Edward Thorpe and the Ten Count System

The origins of card counting have been the subject of debate for several decades, with the first Ace counters spotted across Las Vegas casinos in the 1940s and 1950s. The first system for counting cards, that was mathematically proved to be effective, however, was the so-called Ten-Count System, which was presented by researcher and mathematician Edward Thorpe in his 1962 book Beat the Dealer.

Edward Thorpe, known today as the Father of card counting, was a professor of mathematics and finance, as well as a blackjack player and researcher. Using the computational power of some of the first computers, he developed successful models for card counting. Later, he applied his methods in casinos and managed to gain financially from them, although he claimed that his goals were purely scientific. Before him, there were only a few counters who managed to obtain advantage over the casino without cheating. Yet, there were no sophisticated systems for counting and his method for the tracking the cards on the table truly revolutionized the game of blackjack.

Following years of mixed success for advantage players in casinos, Thorpe’s book finally proved the somewhat mythical idea that it is possible to beat the house in its own game. With the help of a blackjack strategy and a specially designed system for counting the 10s in the deck, players were given the opportunity to shift the odds in their favor.

Ten Count System Fundamentals

Basics of the Ten Count System
How to Use Edward Thorpe’s Ten Count System

Advantages and Disadvantages of the Ten Count System


The most obvious advantage of this card counting system is its simplicity – even if players keep two counts simultaneously. The method can be learned almost immediately and it could be applied without mistakes by most blackjack players. In comparison, the majority of systems developed after that could be extremely complex and hard to apply in real-life games.

While the Ten Count System was proved to be working in the 1960s, today, it is practically obsolete. Edward Thorpe invented it for single-deck games only, which were quite popular in casinos back then. However, modern blackjack variations are usually played with 4 to 8 decks of cards and the Ten Count method simply does not work.

The other great aspect of the Ten Count System is that it is effective in demonstrating when the deck is rich in high or low cards. This helps players adjust their bet size so they win more whenever the odds of the game are in their favor.

Even in single-deck games, we are now offered less favorable rules than what was a standard once – only a few rounds are played before a reshuffle and the deck is never dealt to the last card. This means that a counter using this method will almost never see the odds shift in his favor. Even if one or two cards remain in the deck, the outcome would be very different than the original calculations made by Thorpe.

The Ten Count System is certainly a method that should be mentioned and learned by all card counters but not because it is effective – simply because it helps players understand the fundamental idea of card counting and the importance of the 10-value cards in the deck. Clearly, it is irrelevant in multi-deck games with restrictions on Doubling, Resplitting of Aces, and other moder changes to the standard rules of the game. Overall, it is a good system to try but it should not be attempted in real-money play in casinos.