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Looking Back at the Blackjack Hall of Fame’s Four Horsemen of Aberdeen

Jun 22, 2010

The Blackjack Hall of Fame was founded in 2002 and was housed in the Barona Resort and Casino as a way to honor those revolutionary figures who advanced players’ knowledge of the world’s favorite casino table game.

It seems the luster has been taken off the concept a bit recently, however. Voting to induct new member or members into the hall of fame typically takes place during the exclusive Blackjack Ball tournament held at the casino, but no new inductees were announced in 2009.

In late 2008, though, the living members of the Blackjack Hall of Fame unanimously supported the entrance into their ranks of “The Four Horsemen of Aberdeen.” This group of U.S. Army officers Roger Baldwin, Wilbert Cantey, Herbert Maisel and James McDermott, in their spare time from doing mathematical work for the military, devised what is thought to be the first modern comprehensive blackjack strategy guide.

First flying under the radar as a work in probability theory, the group’s findings were first published in the Journal of the American Statistical Association but later were expanded to become the well-known (and still in-print) book “Playing Blackjack to Win.” In fact, Blackjack Hall of Famer Ed Thorp also used the Horsemen’s calculations to write his “Beat the Dealer” five years later, in 1962.

What the four authors achieved using only standard calculators was in essence the first card-counting system. Recent computer simulations show that the system actually gives the *player* a 0.1% advantage over the house, and of course the method of the Four Horseman ultimately resulted in players like Ken Uston and American casinos’ subsequent adoption of the multi-deck shoe.

It’s hard to imagine that four guys with calculators could devise such an advantageous system for the gambler, but it’s no wonder at all that this group was given the ultimate compliment in the blackjack world.

If you haven’t already, have a look at “Playing Blackjack to Win” and Beat the Dealer even before looking at the latest casino bonuses. Though some aspects of online blackjack differ from the strategies in the books, the fundamentals are still relevant half a century later.