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Casino Insider Tells (Almost) All About Security

Zonk posted more than 6 years ago | from the tech-of-the-gambling-floor dept.

Security 232

An anonymous reader writes "ComputerWorld has up a story on casino security technology, exploring the world of facial recognition technology and various other systems in casinos such as the Bellagio, Treasure Island, and Beau Rivage. Industry veteran Jeff Jonas reveals some of the secret scams he learned from the casino industry such as the infinite hundred dollar bill, the hollowed out chip cup, the palm (trading cards), the specialty code (inserted by rogue programmer into video poker machine) and the cameraman, as well as detailing how casinos strike back against fraudsters and cheats.'"

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I'll never reveal my super secret (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22718706)

My nanotech playing card that can instantly become any card I need it to, or even no card at all! Err, wait...

Re:I'll never reveal my super secret (3, Funny)

phillips321 (955784) | more than 6 years ago | (#22719644)

Your the sort of person that would suit the last comment in the article.

"That's the way they catch the bad guys," Jonas said. "They're generally idiots."

Re:I'll never reveal my super secret (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22720118)

Your commenting on his being an idiot?

Pots & kettles come to mind ...

Dude.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22718774)

old news... Just watch Ocean's 11

Re:Dude.. (1)

JustOK (667959) | more than 6 years ago | (#22719160)

weren't there some patches or service packs?

Re:Dude.. (3, Funny)

Supergibbs (786716) | more than 6 years ago | (#22719296)

Yea, version 12 sucked though. Version 13 was better but was still bloatware.

Slashdotted (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22718778)

Useless....

Re:Slashdotted (1)

Kev647 (904931) | more than 6 years ago | (#22719140)

Still interesting...especially for those who haven't seen any of the Ocean's movies...

Re:Slashdotted (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22719548)

Does that include the original with Frank Sinatra?

you will lose (0)

OffTheLip (636691) | more than 6 years ago | (#22718790)

nothing to see here move along

3rd page (5, Informative)

Telvin_3d (855514) | more than 6 years ago | (#22718822)

For some odd reason, the submitter has linked to the third page of a three page article. To no one's surprise, the editors did not catch this. Here is the link to page 1
http://www.computerworld.com.au/index.php/id;270726757;pp;1;fp;4194304;fpid;1 [computerworld.com.au]

Re:3rd page (5, Informative)

ElizabethGreene (1185405) | more than 6 years ago | (#22718964)

Network World has the article as well, since the poor .au site has just developed emotional issues from the stampede of slashdotters.

Link [networkworld.com]

Re:3rd page (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22719716)

Re:3rd page (1)

phillips321 (955784) | more than 6 years ago | (#22718974)

does anyone bother to http://rtfa.co.uk/ [rtfa.co.uk] anyways?

Not just to get the venue safe (3, Interesting)

CRCulver (715279) | more than 6 years ago | (#22718824)

Casino security has been used not only to ensure there is no theft or violence in the venue, but also to record the appearance of people who win a little bit too much, so that muscled goons can find them and warn them to cut it out. I was shocked how, in Bringing Down the House [amazon.com] , the MIT blackjack team shows how no matter what disguises they tried, surveillance could establish that it was them.

Re:Not just to get the venue safe (5, Funny)

kd5ujz (640580) | more than 6 years ago | (#22719006)

It was the use of twenty sided dice at the craps table that gave them away.

Re:Not just to get the venue safe (3, Funny)

StikyPad (445176) | more than 6 years ago | (#22719842)

I highly prefer 2 sided dice when playing craps.

Although if marbles count as 1 sided dice, I'm open to using those as well.

Re:Not just to get the venue safe (2, Funny)

nuzak (959558) | more than 6 years ago | (#22720200)

> Although if marbles count as 1 sided dice, I'm open to using those as well.

No, they have infinite sides (ok, in the ideal sense). We're still working on klein bottle dice.

Link to the first page of the article (0, Redundant)

felipekk (1007591) | more than 6 years ago | (#22718830)

The link on the summary is for the third page of the article. Here's the link to the first page [computerworld.com.au] .

doh! doh! doh! I mean wahooo! (1)

apodyopsis (1048476) | more than 6 years ago | (#22718834)

doh! doh! doh! I mean wahooo!

The point is that people who gamble rarely understand the odds. Those that do understand the odds and the house percentage don't unusually gamble. Or if they gamble then they count cards as well.

Untrue (5, Interesting)

hellfire (86129) | more than 6 years ago | (#22719066)

The point is that people who gamble rarely understand the odds. Those that do understand the odds and the house percentage don't unusually gamble. Or if they gamble then they count cards as well.

Perhaps I'm reading it wrong, but I don't find this statement to be true.

There are plenty of people who understand the odds, but still love to gamble. To them it's about the thrill of possibly hitting it big. Those who do understand the odds tend to either play games like blackjack which is the only game in the casino which has positive odds, and those who simply walk in with $500 and intends to make it last as long as they can, but know that the chances of them walking out with more than they went in are not in their favor.

I'm not one of them, but then again I get it why others are like this.

The ones that count cards are simply trying to shift the odds in their favor for bigger payouts, and of course really only applies to blackjack (again, the only game with odds not in favor of the casino, but you have to know how to play to get your money).

Re:Untrue (5, Informative)

MobileMrX (855797) | more than 6 years ago | (#22719190)

Blackjack's odds are almost never (if ever) in the favor of the player, unless the player is counting cards.

For reference: http://wizardofodds.com/blackjack/house-edge-calculator.html [wizardofodds.com]

That calculates the house's odds. Even if you give every advantage to the player, the house still has the advantage if they are using more than one deck (which is almost always). So even in perfect player conditions, the house still has to be using only one deck for the player to have any advantage.

Re:Untrue (1)

SydShamino (547793) | more than 6 years ago | (#22720640)

That fails to take into account the number of free drinks consumed, nor does it consider the cost of equivalent enjoyment (e.g. movie, amusement park, show) that would otherwise occupy the time.

Re:Untrue (2, Informative)

Monkeyman334 (205694) | more than 6 years ago | (#22719280)

I know the odds and I still love to gamble. I like craps. It's fun. However, you don't know anything about casino odds if you think there is any game where the player has an edge. Blackjack only has an edge if you're a good counting player. As far as strategy goes, the calculated house edge is based on you playing perfect basic strategy. Basic strategy meaning memorizing the *entire* basic strategy card. Btw, the best bet in the casino is the "dealer" or "banker" bet in baccarat.

Re:Untrue (2, Funny)

Knara (9377) | more than 6 years ago | (#22719432)

Blackjack's statistical advantage relies on two things a) knowing when to perform which action, and b) knowing when to stop.

Beyond card counting, of course.

Re:Untrue (5, Funny)

jayspec462 (609781) | more than 6 years ago | (#22719854)

I've heard that it also relies on a) knowing when to walk away, and b) knowing when to run.

Counting your money when you're sitting at the table is also frowned upon.

Re:Untrue (1)

sjmacko29 (648740) | more than 6 years ago | (#22720076)

Yeah... I've always heard that there will be time enough for countin' when the dealings done. I think you and I just dated ourselves. I used to have this song on 8-Track, and I can remember watching the movie on TV when it came out. Steve

Re:Untrue (1)

StikyPad (445176) | more than 6 years ago | (#22720092)

Well there's typically ample time for counting when the dealing's done.

Re:Untrue (1)

dewke (44893) | more than 6 years ago | (#22719894)

Me too. I don't gamble because I think I'm going to win money, I gamble because it's fun, and craps is a crazy fun game.

Whatever I take into the casino I expect to lose.

Re:Untrue (1)

Volante3192 (953645) | more than 6 years ago | (#22719512)

There are plenty of people who understand the odds, but still love to gamble. To them it's about the thrill of possibly hitting it big.

Those are the people who don't unusually(sic) gamble. Although my one instance of gambling (ever) was while I was waiting for a flight at the Reno airport. Stuck a $10 in the slots, got it up to $87, cashed out, then sat bored at the gate for another 45 minutes...

(I'm assuming typo in the GP and that they meant 'usually').

Re:Untrue (5, Informative)

EastCoastSurfer (310758) | more than 6 years ago | (#22719598)

Those who do understand the odds tend to either play games like blackjack which is the only game in the casino which has positive odds


Positive odds is only true if you are counting cards and are good at it. Even if you play blackjack perfectly the casino still has the odds favor. See here [wizardofodds.com] .

People who understand odds aren't playing blackjack, but craps. Properly played craps has the lowest house advantage than any other game in the casino. Plus it's actually fun! Every time I go to LV I play craps at Casino Royale. It's a crappy casino, but they have the lowest house advantage that I've found. In fact this chart [wizardofodds.com] shows I'm at the right place :)

Re:Untrue (2)

stonefry (968479) | more than 6 years ago | (#22720806)

Do you really play enough craps to notice a .35% difference? Obviously, the casino will see the difference since they play 24 hours a day. Is it worth it to go to a "crappy casino" for less that a half a percent advantage?

Re:Untrue (2, Interesting)

mikee805 (1091195) | more than 6 years ago | (#22719832)

and those who simply walk in with $500 and intends to make it last as long as they can, but know that the chances of them walking out with more than they went in are not in their favor.
I think you are describing the video poker player.

They want just to extend their play as long as possible knowing the strategy for their game. They look at the pay table and can tell they odds right by looking. Knowing that the longer they play the better the odds hitting that big hand. Video poker is a game of skill against the odds.

Re:Untrue (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22719906)

Yes, the odds for blackjack are already in favor of the casino without any help from you not knowing how to play. The edge for the casino is that when you both bust -- which in a fair game would be a push -- the casino wins your money.

Re:Untrue (1)

rusty_rusty_rusty (715467) | more than 6 years ago | (#22720204)

Those who do understand the odds tend to either play games like blackjack which is the only game in the casino which has positive odds

Actually, to my knowledge, craps has the best player odds in the casino. I believe blackjack is second best in terms of player odds. BUT, even in craps, the odds are still negative against the player. There are, to my knowledge, no positive odds games in the casino. Why would the casino house a game which, by definition, would be a money loser over time?

Re:Untrue (3, Interesting)

greenbird (859670) | more than 6 years ago | (#22720378)

(again, the only game with odds not in favor of the casino, but you have to know how to play to get your money)

You obviously don't understand the odds. As someone else pointed out blackjack has a definite if somewhat small percentage in the house favor. IIRC it's anywhere from 3% to 5% depending on the house rules. The best bet is actually craps. You need a table with a low minimum and a high odds bet ratio on line bets. The odds bet on line bets is the only bet in Vegas that pays out at exactly the odds of winning. The house has an advantage on the initial line bet but that can be minimized by betting the minimum initially and then putting out the maximum odds bet after you have a number. Circus Circus had tables with 10 to 1 odds bets at one time and I've seen 20 to 1 once at one of the smaller casinos but for the most part they're 2 or 3 to 1.

Re:doh! doh! doh! I mean wahooo! (1)

Knara (9377) | more than 6 years ago | (#22719330)

Or they play Blackjack.

Re:doh! doh! doh! I mean wahooo! (1)

Rampantbaboon (946107) | more than 6 years ago | (#22719360)

I am a terrible poker player, but love the game like crazy. If I decide that I'm going to play betting amounts in which 50 dollars will last me for a few hours but know I will lose, I see that as entertainment costs that are more than worth it. I've only once walked away from a poker game in positive territory (playing with casino level players), and yet still love to play.

Don't get caught though (1)

Rik Sweeney (471717) | more than 6 years ago | (#22718842)

because they'll zap you with a cattle prod before dragging you off into a side room and breaking your hand with a hammer.

Re:Don't get caught though (1)

93,000 (150453) | more than 6 years ago | (#22719812)

No biggie. At least I learned how to do that chip trick with my other hand now.

That was quick (4, Funny)

hairykrishna (740240) | more than 6 years ago | (#22718846)

One comment and already the site is down. Maybe he's already buried, along with his server, in a shallow grave out in the desert.

Mirror (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22718872)

Here is a mirror from his blog. I think:

http://jeffjonas.typepad.com/jeff_jonas/2007/10/takin-vegas.html [typepad.com]

Re:Mirror (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22719176)

Yes, that's pretty much the same story. Jeff Jonas has a better ending on it then the one that was originally posted:

On An Unrelated Note: A few weeks ago I coincidentally ended up sitting next to a US Senator on a commercial coast-to-coast flight. While I read up on the FISA debate, he played a pong-like game on his phone almost the entire time. Hello?

Non /.'ed copy (3, Informative)

unformed (225214) | more than 6 years ago | (#22718882)

One page. (2, Informative)

antdude (79039) | more than 6 years ago | (#22719902)

Print copy [networkworld.com] .

Biggest Scam (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22718884)

Don't forget about the biggest scam of all, known as "The Casino"

Re:Biggest Scam (1)

fishybell (516991) | more than 6 years ago | (#22720300)

From TFA: "That's the way they catch the bad guys," Jonas said. "They're generally idiots."

Skip to Infinite hundred dollar bill (5, Funny)

Statecraftsman (718862) | more than 6 years ago | (#22719028)

http://www.networkworld.com/news/2008/030708-vegas-insider.html?page=3 [networkworld.com]

/getting sick of paging through 5 pages of a single page article. If I ever start an online mag, I'm going present one sentence per page just for fun.

Re:Skip to Infinite hundred dollar bill (1)

EricWright (16803) | more than 6 years ago | (#22719156)

That's what the print link is for... everything on one page, little to no ads.

Re:Skip to Infinite hundred dollar bill (1)

T-Bone-T (1048702) | more than 6 years ago | (#22720346)

Unfortunately, I find more and more sites printing only the current page. That is especially annoying when it spills over just a couple lines onto another page. there is nothing like printing out what should be a 2-page article onto 10 pages.

Re:Skip to Infinite hundred dollar bill (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22719158)

> /getting sick of paging through 5 pages of a single page article. If I ever start an online mag, I'm going present one sentence per page just for fun.

Too late. Tom's Hardware Guide has been doing that sort of suck [tomshardware.com] since the mid-1990s.

Comparison of three motherboards? Why, that can be done in just 27 pages [tomshardware.com] !

Re:Skip to Infinite hundred dollar bill (1)

untitled.london (1047042) | more than 6 years ago | (#22719250)

Surely you know how to use the "view printer friendly" article.

Dead handy I found.

Re:Skip to Infinite hundred dollar bill (1)

garett_spencley (193892) | more than 6 years ago | (#22719560)

"If I ever start an online mag, I'm going present one sentence per page just for fun."

May I please have your address ? It's for informational purposes-only. I *promise*.

Re:Skip to Infinite hundred dollar bill (1)

redline452 (963868) | more than 6 years ago | (#22720152)

> /getting sick of paging through 5 pages of a single page article.

I just click the PRINT or PRINT/EMAIL icon that gives you a single-page view, then don't print it.

When you get caught by NORA (4, Interesting)

g-san (93038) | more than 6 years ago | (#22719030)

So we seem to accept that machines are looking at our faces and alerting humans to "suspicious" individuals. Yeah, I guess I'm ok with that. I'll get scared when I get caught, and instead of dragging me into a back room, shining a light in my face and asking me questions, I have to sit down and answer NORA's questions. Once the machine gets to decide if I am guilty, we have lost. Oh wait...

My favorite scam! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22719054)

Is to walk into a casino and loudly proclaim "I'm Cowboy Neil!" and watch the casiono shower me with free goodies and comps.

The infinite $100 bill (4, Interesting)

thewils (463314) | more than 6 years ago | (#22719082)

Is a trick you can maybe play on a regular vending machine. If you hit the coin return at just the right moment, there's a chance that you'll get some or all of your money back, especially if you insert change instead of single coins.

Re:The infinite $100 bill (1)

lena_10326 (1100441) | more than 6 years ago | (#22719178)

The infinite $100 bill

Is a trick you can maybe play on a regular vending machine.
Do you really want to be the one to test that with your own $100 bills? :D

minimal risk, really... (3, Informative)

damn_registrars (1103043) | more than 6 years ago | (#22719246)

Do you really want to be the one to test that with your own $100 bills? :D

Actually, if you RTFA, you'll see that the "infinite $100 bill trick" works by hitting a sequence, and then asking for your $100 bill back. So presuming one of the buttons in the sequence isn't the "play this bet" button, you're not really risking anything. You either get your $100 back and have zero credit on the machine, or you get your $100 bill back and have $100 credit on the machine.

Though I certainly don't have the patience to run around a casino with a $100 bill and try different sequences to try to trip that feature...

Re:minimal risk, really... (1)

lena_10326 (1100441) | more than 6 years ago | (#22719364)

Actually, if you RTFA
I did RTFA.

ll see that the "infinite $100 bill trick" works by hitting a sequence, and then asking for your $100 bill back.
And he mentioned vending machines... not slot machines. You can always cash out of a slot machine so of course there's no risk. Not so with a vending machine which may be limited by the amount of money it can refund due to not having enough quarters or having a bug in the programming, which is not much a stretch if one is already hypothesizing that a similar bill processing bug may exist in vending machines.

Re:minimal risk, really... (4, Funny)

thewils (463314) | more than 6 years ago | (#22720514)

If the vending machine eats your money, you can always consume the item dispensed, so technically the worst case scenario is a break-even.

Re:minimal risk, really... (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22720760)

I've seen a slight variance of this that works on a specific slot machine. You could let a bet "ride", and then after pressing another button, the machine would allow the player to cash out that same bet. The casino I worked for lost quite a bit due to this in 24 hours from FIVE quarter slot machines. I noticed it from change people refilling the machines about every five minutes.

I was rather amazed at the casino's incompetence regarding this. I worked floor security. I alerted my security shift supervisor, several slot technicians, the tribal council rep, and they all thought I was talking out of my ass and had a good laugh at my expense. I thought it was rather obvious that allowing a bet and then the refund of the same bet really screwed any kind of regular odds. I don't think they were laughing so hard when auditing turned up the $300k discrepancy after a week or so. That's a thousand (or so) quarter change refills of those five slot machines.

Scarily incompetent. Then they fired me for "disloyalty" to the casino because I didn't have gaming halted on those machines. A general floor security idiot (me at the time) can't close gaming or kick people out of the casino. Bastards. :P

Re:The infinite $100 bill (1)

KlomDark (6370) | more than 6 years ago | (#22720040)

"especially if you insert change instead of single coins"

Um, what's the difference between change and single coins? Are you just meaning multiple coins vs. single coins, or some more cryptic meaning?

Re:The infinite $100 bill (1)

thewils (463314) | more than 6 years ago | (#22720444)

Oops, my bad. If you insert more than one coin the odds of getting at least something back increase. In my befuddled brain change == >1 coin.

Casino security is neat. (5, Interesting)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 6 years ago | (#22719130)

I got approached by Casino security at the MGM Grand one night and was asked why I was looking at the cameras. I told the guy what business I was in and then proceeded to tell him about the 35 cameras that were around our general location. he was impressed and we talked a bit over a beer he bought me and even let me see one of the security offices.

Note: I spotted that the texas Holdem tables had wide angle cameras just under the lip where you sit. Not low enough to get up-skirt shots, but where they can spot cards being handed. I started looking for it when a friend of mine was told by the pitboss to stop handing $5 chips to his friend. that's when I decided to drop my chips and bend over to pick them up and spot the lenses.

Re:Casino security is neat. (4, Funny)

whrrr (1087271) | more than 6 years ago | (#22719566)

Note: I spotted that the texas Holdem tables had wide angle cameras just under the lip where you sit. Not low enough to get up-skirt shots, but where they can spot cards being handed.
That's engineers for you

Re:Casino security is neat. (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22720182)

he was impressed and we talked a bit over a beer he bought me and even let me see one of the security offices. Uh, Ok Lumpy. I am not sure I want to hear the rest of this story. Mmm'k?

Re:Casino security is neat. (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22720636)

I got approached by Casino security at the MGM Grand one night and was asked why I was looking at the cameras. I told the guy what business I was in and then proceeded to tell him about the 35 cameras that were around our general location. he was impressed and we talked a bit over a beer he bought me and even let me see one of the security offices.
The reason he was chummy is because you only spotted 35 of the cameras. The friendliness is to see if you leak any information, for example perhaps something about seeing the other seven cameras. (A drink isn't even pocket change, and it might loosen you up a bit, especially with the friendliness and a special tour.) If you'd spotted *all* the cameras, you would have been asked to leave, as you either have inside information or you're too observant for them to be comfortable with you.

Of course, the guy himself may have been impressed, but you can bet (sorry) that you didn't *quite* hit the red zone of the cheatalyzer.

Takedown (4, Interesting)

greg1104 (461138) | more than 6 years ago | (#22719188)

Court TV used to run this series called The Takedown [tv.com] . Every week they tried to do some casino scam using a team of experts, often at the behest of the hotel's internal security. The way everything was staged was kind of fake in spots, but an interesting look regardless at the mechanics of actually trying to cheat at a casino. Fun show, don't know where it's still running but you might be able to find it somewhere (*cough* torrent *cough*).

I personally don't play games of chance for money, just Texas Hold'Em where people with poor math skills are a steady income source.

waiting for the MIT movie (2, Interesting)

peter303 (12292) | more than 6 years ago | (#22719242)

Although I've seen two treatments on cable TV about two of the MIT capers, the theatrical release this year should give casinos new headaches.

Re:waiting for the MIT movie (3, Interesting)

UnknowingFool (672806) | more than 6 years ago | (#22719392)

Maybe. The casinos might be a little worried that the MIT technique gets out into the general public and someone tries to takes them for a lot of money. More likely, they are probably delighted to rake in lots of money as novices try to beat them. Remember, it took an elite, trained team of MIT braniacs to beat them the first time. But, the casinos eventually caught on and have better countermeasures now. Your average Joe probably doesn't have what it takes to pull that caper off and will just lose all their money. Even the article says that the casinos will let card counters play if they are not good cause they lose.

Re:waiting for the MIT movie (1)

garett_spencley (193892) | more than 6 years ago | (#22719656)

If card counting is done right the Casino has no way of knowing except for your unusually high winnings. It's also not considered cheating since you're just using your brain. Though they can, and will, ask you to leave at any time for any reason, of course.

Anyway these days most casinos use several decks together and discard / replace them before all the cards are played in order to make card counting useless. So you're right, the Casinos will enjoy nothing but extra earnings as a result of the movies.

Re:waiting for the MIT movie Counting Cards.. (5, Interesting)

davidsyes (765062) | more than 6 years ago | (#22720148)

Well, since you bring up card counting, I now have an angle to bring up something and hopefully avoid the dreaded, eviscerating "Off-Topic"-wand-wielding maestro...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/21_(2008_film) [wikipedia.org]

I just a few weeks ago read in a copy of Asian Week how these smart AMERICAN Asians figured out a card counting method and raked in the coin from one or more casinos. Now, we've got hollyweird picking up on this and whitewashing the cast. Amazing the shit hollyweird does to calculate to obtain the best studio ticket intake.

From Wikipedia, from Asian Week and Ben Mezrich (author of the book):

"Casting of Caucasian/Asian

Although the four main characters in Bringing Down the House were Asian-Americans in real life, studio executives have cast mostly white actors to portray them in the film. Ben Mezrich, author of Bringing Down the House, has noted a "stereotypical" casting process on the part of Hollywood.[1] In the book, Mezrich explicitly states that a young Caucasian betting large amounts of money stands out, while a young Asian or other minority would be less conspicuous. Asian Week called the casting a "whitewash," pointing out that if it were African Americans replaced by Caucasians, there would be more vocal protest."

Re:waiting for the MIT movie (1)

yasth (203461) | more than 6 years ago | (#22719706)

Yes the only thing the casinos love more than a hopeful customer, is a hopeful customer who thinks they have an edge. As the hopeful player may bow out when down a mortgage payment, but the hopeful player with an "edge" will keep on waiting for the edge to turn until they are down a mortgage.

Re:waiting for the MIT movie (3, Informative)

Carnivore (103106) | more than 6 years ago | (#22720428)

Not really. The postscript in the book indicates that casinos no longer let you change tables as is required for the heavy better to make money.

Re:waiting for the MIT movie (2, Interesting)

Yold (473518) | more than 6 years ago | (#22720938)

And at one point, the team starting taking on rather large losses. The odds only work in your favor some of the time, so even if you are card-counting with perfect precision, you can still lose large sums of money with bum luck. A considerable portion of their success also had to do with playing with "invested" money, so their tolerance for loss is higher than joe-average playing with his paycheck.

The counter measures you speak of involves using more decks for blackjack, I believe 5 is standard. Any discrete math / blackjack pros care to comment whether this affects the probabilities adversely for a player counting cards?

Re:waiting for the MIT movie (4, Informative)

halcyon1234 (834388) | more than 6 years ago | (#22719698)

Quite the opposite.

There is a romantic view of card counting. People assume it's a magical skill you pick up, then can just roll into a casino and use it as a personal ATM overnight.

The truth is, it gives you about a 1% edge over the house. That means that for every $10 you bet, you'll "earn" $0.10. You can get, maybe, 100 hands of Blackjack per hour on a good day.

And the "margin of error" (standard deviation) means that your long-term swings won't balance out until after about 12,000 hands. 120 hours of Blackjack, just to statistically be guaranteed to at least break even.

And all that is assuming you count perfectly, and play perfectly.

So after card counting gets hyped, you'll get a whole ton of people who want the quick win. They'll learn a quick hi/lo system. They won't practice. They won't learn basic strategy perfectly (quick, what's the proper move when you have 44 vs. a dealer's upcard of 5?). And they'll go into the casino. Maybe they'll double up quickly and walk away. More likely they'll just keep playing, have a few drinks, and either make a bit of money, or get frustrated and lose everything, or just play for a while and have fun. But in every case, they'll be playing with a disadvantage. Making a couple mistakes or missing a couple counts, maybe they're playing an even money game, or just 0.5% house edge. If they start steaming and making the big errors, they'll be giving the house 4-5% of their money on every hand.

And for the one in a thousand counter who does a good job and earns 1-2% on her money, they'll be 999 players who give it all back.

If card counting had the ability to destroy the casinos, they'd have been out of business a long time ago. Blackjack is profitable for the casino.

Re:waiting for the MIT movie (4, Interesting)

tgd (2822) | more than 6 years ago | (#22719866)

If you bet the same every hand, you get that advantage.

If you work with a team and the next guy bets BIG, then its hugely in your advantage.

Your numbers are WAY off how multi-person counting works.

Interestingly, I've had dealers help me count before. Doing simple "count the tens" helps your odds on a non-continuous-dealt game, especially if you can get a one or two deck hand dealt. I had a dealer, who was watching me pull back as the tens had largely made their appearances actually told me "you don't want to take this next hit".

She was right.

Re:waiting for the MIT movie (5, Insightful)

halcyon1234 (834388) | more than 6 years ago | (#22720176)

If you bet the same every hand, you get that advantage.

No. If you vary your bet according to the count, you get the advantage. You need to be proportionally more as the count goes up, to make up for the small bets you made when the count was down.

If you work with a team and the next guy bets BIG, then its hugely in your advantage.

Again, close. If you work with a team, then the next guy will not be playing at all during a low count. If you are counting, they you don't vary your bet at all. But when the count goes up, you signal the Big Player to come in. They place a large bet-- something that would seem suspicious if YOU put it down, but is normal for him. He only bets that amount and doesn't vary.

In that case, your advantage is EXACTLY THE SAME (~0.5% per count)-- but the EV will be greater. The more you bet, the more you'll earn, but the rate will be the same. If you have a 1.5% advantage, it doesn't matter if you bet $100 or $10,000. You will only "earn" 1.5% of that.

Your numbers are WAY off how multi-person counting works.
Not really. And it depends on the type of team you are working with. If you have small player/big player (as above), then you will still need ~12,000 hands to overcome one standard deviation. If you are sharing a bankroll amongst many counters, then, well, you still need 12,000 hands, but you will be able to pool your hands. (Assuming you are all playing at separate tables). You reach the longterm much quicker, and lower your risk of ruin.

Interestingly, I've had dealers help me count before

Uhhhg. Never rely on the dealer. They don't know what they're doing. They're just a flawed gaming machine made of flesh.

Doing simple "count the tens" helps your odds on a non-continuous-dealt game

No. No it doesn't. It's useless to count the tens unless you are also counting the low cards that balance it. It's useless to know that five 10s have left the deck, unless you know how many low cards have also left the deck. The whole point about counting is to know the estimated composition of the remaining deck.

Example: You are counting the tens. 6 tens come out of the deck. You assume a count of -6, and lower your bet. I am hi/lo. I see those 6 tens come out, and then 12 low cards. I KNOW a count of +6, and raise my bet to take advantage of it. Guess who is coming out on top

I had a dealer, who was watching me pull back as the tens had largely made their appearances actually told me "you don't want to take this next hit".She was right.

And she could just have easily have been wrong. She doesn't know what the next card is. Neither does a counter. A counter just knows the estimated composition of the deck, and can vary their bet or use an "index play". IE: Basic Strategy says 12 vs. 2 is a hit, because that move is the best possible play statistically. But at a count > 0, it becomes stand, because now that move is the bes possible play statistically. That doesn't mean the next card is a 10. It just means that you'll lose less by standing than by hitting.

You cannot point to a single hand and use that as proof for anything. Remember, 12,000 hands is where "long term" begins. Everything else is indistinguishable from luck. If anything, the dealer was taking a blind shot hoping for a tip.

card counting "mules" (2, Interesting)

peter303 (12292) | more than 6 years ago | (#22720102)

A few years back the NY Times Sunday magazine did an article on a card counting professional at one of the los angeles paigow casinos where counters were tolerated. Because there was a bet ceiling, these guys had to play for volume to make a return, at least 40 hours a week. Often players were employed by others who supplied capital and they were paid hourly plus a share of winnings. It didnt sound that romantic.

Re:card counting "mules" (2, Interesting)

halcyon1234 (834388) | more than 6 years ago | (#22720296)

Yup, a bet ceiling can make it nearly impossible to get an advantage. You have to be able to bet more in a positive count than in a negative count-- and quite a bit more. 10x as much would be nice, for most fair games.

So if a casino opens a $10-$100 table, you MIGHT see ~$10/hour from it if you play perfectly. A few mistakes can cost you a good $1 or $2 per hour. Can you imagine doing a mind-numbingly boring job, sitting still for 8 hours a day, for just $10 per hour? Well, probably-- this is Slashdot-- but also imagine you have to personally pay for every error you make out of your own pocket.

You can try to mitigate the negative counts by not playing those hands, and only playing positive counts. But then you get fewer hands per hour. And some games might not let you join after the shuffle has occurred. Or you might lose your seat and miss out on the high counts.

I once spent five hours walking around a blackjack pit, and didn't see a single high-count that had an open seat. Tons of fun.

even worse in Colorado (1)

peter303 (12292) | more than 6 years ago | (#22720364)

They only have $5 - $5 play tables. But you can play up to three hands at a time. Not much range for counting.

Re:waiting for the MIT movie (3, Interesting)

CodeBuster (516420) | more than 6 years ago | (#22720190)

The casinos are more concerned about card counting teams then they are about individual players. In the team scenario there are counters at multiple tables who have no problem keeping the count and keeping their cool because they are always betting the minimum and never varying their bets. The trick is that they have to somehow signal the roving "high roller" to sit down when the deck is hot without tipping off security. This is one reason why many blackjack tables, particularly high limit tables, do not allow new players to sit down in the middle of a shoe (i.e. you have to wait until the shoe currently being played is finished, the cards are shuffled, and the next shoe is loaded).

Re:waiting for the MIT movie (4, Interesting)

halcyon1234 (834388) | more than 6 years ago | (#22720504)

Yup, the teams are more of a worry, simply because any well organized team will have a huge bankroll. A red-chipper with a maximum bet of $100 isn't a worry. A team who can drop $10,000 bets with a 2% advantage is.

Of course, there are two reasons the casinos aren't too concerned:

  1. The MIT team did it first. And the casinos figured out how they did it, so now they know what to look for. The longer a team operates, the easier they are to spot. The truth is, the MIT teams probably has made more from book sales, movie rights, public appearances and course fees than they did from counting.
  2. Teams are unbelievably difficult to get working. Just the trust issue is a major factor. Name five people in your life who you would blindly and 100% implicitly trust with $50,000 of your money. Keep in mind that you pool your bankroll, and share the profits. It just takes one bad egg to realize that they can slog out the counting for a year to see a 1-2% return on their investment-- OR they can take out $10,000 and lose it in a "bad session" (ie: they just pocket it and tell you they lost). Also, one bad player on the team (who isn't up to perfect snuff) can wipe out any profits the team will see. (If you could name five people, how many of them do you trust to be able to do simple math for 8 hours straight?) It takes months of training, analysis and testing to ensure every member is trustworthy and competent.

So the casinos just balance the likelyhood of an effective team coming to town vs. the chance that they'll spot them in operation. Then they tally up the amount they'll earn from their tables from bad players. That'll tell them how much it's worth spending on anti-counting training/technology/etc. Why spend $500,000 on a new system to keep someone from earning $250,000 / year off you-- especially if there's only a 0.001% chance that team will come around. The numbers are fudged, but it's all just a numbers game. Somewhere along the lines, someone gets paid a bunch of money to tell them what the numbers are.

This is one reason why many blackjack tables, particularly high limit tables, do not allow new players to sit down in the middle of a shoe (i.e. you have to wait until the shoe currently being played is finished, the cards are shuffled, and the next shoe is loaded)

NMSE - No Mid-Shoe Entry. Yup, just about all the high-roller tables have that. It's rarer on the mid or low level tables, though, since their bread and butter is unskilled, transient traffic. I've seen a $50-$2500 table that allowed midshoe entry. Let me tell you, seeing people drop $500 a hand on a game they don't know how to play-- that's quite a sight to watch. Maybe I should just open a casino.

Facial recognition (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22719422)

Why don't governments use "non-invasive" facial recognition instead of fingerprinting? If casinos are willing to bank on them, it's probably reasonably accurate in a dynamic environment, as opposed to immigration checks which are controlled.

This sounds like a Slashvertisement for... (1)

HungWeiLo (250320) | more than 6 years ago | (#22719558)

...the upcoming movie adaptation of the MIT blackjack team story. Not too many interesting new factoids or insights in the story itself.

don't cheat a casino (1)

rice_burners_suck (243660) | more than 6 years ago | (#22719692)

casino security is ridiculously insane. don't even attempt to dream about thinking of trying to cheat a casino.

All *I* need to know about Casino Security (1)

Sciros (986030) | more than 6 years ago | (#22719826)

I learned from George Clooney. This article serves no purpose!

Employees rip off casinos more than players (4, Interesting)

bigbigbison (104532) | more than 6 years ago | (#22719940)

Having worked as a cashier in a riverboat casino I've seen a lot of this stuff. However, I've also seen and heard a lot more about employees ripping off the casino than I did about players. You don't hear about the employees ripping off the casinos though because most of the time they just fire the person and tell them never to come back. I know this happened to at least three people who worked in my department. Two were fairly minor but one was several thousand dollars over a few months (that's how long it too the auditing department to pick up on his pattern and how he hid it). There are lots of ways employees can rip off the casino because they have a lot more access and know how the system works a lot better than most customers.

There were occasional customers passing counterfeit bills and people screwing with the machines or trying to bend cards but there was a lot more people soiling themselves because they didn't want to get up from their slot machine and people losing their homes because they were addicted (happened to a cousin of mine) or getting kicked off because they started yelling at us when their credit card was maxed out.

Re:Employees rip off casinos more than players (2, Interesting)

93,000 (150453) | more than 6 years ago | (#22720128)

So my question (to you or any others with experience): did they pay employees in cash at the end of each shift, or is that an urban legend? Always heard casinos did that, but never had it first hand verified.

I used to work full time as a musician, and I do know that for most casino shows we did we were paid in cash. And they paid us about halfway through whatever time we were contracted to play so we could spend our breaks donating back our earnings. Wondering if they really to take the same approach with their own staff.

Hollowed-out chip cup? (2, Funny)

towelie-ban (1234530) | more than 6 years ago | (#22720058)

Is that anything like the 'hollowed-out tub of popcorn' trick I've been trying with my dates at the movie theater for the last decade?

Re:Hollowed-out chip cup? (1)

Sloppy (14984) | more than 6 years ago | (#22720590)

No, the hollowed-out chip cup contains something valuable.

(Sorry.)

For another viewpoint... (1)

AJWM (19027) | more than 6 years ago | (#22720288)

I just discovered James Swain's "Tony Valentine" series of mysteries set in and around casinos and the gambling world. Swain is a gambling expert and magician himself, and the backgrounds in the novels ring true. The hero, Tony Valentine, is an ex-cop who worked for years in Atlantic City and now runs his own consulting business (called Grift Sense) helping casinos catch cheats and frauds. (The first book, Grift Sense, is set in Las Vegas, the second, Funny Money, is set in Atlantic City. There are several more in the series I haven't got to yet.)

I'm not a huge mystery fan (I prefer SF) but I enjoy them if they're well written. Swain does a good job with these, and gives a look at the behind-the-scenes of casinos, gambling, and different cheats as background to the main puzzle(s) of the story.

Shoplifting deterrant via facial recognition (1)

Jaqenn (996058) | more than 6 years ago | (#22720298)

Seeing an article about high-reliability facial recognition has made me remember an idea that I've been kicking around.

It's my understanding that when you steal from a store, they ban you from ever returning to the store. I have always assumed that this ban is meaningless because they just don't have the resources to make sure that you don't come back.

But if they really could reliably keep you out of the store forever, would that alone be enough to keep people from shoplifting? A lifetime ban from WalMart would be devastating for my day-to-day routine - where would I buy light bulbs and cat food?

Re:Shoplifting deterrant via facial recognition (1)

geek2k5 (882748) | more than 6 years ago | (#22720664)

I sometimes wonder what would happen if a facial recognition system falsely identified you as someone else.


What could you do to counter the identification, especially if that is the only ID they have access to?


Now some people may say that it is 'impossible' for this to happen. But do note that 'impossible' just needs ONE example to the contrary to prove that the theory is wrong.


As a side note, I remember a local case where DNA sampling was used to 'prove' that a person was guilty. According to the paper, there was a one in ten thousand chance that the testing was wrong.


If that is their idea of high reliability, the attorney needed to multiply that number by the population of the same gender to determine that there are other possible suspects.


fir5t (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22720314)

th3 system clean

Casino Security isn't a Magical Mysterious Thing (4, Insightful)

jeramybsmith (608791) | more than 6 years ago | (#22720316)

Disclaimer: I used to work for the largest chain of casinos in the country taking care of the machines that actually talked to all the slots and games in the casino.

Casinos would like you to believe in Ocean's 13 size IT rooms and facial recognition and such. The truth is that most casino security is low-tech (cameras and people). The largest cheating ring that was broken up recently involved a gaming commission, law enforcement, and the casinos themselves busting a partnership between outside cheaters and the employees working at the table. You have to remember, the states view cheating as bilking them out of the exorbitant taxes they get to rake from casinos since casinos are evil like cigarettes and okay to tax at obscene rates.

If some casino is using facial recognition scanning software etc, they probably are just peeing money down a drain. More likely, its hype designed to scare off cheaters. I think its a dumb idea to create this image though.

In Stalin's Russia, there wasn't a dossier on everyone, but the fear of a dossier on everyone was what helped keep the masses in check. Cultivating a fear in casino goers that they are under watch at all times and being scanned isn't in the interest of the big casinos. Casinos are the last place you are free to be free. You can let your hair down, have a politically incorrect drink, and inhale politically incorrect air.

Go to a casino, have fun, and remember that the cameras are more likely watching employees than they are watching you.

Re:Casino Security isn't a Magical Mysterious Thin (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22720856)

I guess it must be pretty tempting: millions of dollars passing into the casino's coffers every night... I don't know how much casino workers make, but my guess is that it's a regular wage, nothing special. So very tempting...
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