Editor’s note: this Op Ed is one of our new features at Casino.org, allowing experts to respond to some of our stories with their viewpoint. The viewpoints expressed here are the author’s alone.
Caesars was recently sued by Ross Miller, a card counter, over an incident he experienced at Planet Hollywood in Las Vegas. As Casino.org reported:
“Ross Miller claims he was illegally detained after staff at the Caesars property spotted him counting cards at the blackjack tables in June 2013. He also claims that staff stole chips from him worth just under $5,000.”
I wanted to share why it’s not just the player who suffers when casinos mistreat card counters.
Disregarding the Law is Bad Business, I Get It
Card counters are a nuisance to casinos. We are like a guy who only dines at a restaurant on “Kid’s Eat Free” night…and he brings 5 kids. We cost casinos money, but that does not give casinos the right to violate someone’s civil rights.
If Ross Miller’s story is correct, the casino treated a law-abiding citizen like a criminal, then stole his money, all because he played their blackjack game according to their rules. Can you imagine if grocery stores thought they had the right to detain extreme couponers (and seize their groceries) for refusing to give ID after working the coupon system for a profit?
You would think after famous cases such as James Grosjean’s case against Imperial Palace, casinos would learn to respect a human’s rights, even if that human is a card counter. Famous card counter Tommy Hyland has made a hobby out of suing casinos for unlawful detainment. Is Mr. Hyland doing this out of spite? Maybe a little bit. But primarily he is trying to end this injustice against law-abiding citizens.
Casinos Need to Think Through Possible Marketing Implications
Card counters often lament the fact that casinos can refuse their action at the tables.
But if casinos were forced to deal to card counters, they would inevitably change the rules, so the game would become unbeatable for counters. In order for card counters to have a chance to beat the casino, we have to live with the fact that we can be shown the door by any casino we enter.
Similarly, I think casinos need to see both sides of the card-counting situation: yes, the professional card counter can cost casinos money, but we are the best marketing opportunity for casinos, too.
Did you know that blackjack wasn’t a very popular game before Ed Thorpe’s book Beat the Dealer outlined how to beat blackjack with card counting? Blackjack instantly skyrocketed in popularity and has maintained its fame for over 50 years in large part to the fact that people know it can be beaten.
Beating blackjack is tough. My best guess is that less than 5 percent of the people who join our website [to give tips on how to card count] get to the point of being any real threat to casinos. (We’re okay with that number, because at the very least we are pointing people in the right direction.)
But the amount of discipline necessary to beat the casino, combined with the brains and bankroll, is a rare trait. Returning to my examples of the “Kid’s Eat Free” offer or the extreme couponer, should restaurants and grocery stores flip out over the 0.1 percent of the people who find a way to exploit an offer, when that same offer makes them a much larger profit from the other 99.9 percent of the population?
Furthermore, how expensive is bad press for a casino? Do you want to be known as the casino that roughs up successful gamblers?
Or to flip it the other way, why not use card counters to your advantage?
Last year, Ben Affleck made headlines for getting kicked out of a Hard Rock Casino for counting cards. How much of a threat was Affleck relative to the positive marketing they could have gotten out of the situation? I’m continually baffled that casinos choose to bring negative attention on themselves, rather than spin these situations to their advantage.
Can’t We All Just Get Along?
Last year, I had the privilege of being the keynote speaker at the World Game Protection Conference. I used the opportunity to try to extend an olive branch.
One of my biggest regrets during my earlier time as a card counter was treating casino personnel like a means to an end. I was there to make a living, but that’s no excuse to treat casino personnel like “the bad guy.”
I became deeply regretful of not taking the time to treat casino employees with the love, dignity, and respect that I want to treat all people with. And implementing that philosophy has actually made my time in casinos a lot more enjoyable.
Unfortunately, dehumanizing the other side has gone both ways. I’ve been handcuffed, had obscenities yelled at me, lied to (many times), been held against my will, and treated with contempt. It’s really unfortunate, because regardless of how you feel about card counting, people are people.
It is truly a shame to me when we, as a human race, fail to show each other, even our enemies, the dignity and respect we would like to be shown.
I love card counting. I think it’s the smart way to approach money and casinos. But more important than that, I love people. And I actually think it’s in the best interest of the casinos to love card counters, too. Or at least treat us with kindness.
Colin Jones is a former professional card counter and a card counting advocate. He co-managed “The Church Team,” a Blackjack Team that legally won close to $4M through card counting. He is co-founder of BlackjackApprenticeship.com and resides in Seattle, WA with his wife and 5 kids.