Frequently Asked QuestionsBy: Blackjack Science
Is Card Counting Illegal?
No, not in Nevada or any other jurisdiction we are aware of. Card counting is only using your mental capacity to play the game they offer within their rules. Illegal efforts would involve a "device" like a computer, iPad, your smart phone or other type devices. The Nevada law is sufficiently vague as to bring into question issues like keeping count with paper and pencil. I qualify my no with "in Nevada" because each state has a gaming commisison and different laws governing gaming. While it does not seem rational that anyone would pass a law to make card counting illegal, I urge you to stay aware of the laws in the juridictions you are playing. Most especially, international locations should be researched before venturing into the deep end.
Where can I find Nevada Gambling Laws?
Most of the population in the US are served by over 700 casinos in the country. It is likely that everyone has a casino within a few hours driving time from their home. Each of these states have their own gaming commission and unique statutes regarding gaming, all of which is reason for the consumer to be aware of any major differences that could arise to their detriment. I would further qualify by saying that most of these state laws and commission were heavily modeled by Nevada's structures.
Is Card Counting considered Cheating?
Again, not in Nevada or any other known jurisdiction. Refer to my disclaimer statements in "Is card counting illegal?" for issues related to other jurisdictions. Most states define “cheating” as something that fundamentally alters the nature of the game. Card counters beat Blackjack using the rules the casinos set using nothing but their brain. All they are doing is using their brain to predict when the game will be more favorable to the player and placing larger wagers when they have an advantage. Those advantage times are there for everyone to see.
Nevada Statute NRS 465.015 Definitions:
1. “Cheat” means to alter the elements of chance, method of selection or criteria which determine:
(a) The result of a game;
(b) The amount or frequency of payment in a game;
(c) The value of a wagering instrument; or
(d) The value of a wagering credit.
2. The words and terms defined in chapter 463 of NRS have the meanings ascribed to them in that chapter.
(Added to NRS by 1981, 1292; A 1993, 830; 1995, 1502)
Can You Really Make a Living Counting Cards?
The answer to this question is yes. Is it easy, the answer is no. My intuitive guess at the failure rate is 7 of 10.
What do most players not understand about what is required?
First, you must be a consumate professional at all components of the technical skill set required to count cards and play in a casino. There is no place for your emotional need to catch up or win big! It's a business.
Next, you must understand that playing to make a living requires a capital investment larger than they would expect. You must have a large enough bankroll to withstand the range of wins and losses well defined by the games mathmatics. If you are trying to make next months rent with a small bankroll, don't!
Next, you have to have a "constitution" strong enough to withstand the backoff, trespasses and other myriad of rude and unpleasant experiences. Counter to that is the requirement to have an "act", the art, to continue to play over time and this may be the largest determent to your long term success.
Team play dilutes many of the negatives (and adds some new ones) and raises the probability of success. Additionally, it can provide invaluable experiene that would be priceless in any venture alone.
How do you know when you’re good enough to beat the casinos?
Training to become a card counter is hard work. We have developed some techniques that reduces the time to learn basic strategy which was one of the big ones. Card counting is fourth grade math. If you can add 1 and subtract 1 then I can teach you to count in a matter of five minutes. However, I cannot teach you how to do that math in the time frame required. You will have to practice to add speed to your ability to count and that takes some time.
We estimate that it takes about 125 hours of practice before the average person has the skills necessary to effectively play perfect basic strategy and count cards. Then they are ready to add the real world of playing in a casino and dealing with the distractions and the speed of the game.
We offer several methods for learning these skills and encourage you to check out our product and service offering to see if one fits your needs.
In our Mentoring Program, actually in most of our programs, we conduct MIT level certifications for the member to provide feedback on his or her competency. It is a series of test with required results that leave no doubt you can play. We use the same protocol for MIT members and for members of our teams now.
How much bankroll do I need?
Your bankroll needs are determined by many factors that include:
1. Games, rules, penetration
2. Risk tolerance
3. Size of starting bankroll
How often will I win or lose after I am trained and ready to play?
There is no means to predict wether you are going to win or lose in the short term. In a recent team experience involving over 3,500 playing sessions we experienced a session win rate of 60%. These sessions were by more than a dozen players over more than one year. Conversations with previous MIT team members indicate this was consistent with their results. Certainly, we can not assure you this to be your experience.
Win rates are based on the math and the ability to play a sufficient number of rounds to achieve the law of large numbers. These have been tried, tested, simulated for decades and are without question.
As shown in the graph as an illustration of the law of large numbers using a particular run of rolls of a single die. As the number of rolls in this run increases, the average of the values of all the results approaches 3.5. While different runs would show a different shape over a small number of throws (at the left), over a large number of rolls (to the right) they would be extremely similar.
Develop and use a quality method to test your skills and then be patient.
How can I make a living counting cards without getting backed off?
The advent and publisizing of card counting, coupled with the effect of counting teams, have incented the casinos to develop a fear and over the top paranoia of card counters that will make your ability to play undetected and undeterred almost non-existent.
The long answer: If you’re making a living counting cards that means you’re spending a significant amount of your time in casinos and you’re playing for an hourly win rate that can support the livelihood of at least one human being. Those two facts combine to create a natural incentive for casino personnel to disallow you from playing blackjack at their establishment. Remember, casinos are offering blackjack for the same reason you’re playing it. If you’re actually beating the casino, it doesn’t matter how much cover you use or how stupid the casino is; you will inevitably get “the tap” and be asked to leave if you’re a winning player. It’s never a matter of IF it happens it’s always a matter of WHEN. It could be many hours or many months, but every pro card counter experiences back offs. Generally, the advantaged players who come to terms with this fact and don’t let it bother them, tend to make the most money.
What’s the best card counting system to use?
The most widely accepted card counting system is Hi-Lo. It's balance of simplicity and effectiveness have made it the system used by most major teams for generations. There are many other counting systems out there and they all do the same thing; tell you when you have the edge so you can raise your bets, change how you play your hands, and ultimately play Blackjack with the player having the advantage.
Some systems are mathematically more powerful than others, but with the greater power comes the issues of difficulty to use and increased error rate. The more powerful the system the more mental energy it takes to implement and the amount of errors you tend to make goes up.
Hi Lo is what all the teams use, it’s what most of the authors write about, it’s been proven, and will work on any beatable game of blackjack.
I’ve learned everything except for ______. Can I still beat the casino?
If you are a novice and are just learning the game then you can improve your ability to win by taking steps in learning. I would counsel that first, and without compromise, is the requirement for basic strategy. Do not proceed until you have it 100% mastered. It is thought that most casino regulars that do not kuse basic stratgey may be playing against about -5% casino edge. Basic Strategy will reduce this to about -.5% and increase the number of times your win. But you do not yet have a winning game.
Next, is card counting using Hi-Lo to develop a running count and the ability to convert to a true count. While some improvement may be available during the learning process, it is important to masater this skill in it's entirety before moving to the next level. Using positive true counts to increase your betting will add to your side of the ledger and, if properly done and used in concert with basic strategy, will provide an advantage over the casino.
Last is the addition of various play departures based on the true count that may add about 20% to your advantage. Havng mastered them you are at nearing the skill set of a professional. Assuming proper game selection, your play should have an advantage over the casino.
Having now reached a professional level technically, you are ready to begin to learn and understand the artistic nuances of live play and how to get away with it.
It is my "rough" estimate that beating blackjack is 25% technical and 75% art. So just because you know how to shoot your new gun it does not mean you can hit anything.
Is it better to play rated or unrated?
The answer is, it depends.
Is it worth giving up your identity to the casino and expose yourself to potentially being added to various surveillance networks and get flyered in exchange for the comp benefits I will get? Generally, the answer is no.
Now, not playing rated is also a moderate red flag of an advantage player and may add heat to your play. You will have to make this judgement call. If you are playing less than black chips then rated is not that bad. When your top bet levels are approaching $500, then you are going to get more scrutiny.
Teams often "create" a big player by playing them rated in high limit which is all part of building a persona. It will generally be short lived but is very effective when exectued properly.
If your objective is comps and free stuff than there are other ways to accomplish this without exposing yourself at a blackjack table.
How do I join/start a team?
Contact one of our Coaches
What’s the best camouflage/cover?
This is hotly-debated topic in the AP community. We generally don’t encourage cover plays or camouflage that will cost you EV. Most cover plays involve making a decision that is less than mathematically optimal in hopes of showing the casino that you are not counting cards. The problem is, we make money by making optimal plays. Blackjack is hard enough to beat without giving money back to the casino. Usually the people who are asking about cover are trying to find a way to last longer in the casino or to avoid back offs in general and we applaud the problem-solving attitude. But, in our experience, it’s never a matter of IF the casino finds out you’re counting, it’s always a matter of when. Our philosophy is that we’re not willing to give up real EV in exchange for the “hope” of longer playing time. Did we come to the casino to spend time in the casino or did we come to the casino to make money? There is no way of knowing how long the casino will let you play. Since you don’t know, you might as well be as aggressive as possible.
To use an example, let’s say a casino is offering a game you can make $100 bucks an hour from. You decide you want to “milk it” instead of burning it down and you use cover strategies that take it down to $25 bucks an hour. You go into the casino and play for 5 hours and the casino backs you off. Did you make the right choice? Technically you got $125 in EV but it also took you 5 hours to do it. What if instead you went into the casino and used the $100 spread and got backed off in an hour and then drove an hour to the next casino and played another hour and then drove another hour to another casino and played an hour. You spent the same 5 hours either way but in the second scenario you made $300 bucks in EV. It doesn’t always work out like this, so it’s not a black and white subject, but those are the factors at play here.
Cover plays sound very appealing at first but for most people it isn’t practical. It requires a very large bankroll in comparison to the stakes you’re betting and requires you to only play casinos with the very best rules and conditions. It’s also not necessarily going to make you more money. It might reduce back-offs but that comes at a cost. We were in it to make the most money we could in the shortest amount of time and expensive cover strategies didn’t fit with that goal.
The best kind of cover for a card counter is the kind that’s free. For instance, back counting a table and wonging in when the count is good is a great way to camouflage your bet spread. Acting like you’re comfortable and belong at the table and being polite can also be forms of camouflage that don’t cost you anything.
Is hole carding legal?
Yes, in Nevada it is the casinos responsibility to protect their cards. I would point out that this was determined by a court case were players were charged with cheating for using hole card information. The initial interpretation of the cheating statute was thought to indicate it was illegal.
Other jurisdictions have cheating statutes that may be interpreted differently, so be cautious. You may be right but have to defend yourself in a long legal battle to prove it.