Blackjack is an amazing casino game. It has become one of the most popular online casino games, too, drawing millions of dollars each year in play. One of the reasons for blackjack’s enduring popularity is that the game rewards players for good decision making. It also rewards those who put in the time and effort to learn card counting. Blackjack is one of the few games in the casino where you can lower the house edge with smart play.
Another thing that makes blackjack unique is that it’s the only game where the casino seeks to actively punish players for good play. Players on a winning streak at other games do not draw near the negative attention that a winning blackjack player will receive. From being asked to leave the table to being banned from the casino, gaming venues have long sought to punish the winning blackjack player.
Casinos Hate Blackjack Card Counters
In a recent series of articles and letters about card counting that were published in the Boston Globe, players offered some thoughts about the ongoing battle between blackjack players and the casino. The gist of the discussion involved how unethical and hypocritical it is for casinos to punish players that are skilled at the game of blackjack.
Back in August 2018 a new MGM casino was opened in Springfield, MA. Players greeted the arrival of the casino with enthusiasm, and it drew the attention of Tommy Hyland. Hyland is what he likes to call a skilled player. The translation here is that Hyland is a card counter. A good one, too, by all accounts. Hyland travels all over the US and is no stranger to the blackjack tables at many casinos. He uses his card counting and basic strategy skills to win consistently at blackjack.
Hyland can now lay claim to the distinction of being the first player evicted from a Massachusetts casino for counting cards. The MGM Springfield asked Hyland to leave the property not long after it opened. The casino is the first to do business in Massachusetts. The operators would only say that it has methods in place to identify card counters and that a few of them have been spotted since the casino opened.
MGM is no stranger to gaming, having operated casinos in Nevada, New Jersey, and other regions. They obviously have plans in place that will deter card counters like Tommy Hyland. The story of Hyland demonstrates that casinos still consider card counters a threat.
Blackjack Cheating or Blackjack Skill?
Most casinos have been forced to admit that card counting is not an illegal activity. This came as a result of numerous lawsuits that were filed by players that got banned and had their winnings taken. The casinos have even gone so far as to stop referring to blackjack specialists as card counters. They now call them advantage players instead.
In the casino’s view an advantage player is one that waits until the deck is favorable before placing their largest bets. Most casinos has instituted a rule that they can refuse a bet from an advantage player anytime they choose to do so. It is also true that casinos are private establishments who can allow or refuse entry at their discretion. It’s the same thing as inviting someone into your home. If you don’t like how they behave themselves, you have the right to ask them to leave.
Card counting and an understanding of basic blackjack strategy are elements of skill, not cheating. Hyland was evicted from the MGM basically because he is skilled at doing math in his head. There is no other situation in the casino where a player would be similarly punished.
In Texas Hold ‘Em poker, for example, the smart player must use skill to defeat his or her opponents. The casino would never think of banning a poker player for being too good at the game. The critical difference here is that poker is not a revenue generator for the casino like blackjack. In poker the players are playing against one another, and the casino only takes a small part of each pot for hosting the game. In blackjack the player is competing against the house, so every dollar lost comes out of the casino’s pocket.
Online Blackjack Might be a Better Option
With live casinos taking such a hard stance against card counters, players might want to consider making the switch to online play. All online casinos that are recommended by Counting Edge offer blackjack games and many exciting variations. Some of them also offer live dealer games which might be beneficial to the card counter.