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Optical Recognition System To Foil Card Counting? 427

Adair writes "Wired is running this article about a new Optical Recognition System by MindPlay being evaluated by some casinos to keep constant track of table game play in order to identify card counters by their patterns of play. The software, using 14 digital cameras around the table, can keep track of every card played, amounts bet, and even tell the difference between your drink, napkin, cards, chips, and ashtrays."
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Optical Recognition System To Foil Card Counting?

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  • heh (Score:3, Funny)

    by K. ( 10774 ) on Tuesday August 19, 2003 @06:14AM (#6731048) Homepage Journal
    They're going to use a card counting system to defeat card counters. Oh the irony.
    • by gd23ka ( 324741 ) on Tuesday August 19, 2003 @06:17AM (#6731064) Homepage
      Why should I make stupid bets at the table when I know better?!?!
      • by javiercero ( 518708 ) on Tuesday August 19, 2003 @06:20AM (#6731082)
        Well casinos get to make the rules, as long as there are suckers who actually beleive that they have a chance in hell to make a buck off the house...

        Counting is a way of turning the odds in your favor, hence it defeats the whole purpose of the house. Almost every game in Vegas is designed to have favorable odds for the house, maybe all except poker in which the house just takes fee. Couting levels the playing field somewhat, and well.... did you expect the casinos to leave it like that?
        • Having never played roulette in my life, I was amazed that there was any game at a casino that would give me more than a straight 50% chance of winning.

          I made a fairly decent chunk of change by just playing the 1st, 2nd, 3rd "12" groups - betting the same amount on two groups at once. Was certainly slower than people who won by playing single digits or groups on the main board, but I didn't lose my bet too often.

          Certainly did better than at the slots (ie: no skill or strategy involved).
          • by Scratch-O-Matic ( 245992 ) on Tuesday August 19, 2003 @07:12AM (#6731279)
            I was amazed that there was any game at a casino that would give me more than a straight 50% chance of winning.

            A friend once told me: the casino doesn't make money when they win a bet. They make money when they lose a bet.

            And he was right. The casino doesn't make money because they win more often than they lose. They make money because they don't pay you as much as you deserve when you do win. So the 50% chance of winning is moot. It could be 70% or 90%, as long as they pay you something less than the odds say you deserve. Over time your losses will outweigh your gains.

            As an aside, I once sat down at a roulette wheel and started playing the same method you described. I was doing so well that at one point I asked the dealer if it was legal. After a while, I started thinking about my chance of winning versus the payoff, and I realized that the casino still had a substantial advantage. At that moment, I started losing, and walked away empty handed.

            And by the way, the best bet in the whole house is the "odds" bet on the craps table, because it pays you what the odds say you deserve, as I described above. The house has no advantage on the odds bet. But you can't make that bet without making another type of bet first, so you can't freeload.
        • by Zan Zu from Eridu ( 165657 ) on Tuesday August 19, 2003 @06:51AM (#6731202) Journal
          If you want to earn money by housing a gambling game you should accept the odds, not make up rules to change the odds even more to your favor. (This is even illegal in some countries, and I argue rightly so.)

          Simply put, if a casino or gambling house changes the rules of blackjack so card counting is no longer allowed, they shouldn't be allowed to still call the game "blackjack", because its got different rules. Also, if you want to cheat on your customers by changing the odds, you should be bound by law to inform those customers of your intent before you invite them to play your game.

        • Well casinos get to make the rules...

          Well, not exactly. The individual states where the casinos are make the ground rules for gambling (such as the Nevada Gaming Commission []). Most states don't allow the casinos to stack the odds too much, as the article implies. I belive the house odds restrictions for Nevada are somewhere in the Nevada Gaming Regulations []. But that's too much legalese for me to wade through.

          But obviously, if the casinos use this technology to change the odds of the game, there will be

    • Re:heh (Score:5, Informative)

      by maharg ( 182366 ) on Tuesday August 19, 2003 @06:25AM (#6731104) Homepage Journal
      No, they're going to identify regular players (i.e. players who lose), so that they can then encourage them to keep on losing by giving them free drinks and so on. From the article:

      Instead, they say the true value of the system is giving casinos an accurate way to rate and comp regular players, who get free rooms, meals, show tickets and the like in return for routinely dropping small fortunes at the casino. That's extremely important, the casinos say, because these days, loyal players demand to get something back.
      • Re:heh (Score:3, Interesting)

        by little1973 ( 467075 )
        In Austria, a regular player sued a casino and got back half a million euros after losing 2 million. Apparently there is a law in Austria which states the casinos can't let a player to play games if the player can't allow it. In this case the player asked the casino to ban him from playing and the casio complied. Later, the player asked to lift the ban which the casino did, but it should not have. The casino should have investigated the matter first.
        • Re:heh (Score:4, Insightful)

          by dreamchaser ( 49529 ) on Tuesday August 19, 2003 @07:38AM (#6731358) Homepage Journal
          There is a similar case going on in the States, I'm not sure what it's status is. In this case though, it's alleged that after the player asked to be banned, the casino agreed but continued to send him coupons and promotions to entice him back.

          That being said, suits like that should be thrown out. People need to start taking some responsibility for their own actions rather than blaming others. There is help available for compulsive gamblers should they really want to stop.
      • by mosch ( 204 ) *
        Casinos don't really care what happens each time you sit down at the table. They're smart enough to realize that even 1000 hands of blackjack is, statistically speaking, a fairly small sample. What they want to know is: a) what are your games? b) what are your average bets? c) how long do you play?

        Once they know that, they have a pretty good idea on how much money you're losing at the casino.

        • Re:heh (Score:3, Interesting)

          by mosch ( 204 ) *
          Actually, the one really nice thing about this system is that it can detect dealers who don't pay bets correctly, dealers with a tendancy to misdeal and other such common screwups.

          Anybody who has been to the casino more than a few times knows that you need to make sure the dealer is good before you stop paying attention to the dealer.

    • Re:heh (Score:5, Insightful)

      by CGP314 ( 672613 ) <> on Tuesday August 19, 2003 @07:00AM (#6731228) Homepage
      They're going to use a card counting system to defeat card counters. Oh the irony.

      From the article:

      "We've been telling the casinos not to use the computer to count the cards," says Nevada Gaming Control Board member Scott Scherer. "If players aren't allowed to use a computer to count, then the casino shouldn't be allowed to."

      I think the key word there is shouldn't. I don't doubt the casino will use every advantage they can get.
  • by 91degrees ( 207121 ) on Tuesday August 19, 2003 @06:15AM (#6731052) Journal
    Why not track the cards? Simply shuffle when the odds favour the player too much.
    • I don't know the rules of blackjack but I think the idea is to count the number of high cards that have been dealt and whats left in the pack. Then you can make a bet based on the likelyhood that the next card will be high.
      • So the question is why they don't use a single deck and shuffle every hand?

        The answer is that play is then too slow and they don't make as much money. Also, it's easier to card count - yes, you can apply it to a single hand if there are enough players at the table and you can see their face up cards, or if you are seated so as to go last you can see all the cards played.

        So they use mulitple decks and only shuffle when they are getting low.

        But card counting in your head shouldn't be illegal, it's part of
        • Actually, in some casinos, cards are constantly reshuffled, using a special machine, giving a constant feedback as tot he distribution of the cards.

          It is certainly not illegal to count cards in your head. However, the casinos do reserve the right to refuse service to anyone, and they do to card counters. This is their right by law, just as Best Buy can boot you abusing their free games and such.

          Another thing to think of is the card counter that screws you, and everyone else at the table by hitting when
          • However, the casinos do reserve the right to refuse service to anyone, and they do to card counters.

            Actually, this varies from city to city. According to this article [], casinos in Atlantic City aren't allowed to bar people for counting cards.
    • Because if the players can not do it the the house can not do it either. The game already favors the house, to count the cards and keep playing if the odds further swing to favor the house, but to reshuffel if the house's odds ever go down, is in effect rigging the game and cheats the honest players who are not card counting (not that I think card counting is wrong, but even by the casino's standards you shouldn't rig the game to cheat the non counters by letting the odds against the get worse but never bet
    • Why not track the cards? Simply shuffle when the odds favour the player too much.

      I think you were joking, but the fact is that some casinos do just that. Gambling can be fun, but we should not lose sight of the fact that casinos tend to be unprincipled businesses. Some casinos will use tools like MindPlay to determine when to shuffle up.

  • They already do this (Score:5, Informative)

    by Surak ( 18578 ) * <surak AT mailblocks DOT com> on Tuesday August 19, 2003 @06:15AM (#6731053) Homepage Journal
    They already do this to an extent with the video cameras. Video cameras are placed to watch every card that is dealt. They can see it on the monitors if they suspect someone of card counting. An experienced pit boss knows the difference between someone who is card counting and someone who isn't.

    The problem with automating this system is what about false positives? There's a difference between patterns being identified by humans and patterns being identified by computers.
  • Card Counters (Score:5, Insightful)

    by utdpenguin ( 413984 ) <> on Tuesday August 19, 2003 @06:16AM (#6731058) Homepage
    are, if I recall, and I may not, people who pay a whole lot ofattention to the game rihgt? I mean,. it's not like they are using loaded dice or subistuting in the ace thats hidden int he their sock. They are jsut palying intelegent. Damn them!!!! We mustn't allow that!!
    • Re:Card Counters (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Surak ( 18578 ) * <surak AT mailblocks DOT com> on Tuesday August 19, 2003 @06:22AM (#6731088) Homepage Journal
      Casinos don't like to lose. Casinos are setup on the premise that you are basically stupid, that you basically are going to spend wayy more money than you win. The odds in every game except for one favor the house: blackjack. That's where you get the most card counters because that's where counting cards makes the most sense. And card counters tip the odds further in favor of the player. If casinos can't eliminate card counters they will simply eliminate blackjack.
      • If casinos can't eliminate card counters they will simply eliminate blackjack.
        Which begs the question why they haven't simply done that yet.

        (Though that ignores the question as to why anyone would go to a casino in the first place -- they're the only place I know that's simultaneously an assult on the eyes and seriously miserable.

      • Re:Card Counters (Score:4, Informative)

        by mosch ( 204 ) * on Tuesday August 19, 2003 @07:45AM (#6731377) Homepage
        the odds in blackjack do favor the house unless you're counting cards, and even then they usually still favor the house.

        As far as "wayy more money than you win", blackjack basic strategy will have a player losing approximately $500 per $100,000 of bets. Craps pass line bets will have a player losing $1,300 per $100,000 of bets. (those figures are excluding short-term variance)

        Casinos do want you to win some of the time, otherwise you won't go back.

    • They are attempting to foil the natural odds of a game of blackjack (well, 'natural' as interpreted by the casino they play in) by keeping track of what's in play, sometimes not only in their own hand but also the dealer's and those of other players, and sometimes with the help of other people.

      It's just more convenient to cheat the blackjack system than the others because you don't need an electronic device to help you out. But it doesn't make it very fair to the casino or the other players.

      • Re:Card Counters (Score:4, Insightful)

        by utdpenguin ( 413984 ) <> on Tuesday August 19, 2003 @06:26AM (#6731106) Homepage
        It's just more convenient to cheat the blackjack system than the others because you don't need an electronic device to help you out. But it doesn't make it very fair to the casino or the other players.

        So PAYING attention to the game and being creafull is CHEATING. I hope this idea never makes its way into Chess!!

        And since I am playing to win. how am I cheating other players when I do my best to win. If they aren't doing their damn best to beat me then they are morons.
        • Good idea! Banning the ability to think ahead more than 2 moves is probably the only way I'm ever going to win a game of chess against most people...!
        • how am I cheating other players when I do my best to win. If they aren't doing their damn best to beat me then they are morons

          You apparently have no idea what you are talking about. The other players are not playing against you. Like you, they play against the house. The idea of the other players doing their best to beat you makes no sense at all.

          The only one who wants to beat you is the house. Now they want the ability to count cards with the aid of a computer to do it, and reshuffel whenever they don't

        • Re:Card Counters (Score:3, Insightful)

          by R.Caley ( 126968 )
          So PAYING attention to the game and being creafull is CHEATING.

          Of course it is.

          They could essentially make card counting not be an advantage just by playing with a really huge deck (say take 1000 packs and shuffle them together, then start dealing from the top, stop after dealing 52 cards and reshuffle. They don't do this because they are trying to pretend you are playing a card game, and hence there is some skill involved, when you are actually playing a game of chance.

          However, they can't actually al

      • How does card counting at Blackjack affect other players? You're playing against the bank, not each other.
    • ok, in finland the gambling is regulated and blackjack tables are available in (practically)every disco that is open into the night.

      the point is that in the long run the house (all profits are supposed to go into charity, mostly sports sponsoring of small teams, pensioners & etc) will always rack in more profits(wins on even) than the players will.

      now, i'm not actually sure if counting cards is illeagal/non-permitted or not, but the average blackjack table operator sure can't tell if you're doing it
      • but the average blackjack table operator sure can't tell if you're doing it and i doubt they can throw you out for that even,

        I don't know about finland but most casino's reserve the right to throw you out for any reason at all. Most casino's will throw you out if you win too much.

    • Yep there is no doubt that Card Counting is about skill and strategy, but Casinos like to suggest that it is somehow cheating and illegal or fraudulant.

      They have been know to illegally detain (kidnap) ard counters, even take back (i.e. steal) their winnings. It is the Casinos that are usually crooks, many owned and operated in conjunction with organise crime and are involved with money laundering, fraud and deception.
  • Ob. quote (Score:4, Funny)

    by sonicattack ( 554038 ) on Tuesday August 19, 2003 @06:16AM (#6731061) Homepage
    Charlie: Now casinos have house rules: they don't like to lose. So you never show that you're counting cards. That is *the* cardinal sin, Ray.

    Raymond: Counting cards is bad.

    Charlie: Yes.

    Raymond: I like to drive slow on the driveway.

    Charlie: If you get this right, Ray, you can drive anywhere you want as slow as you want.

  • by CGP314 ( 672613 ) <> on Tuesday August 19, 2003 @06:17AM (#6731066) Homepage
    The software ... can keep track of every card played, amounts bet, and even tell the difference between your drink, napkin, cards, chips, and ashtrays

    Well if its supposed to be counting cards, I would hope it could tell the difference between a jack of spades and a jack of daniels. []
  • Eye in the Sky (Score:5, Interesting)

    by AtariAmarok ( 451306 ) on Tuesday August 19, 2003 @06:17AM (#6731068)
    Reminds me of the Alan Parsons-based musical "The Gambler" that reveals that the "Eye in the Sky" is merely one of those monitors over casino tables.

    The lyrics in the original become more ominous:

    "i am the maker of rules
    dealing with fools
    i can cheat you blind "

    This development is sure to turn Ocean's 11 into Ocean's 0.
  • Marked Deck! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 19, 2003 @06:19AM (#6731078)
    The optical equipment registers every card in play by reading special invisible ink printed on them.

    So the house is allowed to use a marked deck!! Surely that can't be allowed, and even if it is how long before someone else works out how to read the cards.

    • So the house is allowed to use a marked deck!! Surely that can't be allowed, and even if it is how long before someone else works out how to read the cards.

      You mean like with their eyes ?
    • Re:Marked Deck! (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Merk ( 25521 )

      The house can do anything they want. They own the building, they own the cards, and they probably own the people enforcing things too.

      Gambling in a casino is generally a passtime for people with poor math skills, and poor business sense. Nearly anybody who thinks that in the long term they have any hope of winning more than they lose is deluding themselves.

      Now it's true, that maybe one of every million casino visitors does actually have some means of tilting the odds in their favour. Sometimes it'

    • Of COURSE the deck is marked -- it would be hard to tell how well you're doing if every card were blank.
  • by winkydink ( 650484 ) * <> on Tuesday August 19, 2003 @06:21AM (#6731084) Homepage Journal
    For years, casinos have relied on pit bosses to personally watch the tables and do their best to manually figure out who was playing how much. But that process is extraordinarily imprecise, El Dorado's Mouchou said.

    As one who has played blackjack as both a nickel-dimer ($5-$10 bets) and as a high roller, I have noticed that pit bosses have an uncanny ability to tell how much you are up or down. I often ask pit bosses to guess how much I am up or down. They can usually tell within about $100.

    So, I have a hard time swallowing that this is a device to figure out how to comp players.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 19, 2003 @06:21AM (#6731087)
    If MindPlay -- which knows the cards that have been played -- detects a player continually adjusting his betting pattern coincident with a preponderance of undealt high cards, it can trigger an alert.
    In other words, the smart card-counter will cut out the "powerbetting" and relax his strategy a bit. They practically admit as much:
    "The chances of you actually playing in a way, by luck only, that matches one of those (counting) strategies is almost nil," Soltys said. "It may match up after 20 hands, but after 100, there's no chance that it's just luck."
    So the card-counter will back off a bit so that he's not playing every hand using the technique. It's the same with any cheater detection: lose a few every now and then, and you'll probably slip under the radar. Get greedy and you get caught.
  • A lot of bull... (Score:5, Informative)

    by krystal_blade ( 188089 ) on Tuesday August 19, 2003 @06:23AM (#6731094)
    I can't possibly see why casinos would want to attempt to put the few "scorers" out of commission. After all, a "lucky" guy at blackjack (who counts cards) probably brings more people in to play the game. More people= more money.

    On top of all that, most professional card counters use the greatest weapon of all to count cards. Their heads. So, all this will do is to put out the small time amateurs.

    A friend of mine is a tech at a Casino in Detroit, and beleive me, any appropriately sized/layed out Casino is certainly not losing money, regardless of the people who play the game to earn a wage.

    • Believe me, a few top counters could take a lot of money from a casino if allowed to operate unchecked. It is true that the casino will probably still be making more from the other players than the counters are taking away (even this is not a guarantee) but counters will make a real hole in the casino's books. Depending on the rules used and bet spread allowed, a top counter can have anything up to a 3% advantage on the house. This compares to a house advantage of typically around 1% over a non counter w
  • Great! (Score:5, Funny)

    by rylin ( 688457 ) on Tuesday August 19, 2003 @06:24AM (#6731095)
    "The software .. even tell the difference between your drink, napkin, cards, chips, and ashtrays."

    Hopefully it'll warn me the next time I try drinking from an ashtray

  • Yeah, I know, it's all about the atmosphere - but what drives "high-rollers" into casinos to lose 50K and up ?
    If you've got so much money to burn and know no other way to draw satisfaction, you've got a serious problem, IMHO.

  • by spRed ( 28066 )
    "Our supervisors were spending 42 percent of their time giving us inaccurate information,"
    As reported by the supervisors?

  • Lone Wolf vs a Pack? (Score:5, Informative)

    by CGP314 ( 672613 ) <> on Tuesday August 19, 2003 @06:27AM (#6731109) Homepage
    This is interesting, but it sounds as though it is only useful against individual card counters. What could it do against a team of counters like in this older story by wired? []
  • by ODD97 ( 645414 ) on Tuesday August 19, 2003 @06:27AM (#6731110) Homepage
    Even the *simplest* system (assigning -1, 0 and +1 to certain cards) is hard enough to keep track of when you practice. Doing so at the casino is incredibly difficult. I can't imagine that the casino would frown upon one guy that can do it walking out with $1,000, when watching his winning streak will inspire 50 people to lose $100 each at the table.
    It just doesn't make sense to kick an individual out. Any pit boss will see a table running up using card counting, and can (by casino rules) ask them to leave.
    • I think card counting is one of those things that some people just have a knack of. Of course you can practise, but some people have a fantastic memory for this sort of thing.

      I used to know a guy who was one of those people who could do numerical calculations to 10 significant figures faster than a calculator (couldn't do algebra/calculus, but he could sure count!). He was able to count cards with 8 decks, and I'm not talking about the simple system described by the parent - he counted the entire deck, inc
    • Actually, yes. For some people, card counting isn't that hard. For others, it's damn near impossible. They're kinda like a miniature idiot savant (no, not mini-me you fools...)

      The problems with your analogy is that the GOOD cardcounters walk out with much more than $1k if they're not caught. Think in the schemes of $100k minimum. I've actually counted 5 decks shuffled together before. It sucked major bungs for sure, but I did it fairly accurately, and not at a slow pace either. And I'm what would be considered an amateur by the casinos. Consider this, and think what a good person could do.

      The loss adds up for the casinos. They're not worried about losing $5k or even $25k to a rookie. It's the big fish who pooches them for lots. That's what this system is out for (note that they seem to indicate that 100 hands are needed for a super-positive match...) The $25k cardcounters inspire. The $100k cardcounters though are a loss.

      See the post above you for a GREAT thought... Group cardcounting. Just rotate the team positions, and you'll take the house, based on the current system. I'd actually never thought of it before, and now I'm fascinated.
      • by JustAnotherReader ( 470464 ) on Tuesday August 19, 2003 @11:52AM (#6733674)
        Computer programs have shown (after testing with hundreds of thousands of simulated hands) that the player has a slightly better chance of winning if there are more "Big" cards in the deck. Remember, the dealer has no choice. He has to hit to 17. If there are more big cards then he'll bust more often.

        Big cards are: 10, Jack, Queen, King, Ace Little cards are: 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 At the end of each hand keep a running total. For every little card think "Plus One". For every big card think "Minus one". So if a lot of little cards come out of the deck then the "running count" will go positive. If a lot of big cards come out of the deck then the "running count" will go negative.

        Running count is not in itself a perfect indicator. It depends on how many decks of cards are still in the shoe. If you have a 6 deck shoe and it looks like there are about 4 decks left then divide your running count by 4. So if the running count is +8 and the number of decks in the shoe is roughly 4 then the actual count is 8/4=2. This is why you see dealers shuffling when the shoe is only half empty. A +10 with 5 decks is only a +2 actual count. A +10 with only 1 deck left in the shoe is a HUGE advantage.

        How do you use the actual count? If the actual count is 0, 1 or negative then you bet the minimum amount. If the actual count is 2 or better then you multiply the minimum bet by that number. So if the minimum bet is $5 and the actual count is 2 then you bet $10. If the actual count is +4 then you bet $20.

        ALL of this is also dependent upon you playing perfect basic strategy. If you have 15 and the dealer has a 4 showing what do you do? You need to know that strategy and play it perfectly every hand for card counting to give you any advantage at all.

        There are many more systems that are more complex than this, but you have to trade off the increase in complexity with the increase in odds that benefit you. This basic Hi-Lo system will give you the most bang for your buck.

  • Beat the dealer (Score:5, Interesting)

    by fruey ( 563914 ) on Tuesday August 19, 2003 @06:29AM (#6731120) Homepage Journal
    A good dealer should be the only thing the Casino has, the counters cry.

    Face it, just because there's a computer there now, doesn't mean they're not screwing you every time anyway. The house always wins.

    What is interesting about this is that they are adding a cold precision to the perks they offer to big gamblers, in order to further increase their margins. What they appear to really be doing is tracking who's betting what and when. Forget the card counting part, anyone who gets a system that works will be tracked sooner or later and booted out. This may seem kind of unfair - you can't profit from genius in Casinos - but then the house can't afford to make a big loss consistently. Still, they can't take your winnings away before detection, so this system is tipping the scales back to the house's favour.

    Think more about the fact that Joe Gambler who drops a bit less each time he comes and demands more perks will get away with it for a while, but now he'll be tracked. I can't believe the opposite is true, where quiet but big losers will suddenly be allocated perks... but maybe they will, because it could be good for the casino business.

    To conclude : gambling is one of those things where you know the odds beforehand, and if you bet more than you can afford more than once against the odds, you're a sucker. What does need to be clear, with all this technology, is just what those odds are. Rigged odds are fine if they stay rigged the same, but I don't like the thought that a croupier could suddenly tell you, as the odds swing ever so slightly in your favour and you are ready to cut your losses, that your bets are no longer welcome. You want to know the solution? Don't bet at all, and invest your money in a guaranteed return scheme. That's the only way you can be sure to win. Then go get your thrills for much less money doing something like freefall parachuting.

    • If you want to gamble and have fun, go to the tropics. The Carribbean is pretty nice for this. The tables are laid back and the minimums are low.

      Doing it here in the US is a nightmare. Fighting through old ladies at the slots just to find that the minimums at the tables mean you'll be spending a small fortune for what - harassment by pit bosses if you win too much.

      I stay the hell away and AC is only 1.5 hours away...
    • _ Fraud/more5.html

      When it comes down to it, the same people, with the same morals, run both the Casinos and the stock market.

      That is one of the mafia's big money makers, too. And if you get on their wrong side, you die. Let's face it -- nowadays, the best thing you can probably do with your money, is buy cheap, low tax (W. Va) land, and put it into production. Start farming it. Or invest in your own business, if yo u have one.
  • Stacked decks (Score:2, Informative)

    by Savant ( 85811 )
    Not terribly surprising, but still disappointing. It will be interesting to see how gambling evolves, as casinos take ever more stringent steps to avoid giving out more money to someone than they paid in. Here's an interesting little exhibit from the UK dealing with the rigging of fruit machines. []
  • Of course... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by echucker ( 570962 ) on Tuesday August 19, 2003 @06:32AM (#6731136) Homepage
    .... there's nothing really wrong about counting cards. Not like it's some kind of morally sickening activity. It simply gives the player a better chance to win.
  • Didn't the courts rule that card counting is legal since the eighties? I'm pretty sure they did, even though I find it surprising that no one's mentioned it. Besides, this article doesn't mention that they'll be using the information to kick people off the table - they really can't do that. They perhaps won't encourage counters with free drinks/rooms/etc, but they won't kick them out.

    Just like any industry like this, it's all about marketing strategy which is all about reports and data. This is one mor
  • So... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Cackmobile ( 182667 )
    what we need is some glasses that can read the special ink and then we can win everytime.
  • by philipsblows ( 180703 ) on Tuesday August 19, 2003 @06:44AM (#6731176) Homepage

    On the one hand, the article points out,

    Counters allege, however, that Mindplay effectively alters the odds, something they say goes against regulations prohibiting anyone -- even casinos -- from using devices for such purposes.

    which is interesting, because casinos could always use the human-operated PTZ cameras that watch everything (even the players) on the gaming floor, and of course dealers and pit bosses are always on the lookout as well, but this does raise the bar into questionable territory if only because, like a red light camera, it is operating against you on its own and you really have nobody to "fight" if it decides you are nailed. Perhaps they might review the video of your 100 allegedly-counted hands?

    However, if a system like this does roll out into real use, it should be presumed that every MIT kid on their counting team read this,

    "The current state of technology in gaming had fallen way behind other industries," said MindPlay president and CEO Richard Soltys. "They're very slow to move forward. (Now) there's nothing players can do that MindPlay can't detect."

    and is already scheming. I would be to, and I don't even count cards. It's as though Mr. Soltys is looking right at the reader while he says, "Bring it on!"

    I knew a guy who counted cards and used chip-palming techniques to keep his chip count reasonable. Switch tables and even casinos frequently, be patient, and if possible play with a team. The camera system doesn't seem to have that stuff covered. I predict the primary way of catching rule-breakers will remain the old fashioned way... half instinct, half suspicious and watchful eye.

  • In other news (Score:2, Insightful)

    "The chances of you actually playing in a way, by luck only, that matches one of those (counting) strategies is almost nil," Soltys said. "It may match up after 20 hands, but after 100, there's no chance that it's just luck."

    "The chances of a gambler actually winning the jackpot on our slot machines is almost nil. They may get some minor wins, but when they strike a jackpot, there's no chance that it's just luck"

    Seriously, why do casinos allow games (like blackjack) that can be cheated by counting the c

    • I never understood how counting is cheating though. That is an actual skill and the advantage does not require knowing more about the game currently being played i.e. seeing the deck. Maybe BlackJack payouts need to be adjusted to match the problem that can happen with counting. Now getting two players to cover a table and use counting to spill over cards is cheating. But alas this mindset that counting is cheating is already in the casinos what can you do.
  • Placeing to the side the matter of profit.

    What is wrong with card counting. The only thing I can see is that it turns Black Jack for a game of chance to a game of skill. Does something bad happen when all the players are counters. Maybe the casinos should get out of the betting side and just charge a table and dealer fee or hire the best counters as dealers.

  • Card counting merely exposes the fact that blackjack is a weak game. Other games, such as poker, positively encourage players to remember what has been played.

    Maybe blackjack is only still played in casinos because it's simple enough for J. Random Gambler to understand. Although not Homer Simpson..."Hit me; hit me; hit me; (makes 21); hit me; D'oh!"

  • Smoke and mirrors. I'll bet you ten bucks that this is an empty box and a manual, that it doesn't detect card counting, it just lets the casino say that it's detected card counting, which is a banned activity.

    What they detect is people winning small and often. That's what they're really banning. How you achieve it is irrelevant. If you achieve it through blind luck, you'd still be thrown out. This magic system just lets them pretend that they've got a reason for doing so.

    Casinos have rules that say

  • by worst_name_ever ( 633374 ) on Tuesday August 19, 2003 @07:15AM (#6731290)
    ...and even tell the difference between your drink, napkin, cards, chips, and ashtrays

    And thus, the robots have finally surpassed the cognitive abilities of drunken gambling addicts.

  • by Gregoyle ( 122532 ) on Tuesday August 19, 2003 @07:17AM (#6731300)
    Okay, first there's the human factor, which is everpresent in any situation involving humans. Perviously casinos would have to suspect someone before they tried voice activated tracking software on them. Now they will be tracked by default. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, although it could be annoying to counters.

    The thing is, especially if the system works (which they often don't), once it gets a reputation people will begin to rely on it more and more instead of gut instinct. What could easily evolve from this is an over-reliance on the computer. A pit boss might suspect that something's fishy but the higher-ups will think he's full of it because "the computer says no".

    This system won't really work against one of the most popular methods of counting (as has been mentioned in a couple previous posts and I think the article) called "back counting". This is where the counter doesn't even enter the game until the deck is favorable. Of course, some casinos are banning mid-shoe entry as a result.

    Either way the thing to remember is that there will always be a way to fake out the casino personnel. The other thing to think of is that it could prove advantageous to "advantage" players who primarily rely on counting as a means to a free or paid vacation. The idea is that the little that they would normally lose while earning comps is offset by the counting advantage. These players routinely get shafted on comps because most casinos limit the "hands per hour" figure to 100. Many counters and just regular players routinely average 150. This means that they are supposed to be losing 50% more money; not insignificant.

    There are other well known methods that would beat tracking this way. Beating machines is almost always easier than beating people.
  • from the article:

    "The current state of technology in gaming had fallen way behind other industries," said MindPlay president and CEO Richard Soltys. "They're very slow to move forward."

    To traslate, what this is saying is that the industry was so pitifully behind, Mindplay can come in with half-assed crap and still wow the casinos. This is actually pretty smart, as compared with entering a market in which the competition is robust. It is sort of like the big clown fish in little murky (multimillion dol

  • Outlawing thought? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by HarryCallahan ( 673707 ) on Tuesday August 19, 2003 @07:58AM (#6731415)
    Isn't outlawing card counting kind of like outlawing a certain thought process? I mean even with kiddie molesters we still wait till they make take some kind of action the actual thinking about it isn't illegal (yet). It's like if someone can count cards they have to play stoopid to do it lawfully, "yeah I know there's lots of tens left, but I'll stand anyway don't want to cheat you guys". Maybe it should be casino policy that u has a sub 90 IQ or submit to a lobotomy before you can enter the casino.
  • Aaawh Crap! (Score:5, Funny)

    by mrselfdestrukt ( 149193 ) <nollie_A7_firstcounsel_com> on Tuesday August 19, 2003 @07:59AM (#6731419) Homepage Journal
    > and even tell the difference between your drink, napkin, cards, chips, and ashtrays.

    And I used to make quite a bundle by slipping in a ashtray or a drink into my cards and getting a full house and then blaming my napkin-looking wife for it...
  • Many of you have probably seen this, but it's an interesting story [] about one guy who did a lot of card counting, and what he thinks about the gambling mentality and casinos in general.
  • by sharv ( 71041 ) on Tuesday August 19, 2003 @08:56AM (#6731719) Homepage
    I enjoy playing blackjack, but I don't count. I am expert-level (99% accuracy) on the basic strategy tables, which can make a big enough difference over the short run. I play for fun and just want my money to last as long as it can; I don't expect to win.

    Anyway, I was playing one night in the Tropicana, listening to a pretty decent cover band. It was a Thursday night and the limit was still $5, which is good for low-rollers like me.

    I'd been playing for an hour or two, alternating between bottled water and the occasional beer. A tall, thin, Asian guy sits down to my left with a pile of assorted-colored chips, all of them mixed and disorganized.

    He doesn't speak to anyone, just pushes his red ($5) chip into the circle. Wins a few, loses a few, but always playing five. On one hand, he rolls out two green chips ($50) and wins the hand. The very next hand, he dropped right back to $10 and loses. Next hand, $5 and loses. $25, wins. Another $25, wins. $5, loses.

    I realize he's got to be counting cards. However, if I could recognize it, you could be damn sure the dealer, the pit boss, and the eye in the sky recognized it too.

    Anyway, I decide to piggyback this guy a little. He bets $50, I bet $15. He's playing to my left, which makes it awkward, since I've got to wait for him to wager before I can. We did this for a few hands and I may have won a few more chips than I would have normally, but I wasn't betting with the swing that this guy had.

    It was about this time that I noticed the heat. A pit boss in a shiny suit standing over the dealer's shoulder. Another guy in an equally shiny suit immediately behind me. I switched back to $5 bets and ordered a gin and tonic, pronto. I've seen "Casino" and I don't want them thinking me and this guy are a team.

    They frightened him off simply by offering him a comp (buffet). The poor guy was so rattled by the attention that he scooped up his chips and bailed, without taking the comp. The bosses smirked and went about their rounds.

    So, if you're gonna count, don't be so damn obvious about it. You've got to be good enough to count while laughing with the other players, chatting with the dealer, drinking club soda or water, whatever. But if you wildly fluctuate your bets while concentrating so hard the veins bulge out of your forehead, you're toast.

    • by HarveyBirdman ( 627248 ) on Tuesday August 19, 2003 @10:08AM (#6732419) Journal
      Erratic betting is the first thing most counting system developers tell you to avoid. I've been counting in Vegas casinos for 15 years without a problem, even on good nights. If you're a solo counter, you have little to worry about because the casinos have bigger fish to fry, such as the team efforts you mentioned. The worst you want to do is let a win ride, so you never bet more than twice your previous bet, and if it comes after a win it looks natural.

      ObGamblingAnecdote: Winter of 1997. In town for CES. Horseshoe Casino, $25 single deck table. Me and three others playing at around 2am. Second deal after a new shuffle.

      All four of us get Blackjacks.

      I wasn't positive how many cards got dealt in the first hand after the shuffle (in a basic count system, you add or subtract their count values into a running total as fast as you can, so you don't really keep track of the raw number of cards played), but I figured a rough estimate of the four Blackjacks being a 40 million to one shot.

      But... there's probably millions of hands per day in Vegas, so I guess it had to happen somewhere.

  • by BoneFlower ( 107640 ) <`george.worroll' `at' `'> on Tuesday August 19, 2003 @12:24PM (#6734188) Journal
    He had to concentrate to NOT count cards. It was a reflex for him. In a game where he wasn't trying, after a few hands, he could tell as many as five people what their hands were with better than 50% accuracy based solely on what cards had been played and when.
  • by bizitch ( 546406 ) on Tuesday August 19, 2003 @01:22PM (#6734914) Homepage
    Last time I was playing (loseing at) blackjack, the dealer had a gizmo which could only be described as a perpetual shoe.

    It contiuously shuffled the multiple decks of cards inside it. After each hand, all the cards just went in the top.

    Try counting that!

Vitamin C deficiency is apauling.