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Casino Insider Tells (Almost) All About Security 232

Posted by Zonk
from the tech-of-the-gambling-floor dept.
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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Casino Insider Tells (Almost) All About Security

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  • 3rd page (Score:5, Informative)

    by Telvin_3d (855514) on Tuesday March 11, 2008 @01:11PM (#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]
  • by CRCulver (715279) <crculver@christopherculver.com> on Tuesday March 11, 2008 @01:11PM (#22718824) Homepage
    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.
  • 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 (Score:5, Interesting)

      by hellfire (86129) <deviladv&gmail,com> on Tuesday March 11, 2008 @01:26PM (#22719066) Homepage
      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 (Score:5, Informative)

        by MobileMrX (855797) on Tuesday March 11, 2008 @01:37PM (#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.

        • 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 (Score:5, Funny)

            by Bill, Shooter of Bul (629286) on Tuesday March 11, 2008 @03:27PM (#22720952) Journal
            If your day at the movies cost you as much as a day at the casino, then you aren't doing one of those correctly.
            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              by badboy_tw2002 (524611)
              I don't know, I've played $5 blackjack in vegas for hours starting with $60-$75. You can consume those drinks pretty fast - even if you're down $10-$20 you're beating the average at the bar for drinks. (I also include tip for the waitress in there - no tip, no drinks) :) Of course, I've had runs where you lose it all in the first 15 hands, but that's pretty much as rare as winning it all in the first 15 hands.
            • Re:Untrue (Score:4, Interesting)

              by bkr1_2k (237627) on Tuesday March 11, 2008 @04:43PM (#22721814)
              Over my last few trips to Vegas, I've only lost once, and that was $10 after tip. I generally start with $100 at $5 tables and play for at least 4 hours and generally have a couple drinks per hour. Overall I'm only up about $200 for all my trips because I don't generally play "by the rules" but rather "by my gut". I've spent at least 20 hours at the tables, enjoyed some 30-50 drinks or so, and enjoyed the company of some very interesting people.

              I'd say that's far less than the cost of equivalent entertainment at the movies which would have cost me something like $350 (for me and someone else) just in ticket costs. Factor in that I'm actually ahead $200 and I got a couple hundred dollars worth of drinks, and I'd say it must be the movies I'm doing wrong because half of them weren't worth theater ticket prices.
              • Re:Untrue (Score:5, Informative)

                by afabbro (33948) on Tuesday March 11, 2008 @05:18PM (#22722182) Homepage
                I'd say that's far less than the cost of equivalent entertainment at the movies which would have cost me something like $350 (for me and someone else) just in ticket costs.

                That is the right way to look at it.

                It's the people who say they made $200 "in profit" that drive me nuts. Spending 20 hours to make $200 (which is really $120 after taxes) means you're making less than minimum wage. I guess they don't teach about "opportunity cost" in high school economics any more.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Monkeyman334 (205694)
        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: (Score:3, Funny)

          by Knara (9377)

          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.

        • by dewke (44893)
          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 (Score:4, Interesting)

          by Tacvek (948259) on Tuesday March 11, 2008 @04:28PM (#22721666) Journal

          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.
          I thought it was the free odds bet in Craps. Hmmm... Lets see. That does seem to be correct. from Wikipedia: "banker bet (despite the 5% commission) has an advantage of 1.06%." However the free odds bets have no house advantage. Exactly 0%. To counter this though, they can only be made in conjunction with a pass/don't-pass or come/don't-come bet. Taking that into account the house advantage on the overall bet is determined by the allowed multiple for free odds. Again from Wiki: "But even with a conservative triple odds on the pass line, the casino edge can be reduced to 0.471%." That is a minuscule house advantage.
        • Re:Untrue (Score:5, Funny)

          by SQLGuru (980662) on Tuesday March 11, 2008 @06:58PM (#22723092) Journal
          I always thought the change machine had the best odds.....

          Put in a dollar, get out four quarters. 1:1 odds

          Layne
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by DNS-and-BIND (461968)
          Sure, it's the best bet - but baccarat is about as interesting as betting on heads or tails. If you're so interested in conserving your money, heck you shouldn't be in a casino.
      • 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 (Score:5, Informative)

        by EastCoastSurfer (310758) on Tuesday March 11, 2008 @02:00PM (#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 :)
        • by stonefry (968479)
          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?
          • Yes, it does work out over the course of hours depending on how much your average bet is, etc... Plus, Casino Royale offers $2 minimum bet craps with 100x odds. It's a fun, cheap place to gamble. It doesn't hurt that they also have almost no 'edge' in the game.
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by mikee805 (1091195)

        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 (Score:4, Interesting)

        by greenbird (859670) * on Tuesday March 11, 2008 @02:45PM (#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:Untrue (Score:4, Informative)

          by mythosaz (572040) on Tuesday March 11, 2008 @03:35PM (#22721068)
          I'm not entirely certain if you can see 100x odds any more, but they HAVE been available, and may still be. I don't have full surfing of gambling websites from work.

          http://www.google.com/search?q=100x+odds [google.com]

          That said, most odds are moving to what they call 3-4-5x odds, which allow you to place 3x odds on the 4 and 10, 4x odds on the 5 and 9, and only 3x odds on the 6 and 8. This (a) allows the players to place reasonable odds bets, (b) minimizes the casinos exposure, and (c) most importantly, makes the game easier for the dealers as a full odds bet will always pay 6 times the pass bet. The easier for the dealers, the FASTER the game plays, and the more the casino makes.

          If you're not seeing 3-4-5x odds at your favorite casino, it may be coming.

          http://www.google.com/search?q=3-4-5x+odd [google.com]
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by egyptiankarim (765774)
        My math geek friends and I used to call gambling in Vegas and playing the lottery the "Math Tax." People who suck at prob and stat usually are the only ones who get audited :)
    • by Knara (9377)

      Or they play Blackjack.

  • because they'll zap you with a cattle prod before dragging you off into a side room and breaking your hand with a hammer.
    • by 93,000 (150453)
      No biggie. At least I learned how to do that chip trick with my other hand now.
  • by hairykrishna (740240) on Tuesday March 11, 2008 @01:12PM (#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.
  • Biggest Scam (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 11, 2008 @01:14PM (#22718884)
    Don't forget about the biggest scam of all, known as "The Casino"
    • by fishybell (516991)
      From TFA: "That's the way they catch the bad guys," Jonas said. "They're generally idiots."
  • Link (Score:2, Informative)

    by bcong (1125705)
    Here's a another link to the same story. http://security.itworld.com/4357/casino-security-080310/page_1.html [itworld.com]
  • by Statecraftsman (718862) * on Tuesday March 11, 2008 @01:24PM (#22719028) Homepage
    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.
    • by EricWright (16803)
      That's what the print link is for... everything on one page, little to no ads.
      • by T-Bone-T (1048702)
        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.
    • "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*.
  • by g-san (93038) on Tuesday March 11, 2008 @01:24PM (#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...
  • by thewils (463314) on Tuesday March 11, 2008 @01:27PM (#22719082) Journal
    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.
    • 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

      • by damn_registrars (1103043) <damn.registrars@gmail.com> on Tuesday March 11, 2008 @01:41PM (#22719246) Homepage Journal

        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...
        • 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 bil

          • by thewils (463314) on Tuesday March 11, 2008 @02:53PM (#22720514) Journal
            If the vending machine eats your money, you can always consume the item dispensed, so technically the worst case scenario is a break-even.
            • If the vending machine eats your money, you can always consume the item dispensed, so technically the worst case scenario is a break-even.

              Too bad I've already commented in this one, so I can't dole out a mod point - or I'd give you +1 funny.

              Though the smart-assed side of me (really most of me) will point out that generally if a vending machine "eats your money" it means you get nothing. No refund, no credit, no food. But that is still generally a more favorable scenario (from the consumer standpoint) than most anything that goes down in Vegas.

              Although realizing that this is a hack for a vending machine leads me to wonder -

              what t

            • This is going to be overkill. Heh.

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

              That's true. Assuming the machine reads the bill and credits you $100, you could claim your money in the form of candy bars and potato chips; however, it would be at 1.5 to 6 times markup compared to the grocery store or full size packages. You're also forced to consume more than you normally would eat.

              Let's say the machine takes t

    • by KlomDark (6370)
      "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?
      • by thewils (463314)
        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.
  • by Lumpy (12016) on Tuesday March 11, 2008 @01:33PM (#22719130) Homepage
    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.
    • by whrrr (1087271) on Tuesday March 11, 2008 @01:59PM (#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
  • Takedown (Score:5, Interesting)

    by greg1104 (461138) <gsmith@gregsmith.com> on Tuesday March 11, 2008 @01:37PM (#22719188) Homepage
    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.
  • by peter303 (12292) on Tuesday March 11, 2008 @01:41PM (#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.
    • by UnknowingFool (672806) on Tuesday March 11, 2008 @01:50PM (#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.
      • 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.
        • by davidsyes (765062) on Tuesday March 11, 2008 @02:31PM (#22720148) Homepage Journal
          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."
      • by yasth (203461)
        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.
      • by Carnivore (103106) on Tuesday March 11, 2008 @02:48PM (#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: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Yold (473518)
        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 disc
      • by cant_get_a_good_nick (172131) on Tuesday March 11, 2008 @04:01PM (#22721354)
        I read the book. It's awesome. I've seen the trailers for the movie, it seems they've already taken liberties, sucks, because the book didn't seem liked it needed them.

        The MIT scam was not card counting. Card counting tracks probabilities of cards based on what's been dealt. The technique in the book was knowing exactly what a card in a shuffle would be. If the dealer lets you see the tail card and you get to cut the cards alone and you are skilled enough to cut the cards to count to card you saw and you can track the card count through all the cards and deals and the card is a 'big' card (face or ace) that can affect a hand wildly for better or worse, then you can adjust your bet for that one hand based on you knowing that one card. Most advantageous is when you have tracked a face card and you know you will bust the dealer. It also works better with a team, at least where you can control all nodes at the table. You and the other person can then use the count to force the card to either one of the hands, or the dealer.

        This is harder to track than card counting, because you play normally most hands, just bet big (and somewhat out of character, which helped lead to their downfall) every once in a while and win big.

        The one thing that struck me most in reading the book is that they really never understood human nature, specifically humans working for the casino. They kept on saying "well, we're not cheating" and expected there to be no problems. You're taking massive amounts of money from casinos - they don't like that. They seemed totally unaware of the dangers they faced, physically.
        • by DoubleMike (942739) on Tuesday March 11, 2008 @08:43PM (#22723892)

          I read the book.
          I read the book, and I'm pretty sure you didn't, or at least you didn't get past chapter two. The MIT team DID use card counting most of the time, and only used the super-hard tricky stuff when they just wanted to have a little fun.

          This is harder to track than card counting, because you play normally most hands, just bet big (and somewhat out of character, which helped lead to their downfall) every once in a while and win big.
          Again, completely wrong. That was exactly what the team was trying to avoid. A big bet after a bunch of small ones really stands out and makes you look suspicious. What they did was have one player bet small and count cards until the odds shifted to favor the player, then they signaled the "big player" to come in and bet big to take advantage of the better odds.

          The one thing that struck me most in reading the book is that they really never understood human nature, specifically humans working for the casino. They kept on saying "well, we're not cheating" and expected there to be no problems. ... They seemed totally unaware of the dangers they faced, physically.
          I'm not sure which book you read, but it wasn't the right one. The MIT team understood human nature extremely well, and exploited it to make their scheme undetectable. They knew what kind of players bet big, so they imitated those characters. Their card counters were usually some hot blonde that no-one would ever suspect, and no-one did. They also knew the law, and they weren't "cheating". They knew the dangers, and always, always had a plan B. They were literally taught the people who discovered the dangers firsthand when they were interrogated forcefully by casino security (back in the 70's-80's). They had scouts and knew the quickest way out of the building, in case casino management decided they weren't welcome. The only reason they were ever caught is because someone ratted them out, and then everything changed because they were no longer allowed in any casino (by the casinos, not the law). Once they were forcefully retired, they did the smart thing and published their story, making even more money.
    • by halcyon1234 (834388) <halcyon1234@hotmail.com> on Tuesday March 11, 2008 @02:04PM (#22719698) Journal
      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.

      • by tgd (2822) on Tuesday March 11, 2008 @02:14PM (#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.
        • by halcyon1234 (834388) <halcyon1234@hotmail.com> on Tuesday March 11, 2008 @02:33PM (#22720176) Journal

          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.

          • 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.

            Except that most casinos won't let you do that any more. New players can only join the game on a new shuffle.
      • by peter303 (12292)
        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: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by halcyon1234 (834388)
          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 Slashdo

      • by CodeBuster (516420) on Tuesday March 11, 2008 @02:33PM (#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).
        • by halcyon1234 (834388) <halcyon1234@hotmail.com> on Tuesday March 11, 2008 @02:52PM (#22720504) Journal
          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.

  • ...the upcoming movie adaptation of the MIT blackjack team story. Not too many interesting new factoids or insights in the story itself.
  • I learned from George Clooney. This article serves no purpose!
  • by bigbigbison (104532) on Tuesday March 11, 2008 @02:19PM (#22719940) Homepage
    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: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by 93,000 (150453)
      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 wi
    • by PCM2 (4486) on Tuesday March 11, 2008 @03:54PM (#22721254) Homepage
      I used to work at a 7-11 and believe me, the prominently-placed security cameras there were less about recognizing the face of the stick-up man as he's making his getaway and more about watching the employees as they lift money out of the register and put it into the pockets of their smocks. People are stupid. They steal, and they steal for bullshit stakes.

      My 7-11 had a policy where employees kept <$100 in the register (all $20 bills and up went immediately into the timed safe). We had one employee who "forgot" the policy one particular day, and "coincidentally" that was the same day some "random" guy came in, held him up, and took all the money out of the register -- less than $1K but considerably more than was supposed to be in there. The employee really, seriously thought that the video cameras were going to vindicate him -- "look, there's the guy threatening me, isn't he scary?" As if an armed robbery had ever happened at this suburban 7-11 store before, in all the years it had been in business, up until exactly about three weeks after this clown was hired.

      Another guy had been working there for about two days when some kids ran in and, in a flash, stole about six cases of beer. Security cameras showed the employee was nowhere to be found during the robbery. An eyewitness later came forward and said the employee had been standing out in front of the store during the incident, smoking a cigarette.

      The smartest guy who ever ripped the place off actually kept his cool and bided his time. He was this Abercrombie and Fitch looking kid who was always all smiles and glad-handing, always ready to agree with the owners, always ready to talk down the other employees. Compared to the rest of the long-haired tweakers who worked at the store, he must have looked like the all-American boy. So they made him manager. About a month later, he walked away from the back office with about $6,000, abandoning his car in the lot.

      Even that guy was stupid, though. Like I said, he abandoned his car in the front lot. So a coworker and I broke into it. Rifling his dashboard, we found a court summons. He was scheduled to appear in about two weeks' time on a prior charge. We called the sheriff's department and asked if they could please meet him at his court date at such-and-such time. And guess what? He actually showed up.

      But the cops didn't. They showed up about 45 minutes late, by which time the case had already cleared the docket. Better luck next time, huh? So I guess the moral of the story is that there's a reason for stuff like video cameras if you're a business owner. Better grab all the evidence you can possibly get, because you might need it later. If you rely on the cops you could be in for a long wait.
  • 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?
  • 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 sever
  • 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 W
    • by geek2k5 (882748)

      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,

  • by jeramybsmith (608791) on Tuesday March 11, 2008 @02:41PM (#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.

  • Is there only ONE guy that develops the software for the slots?
    Admittedly, I've never worked any slot machine projects before, but I would imagine that the function that goes:

    if(key1, key2, key3, key4):
              jackpot()

    would be kindof....obvious.

    Anybody wanna shed some insight on how these things are written? Are there some open source slot machines i can poke through somewhere?
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by MozeeToby (1163751)
      I remember the show "Breaking Vegas" had a guy who did exactly that. Press a certain sequence of keys and you are assured a win on the next play.

      They have several safegaurds to prevent that kind of thing (especially now). I know that it is illegal for anyone involved in the developement/design/testing to enter a casino. I would imagine that they would have code reviews with a variety of people as well.

      Also, that Breaking Vegas show was awesome. They did the big well known ones like the MIT team but also
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Is there only ONE guy that develops the software for the slots?

      No, there isn't, which I'm sure is obvious and why you asked in the first place. I am an engine programmer for a casino gaming company. We have several different frameworks for various jurisdictions (you wouldn't believe the hoops we have to jump through for certain states regulatory requirements), and everyone on the framework team has their hands in at least parts of all of them. This would make it virtually impossible to hide malicious code in our systems, even if it was well done.

      Even if I was a 1

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