Raw deal, say card counters



ATLANTIC CITY – This group of card-counting blackjack players had a good thing going for about 10 months a decade ago as they pooled their money, split their winnings, and worked their way through the tables of Atlantic City’s casinos.


But Dino D’Andrio, 71, a retired engineer from Marlton, and his cohorts haven’t sat at the gaming tables in a decade, not since the casinos began shutting them down with strategies of their own. D’Andrio and friends have been trying ever since to challenge the rules that allow the casinos to count cards and shuffle the decks whenever they start favoring the players Pengeluaran SGP . The group even argued in a lawsuit that casino card-shuffling practices were in violation of federal racketeering laws.


Yesterday, D’Andrio and his former blackjack pals busted again, failing to persuade the New Jersey Casino Control Commission to require casinos to post signs informing patrons of their “card-counter countermeasures.”


Simply put, the card counters want the average gambler to know that the casinos can – and do – count cards, too.


Card counters try to gain an edge by keeping track of how many 10s, aces and face cards have been played out of a six- or eight-deck “shoe,” in order to determine a point at which the odds shift in their favor.


“How is the average patron who goes to Atlantic City to know there’s such a thing as a countermeasure that changes the outcome of the game?” the card counters’ attorney, Howard A. Altschuler, asked the five-member commission yesterday.


Not only did the panel vote down the proposed rule change unanimously, but chairman James Hurley called the group’s request nothing more than a “recapitulation of baseless claims” and an “obstinate relitigation of settled issues.”


While the rules in question may affect the outcome of the game, Hurley said, they also reflect the commission’s duty to “provide patrons with fair odds” while allowing casinos “some reasonable return.”


State regulations permit dealers to “shuffle at will” after every hand. And various courts, as well as the commission, have upheld casinos’ right to employ “countermeasures” against known card counters, who can gain a mathematical – and legal – edge in blackjack by keeping track of the cards played.


But, Altschuler says, there is nothing in the regulations that details this “preferential shuffle” tactic, which, he adds, while designed to thwart card counters, ends up cheating average players out of a fair game.


The commission’s position is that, on a practical basis, it would be too disruptive, costly and time consuming for the casinos to have their employees regularly count cards and determine when to shuffle the decks.


In its own appeal brief in a case brought by card-counter teacher Doug Grant, the Casino Control Commission wrote that “even the least sophisticated blackjack player would not long patronize the blackjack tables at a casino which chose to shuffle the deck every time the deck was player favorable.”


But the card counters say the 99 percent of patrons who don’t count cards would have no way of knowing that a dealer was engaging in preferential or strategic shuffling.


For a card counter such as D’Andrio, the preferential shuffle is big-time frustration. Counters wait as long as three hours – playing through hand after hand, shoe after shoe – until they have determined that the remaining cards in an eight-deck shoe definitely favor the players. Their strategy then is to start wagering big.


“You’re not going to pay the rent at $25 a hand and then, when the last two decks are favorable to you and you bet $300, $400 and $500, they shuffle,” he said. “. . . All you’ve done is pay the rent, and there go your next seven or eight bets where you expect to win most of them.”


The noncard counters at a table usually have no clue what has happened.


“They don’t know from anything,” D’Andrio said.


He thought again of his team’s 10-month card-counting swing back in ’89-90. It was sweet while it lasted, he said.


“A group of good players can earn anywhere from $30 to $90 to maybe 115 bucks an hour per person,” D’Andrio said. “It just became impossible to play. It became more and more difficult because of [the casinos’] shuffling.”




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