The new movie “21” has just hit stores on DVD and Blu-Ray disc from Sony Pictures. As a dealer for a casino, I was interested in seeing a Hollywood glamorized version of what I do for a living, and I was not disappointed. Granted the perspective of the movie is a loose retelling of M.I.T. Blackjack Team story of how they made and lost a fortune card counting at the blackjack tables of Las Vegas. And the story is about the card counters, not the dealers. In any case, while the plot takes tremendous liberties with the facts for the sake of making an entertaining story, the premise is simple, that students from M.I.T. who are good with numbers spend their weekends away from campus moonlighting as high rollers in Las Vegas. They work as a team and take Las Vegas for hundreds of thousands of dollars through card counting and team work to stay under the radar.
The group employs disguises and fake names and ID cards to become different people every time they go. Profits get split and everyone stays happy. Of course, cockiness sets in and trouble sparks as one member of the team gets jealous of the new guy because the new guy is outperforming the former star of the team. Then as the new guy starts to build up his confidence, he too is unable to escape the temptations of gambling and starts to ignore the rules of the team and continues to squander away on tables that have grown cold and past the time to stop playing on that table. It becomes a race against greed and being caught. The outcome of the story resolves itself through backroom deals, begging for forgiveness, and even more blackjack. To know how it resolves itself, you’ll have to check it out.
Now as a dealer, there was some amusing aspects about the film that really only people in the casino industry, specifically table games, and fans of Las Vegas would notice. One of the things I found amusing was that for all the scenes at real tables in Las Vegas, that all the cards used are canceled cards which you would never find being used on tables for real money. If you aren’t sure how cards are canceled, when you pay attention to the movie, look closely at the edges of the cards, where two of the four corners of the cards on diagonally opposite sides of the card are rounded while the other two are more square. This becomes especially apparent when the dealer places his face-up card over his face-down card and the corners don’t line up cleanly.
Also some of the shots of Las Vegas seen from the windows of the high roller suites are not the real views from the casinos those rooms are allegedly from. Case in point, the Hard Rock Casino is not located on the Las Vegas strip so it’s not possible to get room with a close up view of Caesars Palace or the fountains of Bellagio. So creative license aside, the movie does a great job of glamorizing the Planet Hollywood, Red Rocks Casino, and the Hard Rock Casino as well as the glamor of Las Vegas and contrasting it with Boston and the starving student look.
As for advice on card counting, it can work, if you are willing to work at it. It does require a lot of time and practice. As a dealer, I can say, the best way to stay off the radar of the casinos when you employ card counting techniques is don’t get greedy. The biggest tip off to casinos about card counters is bet variation, when you’re betting hand after hand at small amounts close to the table minimum, then all of a sudden make big bets closer to the table maximum, you’re going to be watched and watched closely.
If you want to learn a great system for card counting, I found one here at http://www.pairadicegaming.com/?21cardcounting. If anything, employing some card counting techniques can help improve your odds at the blackjack table and help make your next visit to the casino more profitable for you. Just remember, the best strategy is walk into a casino with set stopping points, a level where if you win that amount you will stop and walk away, and a set amount where you will stop playing if you lose that amount. If you don’t have those levels in place, you will end up playing more time and the longer you play, the more likely the house will get your money. Walking away when you’re winning is one of the hardest things for people to do, but it’s essential to winning at blackjack. You aren’t officially a winner until your chips have been cashed and you’ve left the casino. And don’t forget to tip your dealer when they’ve given you great service.
If you’re interested in the DVD or Blu-Ray of the movie “21” please check out any of the fine retailers listed on my favorite shopping links page and find the best deal for you where ever you are in the world. And again, if you’re interested in a great card counting system, click here.