PH Casino Guide

Is Card Counting Illegal?

Card counting is basically a strategy used in the game of blackjack. Counting cards is a technique that a player can use to determine whether the next hand gives a probable advantage to the dealer or to the player. Card counters are “advantage players” who can reverse the casino’s house edge and improve their odds of winning.

The rule of card counting is to keep a track and tally of the cards in mind by taking a look at the high value and low-value cards already dealt. The player can take the playing decision, based on the mentally calculated composition of the remaining cards in the deck. He can, as such, bet more when the situation is favorable.

We are not lawyers. We do not know your situation. Always consult with a local lawyer in your jurisdiction for formal legal advice. This content must not be taken as professional legal advice. This article does not create an attorney-client relationship.

Casinos cannot consider card counting to be cheating but they do take offense against expert card counters. Card counters, especially the ones really good at it, can actually lower the house edge and gain a higher deck penetration. This makes the casino lose the competitive advantage that they are always supposed to have over the players in blackjack.

Legality of Blackjack Card Counting

Card counting is in no way similar to cheating in a game. That is why; card counting is not considered or ever declared to be illegal under any federal, state, or local laws in the United States. Players should, however, not be using any external card counting device or playing under the guidance of people, assisting them in counting cards.

Card counters theoretically have an advantage over the casino and can lower the house edge to some degrees by applying the strategies. When a deck is rich in high-value cards such as 10, aces, and face cards, this advantage is higher. Throughout the game, casinos can detect such tricks being played but it totally depends on the casino as to how it treats card counters.

Casinos in Atlantic City, for instance, do not discriminate between players based on their skills. Contrarily, a casino in Nevada can politely ask you to leave the blackjack table if you are identified to be an advantage player, often gaining an advantage over the house. But no casino can ever take legal action against a card counter as such.

legality of card counting
Card counting may be lawful, but it is still a contentious gambling practice.

Why Is Card Counting Illegal?

While card counting is completely legal, it is not encouraged by any land-based or online casinos at all. These casinos might just identify the advantage players, settle their payment, and ask them to leave or ban them from playing in that particular casino altogether.

This is primarily because casinos consider card counting as more of a trick and a violation of the somewhat unwritten rule that casinos should have an advantage over the players.

Though card counting is not illegal, it is often difficult to be executed successfully, especially with multiple decks of cards as used in modern blackjack.

Is Card Counting Allowed In Online Blackjack?

Yes, card counting is legal and allowed in online blackjack. What is not allowed is counting cards with the help of additional software for example.

However, the card counting strategy is often not worthwhile enough to be applied in online blackjack. This is because the multiple decks of cards are reshuffled and randomized before each round, making card counting extremely difficult. Also, with card counting, a player can only slightly improve his odds, just about 25% of deck penetration. Such a low deck penetration will usually not make card counting work at virtual tables.

Can I Count Cards In Live Dealer Blackjack?

Yes, a player can engage in card counting in live dealer blackjack, provided that he is not using any external software nor guided by another person.

But, like in land-based casinos, card counting is not quite supported in live dealer blackjack games either. In online blackjack with a live dealer, a software device is used to monitor the game and keep a count of the shoes as they are being dealt. When a player does card counting successfully, then his betting patterns will match the count and the casino will automatically be alerted. Card counters cannot basically hide while playing live dealer blackjack and if they are identified to be persistently taking advantage, they might altogether be stopped from playing.

Is Card Counting Illegal in Vegas?

Card counting is not considered illegal in the Las Vegas casinos and the state laws do not state that the card counters are committing any offense as such. Also, card counting is not cheating in a game.

That being said, most land-based casinos in Las Vegas highly discourage card counting and keep a close watch on the advantage players, in an attempt to identify the tricks they might be using in the game. A good card counter, who gains a statistical advantage over the casino using the strategy, will most likely be advised to no longer play blackjack in that specific casino. The decision will be solely taken by the management of the casino.

So, in a nutshell, card counting is not illegal under normal circumstances. However, it is just extremely difficult and often, not worthwhile enough to be actually practiced either in land-casinos or online blackjack (and in poker, a little bit). At best, you will be successful at winning and the casinos would ban you for that…

This article was published on December 17, 2020, and last updated on February 16, 2022.

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