Morality of card counting

As I understand it, while card counting in casinos (at the blackjack table) is not illegal, casinos frown on it to the point where a counter can be banned and perhaps even roughed up for it. What’s your take on the morality of this?

One argument for: Casinos are businesses, not charities. They have the right to refuse service to anyone, and they are under no obligation to pay cheaters.

One argument against: Card counting is a skill, and is not a criminal act, nor an act of theft. Casinos are just punishing the better players. This is discriminatory.

Count me in the discriminatory camp – if a player is smart enough to use his wits to determine the best times to bet high, why shouldn’t he? He isn’t interfering with the mechanics of the game, or preventing other players from using similar techniques.

It’s as silly as an amateur basketball tournament disallowing all applicants over 6’ tall because they might have an unfair advantage over the other players.

And casinos have every right to be discriminatory. Counting is not illegal, it’s not cheating, and if a casino “roughs up” someone, then they are liable; that is a criminal act. But they have no obligation to open their doors to someone that can beat them. Unfair? In some sense, sure.

It’s equally discriminatory that casinos do not comp me to a penthouse suite and give me free tickets to the Celine Dion show. But they provide this service to other people, merely because they ganble more money than I do. Unfair!

Is it possible that it could be to the benefit of the house to give card counters a pass? The house stays in business by the fact that gamblers, collectively, lose more than they win over time. To have a few people win by counting cards, in my opinion, actually might increase profits because it encourages many others to gamble who will likely lose.

But hey, I don’t run a casino so I don’t get to make the rules.

I’ve heard this argument made. Card counting is difficult, and casinos can make a fortune on yahoos that think they can do it like pros. Thing is, though, Atlantic City did this for a while and I think they found it to be a bad idea.

Eh. I don’t think card-counting is technically cheating, as you use no resources outside your own brain (although I suppose you could make the argument that “cheating consists of flouting the house rules”, and as card-counting is uniformly outlawed at most casinos, then…).

But by the same token, businesses have a perfect right not to serve you if they choose not to, as long as we don’t get into the whole “we will not discriminate against race-color-creed” hoopla.

I would also imagine that if you have the mental capacity to count cards, you’d also realize that too much of a good thing looks suspicious to a casino; have a “lucky” game or two, and then split before anybody gets wise to what’s going on.

So basically: card-count if you want to, I won’t narc on you. But don’t do it enough so that people get suspicious, and don’t be surprised if the casinos catch on and throw you out.

The backrooms of casinos are littered with mechanical devices. They come down really hard on that sort of thing.

I had an ex-gf who was a blackjack dealer at a local indian casino. She told me there were a handful of regulars who she was sure did this as a living, but most of them would win $100-$200 and walk away, usually on low limit tables. Few hours work a day, comped meal now and then, and make $500-$1000 a week. Plenty of us would kill for such a job.

Would it solve things it the rules were changed slightly so that even if cards were counted the house would have a slight advantage? Or would that just drive gamblers away?

Can a casino just go ahead and do that, or does the state gaming commission have to make it official?

Can I assume that the casino’s position on this was that it was hardly worth their time to stop it? An amount like that seems so trivial.

*la Llorona! * Aieeeeee!!!, la Llorona !!!

Card counting is not a skill, hiding the fact that you are counting is a skill. Any fool with a pencil and slip of paper can keep perfect count. If you allow counting, then the slips of paper will all come out and everybody’s bet will be bouncing up and down with the count.

With everyone counting, blackjack becomes unprofitable and either goes away entirely, or the rules change so that counting isn’t a benefit anymore, which means you will HAVE to count in order to get as good a payout as you already get.

As long as counting stays “illegal” only the truly dedicated players who really study and put out the effort can tip the scales in their favor. They can’t affect the overall profitability of the game, since if they win too much, they get kicked out. The rest of us get to play the game as it was intended.

When it comes to the morality of card counting I have this to say. Widespread counting will destroy the game, so in that sense it is immoral and should be disallowed.

Immoral. The terms of the bet explictly prohibit card counting (I am assuming they do somewhere) when you place that bet you are agreeing to the provisions of that bet. Doing something that is specifically against the rules of the bet is immoral and cheating the Casino.

It’s most definitely unfair. Whether a person is card-counting is sort of a red herring; the real issue is whether it’s fair for casinos to forcibly remove a person once he starts winning. When you think about it, it’s not only immoral, but * ought* to be illegal (although apparently it’s not). After all, when one goes to a casino, one has the expectation that one may lose money or may win money. If casinos allow you to stay only so long as you lose, and kick you out as soon as you start winning, they’re not really holding up their end of the bargain. If you knew that you would only be allowed to lose money, and never to win, you’d never set foot in a casino. The idea of forcibly removing people because they are winning seems contrary to the whole idea of gambling.

The casino has no way to actually know that a person is counting cards, since the tally exists only in the counter’s mind. They can only guess that you are counting by the way you vary your bet. However, variations in bet size are not prohibited; casinos will gladly let you vary your bet as much as you want, so long as you are losing money. Card-counters aren’t really ejected for counting, they are ejected for winning.

No, I don’t believe card-counting is expressly forbidden in writing at any casino.

Don’t most big casinos use enough decks (which are switched often) to make card counting worthless? My friend just got back from Vegas and he mentioned they insert the cards into an auto shuffler and discard them after a few hands. Doesn’t that make it hard to count cards effectively?

I read an interesting book on card-counting. Apparently, casinos used to deal the deck all the way to the last card. When counting was first invented, some players were really cleaning up. The casinos tried altering the rules to counter this, but apparently their business fell off so much that they gave in and changed the rules back to the way they were before. (I don’t believe they have to get approval as to how they set the rules; after all, there are slight variations in rules between different casinos, so I’m sure it’s not standardized.) I’m thinking this was in the 1960s, but I might be remembering wrong. The casinos do have counter-measures now, but they are a little more subtle. They always re-shuffle before the end of the deck, and usually use multiple-deck shoes*. This makes card-counting extremely difficult for anyone who is not an expert. From what I understand, even an expert can only expect an advantage of a couple percentage points.
*If I’m not mistaken, the tables that offer single or 2-deck blackjack tweak the rules a little bit to compensate for counters. For example, double-down on 10 or 11 only, or split aces only once. The multi-deck tables will have slightly more liberal rules.

Yes, the casinos use lots of decks, and reshuffle them before the shoe gets too low, that effectively reduces the advantages of card-counting. That’s perfectly fine, IMO, since that’s a parameter of the game they wish to tweak.

Accusing someone of card-counting and/or “suggesting” a suspected counter of leaving a casino, on the other hand, is discriminatory.

The casinos are free to change the rules of the game such that card counting won’t work. They don’t do this because they LIKE to advertise that blackjack is a game of skill - they just don’t want anyone with skill playing the game.

Therefore, a grey market has evolved, in which casinos offer games that counters can beat, but which they then police well enough that the really good, high limit counters cannot take them for large amounts of money.

They could post rules against counting, but they never do, because this would break the fiction that blackjack is a game that ‘anyone can win’.

Card counting is not illegal, nor is it against the rules. Card counters follow the rules of the game scrupulously. Some types of counting exploits, such as mid-show entry, have been disallowed by the rules in some casinos.

The fact is, casinos like card counters. Most of them, anyway. Almost no casino will bar a counter who is betting $5 chips. They make very little profit (a few bucks an hour at most), and they’re great advertising. What the casinos fear are teams. A team with a big bankroll can beat a casino for hundreds of thousands of dollars. So the casinos focus on stopping counters in the big money games, and ignore the little guys.

There is absolutely, categorically nothing morally wrong with counting cards, so long as you stay within the posted rules of the game. In my opinion there IS something morally wrong with a casino advertising a game of skill, and then barring people who show that they actually have some. The casinos know this, and know that if they make too much noise they could suffer the same fate as casinos in Atlantic city which had their anti-counter politicies challenged in court. The casinos lost, and now it is illegal to bar counters in New Jersey. This was also bad for counters, because the casinos had to resort to the onl weapon they had left, which was to change the rules of the game to make counting much less profitable.