Is Card Counting illegal?

August 25th 2022: I have been told often by people that card counting is illegal so lets go over card counting and what happens if the casino thinks you are counting cards.

What is card counting:

Lets start off by explaining what card counting is, this is where you assign a number to the cards as they are played so you can figure out when the higher value cards are going to played. In a game like blackjack picture cards such as Ten, Jack, Queen and King are worth 10 points so if you know when they are likely to be played it gives you and advantage when you are trying to reach 21.

Can anyone count cards?

Yes in theory anyone could count cards but it reality only a small percentage of players are able to watch all the cards as they are played and assign a number value to each. To track multiple cards especially in modern casinos with multiple decks and shuffling of cards is not something the average player would be able to do. There is solo card counters as well as teams or even players sometimes that use hidden equipment to keep track of the cards although this is less common.

people playing poker
Photo by Javon Swaby on

House advantage:

All slot machines as well as most time games have something called house advantage meaning the casino gets a certain percentage it doesn’t matter if you win or lose over a long period the house (casino) is always going to win.

The easiest way to picture the house advantage is if you bet on roulette and put your money on either red or black you would think like flipping a coin you would have 50/50 odds of winning; But thats not the case as the roulette wheel will have a couple of green spaces O and OO which lowers your odds to less than 50/50 that is the house advantage. It many Las Vegas casinos they have introduced the OOO which makes the house advantage on that bet even bigger.

As all slots and most table games have a house advantage which varies in the case of Poker the house(casino) advantage doesn’t apply as you are playing other players not the house the casino just takes a percentage of all bets to pay for the dealer which is usually printed on the table.

Advantage players or card counters whatever you would call them like Blackjack because if you play perfect Blackjack you can negate the house (casino) advantage on the game.

How a card counter wins money:

A card counter by counting the cards and knowing when the high value cards are going to be played can bet accordingly and win. For example if most if most of the cards in the shoe (where cards are) are nearly all played and there is a high number of high value cards left its much easier for a player to make 21. In this case a card counter might increase his bet as he knows its easier for him to hit 21.

Is card counting illegal?

Now for the million dollar question is card counting illegal like so many visitors to Las Vegas have told me that it is? Well card counting is not illegal in Nevada or most gambling casino’s you might go to. That being said casino’s like any other business can refuse your business so if they suspect you are card counting they will ask you to leave the casino. Advantage play or card counting is legal but because it gives you an advantage that negates the house advantage they can and do ask players to leave.

king jack and queen of spades playing cards
Photo by jalil shams on

What happens if they suspect you of card counting?

If they suspect you of card counting the pit boss and eye in the sky the cameras and people in the back watching the cameras will watch you to decide by your play if you are card counting. In the mob days they would take you in the back and give you a work over before releasing you or if you upset enough casinos a drive in the desert.

I have been playing Blackjack many times when this has happened since the mid eighties when this has happened. Some casinos do different things but it generally happens this way the pit boss or head or security will walk up behind your seat and be flanked by two big security guards. He will say they are pushing you back which in casino terms means they will no longer let you pay or take your money.

Generally all your money not in play they will let you keep and often walk to the casino cage to have you cash them out. I have seen videos of them refusing to give you money but generally they just want you to leave and not gamble in their casino. What happens next can vary but casino but they might just ask you to leave the casino area, or walk you to an exit.

Casino card counting courtesy of Universal Pictures

What happens if you are a hotel guest at the property?

If you are staying at the hotel they could make you check out or they could ban you from the casino areas of the property until you are scheduled to leave.

Am I banned from the property for good?

Its up to the property but yes they could ban you from the property for good and for example if this is a resort company such as Caesars or MGM they could ban you at all of their properties not just the one you are playing at its totally up to them. You might say this is illegal but they have the right to refuse service to a customer like any business. If they ban you then you return to the casino they can have you trespassed from the property or all of their properties.

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