted by all players and game theorists.

The Top-Ten count invented by Edward Thorp was very easy to learn and use when playing blackjack and it gave a huge chance for all players, boosted up the popularity of the book. The book was a huge success and in 1963 (a year after it was published) it became a New York Times' bestseller. Perhaps the biggest sign of the success of Thorp and his book was the fact that soon after the book was published the casinos had to modify the rules of the game to keep the odds in their favour.

The most noticeable thing about this book is that its style makes it stand out from all the rest of the books written on the blackjack game. The book explains all the main principles together with strategies in the style of a self-help books. "Beat the Dealer" was and is still one of the most recommended reads for those who want to make money playing blackjack. The second edition of the book, published five years later, was made with the help of Julian Braun, an IBM employee. Braun studied blackjack with the help of a simulator, which made the analysis of the game more profound.


Since then there have been a lot famous names in the history of card-counting and most of them became authors of famous books on blackjack and increasing player odds. You can find out about them in our article dedicated to the Blackjack Hall of Fame or choose one of the names below to read detailed information on each of the players.

Most Famous Names in the History of Card-Counting

Best books on Card Counting

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