Use Your Mind, Not a Device: iPhone’s Card Counting App

There’s an application for the iPhone that can count cards.  When users enter card information into the iPhone by tapping its virtual buttons, the program keeps track of the running count and calculates the true count which measures how favorable the remaining cards are for the player. Sound like an easy way to make a fortune at the blackjack tables? Not quite. There’s a very clear legal distinction between the use of external devices versus the use of your natural abilities when counting cards. News of the iPhone app has spread quickly in the casino industry after Indian reservation casinos in California caught wind that some players were using the program at the blackjack tables.

Using electronic devices in casinos hasn’t always been illegal. Prior to 1985, when Nevada passed the “anti-device” law, there were players who used computers to beat the casinos. One of those players was Keith Taft, who was featured in the History Channel series, Breaking Vegas. Taft engineered the first blackjack computer from scratch in 1970. He wrote the algorithms for the software, built the microcomputer, and designed the input apparatus. To avoid detection, the values of cards were input by levers in specially designed shoes in binary code, using one’s toes. Unfortunately for Taft, his winnings didn’t quite match his many hours of hard work and his extraordinary ingenuity.

I haven’t seen the iPhone program myself, but it’s obvious the application wasn’t intended for use in casinos. Entering all the card values by hand is a tedious process and far from inconspicuous. I suspect some of the players who have used the card counting application didn’t know they were breaking the law. Casinos are now well aware of the program and I doubt they’re overly concerned about the prospect of a legion of iPhone counters rising up and hitting casinos across the country. A felony conviction along with  jail time serve as  healthy deterrents.

This program may be an entertaining addition to the library of available iPhone apps, but it’s not something you should ever use in a casino. No doubt there will be a few who are tempted  by the hope of getting rich quick, but when it comes to beating the house, the choice is clear. Use your natural abilities, not an illegal device. Funny thing is I’m planning on purchasing an iPhone in the next week or so. One thing’s for sure. I won’t be shelling out any money for this card counting app.

Comments

  1. I enjoyed reading your article. An informative read.

  2. I wonder how these people were even able to use their iphone at the table. As soon as you pull out a phone they back you off the table. The other day I took a call between shoes, while they were re-shuffling, and they told me I had to leave the table.

  3. Nice historical background. I agree, the i-phone would be way too conspicuous. But, the i-phone and other like platforms might be ripe for a blackjack training application.

  4. Interestingly enough sales of this app went through the roof *after* the news reported casinos were now watching out for iPhones at the tables. The creator of the software says it wasn’t intended for casino use – only for “fun with friends at home”. Yet the program has a stealth mode. Hope the new users realize counting is legal but using devices is a felony. But as Mark said, I think a portable training device would be terrific.

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