Countering Card Counting in BlackjackBy: Joan Peppin, Wednesday September 1st 2010
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Normal blackjack games offer average returns of around 99.5% without card counting. Card counting can increase this return to over 100%, which is worrisome for casinos. At one time casinos tweaked the rules to reduce the basic average return to counter the effects of card counting. This led to discontent among the multitude of blackjack players who did not resort to card counting and the casinos had to relent. Thereafter they adopted certain practices which did not affect the basic players but made card counting difficult.
Card counting involves keeping a track of the cards that have gone out of play and assessing whether the remaining cards give an advantage to the player or dealer. If they give an advantage to the player then the player increases his bet amounts and if they give an advantage to the dealer then the player decreases his bet amounts. In this way he gets a return beyond what is available in normal play.
Historically there have been two types of card counters. One type uses electronic computing devises strapped to the body. The other type of card counter carries out the entire process in his mind. Over the years the use of any device for card counting has been held illegal whereas the other card counting has been declared a legitimate skill by the courts. With the kind of surveillance mechanisms available today it has become impossible to carry a concealed electronic device inside the casino without detection. Therefore this type of card counting is no longer feasible.
In order to counter the attempts of skill based card counting casinos engage in two types of actions. The first nullifies to a fair degree the advantages of card counting. The second identifies potential card counters and takes some measures against them. Some of the measures of the first type are discussed below. Suppose the casino used an infinite number of decks then no matter which cards were discarded the relative composition of the cards in the shoe would remain unchanged. Therefore counting cards would not give the player any advantage. The casino cannot obviously use an infinite number of decks but by increasing the decks in the shoe to a large number it significantly reduces the advantage of card counting. Advantage of card counting is further reduced by decreasing penetration. Penetration is the percentage of cards dealt before a shuffle. Casinos now rarely exceed a penetration of 50%. Despite these measures skilled card counters can gain over the long haul.
Casinos heckle suspected card counters in a number of ways. Engaging them in a conversation is the most polite way but others have known to be used. This breaks the player’s concentration and he is unable to count cards. The big question here is how can casinos identify card counters? Though it is illegal for players to use computers it is not so for casinos. The cards in a shoe are scanned into a computer. Thereafter every card dealt and every bet placed is also entered into the computer. The computer can calculate at every point whether it is advantages for the player to increase or decrease his wager and actual increases or decreases are compared with this. A player’s whose actual betting pattern matches with what a card counter’s pattern ought to be is a suspected card counter.
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