Card counting in Blackjack is not as glamorous as many videos suggest

Semi-viral videos showing “professional Blackjack players” counting cards and pilfering hundreds of thousands of dollars from casinos is “fake news”. What they mostly are are “professional Blackjack system salesmen” trying to get you to part with your money in your quest for a get-rich-quick scheme.

Michael Morgenstern, for instance, shows several videos of him winning at the table with hidden cameras.  Selective editing (and probably just omission of videos in general) is showing classic survivor bias in which case you’re only seeing the winning trials and barely any of the actual downswings and grind that comes with Blackjack and counting cards:

Contrast this to a much more truthful and realistic video that shows what a grind it really is.  Here’s one showing a losing session under even the most obvious and widest bet variance and then getting backed off by the casino afterward:

Don’t get fooled into thinking card counting is a surefire way to making a (dishonest) buck.  Over the long term with a huge bet variance between $5 and $1,000 on a single hand, thus requiring a huge bankroll, counting may net you possibly only $10-20 or so per hour assuming perfect play and not getting caught.  The player edge is still just a fraction of a percent even with highly positive counts.

MIT had an advantage when casinos were less aware of team tactics, that is, having a “drunken gambler” coming in for a $10,000 bet when the count is favorable.   Do you have a team and that sort of bankroll to make it worth your time, and furthermore, do you know a group of casinos that you think won’t catch you?  Keep Blackjack and card counting a hobby and don’t be fooled into thinking it is all sparkles and sunshine.

If you want an accurate reproduction of long term results, while also being able to practice counting and perfect strategy, try Blackjack for play money here.