Edward Thorp: The Academic Professor Who Beat Blackjack 

Edward Thorp: The Academic Professor Who Beat Blackjack 

There has been a long-standing belief in blackjack that no one gains an edge over the house. However, one man dared to challenge this notion, believing such a rule is not cast in concrete. That man is no other than Edward Thorp. Sir Edward discovered that a player’s chance is not based on luck alone but on mathematics and strategy, which could tilt the odds in the player’s favor.

Today’s casino news article talks about how Edward Thorp beat blackjack, from his research escapades in the lab to his actual implementation at casinos. But first, let’s do a quick background check.

Edward Thorp: A Groundbreaking Work in Casino Blackjack

Edward Thorp is an American mathematics professor, author, hedge fund manager, and blackjack researcher. He was born in the United States, Chicago, Illinois, on August 14th, 1932.

Growing up, Edward was often actively involved in mathematics and science-related endeavors. He has a passion for building things from a young age due to his sense of innovation and invention. This trait led him to pursue a BSc in Physics and eventually earn a PhD in mathematics from UCLA in 1958. He became a professor of mathematics in 1961 after working at MIT for two years.

Thorp’s journey to prominence began with his 1962 publication of “Beat the Dealer,” a book that introduced the concept of card counting and demonstrated how players could gain an advantage over casinos. Beyond blackjack, Thorp also co-developed the first wearable computer used to beat roulette and ventured into gambling and hedge fund management.

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Solving the Blackjack Puzzle

Edward Thorp’s quest to beat blackjack began when a colleague introduced him to the Baldwin Strategy, which gives players a 0.62% edge over the house. Having tested out this new strategy in a Las Vegas casino, he noticed some patterns in blackjack, which helped him confirm one thing: that there is an underlying mathematics behind the game. This discovery made Thorp set out to explore the underlying probabilities of the game, which also extends to blackjack side bets.

Thorp had earlier collaborated with MIT professor Claude Shannon on the invention of the first wearable computer device used to beat roulette. He was confident he could do the same for blackjack. And he did.

From his experimental research at the MIT Computation Center using the IBM 704 computer, Edward Thorp made a significant discovery—his blackjack theory. He observed that players could make data-driven decisions that could tip the odds in their favor if they monitored the cards played in real time. Thorp’s work resulted in the development of the first card-counting system, the “Ten Count System.”

Ten Count and Hi-Lo Systems: The Mathematics Behind Thorp’s Victory

The Ten Count System assigned a value to each card and required players to maintain a “count” throughout their casino games of blackjack. A positive count indicated that the remaining cards favored the player, while a negative count suggested that the house had the advantage. By adjusting their bets and strategies accordingly, players could exploit these fluctuations at the blackjack tables to have an edge over the house.

Building upon this foundation, Edward Thorp later refined his approach with the Hi-Lo Count, which simplified the process by assigning only three values: +1 for low cards (2 to 6), 0 for cards 7 to 9 (natural cards), and -1 for high cards (10 to Ace). Players could quickly gauge their advantage by summing these values and adjusting their play accordingly. Of course, these numbers could easily be applied to live casino settings, but not to the online casino environment, where digital games and Random Numer Generators (RNGs), Continuous Shuffling Machines (CSMs), and other systems are implemented for detection of this practice.

Beating the House: The Historic Winning Streak of Edward Thorp

With his newly developed card counting system in hand, Edward Thorp began to put it to the test and later returned to the Las Vegas casino with his wife, Vivian. At first, they incurred a few unavoidable losses due to the game’s randomness. However, starting small, they began visiting the casinos, betting modest sums, and gradually honing their skills, and soon began to win consistently.

Backed by wealthy investors, Thorp used his card-counting strategies in Las Vegas, Reno, and Lake Tahoe casinos. With a keen understanding of probability theory and the ever-changing odds of blackjack, he deftly adjusted his bets and strategies to exploit favorable situations, resulting in consistent winnings. Thorp’s success caught the attention of academics, mathematicians, pro gamblers, and the media.

The casinos had no idea how Thorp was doing it, but they knew they were losing. They tried to thwart his winnings on several occasions and eventually banned him after he won more than a particular gauge.

The confirmation of this winning system led Thorp to write the New York Times bestseller “Beat the Dealer,” which he published in 1992, due to the demand of other gamblers for his strategy. 

Learn more about card counting and other blackjack playing techniques from our casino guide section.

Mathematics and Gambling

Edward Thorp has successfully demonstrated the fusion of academia and gambling, proving that the two seemingly contrasting fields can seamlessly intersect. He broke down the wall between players and the house by applying academic knowledge to games of chance.

Visit Slots Paradise Casino to play blackjack online free games and to apply his gaming strategy to change the course of your blackjack gaming next time you play for real money.

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