Is Card Counting Cheating? Depends Whom You Ask

What is Card Counting?

For those unfamiliar with the term, card counting is a controversial technique used by players in blackjack. The player observes cards and starts calculating the ratio of high cards to low cards. It is not overly difficult to learn, and one can easily find instructions for it on the Internet. Some card counters hang around watching a game, then jump in at the most advantageous time.

Why the Fuss?

Casinos tend to discourage card counting because of the huge advantage it gives to players who know how to use it. Many blackjack dealers are trained to spot signs that player is using card counting. It is actively discouraged. And yet, being a technique, there are reasons for players to argue that they should not be penalized simply for using their abilities.

For an interesting illustration of the ambiguous place card counting holds in the gambling world, see the charming romantic movie Passionada. The movie centers on a down-on-his luck gambler who specializes in card counting. Another major character is Vicky Amonte, the spunky young woman played by Emmy Rossum, who decides to learn to become a card counter. This shows some daring and mischievousness on her part, but her behavior does not cross the line into crazy, full-blown recklessness. This is because she risks getting into trouble, but her real offense is underage gambling rather than card counting.

What Do Casinos Do to Card Counters?

Well, the answer to this question can depend on whether or not you card count mentally, or with the help of technology. Let us take the state of Nevada as an example. Here, card counting in your head is legal. However, using a cell phone application for the same purpose was recently declared illegal under state law.

Then again, it is still possible for casinos to take measures against “mental” card counters. You may be taken out of the casino and/or blacklisted if caught. If it is not illegal, why can the casino still throw you off the premises? Well, this is because the casino grounds are private property. The management would be completely in their rights to ask you to leave, or even to ban you from the premises altogether.

Of course, there are also milder measures ensured to stop card counters in their tracks, or prevent card counting from happening at all. In many casinos, players are not allowed to “jump into” play mid-game. Furthermore, dealers are likely to try to break the focus of suspected card counters by (seemingly) casually chatting to them. Additional measures include shuffling the cards mid-game, or adjusting the betting scheme of the game.

All in all, internet blackjack card counting remains a very controversial technique. The practical advantage it offers, and also its “naughty” or “rebellious” image, both encourage people to research and learn it. Then again, casinos are doing their best to discourage it and stamp it out. On many counts, the debate on card counting appears to be a stalemate. However, the recent developments in Nevada imply that everyone involved should keep their eyes open for more changes.