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The Game of Blackjack in Movies

By: Adam Richards, Friday January 7th 2011
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When movie makers just want to include any casino scene they prefer craps or roulette because of the greater visual action and because lay persons find those games much simpler to understand. Therefore there are not as many movies featuring blackjack as there are craps or roulette. But every now and then a movie is made that involves the intricacies of blackjack and this becomes the connoisseurs delight.

The classic blackjack movie is 21, released in 2008. 21 is another name for blackjack based on the maximum allowable hand value. The movie 21 brings to the screen the saga of the MIT blackjack team, which evolved team work and card counting to such an extent that they made significant sums of money in the land casinos. The movie has intricate twists and turns connected with personal relationships between the team members, but the blackjack part has been faithfully reproduced.

MIT senior math major Ben Campbell needs funds to pay for medical school. He joins Professor Micky Rosa and his blackjack team consisting of fellow students Choi, Fisher, Jill, and Kianna. The system involves card counting. The spotters play the minimum bet and keep track of the count. When the count is favorable they send secret signals to the big players, who place large bets and make the money. Campbell becomes a big player and begins to enjoy the trips to Las Vegas. He develops a mutual attraction with Jill. However Fisher becomes jealous of Campbell's blackjack success and creates a scene leading to his removal from the team. Then Campbell begins to have problems with his friends and studies. This begins to affect his play at the blackjack tables. Once, he continues playing even after he is signaled to walk away, losing $200,000. Rosa splits from the team and Campbell and his three remaining teammates agree to carry on. The security officer of the casino beats Campbell and warns him not to engage in card counting again. Rosa and Campbell unite for a final fling but that is also beset with surprises.

Rain Man starring Tom Cruise and Dustin Hoffman has a small but critical sequence of casino blackjack. This also involves card counting, but in a more romanticized manner. Charlie Babbit finds that his wealthy father has left only a vintage Buick to him, whereas his brother Raymond has been left $3 million. Raymond is institutionalized with autism. Charlie decides to kidnap Raymond in an attempt to get a part of the inheritance. Charlie discovers that Raymond has an amazing memory and is able to memorize cards that have already been dealt. It is then that the famous casino scene occurs. Charlie teaches Raymond the rules of blackjack and card counting and the two head to Vegas. The brothers get properly dressed up before entering the casino, which highlights one advantage of playing blackjack online. You can wear what you want. There is a long sequence of Charlie and Raymond making their way through slot machines before they reach the blackjack tables. Card counting in blackjack does not in reality mean memorizing all cards dealt. That would be impossible. There are systems that code the cards according to their values and the counters keep track of the cumulative code totals.

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