Is Counting Cards Illegal at an Online Casino?

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While not illegal per se, card counting is frowned upon by casinos and might evoke their ire, should you be caught doing it. 

While counting cards in blackjack was once seen as an underhanded and clandestine activity, operated by seedy characters and wrapped under a veil of mystery, today’s card counters have made their way into mainstream gambling practices.  The internet is full of card counting success stories, such as the (in)famous exploits of the MIT Blackjack Team and the ingenious card counting strategies that allowed them to break the bank at numerous casinos worldwide.

Modern casinos have developed intuitive tactics to spot those players making use of card counting tricks. While it won’t land you in trouble with the law, you certainly won’t get off scot-free if caught.

Catching Card Counters in Action

To limit the amount of unnecessarily lost revenue at blackjack tables, casinos have developed a fair number of ways to spot the “cheaters”.  Although none of these methods are failproof, when used in combination with other approaches, they can become a useful way to catch players counting cards.  Here are the most common card counting techniques used by casinos:

  • Face recognition software that identifies players who have previously engaged in card counting
  • Speeding up the rate of card shuffling and dealing
  • Having more decks than usual in a counting shoe
  • Making dealers and waitrons strike up random conversations with players, to break their concentration
  • Shuffling cards after a player increases their wagers
  • Flat betting a player, preventing them from modifying their bet amount during a shoe

It must be noted that some of these methods can reduce the profitability of a casino.  For instance, more shuffling results in fewer hands dealt per hour, which reduces a casino’s revenue and might not amuse other genuine players.

Nonetheless, casinos will seldomly harass a player for counting cards, as this might garner a snowball of negative publicity.  Hence, this matter is usually handled tactfully, with players dignity in mind.

Spotting Card Counting Syndicates

While it might be easier to deal with an individual card counter, the fact of the matter is that most payers making use of this technique operate as part of a larger team.  While these groups appear like smooth operators in movies, pulling of a real-life team effort is somewhat more complicated.  For one, passing on signals to other teammates is extremely tough, with casino security observing your every move.  Remember that many former card counters are employed by the casinos, to tip off any activity that they might deem underhanded to casino management.

Casinos are also in cahoots with one another when it comes to sharing information on known card counters.  Visiting different casinos and making use of blackjack counting repeatedly in the same group will raise the suspicions of the casino security teams.

What Happens to Card Counters that gets Caught?

While it might be unpleasant to get caught in the act, card counting is not illegal.  The worst that can happen to you and your teammates if caught is for that specific casino to ban you permanently from their facilities.  However, the usual punishment dished out would involve you being asked politely to quit playing blackjack and leave the casino.

Also, almost all large-scale casinos make use of sophisticated face recognition systems that can see past harts, sunglasses and any other disguise.  If you ultimately do get caught entering a casino from which you have been banned, you then could get arrested on the count of trespassing.

How to Avoid Getting Caught Counting Cards?

The downfall of most successful card counters is their ego.  Trying to appear inconspicuous at all times is your best bet to not getting caught out.  Here are a few tips to remaining “invisible”:

  • Always tip the dealers, as an inclined dealer is less likely to report any malpractice
  • Intentionally make a beginner mistake from time to time, to confuse the house
  • Always rotate the casinos and the tables where you play
  • Should you win big, always go to another section of the casino to lose a bit of money, before walking away
  • Pride is your worst enemy – walk away when you are riding a high wave and don’t chase another big win

Playing by the book will ensure that you have a hassle-free experience with any casino.  Of course, should you wish to try counting cards, it will not be seen as an illegal activity, although it might get you kicked out of a casino.  In the end, honesty is the best policy.

Picture of Bojan Lipovic - Digital Project Manager

Bojan Lipovic - Digital Project Manager

Besides polishing his SEO skills, Bojan has a penchant for creative writing. With over half a decade of experience in the online gambling industry under his belt, his written take on the latest news from the Canadian and global gambling industries is an indispensable source of information for the CASINOenquirer team. Bojan’s primary goal is to ensure that players get a superior experience through the top-notch content that he shares.

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