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Is Card Counting Legal

Gambling games have existed since the first dice carved from the anklebones of an antelope were thrown against a cave wall. Card games have existed since the Zhou Dynasty in ninth century China. Casinos date back to 17th century Venice. All games have rules. Violation of such rules is called cheating. But, in the case of a business, like a casino, cheating is a legal term. You cannot bring someone before a court of law on a charge of cheating, unless a legislative body has first defined the term. The term cheating should not be used carelessly.

There exist many types of card games. In matching games, like Gin Rummy, you must match, or meld, your cards in a better manner than your opponent. Generally, this is accomplished by taking turns drawing and discarding cards. Your opponent can take a card that you have discarded. Therefore, you must be very careful to remember any card that you have discarded and your opponent collects or ignores, as this provides information on your opponent’s hand. Remembering discards is of utmost importance.

In trick-taking games, like Bridge, you win by winning hands (taking tricks). Again, you look for clues as to the content of your opponents’ hands. Again, watching the cards that have been played, and discarded, is of utmost importance.

Even in accumulation games, like War, you can improve your odds by discarding your cards in a pattern that you can recognize when they reappear.

In all these different types of games, discards play a central role. The general word “discard”, meaning to get rid of something as no longer useful, has at its origin card games. Only, discards are useful in game strategy.

Blackjack is a comparing game. You win by obtaining a better hand than your opponent and betting more when you are more likely to obtain a winning hand. As in the other types of games, keeping track of discards is all-important. For example, if all the aces have been played, you cannot get a Blackjack. Why would you make a large bet when you cannot receive the most valuable hand? It simply makes no sense. Blackjack card counting is simply a formulized method of simplifying the tracking of discards. Actually, vastly simpler than the task of an expert Bridge player. Card counting is, simply put, the correct way to play Blackjack; just as tracking the discards in Bridge or Gin Rummy is the correct way to play those games.

So, if tracking discards is an integral part of matching, trick-taking, and accumulation games, why would it be considered cheating in a comparing game? The reason is simple. Casinos have, for decades, made a concerted effort to tie the term blackjack card counting to cheating to dissuade customers from using correct strategies. We see this time and again in interviews and articles quoting execs in the casino industry. Oddly, reporters, generally more vigilant in checking facts, appear to pass on such quotes without thought or comment. The fact is that card counting is legal in every jurisdiction in the world. When you think about it, how could it not be? How can it be illegal to think? When you sit down at a Blackjack table, you are not agreeing to terms and conditions that prevent you from using your brain.

So, when in a casino, do not be intimidated into closing your mind off from information. It is not yet illegal to use your brain.

"Shallow men believe in luck. Strong men believe in cause and effect." - Ralph Waldo Emerson

  1. Missouri Gaming Law

    I added this post by Ryemo on Missouri gambling laws as it contains the most explicit statement written into law that card counting is legal that I've ever seen:

    Quote Originally Posted by Ryemo View Post
    Name:  MO Gaming Commission.jpg
Views: 13503
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    I actually keep this PDF file on my phone in case I come across any trouble, considering how active I am in MO. This should clear some things up.

    Updated 06-17-2016 at 07:45 AM by Is Card Counting Legal

  2. Relevant Ohio Law on Card Counting

    Ohio casino law explicitly states that card counting is legal:

    OAC 3772-11-08
    3772-11-08 Compliance with law; prohibited activities


    (B) A person who, without the assistance of another person or without the use of a physical aid or device of any kind, uses the person's own ability to keep track of the value of cards played and uses predictions formed as a result of the tracking information in their playing and betting strategy shall not be considered ...
  3. The Columbus Dispatch

    In a September 19, 2012 article, The Columbus Dispatch stated:

    "Although the idea of beating the casino has been dramatized in movies such as 21, in which college professor Kevin Spacey organizes his math students in an elaborate cheating scheme, it’s usually not that sophisticated nor complex, Edwards said."

    The movie was about card counting and in no way was a "cheating scheme". When questioned, the author of the article claimed that Wikipedia says ...
  4. Las Vegas Review calls Blackjack card counters cheaters

    In 2002, an article in the Las Vegas Review lumped card counters in with flimflam men, stickup artists and gangsters. You can find copy of the article at:
  5. Ben Affleck episode

    Gulfnews ran the following headline: "Affleck barred from casino game after cheating"."

    The local CBS station in Los Angeles ran the headline: "Report: Ben Affleck Under Investigation For Card Counting In Vegas" as if some major crime took place. ...
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