Skip Navigation Links Home > Card Counting > History

Card Counting: History

Vingt et un first appeared in a recognisable form in France around the turn of the eighteenth century. The game was initially unpopular, leading to a variety of local inducements to play. It acquired the name blackjack from one such, whereby being dealt the Ace of Spades and either black jack gained an automatic and extra bonus to any other winning hand. These days, blackjack is the most popular casino card game, accounting for up to a third of gross income from table games.

Extremely popular, due to its easy to learn rules, rapid hand turnaround and seemingly simple set up, Blackjack has been a casino staple worldwide for over two centuries and for most of that time there were few rule variations. Cards were generally dealt from a single deck, and the used cards discarded until all had been played. This all changed after Thorp published first the Five Count then the Ten Count systems in the early sixties. From that point on, blackjack has resembled an arms race as casinos first doubled, and then quadrupled the number of decks in play and made various other local alterations to frustrate and detect card counting systems.

Whilst this was an understandable reaction, the publication of these systems had raised the profile of the game and brought a whole new tranche of overconfident amateurs through casino doors, cementing blackjack's place as card game of choice. The professionals responded with increasingly sophisticated counting techniques, and with Al Francesco's invention of team play in the mid sixties and Keith Taft's invention of George, arguably the world's first portable computer, in 1970 for a while the advantage swung back to the high end professional. The Tafts' booming business in the devices ended in 1977 when son Marty was arrested in Nevada with a later model. Whilst he'd committed no crime, the FBI analysis resulted in the criminalisation of any device to assist in card counting in American casinos, a ban soon extended worldwide.

Given the rise of facial recognition, betting heuristics and movement patterning technology, even the legendary MIT Blackjack team, whose exploits were immortalised in the Hollywood movie 21 starring Kevin Spacey, found it's become much harder to take casinos to the cleaners. With each book or film, blackjack's allure has increased. The rise of online blackjack has changed the nature of the game too, with the vast majority of virtual casinos shuffling after every hand. Card counting, for so long the driving force became redundant. Single hand strategy tables arose to take its place.

As you can see, there are a plethora of online casinos for you to play blackjack and test yourself against. The only question now is which will it be?