Sunday, August 24, 2008

Student Claims To Be Able To Expose Blackjack Card Counters--I think He´s Full Of Crap!

Yet another so-called math geek/wizard claims to have invented the ultimate defense system for casinos to spot blackjack card counting players. It´s the same old story of using digital video cameras and statistical analysis to identify who the following UK Sunday Times Article inaccurately calls "casino cheats." The newspaper needs to be informed that blackjack card counters are NOT casino cheats, and I think they have given the subject of their article way too much credibility. Here´s their article:

Student Exposes Casino Cheats.

Creator of Automated Surveillance System Claims to Unmask Blackjack Card Counters.

AN IRISH mathematician could help to clean up the world’s casinos after devising a system for detecting cheating in Blackjack, one of gambling’s most popular card games.

Wesley Cooper, a PhD student from Trinity College, Dublin, has created an automated surveillance system that can spot if a player is “counting” cards. Using “smart” video cameras and statistical analysis, Cooper’s system can build up a profile of players and spot anomalies during a game.

“Blackjack is beatable if you have a good maths brain,” he said. “At the moment, casino surveillance staff have to watch the tables and try to identify suspicious play using their experience and instincts. This system does the same job automatically using computer-vision techniques and algorithms.”

Clear Deal, which Cooper developed at Trinity’s Graphics, Vision and Visualisation research department, is being tested with an international casino operator. “The feedback has been good and I’m hoping that other casinos will adopt the technology once the trial is over,” he said.

As part of his research, Cooper worked as a croupier in Las Vegas. “I learnt that one of the most important things in a casino is to build up a profile of each serious player, so they can identify the ‘profitable’ patrons and target them with complimentary drinks and food to keep them at the table,” he said.

Cooper’s system, funded by the Irish Research Council for Science, Engineering and Technology, compares each decision a player makes to that of a “perfect” simulated player to determine a gambler’s skill.

“It can determine if someone is proficient or just lucky. A skilled player with a good mathematical mind can count cards, giving them a statistical edge over the casino. Blackjack is 3,000 years old and people have been counting cards as long as it has been around,” he said.

Players who count cards gain an advantage in Blackjack by keeping track of what cards have already been played from a deck. Knowing what cards are left allows a player to decide how much to bet and gives them a slight but potentially valuable advantage over the casino, typically between 0.5% and 2%.

Although not illegal in most casinos, they reserve the right to ban players for counting cards.

Teddy Hickson of the FitzWilliam Card Club in Dublin says counting cards gives players only a tiny edge. “It’s a slight advantage, but it can be significant. If we catch someone, we would ask them to leave and make it known that they weren’t welcome back,” he said.

The system was recently dramatised in 21, a film starring Kevin Spacey and Kate Bosworth, which tells the story of how a group of maths students from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) won more than €500,000 from Las Vegas casinos by counting cards. Raymond Babbit, the autistic savant played by Dustin Hoffman in the film Rain Man, also beats the odds at a Las Vegas casino by counting cards.

Hickson said that monitoring games such as Blackjack is hugely labour intensive. “We spend a huge amount of money ensuring that it’s nigh-on impossible to cheat by monitoring betting patterns and keeping a close eye on players. At the moment, the dealer watches the players and an inspector watches the dealer.

“A pit boss watches everything and, on average, we have between two and four cameras on each table,” he said. “If a system could be found to streamline the monitoring, it would be hugely popular with casinos but my instinct is that it would be difficult to replace human intuition.”

Cooper said: “I saw 21 [the film] and the automated system we’ve developed would have identified what was going on and alerted the casino that it was being targeted.”