"Las Vegas" 1/31 and the blackjack scam

A very silly show that I seldom watch, but happened to see last night. And the plot involved a ridiculously complex blackjack scam:

The card counter sits at a table. When the deck becomes rich in high cards, he leaves the table. This is observed by his accomplice in security, who calls the coffee shop. An accomplice working in the coffee shop switches the muzak CD, so that it plays the “Pina Colada Song”. This is the signal for accomplice #4 to leave the coffee shop, go to the blackjack table sit and play and clean up – even though she knows nothing about blackjack.

Now ignoring the fact that just sitting at a 10-rich blackjack table won’t necessarily make you rich…why didn’t the card counter just keep playing? Did I miss a key bit of explanation that covered that?

If the card counter had kept playing, he would have exposed himself as a card counter – betting high when the count was favorable.

This way, the lady simply looks lucky - she happens to sit down at a favorable shoe and play $5000 hands. She doesn’t need to be an expert - if she plays basic strategy when the count is positive, over the long haul, she’ll win money.

Thank you! That actually does make a little bit of sense – assuming that the card counter was betting a considerably smaller amount than his friend. I don’t think they ever mentioned how much the card counter was betting.

This is why many casinos have implemented a rule against joining a table in the middle of a shoe.

:confused: Is that rule just for really high-stakes tables? Becuase I’ve joined mid-shoe at plenty of blackjack tables…

Yeah, like I ever come near a high-stakes table. :rolleyes: I think I’ve only seen it in Vegas (not in Reno or Tahoe), and not at all tables; but the tables I saw with this rule were low stakes (for Vegas); $10 min.

For a much more detailed (and incredibly entertaining) discussion of how a card counting team works, check out Bringing Down the House, the true story of a very successful team of counters from M.I.T.

Correct. I gather the counter was playing near-minimum bets. The gorilla would then come in with the huge bets only whent the count was favorable. This is a system that was used to huge profitability in real life by a team from MIT.

For a time. I believe the MIT team hit a bad stretch and they started hemorrhaging money right before they got caught.

Of course there are flaws in the system, especially in the TV depiction. To wit:

While the card counter is playing, the running count hits +6. So they initiate the switch, and the rookie sits down and starts making huge bets. Let’s say there are two other players at the table. The next deal, everybody (including the dealer) gets a pair of face cards. Everybody pushes; the running count is now -2, and you’ve got the rookie making $5000 bets against a negative shoe.

Conveniently, the card counter and maybe one other player were the only ones at the table. So it would take more than one deal to push the running count negative. Of course, the same thing could happen over two or three deals, so it’s still a flaw. The MIT team fixed this by (a) keeping the counter at the table, and (b) making the people in the roles interchangeable. So the counter one night at the Mirage might be the gorilla the next night at Caesar’s, and the whale the following night at Circus Circus. Unlike the TV example, therefore, the gorilla knew not only how to play basic strategy but also to count, and knew what a slew of ten cards meant.