Appiphilia: Blackjack card counters
Looking for a quick way recoup some of your economic losses?
Granted, a trip to Las Vegas isn't the most reliable way to make a living, but some iPhone applications can give you the edge in blackjack. A method called card counting -- popularized by the book "Bringing Down the House" and the recent movie "21" -- can swing the odds a bit more in the player's favor.
We should preface this post by saying that using a card-counting device in a casino is a felony. The Nevada Gaming Control Board warned casinos last week about an iPhone app that takes care of all the math and memorization, as reported by the Associated Press.
The gambling regulators probably were referring to A Blackjack Card Counter, but a spokesman for the board was unavailable for comment because of the Presidents Day holiday.
The $3.99 app has a feature, called stealth mode, that allows the user to easily operate the card counter with the phone concealed in a pocket. Simply press the right half of the screen when a card valued at 10 or higher appears on the table or the left half when a low card is flipped. The phone vibrates when ...
... it's time to place a big bet. The program also takes additional factors into account that elude most mental card counters and is therefore more accurate.
But, again: Get caught trying to game the house, and you'll end up in the "big house."
Another app, called Card Counter, doesn't contain the on-the-spot counting feature. It is, instead, meant to be a training aid.
Card counting in one's head isn't illegal -- only using a device to do so will get you trouble. Numerous instructional videos and books exist to teach people how to count cards. But the $2.99 Card Counter trains you and then simulates blackjack hands to test your progress.
Despite the major difference, bloggers have dragged the Card Counter developer, TMSoft, into the spotlight, questioning the app's legality after the concerns expressed by gambling regulators. The developer is worried that he could be blacklisted from major casinos, and has therefore asked to remain anonymous for the story.
"[A Blackjack Card Counter] doesn't teach you anything," the TMSoft developer said. "Use his app, you go to jail. Use mine, you'll actually legally learn how to count cards."
-- Mark Milian