How Not to Make Ends Meet: Count Cards on Your iPhone


This week the Nevada Gaming Control Board California gambling authorities notified casinos about a blackjack card-counting program on the iPhone and iPod Touch. The program, which is said to accurately calculate the ‘true count’ thus giving the player an advantage over the house in the game of Blackjack, was discovered in use at a Northern California Indian casino.

Card Counting With a Device is Illegal

Randy Sayre, Nevada Gaming Control Board member explained that while card counting is not illegal in Nevada casinos, using a device to count cards is considered a felony under Nevada law. The iPhone card-counting app is considered an electonic counting aid and gamblers caught using the program are subject to detainment by casinos and arrest by state gaming agents. (And according to the movie 21, this may be somthing of an understatement.)

How the Card Counting App Works

The iPhone card-counting program has four different strategies to count cards. Users can use the app in a stealth mode where the phone’s screen is not visible. Supposedly the program can be run ‘effortlessly’ as long as the user knows where the keys are. Are we talking about the same touch screen I’ve got? I can barely hit those keys when I’m looking right at them.

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Will It Work?

Andrew Smith at the Dallas Morning News makes a brilliant point. It’s not the counting that’s hard, it’s the not-tipping-off-the-casino-staff-that-you’re-counting that’s hard.

“It’s actually harder to learn to look nonchalant than it is to count — which is why I simply cannot imagine how anyone could use an iPhone app to count cards without it being amazingly obvious and — thus — no threat at all to the casino and its bankroll.

You certainly couldn’t take constant pictures of the table or punch number after number into the screen. I mean, how would you explain that? “Oops. I dialed the wrong number again. I’ll just have to keep punching numbers till I get through.””

Individual casinos determine policies on cell phone use at the gaming tables. For example, Harrah’s Entertainment doesn’t allow cell phones at the World Series of Poker, but now they’ll probably ban mobile music players as well.

Don’t quit your day job if you’ve still got one. Counting cards didn’t turn out so well for Kevin Spacey in the movie!

Image Credit: Wikipedia