Before we get started, there are two facts you need to understand about blackjack card counting; 1) it is not illegal, and 2) casinos have the right to ban a player if caught doing it.
Just ask professional poker player Joe Stiers of Silver Springs, Maryland. He was never actually accused of counting cards at the blackjack tables, but was dismissed from a Caesar-owned casino after doing it. Stiers quickly learned that casinos have the right to refuse service to any patron, and his blackjack card counting incident was apparently enough to get him banned indefinitely from all Caesars properties – including the Rio All Suite Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, where the World Series of Poker is held.
In an exclusive video interview with the Baltimore Sun, Joe Stiers told his story.
“I was barred from Horseshoe Casino in Maryland, and it has now prevented me from playing in the World Series of Poker in Vegas, and all circuit events throughout the country,” explained Stiers. He said that he has been banned “from all Caesars locations”, pointing out the company’s WSOP ownership.
When asked why he thought Caesars had invoked the ban against him, Stiers said, “Well, I can’t confirm it because they won’t admit to it specifically, but from other sources, I think it was because of card counting at blackjack.” The poker pro, who’s earned more than $600,000 competing in live tournaments throughout the world (and claims to have another $500k+ from online poker tournaments), admitted to blackjack card counting at Maryland’s Horseshoe Casino.
“I’ve heard that that is how they respond to it,” Stiers continued, “and I was attempting to count cards at an amateur level, which I pretty much am always going to do when I play blackjack. I mean, it’s a game of skill and you want to keep track of what cards go out… if a lot of the smaller cards come out, then you have a better chance of winning, and that’s when I’m going to raise my bet.”
Joe Stiers said he never expected the casino to respond by banning him from all Caesars properties and from participating in the WSOP. Had he known the consequences would be so extreme, he said he never would have attempted blackjack card counting at the Horseshoe Casino.
He was asked how the casino staff approached him and told him he had to leave. To that, Stiers replied that he was actually at a roulette table on December 19 the first time he was advised to leave the casino. Joe was playing blackjack first, then moved over to the roulette tables where he said several members of the staff “asked me to leave and they wouldn’t say why. I was interested in what was going on, but they didn’t seem to know why either.”
Stiers said that he gave the casino his phone number and email, asking them to let him know why he was being forced to leave the casino. “I asked if I could come back,” explained Stiers, saying he wasn’t given a definitive answer either way, rather to “just wait and see.”
To make matters more interesting, Stiers said that, after more than a week with no reply from the casino on the unspoken blackjack card counting incident, he continued to receive promotional offers in the mail inviting him back to the Horseshoe Casino. Taking that as a positive response to his former inquiry, the poker pro returned to play in a poker tournament on Saturday, December 27.
“That was the day I actually got thrown out in a hostile manner,” said Joe. He had already spent about an hour and a half at the poker tables and said he was doing pretty well when three men in suits showed up, accused him of trespassing and told him to leave immediately. He was initially refused a refund on his tournament buy-in, but since the casino gave local police no reason for throwing Stiers out, he was not charged with trespassing and received a refund by mail about a month later.
When asked what he hopes to achieve by sharing his story of blackjack card counting and subsequent WSOP ban, Joe Stiers said, “I would hope that they would realize that this isn’t something that they should do. It takes away from the legitimacy of the World Series of Poker as a competition.” He questioned how a casino that bans people from their property and prestigious poker events with no given reason can be considered legitimate.