August 4, 2021

How Ed Thorp Changed Card Counting in Online Blackjack

Ethan Lim
Written byEthan LimWriter

Here’s the fact; card counting is a must-learn strategy if you’re looking to play blackjack online or offline for the money. That’s because several players have used this tried and tested strategy to take home good money.

How Ed Thorp Changed Card Counting in Online Blackjack

But you’ll be surprised to know that counting cards back in the days didn’t give players much of an edge. That was until a math professor, Ed Thorp, revolutionized this blackjack system. So, stay put to learn more about this mathematical genius and how he changed card counting.

Who is Ed Thorp?

Ed Thorp is a retired math professor at UCLA and later MIT. He is also an author and hedge fund manager. But surprisingly, Ed Thorp is more famous for how he helped shape the way online blackjack is played today.

In the early 60s, Thorp decided to bring his vast mathematical knowledge to blackjack. At the time, Thorp was a recreational player at Las Vegas, dealing with the ‘cruel’ house edge just like everybody else.

As a result, he invented the “10 Count” strategy that was the first blackjack system to overcome the house edge. Thorp then partnered with Manny Kimmel, a professional gambler, to make a fortune at Las Vegas and Reno casinos.

How “10 Count” works

When playing blackjack in an online casino or land-based casino, the number of cards in the deck reduces continually. Therefore, your winning possibility depends on the type of card disposed of the deck and the ones remaining.

A typical casino player would have to thousands of card combinations to gain the edge over the house. This could even take a lifetime if you use a calculator. But because Thorp was a professor at MIT, the university’s IBM 704 was at his service.

He concluded that the more aces, nines, and tens (including jacks, queens, and kings) in a deck, the better the chances of winning. So, Thorp invented multiple card-counting strategies, including the famous 10 Count system.

In this case, the blackjack player monitors the ratio of tens to other card numbers. Usually, a whole deck has 36 other numbers and 16 tens.

Thorp’s strategy requires gamers to maintain two running counts. You’ll begin with 36 and 16 and subtract from the totals as the cards are dealt. In the end, you’ll find out the number of tens (high-value cards) remaining in the deck.

10 Count changed card counting forever

After a successful experiment, Thorp released the “Beat the Dealer” book in 1962. This book gives players a mathematical sneak peek at how to trounce the house while playing blackjack with this strategy. The book sold more than 700,000 copies and landed a rare honor in the NY Times Best Sellers list.

As expected, Kimmel didn’t fancy the book because he was a professional gambler relying on counting cards to make big profits. On his side, Thorp simply treated the entire card counting experiment as an academic milestone.

Sadly, casinos began studying the strategy that could send them packing. Most gambling venues used multiple techniques to prevent card counting. They started harassing card counters and introducing stricter game rules to thin out this strategy.

But eventually, they gave up after realizing that the ‘average” card counter couldn’t benefit much from the strategy.


Now you know why Ed Thorp is widely considered the ‘father’ of card counters globally. Although he didn’t benefit much from the strategy, other blackjack legends like the MIT Team and Al Francesco scooped big wins counting cards in Las Vegas.

Just remember that this strategy is absolute today because most online blackjack games are played using multiple decks. On the other hand, the “10 Count” system is for single-deck blackjack games.

About the author
Ethan Lim
Ethan Lim

Ethan Lim, a native of the Lion City, is Singapore’s rising star in the domain of online casino guide localization. He masterfully blends his intimate knowledge of local culture with international gaming standards to produce content that resonates deeply with Singaporeans.

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