In 1956 and 1957, Roger Baldwin, William Cantey, Herbert Maisel, and James McDermott, known as the "Four Horsemen of Blackjack," published some breakthrough academic papers after completing 18 months of painstaking, manual number-crunching. They published their first paper, "The Optimum Strategy in Blackjack," in 1956 in the Journal of the American Statistical Association, which developed basic strategy and the next year they published "Playing Blackjack to Win: A New Strategy for the Game of 21," which proved the basic concept of card counting. The amazing thing about their research was that all the math was done by hand using only calculators (without the use of computers).
In 1962, Edward Thorpe's book "Beat the Dealer" was published. Thorpe, through the use of computer trials, proved that certain cards were favorable to the player and other cards were favorable to the dealer. He proved that one could determine what cards were left, depending on what cards had already been played. Therefore, if there were more cards left that were favorable to the player, then the player had an advantage and could now make larger bets and take advantage of this situation.
Thorp's "Beat the Dealer" definitely changed the world of casino blackjack. The book even made the New York Time's best-seller list, which brought card counting to the attention of both players and casinos. Many players bought the book to learn how to beat the casino at blackjack using card counting.
During the 70's, 80's, and 90's, many books - like Ken Uston's Million Dollar Blackjack and Lawrence Revere's Playing Blackjack as a Business - were published which added to the growing collection of blackjack literature and tutorials. Even though card counting was, and still is, a subculture, the proliferation of card counting literature has made card counting become at least a little more mainstream.
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