Is Card Counting Illegal?
Mr Blackjack covers the legalities behind card counting and what the casinos will do if they catch you in the act.
In any casino worldwide, it is not illegal to count cards. Using your brainpower to count and make informed decisions to get the best-desired outcome will never be illegal. That's just being skilled.
Law enforcement will never be able to arrest you. Card counting is considered a skill because you're making calculations using probability.
You're keeping a true count of all cards being played in the game, tracking Aces, and deploying basic strategy all in your head, to influence the odds of the game in your favor.
Card counting has a negative reputation because people confuse it with cheating, which is illegal.
As long as you are not marking the cards, bribing dealers, or using any external devices, like mobile apps, what you are doing is perfectly legal.
However, the casino can refuse service to you for any reason. All casinos are listed as private property thus they can tell you to leave or impose rules on you should you want to stay and play.
For example, this could happen to you if you get caught counting cards. Some security guy with an earpiece will tap you on the shoulder and ask you to go for a talk in a public space.
It won’t be like that scene in Casino with the hammer and the hand. They will ask you if you are counting cards. You don’t have to tell the truth. They will then give you two options.
They will ask you to leave and say, 'We won’t book your action,' or they will force you to flat bet for the entire shoe.
This means if you start betting $50 a hand, you have to maintain that bet for the entire shoe. You can’t vary your bet at all.
This renders card counting less effective because you need to vary your bet when the shoe is hot.
The first time this happened to me I was shocked. I had only been playing for a few hours. I wasn't sure what to do, so I kept playing flat bet for an hour and then left.
I played dumb and didn't let on like I knew what he was talking about. If this ever happens to you, do whatever feels right.
Don't panic, stay calm, and let them know of your intentions and ask to go back to the tables or leave. The decision is yours. Card counting is not illegal.
What this lesson covers
- Whether or not counting is illegal
- Why card counting has negative connotations
- What to do if the casino catches you counting
Meet Mr Blackjack
With a career spanning two decades, Mathieu Blake knows his way around a blackjack table. He's taught and entertained over 100,000 subscribers on his YouTube channel NeverSplit10's . In this series he'll take you through basic strategy, card counting, and bankroll management. Take a seat with Mr Blackjack and become a winning player.
Want to learn more about Blackjack?
- Can you get in trouble for counting cards in the US?
Card counting is a skill, and therefore not illegal. Counting is not an offense under an state or federal law in the US, so casinos cannot convict or arrest you.
- Can you be banned for counting cards?
When combined with basic strategy and deviations, card counting gives players an edge in blackjack. Casinos lose money if these players count cards, so they will set limits or use techniques to block players from counting, like shuffling the deck more frequently. Banning players is generally a last resort for casinos.
- If card counting is legal, why are there stories of casinos suing card counters?
Card counting is legal as long as you don’t use any aids to assist you. This is considered cheating and is against the law. Most stories around card counting focus on whether counters cheated by getting assistance from other players or apps.
- Can a casino kick you out for winning too much if counting isn’t illegal then?
Casinos are private premises. While they must follow the law, they can decide who to allow or ban from their grounds. Most casinos will try to limit or prevent you from card counting in blackjack, and then have a conversation, before asking you to leave.
- Why is a strategy chart considered legal if it’s helping me in playing better, but a card counting aid isn’t?
Using a strategy chart requires some mathematical and gaming skill on the player’s part. Plus, the casino still has an edge in the game. Counting aids, like players peeking at the dealer’s cards, require no skill and give players an overt advantage.
- Who are well-known card counters?
There have been many card counters over the years. Edward Thorpe invented card counting, but the technique was popularized by the film 21, which told the story of the MIT blackjack team that won hundreds of thousands of dollars from Vegas casinos.
- How can you count cards without being caught?
Many card counters will try to throw the casinos off their trail by making occasional basic strategy errors, or deviate away from their betting system.