Blackjack players, once they have mastered the basic blackjack strategy, try to learn card counting and eventually improve their odds of winning in a casino. But there is always a question regarding card counting legality, which is addressed in detail here.
Blackjack Card Counting Legality
Before going into the legality of card counting, it is important to understand that blackjack card counting is a technique that offers players a theoretical advantage of anywhere between 0.5% to 1.5% over the casino and sometimes, even more. Card counters typically assign values to the sets of cards and then keep a running count and true count to estimate how many cards are left in the deck and how many have been dealt.
Card counting is not a form of cheating. It is not illegal under the federal, state, and local laws of the US unless the players are using some form of an external card counting device or people to assist them in card counting. As it is not illegal, a card counter, even if caught, cannot ever end up in jail.
That being said, casinos can certainly adopt means to stop card counters from getting an edge over the casino. Some of these ways include the use of eight decks of cards or continuous shuffling machines and so on. Some casinos can also ban consistently winning card counters but cannot arrest them as such.
Why do Casinos Discourage Blackjack Card Counting?
The technique of card counting indeed boosts the blackjack odds in favor of the players.
While using card counting systems, players assign values to the sets of cards and keep a running count as the game progresses and the cards are being dealt. Now, this method, when executed correctly, gives the players a complete idea of the cards left in the deck. They can adjust their bet sizes and amounts accordingly. For instance, when the count is positive, they bet more and when the count is negative, they bet less. This reduces the edge of the casino to a significant extent.
How Casinos Stop Blackjack Card Counting?
Casinos try their best to stop blackjack card counting in some of the following ways:
Continuous Shuffling Machines
Continuous Shuffling Machines or CSMs allow the dealers to put back the dealt cards into the shuffling machines for reshuffling. This reshuffling of the cards minimizes deck penetration to a great extent and makes it virtually impossible for players to count cards. There is no pause or interruption in the game hence, players can get totally confused and out of focus if they try to assign values to the cards and keep a running count somehow.
The RFID technology is used by casinos to determine what exactly a player bets. The RFID technology is integrated within the chips coupled by sensors under each table. The RFID chips enable the casino to accurately find the average bets rating. This real-time betting data gives a clear idea of the betting patterns of the players. In case, these patterns are found to be suspicious in terms of being well-calculated and identical, the casino can identify the card counters.
There are numerous security surveillance cameras installed everywhere across the casino. They are mounted at more places than players are even aware of. These cameras help the casinos in keeping a close watch over the players and catch any cheating or tampering activities that take place. Similarly, card counters can also be detected based on their body language, betting patterns, and so on, by these surveillance cameras.
Actual Risks for Blackjack Card Counters
Even though blackjack card counters cannot possibly end up in jail, they have to undergo certain risks while trying to count cards in a casino. Casinos can, at their discretion, ban any players if they are found to be counting cards. This is primarily because casinos are private businesses and they deal in entertainment and not gambling, to be precise. They offer players the entertainment of gaming because they have the edge in such games, from which they get to earn profits. Card counters can disrupt this balancing mechanism, making them vulnerable enough to be banned by a casino.
So, card counting is not illegal and cannot get a card counter arrested. But, given the strict measures that casinos take to prevent card counters from winning, executing the technique in a casino is getting more difficult by the day.