One of my long time clients knows a lot about California card rooms (see this post and this post). He both works as a player/banker for a corporation and has invented and placed his own game into a card room. He recently shared his thoughts about advantage play in card rooms in an E-mail to me, and generously agreed to let me re-post his E-mail on this blog. What follows are his insights into the dilemma of game protection in card rooms.

Speaking from the point of view of someone from within the Corporations, I think to say that we are vulnerable to Advantage Play would be an understatement.  The truth is, most of the Corporation bankers out there working on the gaming tables do not know any more than the players sitting beside them.  Many are so new to the gaming industry, often just barely at the legal age to work inside a card-room.  They get on the tables after about a week of training on the basic rules and procedures of the games.  They have absolutely no idea why the cut card needs to be in the middle of the shoe on a Blackjack game or where it needs to be in a Baccarat shoe.  Inexperienced, naive and vulnerable; these are the characteristics that would make them easy targets and it is exactly what an AP would be looking for.  I know I would…if I were one.

In an effort to shed light to the potential havoc that can be created from Advantage Play, I have made several attempts to raise awareness on the issue.  I thought it was necessary for us to at least understand the mathematics involved and accept the simple fact that it is very much possible, given the right circumstances.  So I prepared reports on the findings of areas of vulnerability for the games that we bank on with data and documentation I have found through my research.  Unfortunately, my efforts have not yielded much result.  My superior believes that with the combination of the collection fees being charged and the high House Edge on the games, we are somehow safe because a true AP would far less likely attack these games since the margin for profits is much too thin. 

For me, the most critical insight is contained in the final sentence. The author concludes that because the games are so high-edge and the collections are so demanding, card room management thinks there couldn't possibly be a way to overcome these obstacles to beat the games. This broad simplification of advantage play opens the door. I agree that ordinary blackjack card counting cannot succeed in a card room. But there are many other games that can and are being plundered.

I have a feeling of helplessness as I discuss the issue of game protection for card rooms. The hierarchy of game protection in an ordinary casino, from dealer to pit boss to shift manager to director of table games to surveillance to upper management simply does not exist. There is no one who can proactively intervene to fix a game protection problem. Indeed there is a disincentive to do so. Until this structural debacle is repaired, California card rooms will remain one of the last great wide-open playgrounds for APs.

Received his Ph.D. in Mathematics from the University of Arizona in 1983. Eliot has been a Professor of both Mathematics and Computer Science. Eliot retired from academia in 2009. Eliot Jacobson