Computer Card Counter Detects Human Card Counters

All it takes is a computer that can track every card:

The anti-card-counter system uses cameras to watch players and keep track of the actual "count" of the cards, the same way a player would. It also measures how much each player is betting on each hand, and it syncs up the two data points to look for patterns in the action. If a player is betting big when the count is indeed favorable, and keeping his chips to himself when it's not, he's fingered by the computer... and, in the real world, he'd probably receive a visit from a burly dude in a bad suit, too.

The system reportedly works even if the gambler intentionally attempts to mislead it with high bets at unfavorable times.

Of course it does; it's just a signal-to-noise problem.

I have long been impressed with the casino industry's ability to, in the case of blackjack, convince the gambling public that using strategy equals cheating.

Posted on October 20, 2009 at 6:16 AM • 54 Comments

Comments

Andrew GumbrellOctober 20, 2009 6:23 AM

I guess that means that the casino can now cheat the punters by letting the croupier know what card is next.

WinterOctober 20, 2009 6:54 AM

For casinos, anyone who has a winning strategy against the house is cheating. The main rule seems to be that casinos should remain in business.

So forbidding card counting makes sense, because anyone who has a winning strategy against the house will bankrupt it. Just as it makes sense for the house NOT to play chess or checkers against the public. So a better policy would be to stop offering games with winning strategies.

Anyhow, I heard real gambling is for the mathematically challenged. Not really the stuff readers of this blog should be involved with.

Winter

Patrick G.October 20, 2009 7:00 AM

So what does it really say is:

We (The Casino Mafia) want only the dumb and stupid to play and lose their money, maybe their car and house, too.

Talented or exceptionally good players get kicked or banned, even when playing without "forbidden" technological help.

Lesson learned: never go into a Casino, except to get some cheap All You Can Eat buffet!

iglooOctober 20, 2009 7:08 AM

@Winter - Oh I don't know! A little bit of knowledge of the odds and only $5/$10 a bet can keep your adrenalin going for quite a while as long as you strictly observe win and loss cut-offs! Yes, you know the odds are always in favour of the house, but you can maximise your chances, and enjoy watching the idiots do their dough while _occasionally_ coming out ahead! Always provided, of course, that following a basic set of rules doesn't result in a tap on the shoulder from that big man in the suit.... They wouldn't do that would they? 8-)

iglooOctober 20, 2009 7:11 AM

@Patrick G. - Maybe they would! (and the "All You Can Eat" Buffets aren't all that crash hot either!)

bobOctober 20, 2009 7:13 AM

I have often been fascinated by the concept that the act of keeping track of which cards have been played is cheating. For example: I need a natural to win but I know that all 4 aces are already gone, and I go ahead and bet anyway because I am not allowed to remember the cards already played? I guess that's why I have never been in a casino; just a tax on people who are bad at math.

jeffOctober 20, 2009 7:16 AM

@winter

Dumb question. Do the casinos really count it as cheating, or do they just exercise their right to ask selected players to leave? I've never been good enough at counting cards to draw attention, so I don't know.

It makes a difference. For one, they are relatively nice. For the other, they call the sheriff.

jeff

curiousOctober 20, 2009 7:32 AM

European casinos (at least the ones in the Netherlands) have long countered the counting-problem by introducing the CSM -
continuous shuffling machine. It shuffles the cards automatically after every hand played so counting has become useless

Dave AronsonOctober 20, 2009 7:52 AM

@Jeff: I'm no expert but have attended a brief talk on this. Basically, if you're winning tons of money off them, they ask you nicely to try some of their other games. Only if you raise a fuss, will they too. They're within their rights to refuse service, even of specific kinds, to selected patrons. (Barring of course prohibited reasons such as racism.) They'll tolerate small-timers doing it, because those are usually amateurs who are doing it wrong and wind up losing anyway, or they can serve as "loss leaders" to draw more suckers in. The lady who taught the class is well-known to the Vegas casinos, and they like her 'cuz she just turns around and blows it on video poker. :-)

Erik V. OlsonOctober 20, 2009 7:53 AM

"Do the casinos really count it as cheating, or do they just exercise their right to ask selected players to leave? "

Just exercising their right to ask you to leave.

Blackjack is unique amongst casino games in that it's the only game where proper strategy can turn the long run odds in your favor *and* is played against the house. Poker, etc. are played against other gamblers, with the house taking a cut for table rental. The other casino games are biased in favor of the house, they can't be beaten in the long run with fair games.

The simple answer is to simply not offer blackjack, but it's popular, and one thing casinos love is "card counters" who are bad. They make a ton of money off of them.

It's really hard to do right -- you need to know perfect blackjack strategy cold, and you need to maintain a count. Casinos are making counts less valuable with multiple decks and deep cuts -- if you have a very positive deck, but half the cards are never played, you get little benefit by the time you figure out that the deck is positive.

So, they try to find the guys who are actually doing this well (and it's almost never one person, it's a team -- hard to make enough bets to make it worthwhile.) You have a bunch of players paying small until the deck is very positive, then signal the high-roller to come in and play big money until the deck falls negative.

Even with perfect counting and strategy, a single person isn't going to make a killing -- they're going to spend most of their time betting small waiting for a good deck.

Is it cheating by the casino? Possibly -- but you don't have a right to gamble.

GaryOctober 20, 2009 8:19 AM

Now, if only we could train someone to do intuitively what was done electronically by the guys talked about in the book 'The Newtonian Casino'. That is to track the ball, wheel and irregularities in Roulette. (it is possible by even 4 bit microprocessors)

The edge there is that you can predict with good odds over the house which one of 8 sectors the ball will end up in.

Now the casino would certainly ask to seach a consistent Roulette winner for illegal devices, but when they come up empty would they ask them to leave?

Anyway its all theoretical as it would require years of training and almost super-human senses to make the prediction.

Jim A.October 20, 2009 8:25 AM

Of course the main reason for a "team" of card counters is to disguise the fact that they're card counters. People who bet big when the deck is "hot" and small when it's "cold" are a red flag. So you have a system of a small better who waits until the deck is "hot" and then signals a big-betting accomplice to sit down.

DavidOctober 20, 2009 8:26 AM

I was under the impression that card counters weren't accused of cheating: just told 'you're too good for us, and we don't want to play with you any more'.

What *is* good for casinos is card counter wannabes: hence, I suspect, the non-introduction of continuous shuffling.

AndyOctober 20, 2009 8:29 AM

I guess that what's offensive here is that the casino is using technology that's denied to the patron. If the dealer did the card counting and behavior matching would we still consider it unethical?

GaryOctober 20, 2009 8:48 AM

Another thought,
Since the casino has access to all sorts of CCTV feeds, the modern computer vision systems (like the card counting program) could get all sorts of data about all the games being played (kino, roulette etc). Thus be able to spot 'cheaters' on both sides of the table. Now if only someone on the outside could hack into the CCTV and do the same they could clean out the casino, hold on wan't that in 'Oceans Thirteen', more security theatre.

AsmorOctober 20, 2009 8:55 AM

I agree that the casino industry has done a lot to equate card counting with cheating, in the public subconscious.

That said, even though it certainly is not cheating, casinos are private businesses and do have the right to reject customers for whatever reason.

I recall reading something a few years ago about stores like Best Buy refusing certain customers who had a habit of frequently returning things and costing the store too much money. This is really no different.

Nick CoghlanOctober 20, 2009 9:07 AM

It would only be unethical if the casinos claimed they weren't slanting the odds in their own favour at every opportunity.

However, they don't claim that and people sign up to play even when they know that the odds always favour the house in the long run (because the slim chance at a big win outweighs the high chance at a small loss in many people's perceptions and the anticipation involved in waiting to see whether you won or lost is often a great endorphin rush regardless). It's no crazier than people paying good money to ride up a snow covered mountain only to slide down it again on a plank or two, or to run around on a field for a while chasing a ball back and forth, etc (i.e. amateur sports where the players pay for the use of the facilities, but get enjoyment out of the opportunity to play).

Clive RobinsonOctober 20, 2009 9:24 AM

People appear to have short memories.

A judge ruled about the use of technology some years ago.

The judgment might apply equaly to both the "house" and the "guest".

If it does then those "houses" using it could be "wilfully breaking the law" and thus become unable to hold a "gaming licence"...

NostromoOctober 20, 2009 9:41 AM

@Winter:
"So forbidding card counting makes sense, because anyone who has a winning strategy against the house will bankrupt it."

Nonsense. The edge that card-counting gives a player is pretty small, and it's not easy to do it right. Twenty years ago it was possible to make decent money by card-counting, and people were doing it, but it made only a minuscule impact on the casinos' profit stream from the blackjack tables.

The attitude of the casinos is that all the punters have to lose money, all the time.

FredrikOctober 20, 2009 10:26 AM

This is why, if you want to be a professional gambler, you should not play in casinos. Instead, you should play other gamblers.

Fred POctober 20, 2009 11:31 AM

They're still bothering to attempt to detect card counting? This problem was solved back in the 1950s. If you use a large enough deck, and shuffle frequently enough, card-counting is a non-issue (see curious's post above).

@Frederik-

I wouldn't advise that. Far too many people can't spot a marked card in their hand when told that it's marked, tells, signals, or even simple camera operations. Many people can't spot bottom dealing, switched cards, etc. Heck, many people don't even know how to check if someone's shuffling correctly, and many people cut as if it weren't important.

If you want to make money gambling, be the house - or at least work for one :)

Tony H.October 20, 2009 11:44 AM

"That said, even though it certainly is not cheating, casinos are private businesses and do have the right to reject customers for whatever reason."

Well, casinos are only barely private businesses. In all jurisdictions they are either directly government run, or heavily regulated and taxed, and it is therefore the various governments that really have the interest in keeping them profitable. Keeping "advantage players" out of official casinos and busting any unofficial competition that comes along (high stakes poker or mah jong games, bookies, online gambling sites, etc.) is all part of the same government tax regime.

greenupOctober 20, 2009 11:58 AM

@winter:
"Anyhow, I heard real gambling is for the mathematically challenged. Not really the stuff readers of this blog should be involved with."

I've heard that things are frequently more complicated than they seem.

Do you have fire or life insurance? By your reasoning, those are activities for the mathematically challenged; Actuaries work to make sure the house always wins. (and they get paid)

Here's some more extended discussion from someone more skilled in math than I am: http://blog.plover.com/risk.html

Tony H.October 20, 2009 11:58 AM

"Now, if only we could train someone to do intuitively what was done electronically by the guys talked about in the book 'The Newtonian Casino'. That is to track the ball, wheel and irregularities in Roulette. (it is possible by even 4 bit microprocessors)"

I understand that after this book (a UK edition of 'The Eudemonic Pie'), the casinos spent some effort in ensuring their wheels are balanced and level, and the bearings run smoothly. Of course in the real world there will always be information-leaking flaws to be exploited, but they can make it very much harder for the attackers, whether they are computer augmented or not.

ROTFLMAO at the StupidtyOctober 20, 2009 12:20 PM

Why is anyone surprised that casinos wanted the upper hand (sorry, bad pun) and have convinced the law makers to consider any strategies as cheating? Has everyone forgotten the organized crime origins of most US casinos?

TED VinsonOctober 20, 2009 12:31 PM

The surest way to double your money in a casino is to fold the bills in half, put them back in your pocket and walk out the door.

Play for entertainment, not for profit. Personally, there are plenty of places I'd rather spend my entertainment dollars than in a casino.

WinterOctober 20, 2009 12:47 PM

@greenup:
"Do you have fire or life insurance? By your reasoning, those are activities for the mathematically challenged; Actuaries work to make sure the house always wins. (and they get paid)"

I am not really against wasting money on hobbies. That is what life is for. My point is that too many people who gamble have distorted views of chance. As this blog has argued many many times.

I have fire insurance and obligatory work pension fund membership.

They "win", but for producing a service. I cannot financially bear the loss of a house. I am willing to pay extra to "mutually" insure against that loss. And I know that I bet that my house burns down, and I seriously hope that I loose.

I also know I would likely not save enough for my retirement. At least, I know a lot of people who do not. So I also agree some kind of mutual insurance is in order. In my country this is obligatory, and tends to work reasonably well.

And I also know that "saving for later" is a dangerous concept. Money has a "best before" date of only a few years.

Winter

kangarooOctober 20, 2009 12:51 PM

This doesn't only block "cheaters" -- card counters. It would finger most everyone as a card-counter who is winning.

You win (without card-counting) by luckily betting when card-counting would tell you to bet -- the odds of winning by "getting lucky" when the card-count isn't in your favor is astronomical. So most winners will at least appear to be card-counters.

In a casino, the only case that winning isn't cheating is if you get lucky on a single round and happen to have bet huge -- they can't eliminate that lotto element.

BCSOctober 20, 2009 1:54 PM

I agree, why is it called cheating when I can make the odds favor me and "the way the game is played" when the odds favor them? Now if they wanted to say "go away and don't come back" that's there option but don't call it cheating. What I really don't understand is why, given the number of people who think they can count cards and can't, they don't just tell the card counter to never go past some limit, say $1000.

Adrian LopezOctober 20, 2009 2:07 PM

I'm surprised kicking players out for employing a winning strategy isn't considered a form of fraud. Casinos offer players the chance to win under conditions dictated by the mechanics of each game but then turn around and kick players out for playing intelligently within those limitations.

The casinos are cheating, yet it's perfectly legal.

AntonOctober 20, 2009 3:20 PM

I suspect chances of making money using good strategy is higher at the stock exchange than in the casino.

CurmudgeonOctober 20, 2009 3:35 PM

As Kangaroo says, a system like this sounds like it will flag anyone who wins too much for the casino's liking. Kicking people out of games because they win too much sounds a lot like fraud or at least false advertising.


@Anton: The right strategy to win on the stock exchange is to be employed by Goldman Sachs. Everyone else gets scalped.

SethOctober 20, 2009 4:37 PM

More recently, techniques more effective than card counting (e.g. shuffle tracking) have been employed. The player might jump his bet because he knows the next couple of dozen cards are ace-heavy, even if the count is negative.

Peter E RetepOctober 20, 2009 6:48 PM

Premises condition perception.

To the casino,
any money that you bring into the casino is "put on the table",
and becomes "their" money.

They are willing to let you "win" some of it back temporarily,
in order to let you feel good,
so you will continue to bring them more of "their" money.
You seem to think of it as 'play'.

If you intend to take their money,
you are abusing their entertainment offering,
and will be invited to leave.
That's pretty simple.

It's the suck-er-customers
who always seem to want to see things differently.

Peter E RetepOctober 20, 2009 7:34 PM

Bruce,
I just found a flaw in your system for posting on-line.

I posted a comment,
and someone ELSE posted my same comment after me,
and your auto-filter screened out both comments,
which were my original and someone else's mirror copy.

Have you tried to decrypt the "florist comments"?
They differ in ways suggesting an encrypted message.
Shall we try?

DCOctober 20, 2009 9:18 PM

I agree fully with the comments that gambling and insurance are taxes on people who are bad at statistics I believe I even once heard Garrison Keilor say that. That's what they are. And as many are finding out, insurance often finds a way to not quite cover what actually does happen to one.

Instead of doing those (all my rather long life) I kept and invested the money (as often as not in my own businesses, where I get to affect the odds), and now have no need of insurance, or any gambling winnings, unless you count my strategic play on the stock markets as gambling. If I have to go to hospital now, I can just buy one.

Except it's very rare for me to have a drawdown of any significance on the markets -- strategy does pay off if done well, and updated to match conditions, but like with the casinos, encourages many without a good strategy to play so the rest of us can take their money, fakers selling strategies that may even work if applied (but fail to take into account how hard they are to apply with human emotions, or forget that they only apply in a single set of conditions) and so on. But as an old systems engineer with a side of stage work that helped me understand crowd behavior, this seems like child's play most of the time.

I'm not sure what is meant by "can't financially bear the loss of a house". Are you dead already? Can't do whatever you did to get there again, or this time, do something smarter that takes much less work and time? In my life I've been broke a few times, and had to start over. I "bore" it just fine, thanks, and it probably won't happen again -- I learned from those mistakes. What gives someone else the right not to learn from their mistakes and cruise on something they once did right (if even once).

That reminds me of a story here about locksmiths all getting up in arms about some university guy showing pictures of the obsolete locks they foist on customers, cruising on their grandfather's innovation and expecting to be entitled to just keep getting money for nothing for life -- a smart businessman would have seen this as a marketing opportunity to sell new and better locks and publicized it all to death, rather than attempting so suppress the information.

I remember a line from a Christie Lavin song -- "are you a victim or a volunteer?" I think it applies a lot more than most want to admit.

I fear that the powers that be will, however, force us to gamble in the health insurance game (As they do already in the national security game -- try not paying taxes), and those of us who do take care of ourselves forced to subsidize the professional victims among us. That's not gambling on either side, that's the house cheating outright.

And, a bit OT, but why does a system obviously in serious need of reform seem to need so much more money input, when the problem is that it already takes far too much? Shouldn't we be wondering to do with all the money we'll save due to "reform" instead? It's such a non-starter I can't believe even the worshipers fall for it.

FrancesOctober 20, 2009 10:42 PM

I agree that the odds of winning at any kind of gambling make it a sucker's game. I don't agree that insurance is. The loss of my house and contents would set me back several hundred thousand dollars; I could cover it but would lose my cushion in old age - and both my parents lived a long time. As for medical insurance, even those who look after themselves well could end up with an illness or injury that would cost many hundreds of thousands. I do agree that insuring against every medical expense shows poor money management skills.

FTMOctober 21, 2009 1:29 AM

@Erik - "Is it cheating by the casino? Possibly -- but you don't have a right to gamble." And the casino has no "right" to operate a gaming establishment. They have to be licensed and jump through lots of hoops to qualify. It's the regulatory agency's job to make sure the playing field is fair. And card counting is simply a strategy. Allowing the casino to tilt the playing field in their favor is failed regulation.

Clive RobinsonOctober 21, 2009 1:29 AM

@ Peter E Retep,

"I posted a comment, and someone ELSE posted my same comment after me"

I've seen a number of "odd problems" of recent times as well some I can put down to the way the mobile I use work others not.

As for the oh so tediously long garbage post you refer to with,

"They differ in ways suggesting an encrypted message."

I once pointed out to Bruce that some of the "odd posts" that appeared could be some process used for malware to communicate.

The advantage for the malware author being that Bruce's site is to well known to be "just taken down".

The other problem is that even if Bruce takes such messages down each day the google and other search engines get into their cache before he can get them all off this blog.

So the malware does not even have to come directly to this blog it just pulls a google or other search to find it's control messages and gets them from the google cache...

This posability is just one more reason why I don't run my own blog...

WinterOctober 21, 2009 2:18 AM

"As for medical insurance, even those who look after themselves well could end up with an illness or injury that would cost many hundreds of thousands."

Indeed, how many people can pay for a full blown cancer treatment including chemotherapy and hormone treatment?

And if you cannot pay treatment now, you will be very likely unable to save the money to pay it later.

I think DC has not quite grasped the idea of insurance for those who rather lose a small amount now than run the *real* risk of becoming homeless or getting no medical treatment.

Winter

gregOctober 21, 2009 8:35 AM

the dirty little secret is that they don't need to detect card counters. They will ask anyone who wins consistently to leave.

They love high rollers, but not successful high rollers. Luckily for them their aren't any, and if they find one, the person is assumed to be cheating and tossed out.

It's just that simple. The method above is just theater.

ModeratorOctober 21, 2009 5:35 PM

Peter E Retep,

There's no filter that would remove a duplicate comment *after* it has successfully posted, and as you can see your original comment is still there. It sounds like you were looking at a cached version of the page that didn't have the most recent comments on it. If that happens just hit reload.

By the way, that person who reposted your comment under a different name came from the same IP address as you. Did you by chance walk away from your computer without closing the browser?

Peter E RetepOctober 21, 2009 6:01 PM

Moderator,

As a matter of fact, I was called away to the phone for a moment,
and someone else jumped in to use the terminal I was at.
Thanks for clearing that up. ;-)

Stefan W.October 22, 2009 1:50 AM

Players, who are bad on counting are welcomed by the casino?

To do card counting, you first have to use a strategie, which is reducing your losses. That alone might make you an not that useful customer, since the bank doesn't just pay and earn bets, but has to pay the dealer, pay a rent, the environment...

It's not that hard to train the basic strategie, which reduces your losses. I once wrote a blackjack simulation, to prove the statements of a book, describing the strategie. After a few days of implementation I knew the strategie just from testing the software.

I'm certain, everybody can learn this strategy in a few sessions - 3 to 5 days of 1 or 2 hours practice. And I'm confessed, most people could learn counting cards too - in a reduced form, you just need to count the tens and the total cards.

However - this will just increase your chances to win, so you have to make a lot of bets, to collect your small advantage to a higher profit. It's real work. But I don't have numbers of how high your profit will be, depending on the maximum allowed bet, and the time a single play takes.

However - a counting person, doing it wrong, shouldn*t be of much profit for the casino.

However - I guess most people don't visit the casino to make money, but for the entertainment fever. But a lot of people get addicted.

RogerOctober 23, 2009 4:59 AM

From a strictly numerical point of view, it is true that insurance is a bad bet in much the same way as gambling. Both are systems in which you make a lot of small payments in the hope of eventually receiving a larger one, but the mean rate of return is negative (allowing the insurers and casinos to make their profits.)

However a better way to measure costs for an individual is the utility function. This is a measure of how valuable a unit of goods is to that person under their actual circumstances. For money (and quite a few other things), it is believed that utility scales roughly as the logarithm of nett wealth. (It doesn't matter what base you use for the logarithm as we only deal in ratios, which cancels out the base.) Suppose there are two guys, one has $100 and the other has $1,000. At the tables, both blow $50. The guy who now only has $50 to his name feels about 14 times as much pain as the guy who is still worth $950 [1]. But what if they win: he gets 14 times as much utility profit, right? Umm, no. Only 8 times. [2]

If we look at utility instead of simple dollar values, then it nicely explains why many smart people think insurance is a good idea: it turns out that in utility terms, insurance (usually) has a positive mean pay-off for both the insurance company AND its customers at the same time: the insurance company is happy because it makes a profit in the long run, the customers are happy because a series of microscopic losses in utility offset an unbearable loss of utility. (And that's the essence of good business, a deal where both players are happy with the outcome because utility is measured differently by them.)


However gambling turns out to be good for the house but bad for the gambler even in utility terms, as well as in strict dollar terms. All that pain of being constantly on the brink of penury because you spent the rent money on the pokies, massively offsets the microscopic chance of "your ship coming in." In large part this is because many people on the breadline grossly overestimate the utility of, say, a couple of million dollars. Indeed, in places where lotto pays out a lump sum, the great majority of lotto winners end up bankrupt because of this effect. If you have been constantly living hand-to-mouth, a million bucks cash seems like a practically infinite amount of money, but in reality, once you have bought the sports car, the powerboat and the house in a desirable waterfront location, there isn't enough sustained income left to pay the rates and the state seizes the house.


____
1. Because (log(100)-log(50))/(log(1000)-log(950)) = 13.51
2. Because (log(150)-log(100))/(log(1050)-log(1000)) = 8.31

DrewOctober 23, 2009 5:58 PM

Card counting is not illegal in Nevada.
-A casino cannot ask you to leave for counting cards.
-A casino can send to a large man named Vito to tell you that the casino has decided that you are too good, and they are exercising their right to "refuse service to anyone".
-If you are return and continue to play after this meeting with Vito, you can be charged with trespassing.

This card-counting technology just makes it easier for the casino to catch you, and they can do it faster. Although the large (and growing) stack of chips in front of you is a good tip off, too.

Counting cards as a team IS very illegal (in Nevada), and can cause you be subject to fines, jail time, etc.

A good card counter might increase his/her chances of winning to about 52%. That takes a LOT of hands of blackjack to get anywhere...it also assumes that you don't partake of any of the free alcohol, and forget the count.

Tom DibbleOctober 26, 2009 3:16 PM

@Roger - Thanks, you said in technical terms what I wanted to say without them. On average and in almost all cases, people will pay into insurance far more than they get out. However, when they get it out, that $100,000 is the difference between life and death, and when they pay in that $100 is the difference between dinner at home and dinner with the family at the Olive Garden.

It's great that some people feel confident enough to be their own insurers. Realize that you are damned lucky the bet paid off early on (there are many worse things than losing everything you own ... you can end up owing more than you will ever produce in your life just so you can get the chemo treatments to give yourself a chance of living 10 more years instead of dying in two months). It's not a well-advised route.

Also note that many / all viable industries work in a similar win-win matter. I mean, I'll pay a hell of a lot more for food than I would have for the raw materials and an oven to cook it, which themselves would have cost a lot more than the seeds, soil, and sun to grow those raw materials in the first place. However, that's not what I do. I don't particularly *want* to know the best time of year to plant a particular crop and how best to irrigate it while wasting the least amount of water and how to roast the grains before blanching them before milling etc etc. I'd rather spend my time and energy doing something I love doing, and living a fulfilling life. It's the general specialization pattern, which is a sociological win-win pattern.

Gambling, of course, is a win-lose pattern, *unless* the "lose" end of it (which by definition is not the house) gets a great deal of enjoyment from the experience. Which leads back to a comment right at the top of this thread: if you're gambling for any reason other than just plain enjoyment you're doing it wrong. And, of course, if you aren't already a fan of gambling, there's as much reason to start that as there is to start smoking ... it's just as easy to get your next thrill much cheaper and with less downside.

Tom DibbleOctober 26, 2009 3:33 PM

@greg - "the dirty little secret is that they don't need to detect card counters. They will ask anyone who wins consistently to leave."

My initial thoughts as well. Why spend money creating this kind of computer system instead of one which simply tracks winners and losers around the floor. When you see someone consistently winning, ask them to leave.

But on the casino's side, the game is just this: you can't seem like you are unfairly targeting any winner, to the rest of the schlubs who are handing you money at all the other tables. So, you either make your "pulls" as discrete as possible, or you make yourself highly selective. The more discrete your pulls, the less selective you need to be, and the more money you save yourself from paying out to a winner. Still, though, unless you've perfected the Men In Black memory-eraser thing, there's going to be some limit of the number of people you can pull from the casino floor, and the distribution of those people, without adversely affecting both short-term business (people see this as an unfair establishment and leave) and long-term business (those people tell their friends the story of how every time someone won $10 on the slots they were asked to leave).

So that's the rub: how do you pick the 5 people you can pull from the casino floor this half hour without making it noticeable, and maximize the number of future losses you thus avert? You have three guys doing well at the Blackjack table, who have been "beating the odds" more than not for the past hour, and you can only pick one of them to go. If you know that one of them has a reliable system (a system you understand and know will end up beating house over time), you want to pull that guy, because you aren't pulling in "retaliation" for the last hour's winnings; you are pulling to stop the next hour's losses. The other two guys might have been lucky more often than not the past hour, and more likely than not that luck will turn on them the next hour (because "luck" averages out to nothing, and at nothing, the house always wins).

I think that's the point, and why there's more to this than just theater (I do believe there is a good amount more theater here than actual use of the technology, although I may be wrong). If you can spot the guy counting cards you know that he has a system which will keep working for him and you can pull HIM out instead of the guy who has just gotten lucky a few times. Of course, the downside is that there's a smaller body of folks who were really just lucky the past hour or so, but their "luck" happened to coincide with what a card counter would do ... they get pulled as well.

wiskers in menloNovember 15, 2009 6:30 PM

Card counting notices when the odds shift and a larger wager can make up for the previous loss.

If the house counts cards and shuffles when the odds shift they are changing the game.

In my opinion if the player counts and it is considered illegal then so also is it illegal for the house to count.

A fair game might be five decks and always shuffle half way through.

William KillianNovember 16, 2009 5:56 PM

It is amusing to see so many learned comments about this. But is suspect few posts from people involved in gaming.

I programmed the equipment that tracks the cards - dealers do not have any idea what card is coming next. Nor in most cases does the equipment. Camera based systems read the cards as the players see them. Scanners see the card as it is pulled from the card shoe. There are now shufflers that can track the entire deck but neither the dealer nor the tracking software has access to that information until the hand is played.

Card counting is tricky at best as it only moves the odds very slightly in the players favor. Much of the time the card counter still loses - the most famous of the card counting teams suffered periods of drought that ate up most of the winnings.

The card counting machines do not signal the dealer or pit bosses that the deck is hot for the player as that would be illegal.

Casinos are actually the most regulated industry and can be trusted more than the "honorable" gambling that is wall street.

US casinos did not start with organized crime. The mob came in later - Las Vegas gambling started as cowboy casinos.

Christian Card CounterJanuary 14, 2010 12:58 PM

Casino countermeasures are not as effective as exaggerated. Continuous Shuffling Machines are not trusted by many table game players, especially high rollers. Dealers hate them because they earn less tips and spend too much time dealing when the CSM's are in usage. Machines that "identify" card counters can easily confuse
an ordinary player for a counter. It takes quite a while for the results to be processed. Also, such technology is extra expensive, thus causing the casinos more problems.

johnnyApril 13, 2010 3:18 PM

lol @ the niave the mob isnt involved with starting casino's statement. thats like saying strip clubs are run by legitimate buisnessman and hardly any prostitution goes on.

Id like to know why it is ok for casino's to stack the odds to thier favor and remove chances of anyone winning money at gambling yet its not ok for anyone to develop something that is skill. if it were not skill based, you can win every single time using the method, wich that i know of, no gambling technique allows this as it would cripple the gambling industry.

this is nothing more than an example of why gambling needs to be and remain illegal as using that criteria (players winning=bad) allows the casino gaming commision to cheat and disenfranchise the public by making sure only people who suck at gambling can play.

PJOctober 23, 2013 10:20 AM

I've been counting for a year. I'm amazed how little casinos I have frequented do.

I have run across numerous (5 at least who are obvious) others who are counting (at low stakes of min $10 / max $400-$500) and there seems to be no difficulties.

Countermeasures are painfully, painfully easy. No computer necessary on a lot of these folks.

Am I just too low stakes?

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