It’s fun to watch how Hollywood treats the card counters. Back in the 1950’s and 60’s, all the movie studios and TV stations applied a code. No-one could be shown getting away with a crime, ignoring the fact that counting cards never has been a crime. Everything had to reinforce the myth that crime does not pay. This meant that everyone who “cheated” had to be punished in some way. The police would come and haul the offender away. Or the “virtuous” casino staff would take the offender out back and encourage him to stop trying to beat the house edge. Quite how many casino operators actually beat up counters is uncertain, but they were always slow to deny it happened. Then culture slowly changed. Card sharps and conmen could be “heroes”. “The Sting” is an early example where manipulating a deck of cards is shown as acceptable. But the movie that really set the ball rolling was “Rain Man” in which a savant successfully counts six decks. Today, counting is a routine plot line in TV shows and movies, appearing in a recent episode of “The Mentalist” and movies like “The Hangover” where Alan has his “Rain Man” moment. Casinos have therefore had to modify their response. Despite the ferocity shown by Ed Deline in NBC’s fictional Montecito Casino, modern operators will simply photograph and exclude counters, circulating the photographs to all the other casinos now networked together. This simply cuts losses by barring the counters and making the problem go away.
In fact, a small number of casinos have decided not to react. They believe that having big winners encourages others to try their luck or skill. Rather than barring counters, they publicise their success, in effect challenging other counters to try the same thing. The majority run through their bankroll before the slight 1% advantage over the house edge pays off with a streak of winning hands. But the majority of casinos prefers not to lose to counters and is now installing new technology to catch them early. Stereo cameras can monitor every table. A computer program takes this data stream and both counts the cards and analyzes the pattern of betting. The software therefore knows when the decks are hot and, if the pattern of betting changes, this identifies the counters. The teams responsible for creating these systems claim that counters can be identified within twenty hands. This is interesting PR designed to frighten counters away but there will be an increasing probability of “catching” counters as play continues.
Blackjack played online cannot be beaten by counting. The random number generator makes each new card a unique event. For those of you playing in the real world, there is even an iPhone application to count the cards. Using it without being detected is a separate issue for you to resolve with security staff. Of course real world casinos could mechanise the tables and switch to using random number generators to select each new card. But this takes away part of what sells gambling. Although some believe only in luck, a significant number of players back their own skill against the House. Take away their chances of using skill to predict the cards and you potentially lose these gamblers. That would be bad for business.
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