Card Counting Laws

With the wealth of card tracking methodologies available, you have to be saying to yourself, “Surely this is illegal”? If using these systems gives me such an edge over the house, surely the has to be considered cheating? Will I go to jail if I get caught card counting?

The answer to these questions depends very much on how you implement your card counting system. You see, card counting is really just a simple strategy. It’s pure observation of what’s occurring in front of you, and logical deduction based on what you’re seeing.

Casinos don’t like card counting because it changes what the game is about. If you implement a card counting system, blackjack becomes less about the contest between dealer and player, and more about your ability to correctly predict the cards you’re going to be dealt.

Casinos have a 5% edge on the game of Blackjack – it’s stacked in their favour, which makes sense when you consider that they’re in this for profit. A good card counting system reverses this edge to the point where it stands 1% in your favour. No wonder they don’t like it!

But Is Card Counting Illegal?

The answer is no, except when it’s yes. Allow us to explain. If you implement card counting as a mental discipline, a system where by your own observation you make betting decisions that increase your overall winnings, then it’s not illegal at all.

This has in fact been tested in court, when Ken Uston sued a group of casinos over the issue. The judge weighed the evidence and decided that card counting is basically just common sense, and not cheating at all – and thus, totally legal.

However, if you are relying on some form of electronics to help you maintain your count, this is considered cheating, because it’s disingenuous. It’s no longer you versus the dealer, it’s you riding on a computer that plays the dealer on your behalf. Utilising a system that relies on technology will definitely get you prosecuted, fined, and quite possibly thrown in jail.

So, to stay above board, practise a lot, and rely on your brain only.

Can a Casino Take Action Against Me?

Yes, but not in a legal capacity. All casinos are built on private property, and as such, right of admission is reserved. Simply put, they don’t have to let you in, and they can kick you out if you don’t behave yourself.

If the casino thinks that you’re card counting, there are a number of common ways in which they’ll respond to this. The most simple approach is to distract you by having a member of staff engage you in conversation. This is usually all it takes to throw off your concentration, ruining your count.

If, however, you make it obvious that you are card counting, the casino is within its rights to eject you from the premises. Most often, they will also take your picture and bar you from ever entering again. Casinos circulate pictures of card counters between themselves, so once your mugshot has been taken, you may have difficulty gaining access to other casinos.