We get asked this question a lot. In fact, we have encountered many card counters who have practiced at home and have nailed the technique, but are too scared to do it in the casino. The stories of card counters being taken to back rooms and having several big goons beat the living daylights out of them have spread like wildfire amounts novice counters, and it’s all they need to put a halt to it.
Those stories are still making the rounds, but they always come from an unreliable source — “A friend of a friend said it happened to him once”. The simple fact is that Vegas is no longer mob-rule. They follow the same laws as the rest of us (most of the time) and they would jeopardise their business if they randomly beat up their customers. It also wouldn’t do them any favours in regards to word-of-mouth advertising.
So what will happen to you? Well, the truth is that you can’t really be “caught” counting cards. Unless you’re running the count by mouthing the calculations and asking the dealer to slow down so you can finish, then there’s no real way they can know. They can suspect you of counting cards though and usually that’s all they need. Once they suspect you of counting cards they will ask you to leave the casino. Simple as that. In fact, we have known several players who have been asked to leave just because they are on a winning streak and because, in the eyes of the casino, they must be counting.
Some casinos may even challenge you, increasing the decks and asking the cameras to keep an eye on you. I suppose that when you have so much money to throw away, it’s tempting to play games every now and then. Most of them will simply escort you out. Of course, if you are using a device to help you count, then that’s a different matter, because that is illegal and that could land you in jail.
That doesn’t apply to Atlantic City though, because whilst it is also illegal to use an external device in these casinos, they are not allowed to kick you out for counting cards. This law was passed a couple of decades ago after a famous card counter was banned from all AC cities for counting. He took the casinos to court and he had the laws changed, but only in AC. This is why you will find that AC has the highest house edge when it comes to blackjack, and why they always use 8-decks.
So there you have it, whilst card counting is not illegal, casinos outside of Atlantic City can ask you to leave if they catch you doing it. If you are not obvious about it though, then you can sit and play all night and they may never notice. Most players like the take the chance, knowing that the worst that can happen is they are asked to leave and have to go to another casino instead.