Blackjack Strategies – Card Counting?
Card counting is the subject of films such as 21, Rain Man, Breaking Vegas, and many more. But is it just a thing of fiction? Or something which does exist but is exaggerated by Hollywood and could not realistically be implemented in a real life casino? Or maybe, just maybe, could card counting be real?
What Is Card Counting Anyway?
As vilified as it is by casinos, card counting does not actually involve doing anything underhand. There are no cards up the counters’ sleeves, they just need to have good powers of observation, recall and mathematics. One of the best casinos for playing online blackjack is 32Red.
As Tom Cruise’s character accurately puts it in the film Rain Man: “Casinos have house rules. The first one is, they don’t like to lose. So you never, never show that you are counting cards. That is the cardinal sin.”
Put simply, card counting involves keeping a mental tally of what value of cards have already been played in a game of Blackjack. Using this information, a counter can mathematically determine at what point in the game they are at an advantage and therefore at what point they should bet. This allows them to make a lot more money than the casinos would like them to, as it robs the house of their advantage.
The Truth In The Films
Card counting is a real thing, but that doesn’t mean that the movies about it are 100% truth. For example, Rain Man, although an excellent film that accurately and effectively portrays many aspects of card counting, has propagated one myth that has followed card counting around ever since. That is the idea that only savants or otherwise superhumanly intelligent people can card count. It does this by showing Dustin Hoffman’s character Raymond using his photographic memory to memorise every single card that is played. Although this would certainly work as a card counting technique, it isn’t necessary. In card counting, each card has a certain value. Card counters keep a mental running total of the value of the cards that have been played – this has the same effect as memorising the cards but does not require a photographic memory.
Some of the films mentioned above are based on real life events. 21, starring Kevin Spacey, tells the story of the MIT Blackjack team who learned to card count and, as the name of the book the film is based on puts it ‘Took Vegas for Millions.’ The full title is: ‘Bringing down the House: The inside Story of Six MIT Students Who Took Vegas for Millions’ and it is a non-fiction story documenting real life events. The overall strategy of teamwork and code words used in 21 is accurate, if slightly simplified to make sure the audience can follow. The film also skips over the dull parts of card counting – the losing and the waiting involved don’t make for a good film and in cutting these parts out, the film seems to show card counting as a fool proof way of quickly making millions. It isn’t.
How Do The Casinos Fight Card Counting?
Casinos hate card counters and do everything in their power to try and prevent them from counting. Obviously, the first step is detecting card counters. The vast majority of card tables are monitored by surveillance cameras and the security staff, floor staff and dealers are all watching players to ascertain whether they are counting cards. There are also computer systems designed to monitor card games and alert the casino if a player appears to be counting cards.
Casinos keep and share databases of known card counters and if someone on their database is detected inside the casino using their facial recognition software, they will be forced to leave.
If the casino is sure someone is card counting, they will simply kick them out, unless they are one of the very few of American states in which this kind of discrimination is illegal.
If they are unsure or are not allowed to kick card counters out, there are various tactics they will use to disrupt card counting. These range from starting a conversation with a supposed card counter in order to break their concentration, to using a high-speed dealer to confuse the counter and shuffling the cards when a player increases their bet.
What About Online Casinos?
Surely card counting online would eliminate the majority of the risks faced by a counter entering a casino? Yes, but online play also removes the disadvantages a casino faces when trying to outsmart counters in brick and mortar casinos. Shuffling the cards after every hand would bamboozle a counter, but it would also slow down play enough to make a significant dent in a casino’s profits. Online, however, shuffling the cards every round takes no time at all as the deck is digital. It is, therefore, pretty impossible to card count in online casinos.