The book and movie are about the famous MIT team that beat blackjack (for a while), and in doing so changed the way that casinos played the game forever.
After a long wait, “21 – The Movie” has been released in cinemas around the world. It’s been out in the USA for a month or two, but has only been made available in other countries during the last month. For those unfamiliar with the storyline, this is basically the cinema version of the book “Bringing Down The House“. The book and movie are about the famous MIT team that beat blackjack (for a while), and in doing so changed the way that casinos played the game forever.
Jim Sturgess is in the lead role as Ben Campbell, a mathematics nerd at MIT who’s recruited by faculty member Micky Rosa (Kevin Spacey) to count cards in Las Vegas casinos every weekend, as part of a secret student blackjack team. Each weekend the team flies to Vegas, bankrolled by MIT backers, and take hundreds of thousands of dollars from the casinos via card counting at blackjack. Ben’s a bit of a geek, not popular with the girls – until he starts playing blackjack and winning thousands. You might say that he’s a bit like Will Hunting, who then becomes James Bond. It’s probably very shallow – but a girl once told me “There’s nothing more attractive than a man with money” – so perhaps this is a universal theme!
The strategy of the card counting followed by the MIT team is simple: through a “team play” device, one player of the team watches a table and waits for a high count (for the table to “warm up” with lots of high cards left to be played), and then signals the other team players to join in. At this time the high roller comes and plays and takes big money away. When a table is “cold” they place very low bets, or simply don’t play at all. Casinos these days are sadly well aware of team play, and act quickly to stop it. Can card counting in blackjack work? Yes. How have most casinos navigated around this potential risk to their cash reserves? By introducing Continuous Shuffle Machines (CSM’s).
Here’s the reality: you’re more likely to get barred from casino playing for card counting than for any other LEGAL activity! Yes, card counting IS legal. But the casinos don’t like you having even a perceived edge on their game, and can ask you to leave. Card counting these days is however considered less of a threat to casinos – as many casinos now use continuous shufflers to overcome card counters. Those few remaining casinos that use normal hand dealt / shuffled shoes have only marginal penetration of the shoe of use to a card counter. The casinos are well aware that they can lose BIG MONEY to skilled blackjack players, so they’ve made protection of the game a priority.
21 The Movie is good fun to watch, with a few surprise twists along the way. If you enjoy movies with a gambling theme, you won’t be disappointed. Just ensure that you don’t follow the movie storyline and try to establish your own “MIT Blackjack Card Counting Team”. These days, that approach simply won’t work – the casinos are onto it. You can still make money from blackjack, but its as much about luck as skill these days – which suits the casinos just fine: they’re very lucky! Want to play blackjack now? A range of blackjack variations are available at: Virgin Casino, and Betfair Casino. Good luck!