back to article US gambling capital bans iPhone card counter

You can now use your iPhone or iPod Touch to help you break the bank - and the law - at a casino's blackjack table. And gaming officials in Nevada are none too happy about it. Earlier this month, that US state's Gaming Control Board issued a warning (PDF) to casino operators of an application available from the iTunes App …


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  1. Anonymous Coward

    State run? perhaps.

    If it's a tribal casino, then it's federal- the whole 'sovereign nation' thing there...

    anon due to whom I work for...

  2. Rich

    There are countries other than the US

    Where maybe they allow casinos, but don't give them special legal protection against those wanting to even up the odds. Then again, if you tried on card counting at Sun City Victoria Falls you'd probably be fed to the (conveniently close by) crocodiles.

  3. Henry Wertz Gold badge

    What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas

    So, as the article says (but title doesn't make clear) they aren't "banning" these, they've been illegal all along. Electronic or mechanical counting devices have been illegal in the casinos for decades.

    Regarding card counting "au naturale". There's an important thing to know. In Vegas, the casinos can and do find people that are counting cards, kick them out and if they keep doing it ban them. (ONLY if they are good at it! The casinos apparently LOVE people that BADLY count cards.. they'll lose a lower percentage than normal but make it up by spending a larger amount of cash since they think they'll win.) The casinos have plenty of surveillance, I've read they have face recognition kit in place as well. Just like any face recognition, it's not accurate enough to use by itself, but it would wake up security to at least compare "that guy" to the file photo. They apparently also share this info so once you are banned you may find you are not welcome in almost any casino in Vegas. I have no idea if they still "rough them up" like in the old mob days. I saw a video about the MIT card counters, one of them demonstrated the efficiency of this.. they walked in and in under 30 seconds, a well-dressed gent walks up and is like "sir you are no longer welcome in this establishment, please leave."

    Atlantic City? Apparently kicking someone out is not allowed (if they are not using devices). They apparently just send bustier and bustier waitresses with increasing frequency like congratulating you on your run of luck and offering complimentary drinks, until the card counter either starts drinking (gets drunk and loses count) or gets distracted by the waitresses rack (and loses count).

  4. Anonymous Coward

    "a Northern California Tribal Casino."

    What, not by any chance the same crooked bastards who just got their asses busted for running a stitched-up online poker game? Sounds like sour grapes trying to fuck over the competition to me....

  5. Anonymous Coward

    Watch me pull a rabbit out of my hat!

    But that trick never works?

    This time for sure

    Hey presto..


  6. Neoc

    Double standards

    No card-counting equipment allowed, but it's perfectly OK for the Casino to use electronic, networked games machine where the payout odds are adjusted on-the-fly to make sure the Casino doesn't pay out too much money at any given time.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Counting is a thing of the past.

    Alot of casinos now shuffle after every hand. So you can't count.

  8. Dan

    Rich got it right...

    There are plenty of jurisdictions where using a device to count cards is not illegal, but will get you thrown out. This app is obviously designed for those places.

    Note that if you just count cards and raise your bet when the odds favor you, will will get kicked out before you make ANY profit- The dealer is also counting the cards; While he doesn't change his strategy because of it, he knows when the count is good.

  9. skeptical i

    How is one supposed to play at all if one doesn't count cards?

    If my win or loss is entirely up to the proverbial luck of the draw, what's the point? I thought tracking which cards have been played and the odds of getting cards I need was part and parcel of the whole game (not, I hasten to add, that I am any good at it whatsoever). 'Nother illusion shattered.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Strange law

    Isn't it strange that something should be legal if you do it in your head but criminal if you do it with a mechanical aid? Are there any other laws like that?

  11. Steven Walker

    Apple ........ is apparently less moralistic about casino cheating

    I do not see how this can be cheating. It may be against the law but that is another matter. It sounds like fair play to me.

  12. Paul Rogers
    Thumb Up


    I think you've just answered your own question. Gambling truly is a mugs game. Casinos, bookies, game machines have the rules hopelessly stacked in their favour, so if there's a gambler out there who honestly believes they can beat the casino/dealer consistently, then I'll eat my hat.

    Just say no kids (to gambling) if you want to keep your shirt

  13. DJ

    Not just vegas

    I was watching a program on the history of card counting a while back, and a gang that got kicked out of vegas were also kicked out of monaco casino's because the same face recognition software and database is used around the world.

  14. Anonymous Coward

    @ "State run? perhaps."

    I know you're trying to be smart and everything, but I think by "a year of free room and board in a state-run resort" they're actually talking about prison..

    Nice try though!

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Easy to spot

    .....even if you do it in your head, something anyone can learn in a few days. Would recommend Dominic O'Brien's books - also the TV doc where he still lost his stake card counting despite being more than a little bit good at it.

    Aside from there being multiple decks in a shoe never dropping below 50% full, which makes the odds reduction really minute - a dealer will spot you card counting a mile off by your betting patterns and send you packing - you can team up with a stealth card counter making random bets, but they're well on to that these days since spotting card counters is all pretty much automated.

    Thanks to CCTV, SoA 3D face recognition (easily a match for the FBIs), you'll thereafter be asked to leave other casinos shortly after arriving - which is probably for your own good since they don't rebuild Vegas every few years by losing money.

    Surprised no-one's mentionned the MIT Blackjack team who made a bit of money this way with a neat system, although mostly through hospitality while the casinos were still hoping they'd return to tables and lose their winnings as almost all punters do.

    Mug's app for a Mug's game running on a Mug's phone.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    @Paul Rogers

    There is an easy way to make money off of bookies. Gambling on who kicks off football matches. I've been doing it for a year with a certain online bookie and I am well over 500quid up. That's nearly a month's payment on my car's HP :D

    Consistently beating the dealer/casino on the other hand is not something I've cracked just yet!

  17. Dimitrov

    @ Strange law

    Sure there is. During a math test for example, you can obviously count in your head, but you're not allowed to use a computer to do it for you.

    I can see why the casinos would be pissed about that. But then again I don't gambleq so I don't care either way.

  18. chris

    Thought crime

    "Isn't it strange that something should be legal if you do it in your head but criminal if you do it with a mechanical aid? Are there any other laws like that?"


    Rape, murder, burglary....

    At least until Tom Cruise shows up.

  19. A J Stiles

    @ chris

    Have no fear, Jacqui Smith is working on that.

    Anyway, casinos are in business to make money from punters, not to have it won from them. They've made sure that they're within their rights to chuck you out for any reason they feel like.

  20. Lukin Brewer

    The name of the game

    Casinos are there to make money. They do so from having punters walk into their establishments and lose money. (They certainly don't make it on the drinks or shows, which are there to draw in the punters and help them lose money.) In the case of pure chance games (i.e. roulette), this happens by default because the odds are set so that the house will win over time. With games where skill is involved, they rely on the house edge, and the fact that most of the punters aren't very skillful. Card counting, or high levels of skill, can enable a punter to beat the house and reduce their profits, something they want to prevent. They like having the *occasional* big win - it encourages the punters - but only occasionally and preferably in someone else's casino.

    As private establishments, casinos can choose who they admit (provided they don't do it along racial lines). Basically, anyone who wins against the house on a consistent basis is going to end up on the banned list, regardless of how they are doing it. Card counting isn't cheating - it isn't breaking the game mechanic, just being able to work with it better - but as far as the casinos are concerned, the only distinction is whether or not they can get the law involved.

    So, in Nevada they have a law that enables them to prosecute people who use mechanical/electronic aids to increase their chance of winning, regardless of whether that actually constitutes cheating. It's a testament to their lobbying power in that state. If they could codify a law criminalizing card counting in general, they would be lobbying for that too. If they could prevent *anyone* from beating the house, without putting off all the punters, they would do that as well.

    To sum up, casinos are expensive fun, and they have no shortage of customers ready to lose money to them. If you are able to take money from them instead, they don't want or need you as a customer. Play with friends - it's cheaper.

  21. Andrew Kelvin


    This gives me serious gas. Okay I have to admit I do see a doctor for that problem, but really? You're outraged by the thought of using technology to gain income from a game of "Chance?" Really? Really. So just in case people don't know, even the corner supermarket with a couple of video poker machines and those three reel machines use technology to gain the benefit of odds that you're going to be a complete LOSER! Now compare this with your Belagio, Harrah's; Oh yeah! Definitely Harrah's, etc... These folks pay big bucks to install the latest technology to get every single penny of your income including but not limited to your house, your kids, your life, and everything that you are. Sure, they post the required "Game Responsibly" posters all around for those who actually do sink rock bottom, see the poster after those 10 drinks at the table, and actually go to the cashier's cage to ask for the privileged to be place on their "DO NOT SEND" lists and to be officially 86'd. How do I know all this, well I'm the bastard that helped Harrah's get'er done. How did I do it and still sleep at nights. Because I convinced myself that gambling is just a form of entertainment and that we have Casino Hosts whose job it is to manage their 3000+ guests intimately enough to help them avoid getting those $200K markers. Sure wish I took that HR job now!

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