Away from the world of online slots, as far as casino gambling is concerned, Edward Thorp is best known for his academic research into the application of probability theory to blackjack strategy, which eventually led to the publication of the ground-breaking book, ‘Beat the Dealer: A Winning Strategy for the Game of Twenty-One’, in 1962. Inspired by his observations while playing blackjack in Las Vegas, shortly after receiving a doctorate in mathematics from the University of California, Los Angeles in the late Fifties, Thorp discovered that by keeping track of the cards during the game a player can determine when the odds are most favourable.
In his seminal treatise, Thorp introduced the so-called ‘Ten Count’, which was the first mathematically proven, publicly available system for card counting. The Ten Count was only really applicable to single-deck games, which were commonplace in the Sixties, but spawned numerous other card counting systems, which are equally applicable to multi-deck games and have been used successfully by generations of blackjack players. Thorp is often called the ‘father’ of card counting; he was inducted into the Blackjack Hall of Fame in 2003.
By no means a ‘one-trick pony’, Thorp also turned his attention to roulette and, together with Claude Shannon, a.k.a. the ‘father of information theory’, co-invented the first wearable computer. Although strictly illegal in Nevada, the analog device, about the size of a cigarette, was tested in Las Vegas in 1961 and produced predicted improvement in the odds when playing roulette, but its invention was kept secret until 1966. The computer divided the roulette wheel into eight octants and attempted to predict not the exact number, but the octant, in which the ball would land, based on the speed of wheel and ball.