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The Almighty Buck

MIT vs. Las Vegas 509

spellcheckur writes "Techno-mag-turned-fashion-rag Wired Magazine has an article about MIT kids counting cards in Las Vegas. I wish I could have made seven figures while I was still in college. Maybe I should get a how-to book." Also, any chance is a good chance to mention The Eudaemonic Pie.
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MIT vs. Las Vegas

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  • by shoptroll ( 544006 ) on Wednesday August 14, 2002 @11:29AM (#4070344)
    Man... i swear we have nothing better to do... University people have been counting cards in casinos for years... I don't think this is anything totally profound... I know for a fact its been done for at least 40 years by geeks... Read Geeks 2.0: A History of the Internet for a good story about some people almost getting busted while trying to see if the doppler effect could be used to predict the landing of a roulette ball in play...
  • Re:Name Calling (Score:2, Informative)

    by msgmonkey ( 599753 ) on Wednesday August 14, 2002 @11:33AM (#4070382)
    There's no such thing as an unbiased news source, everyone's got an agenda.
  • Re:MIT Cost (Score:2, Informative)

    by paiute ( 550198 ) on Wednesday August 14, 2002 @11:38AM (#4070410)
    You don't have to have the cash. MIT is need-blind admissions. You just have to have the brains. MIT may be the closest thing to a meritocracy in higher ed. You can't buy your way in. Even if your dad built them a new building, you have the same chance to get in as the janitor's kid.
  • book recommendation (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 14, 2002 @11:43AM (#4070440)
    "Can you win?" by Mike Orkin (Freeman Press- Scientific American) 'splains the odds of casino and sports betting games. Great writer, it's a book on statistics that is often hilarious.

    Teaches you how to have hours of fun on the craps and blackjack tables without losing more the $20.

    This issue of Wired, by the way, is just great. Expounds on water politics in western Asia and other stuff not discussed anywhere else. Well worth the yearly subscription of $10 to $12.
  • Ben Mezrich!!!! (Score:2, Informative)

    by cioxx ( 456323 ) on Wednesday August 14, 2002 @11:44AM (#4070448) Homepage
    It's funny how nobody noticed who wrote the story.

    Ben Motherfucking Mezrich. One of the best young fiction writers out there. According to the footnote it says he turned to writing non-fiction and his new book on this^ particular subject.

    If you're unfamiliar with his works, I encourage anybody to check out Fertile Ground, Treshold and Reaper [] which rips on Microsoft-like organization and their set-top devices in a really good techno-suspense novel.

    Apparently he's back. And it's good news.
  • Re:Cheating Roulette (Score:4, Informative)

    by bovinewasteproduct ( 514128 ) <{gclarkii} {at} {}> on Wednesday August 14, 2002 @11:59AM (#4070549) Homepage
    Craps, my game...:)

    Actually, with a free-odds bet, both pass and don't pass are in your favor by a small margin (about 4 percent). Stay away from anything in the center and you'll be fine...:)

    The three games I play in a casino are, in order, craps, pai-gow poker and baccarat, all three are low house odds. Baccarat is rare, just when I feel lucky. The other two I can play for hours on a couple of hundred dollars, just soaking up comps having fun.

    If you just out to have fun, the big secrets are, one, be polite ,and two, always tip the dealer; they will remember it! At craps play this helps alot...:)

  • by NoData ( 9132 ) <> on Wednesday August 14, 2002 @12:00PM (#4070554)
    NO. Card counting is legal both in New Jersey and Nevada. See, for example, this [] article.

    However, the Nevada courts have ruled that as private clubs, the casinos can refuse business or openly discriminate (employ counter-measures like bet capping, early re-shuffling, etc.) against any player for any reason. Counting will get you kicked out, good counting can even get you banned, but it won't send you to jail.

    In New Jersey, on the other hand, courts have ruled that gambling can only take place on games of PURE CHANCE and not SKILL. If the casinos tried to press the fact that a cheater counted cards to gain an advantage in court, they would be admitting blackjack is a game of skill, which is illegal. Thus, casinos are on a slippier slope if they try to kick someone out for counting, because a gambler could take his "skilled play" claim to the courts. That's part of the reason Atlantic city casinos almost exclusively play giant 6-deck shoes with maybe 2/3 penetration (reducing counting advantage to near NILL) and never the two-deck and even one-deck gems you see in the West.
  • Re:Odds (Score:5, Informative)

    by bje2 ( 533276 ) on Wednesday August 14, 2002 @12:17PM (#4070665)
    baccarat does not have 50/50 fact the oddss in baccarat are still slightly against you...but the house edge is smaller when you bet on the bank actually...a lot of people don't like that, cause you're betting against the player...but it's the way to go in terms of edge...

    see here.... []
  • Re:Glazed over facts (Score:4, Informative)

    by _ph1ux_ ( 216706 ) on Wednesday August 14, 2002 @12:47PM (#4070843)
    the best shuffling machine out right now uses the following method (for simplicity sake - Ill explain with one deck):

    there are 52 cards in a deck.
    the machine picks a number at random, say 42.
    it grabs card 42 and puts it in a slot
    it then slects a number at random (now out of 51)
    it takes that card and puts it in the slot.

    you tell the machine how many decks its holding - it then selects the random number from the total range its holding....

    apparently this is the "most random card shuffler available"
  • Re:MIT Cost (Score:5, Informative)

    by cybermage ( 112274 ) on Wednesday August 14, 2002 @12:55PM (#4070887) Homepage Journal
    It's illegal to count cards in a casino.

    Ummm... No, it's not illegal. If a casino spots a card counter, all they can do is ask you to leave. If you refuse, you can be charged with trespassing.

    Casinos want people to believe it's illegal and actively encourage such beliefs, but it's not. As long as you don't tamper with the game, you're not cheating. Here are some other non-cheats:

    • Observe how the dealer reacts to their hole card. Some dealers will give a consistent visual tell when their hole card makes 21. Spot it, and you're right to insure when normally only an idiot would.
    • In roulette, track the numbers by dealer in relationship to their relative positions on the wheel. Lazy dealers can make the game VERY non-random.
    • In craps, bad dealers can forget to take down some loosing bets as much as 25% of the time. Spot a dealer who does this and remind him to pay your winning bets and let him forget your losing bets.
    • In many games, without making any effort, cards will be revealed to you that shouldn't be. (e.g., a neighbor may show you his hand) If you see other cards, through no effort of your own, that knowledge gives you an edge without cheating.

    Using any information available to you without action on your part is not cheating. Counting cards, spotting roulette fields, and dealers with bad procedure are all legit player advantages.

    A casino may ask you to leave for any reason. You might be winning due to pure luck, and they can still ask you to leave. If they think you're actually cheating (i.e., marking cards; switching dice) they'll have you arrested.
  • Re:Glazed over facts (Score:3, Informative)

    by nelsonal ( 549144 ) on Wednesday August 14, 2002 @01:17PM (#4071016) Journal
    I believe that you can still find single card games in Atlantic City if you look hard enough. The secret to winning if you have a slight odds advantage is bankroll your betting very well. Thats all the casinos are doing, they know they have an advantage, keep a large bankroll and let the law of large numbers work in thier favor.
    Be careful if you try to go down now to make your fortune, rumor has it that the enforcers are being reintroduced to Vegas since the corporate types are losing money on the casinos.
    Counting cards isn't that difficult, the easiest methods simply have you add 1 for cards below a six and subtract 1 for 10s, you have to divide your count by the number of decks in the shoe. Highly favorable situations (lots of 10s and few low cards) favor players who get larger payouts for blackjacks, and unfavorables (lots of low cards) favor dealers who are less likely to bust when they hit on those high hands where they have to hit. Then you increase and decrease your bet to get large returns during the favorable times and reduce them during unfavorables.
    Counting all the cards rapidly takes practice, and learning how to change your bets, without attacting attention, to provide adaquate returns is the main skillful part of counting cards.
    If you just want to relax, Craps with odds cut the house edge to a fraction of a percent, or Baccarat only involves 1 decision with odds nearly as favorable as strategy blackjack. Its also fun to watch the ceremony involved in a Baccarat game.
  • by Hrothgar The Great ( 36761 ) on Wednesday August 14, 2002 @01:35PM (#4071148) Journal
    Yes, but the only reason they need a team is to keep the casino from figuring out that they're counting cards. Any one of their spotters could do it on their own (that Kevin Lewis guy goes and does just this at the end of the article), except that the casinos are wise to those tactics. The teamwork is to throw off the eyes of the casino so that they can use their skill to win at the game. It's not cheating at all! It's like a game within a game.
  • by rhaig ( 24891 ) <> on Wednesday August 14, 2002 @01:50PM (#4071242) Homepage
    How about "Card counting is not illegal, unless an external assistance device is used in the counting proecess".

    Now, is it cheating? Merriam-Webster defines cheat as "to violate rules dishonestly". Are the rules of blackjack being violated? No. Are the casino rules being violated? Yes. So what are they cheating at if they are cheating? They're not cheating at blackjack, the rules of the game don't cover counting. Are they cheating the house? Maybe. Depends on how you look at it.

    But it certainly isn't illegal. Nor would I consider it "wrong". Knowing more about how a game works and using that knowledge to your advantage isn't wrong. It may change the odds of the game, and it's outcome, but playing a game without knowing how it works would be considered foolish by many.
  • Carmack got booted! (Score:4, Informative)

    by nnnneedles ( 216864 ) on Wednesday August 14, 2002 @02:23PM (#4071476)
    I remember that, but later, well, even John Carmack got booted:

    <I>A few of us took a couple days off in vegas this weekend. After about
    ten hours at the tables over friday and saturday, I got a tap on the shoulder...

    Three men in dark suits introduced themselves and explained that I was welcome
    to play any other game in the casino, but I am not allowed to play
    blackjack anymore.

    Ah well, I guess my blackjack days are over. I was actually down a bit for
    the day when they booted me, but I made +$32k over five trips to vegas in the
    past two years or so.

    I knew I would get kicked out sooner or later, because I don't play "safely".
    I sit at the same table for several hours, and I range my bets around 10 to 1.<I>

    Sorry can't find the .plan file link. :/

  • Re:Odds (Score:2, Informative)

    by reverseengineer ( 580922 ) on Wednesday August 14, 2002 @02:42PM (#4071615)
    Strictly speaking, even/odd and red/black bets on roulette aren't 50/50 either. They pay 1:1, as you'd expect from a 50/50 bet, but there are 38 spaces on a roulette wheel (37 in Monte Carlo, I'm told though)- 1-36 red/black odd/even, and two (or one) green zeros, which provide another color, and are neither even nor odd (you can debate whether zero is even, but the casino will not be swayed to your POV). This means your odds of hitting red on a red bet on a Vegas wheel are 18/38, or ~47.3%, but the payoff is only 1:1, as if the chance were actually 50%- it would be 1.11:1 if roulette weren't a way for casinos to rip you off. Incidentally, this means you can bet on both red and black, and still lose.
  • by DNS-and-BIND ( 461968 ) on Wednesday August 14, 2002 @03:35PM (#4071953) Homepage
    You know why they picked kids of that particular ethnicity? Because a large percentage of the high-rollers in Vegas are Asian organized crime figures. This isn't flamebait, ask any dealer or pit boss. Their sons come over with money a thousand times more contaminated than any deBeers funds, and lose heavily. They then return home, gather more funds, and lose more in Vegas the next time.
  • by hmarq ( 240484 ) on Wednesday August 14, 2002 @06:51PM (#4073125) Homepage
    to do as you're suggesting, I'm not saying people don't do it, but I can tell you I was flown to El Paso, TX to testify by the DEA to testify against someone that did 4 $3000 cashiers checks in a day --- they couldn't make a drug case, but they could make a money laundering/structured transaction case -- you don't want to mess with the reporting paperwork -- there are lots of safegaurds in place to see aggregates that trigger reports as well...

"This is lemma 1.1. We start a new chapter so the numbers all go back to one." -- Prof. Seager, C&O 351