Las Vegas casinos love to have celebrities playing at their tables. Not only do they tend to be big spenders – there are rewards for being so famous – but they also attract a lot of attention, which means more bodies in the casino. But there’s one thing casinos hate way more than they love any famous patron, it’s losing to them.
That’s the problem that the Hard Rock Vegas found itself in last week, when superstar actor, director and screenwriter Ben Affleck stopped by to play some blackjack at the Hard Rock Casino while in Las Vegas with wife Jennifer Garner. During their stay – planned as a getaway before Affleck starts shooting his next movie, in which he’ll play Batman – Affleck was busy at a high-limit blackjack table when security suddenly stopped him from continuing to play.
It seems as though Affleck was caught on camera counting cards. That was enough for the casino to deem him an advantage player and refuse to let him continue playing the game.
The scene likely wasn’t as dramatic as some might imagine. Unlike in movies like “Rain Man”, counting cards isn’t an art reserved only for those with unbelievable intellect, and it takes a trained eye to spot that a good counter is doing anything out of the ordinary at all. And while Affleck won’t be allowed to ever play blackjack in the casino again, he was still welcomed to stay and play anything else he wanted to there. In fact some reports even said that the whole situation was dealt with in a friendly manner.
Way Too Obvious
It seems as though Affleck wasn’t too subtle about his counting, which ultimately got him caught. According to Star Magazine, on April 29, a warning was circulated to Las Vegas casinos via the Surveillance Information Network saying that he was “suspected of advantage play.”
“While playing at a table, Ben was asked repeatedly to stop card counting,” the magazine quoted a Las Vegas insider as saying. “However, he would not stop. The casino staff told Ben that he was being too obvious.”
This isn’t Affleck’s first time making headlines in the world of gambling. A long-time poker player who was trained by the likes of Annie Duke and Amir Vahedi, Affleck won the 2004 California State Poker Championship, taking down a prize of $356,000. He is a regular presence at the World Series of Poker as well. He’s also made big scores at the blackjack tables in the past, including a reported $800,000 win at the Hard Rock in 2001. Not to mention, he’s reportedly been connected to some high-stakes, illegal poker games in the past.
Incident Follows Wynn-Clooney Fight
This isn’t the only recent incident pitting a celebrity against the Las Vegas casino establishment. In April, George Clooney had a highly publicized fight with casino boss Steve Wynn at dinner during a discussion of the Affordable Care Act. According to Clooney, Wynn called President Obama an “asshole,” which led to the actor throwing the name back at Wynn before storming out. Both sides have argued over exactly what took place, with Wynn saying Clooney was drunk, while Clooney says the other eight people at the table with them can verify his version of events.
Card counting is a technique used by blackjack players to gain an advantage over the house. Players, using systems of various complexity, keep track of what cards have left the shoe. This allows them to know the composition of the remaining cards. When the remaining shoe is to their advantage, card counters bet more, while avoiding (or minimizing) betting when the shoe favors the house. Many casinos now use automatic shuffling machines, in part to render these techniques ineffective.