Can Casinos Ever Beat Card Counters?

Can Casinos Ever Beat Card Counters?

Despiteit earning many a determined gambler a long term ban in Vegas, Reno and other gambling hot spots, the art of card counting has been featured in countless Hollywood productions, television series and documentaries in a (mostly) positive light. Although many casino owner would prefer you weren’t aware, the act itself isn’t actually considered to be cheating. Card Counting is a strategy used by players to determine whether or not the next available hand is likely to give a more probable advantage to either the player or the dealer. The act itself isn’t illegal anywhere, as it can simply be seen as another tactic used by incredibly skilled players to win the game, no different from spending hours practicing and researching. However, applications and electronic devices used to count cards are almost always considered to be illegal within casino walls. No actual laws are ever technically broken whilst counting cards, but as most people find out, Casinos are well within their rights to ban players and keep track of those who have a tendency take part in card counting.

Security teams in most Casinos have a fairly clear idea of who and who isn’t trying to bend the rules, through both years of experience and high tech security systems. To reduce the likelihood of players using unfair techniques to gain an advantage, they will employ certain tactics to avoid cheaters. One of these techniques is a simple distraction, where somebody will be sent to distract and divert the player’s attention away from his or her count. This could be in the form of a distraction at the table, or simply a conversation, whether it be by the dealer or by someone else. This then draws the player’s attention off of the card count, likely causing them to lose their train of thought, and in turn, their advantage. If a member of the venue’s staff thinks a player is counting cards, they will radio a member of the security, who will focus what is affectionately referred to as the “eye in the sky” towards the player to track and take notes on the way they’re playing and decide whether they’re playing dirty or simply incredibly lucky. The “eye in the sky” refers to a PTZ, or pan–tilt–zoom camera, which is covered by a partially obscured, opaque plastic globe that makes it almost impossible to properly see which direction the camera is facing from a distance. 

Certain American jurisdictions such as Nevada have no legal restrictions placed on any form of countermeasures against players, whereas others such as New Jersey limit the level of measures taken against a skilled player. In the past, casinos would occasionally resort to less pleasant methods to deter card counters such as the physical removal of players, however the need to maintain a positive public image and the likelihood of legal action turn casinos in most countries away from such tactics.

Card Counting has been consistently featured in Hollywood movies since the Golden Age of Cinema, making it hugely popular with gambling fans. In 2008, a film based on the story of the “MIT Blackjack Team” called 21 was produced, starring Kevin Spacey and Jim Sturgess. Despite the producers being worried that Casinos would react negatively to the film’s glamorized approach to what most people consider cheating, a short feature was included with the films DVD release that very clearly and accurately describes the “Hi-Lo” system used by both the real team, and the films characters. 

Do you think Casinos will ever find a way to beat card counters without making it illegal? Technically, counters aren’t doing anything wrong, but when the house wants to hold onto the edge, you can’t blame them for fighting back! 

Let us know what your thoughts are, and if you’ve ever learnt to count cards. Has it paid off? Maybe helped you win big? Be sure to drop us a comment, and remember to share it with your friends!

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Started working in the Casino Industry in 1985, just never managed to leave as yet. Visited 99% of all UK Casinos, seen them all,
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