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Blackjack Insider Newsletter, Feb. 2005, #61


By Scott Michaels

Scott Michaels writes for Video Poker Player magazine ( and has been an advantage gambler since 1998. He specializes in video poker, live poker and blackjack.  When playing blackjack, he uses the KO count. If you have any comments or questions, feel free to email Scott at

The next time you’re looking to take a break from your VP play at the blackjack tables in Vegas, beware of the latest Las Vegas Ripoff: MindPlay Blackjack.

As if the blackjack conditions in Vegas weren’t bad enough with the advent of 6 to 5 single deck blackjack games, continuous shuffling machines, and fake hand held games, MindPlay Blackjack is gaining momentum in town.

MindPlay is new technology, owned by Alliance Gaming, a leading slot manufacturer. Each card and each chip on the table is marked. By marking both chips and cards, casinos using this device can determine not only a player’s average bet but also their skill level. By marking every card, the casino can also determine when the shoe (or deck) has turned in the player’s favor (when it is rich in aces and ten value cards). They can then use this information to reshuffle the cards, thus nullifying the temporary edge the player has.

In addition, casinos that use MindPlay will now be able to squeeze players’ comp accounts. Since the chips are marked, the casinos will know exactly how much action you’ve put in play and for exactly how long you’ve played. This will dramatically curtail the ability of a pitboss to extend discretionary comps to players. This could be particularly irritating to a player who loses a substantial amount of money in a short amount of time. Comps have always been based on time played and average bet, but a pitboss has always been able to "fudge" a player rating card if they thought they deserved a comp. With MindPlay, the system will show exactly how much comp value each player has earned and could tie the hands of pit bosses at the casinos that use this new technology. Since MindPlay can also calculate a player’s skill level, basic strategy players can expect far less in comps when playing at a MindPlay table.

These tables aren’t cheap; they each have a price tag of $20,000. Rod Smith of the Las Vegas Review Journal stated in the October 19th edition that MindPlay is a, "computerized card counting system that boosts the house's odds of winning at blackjack."
Rod’s statement would seem to be accurate since Carol Pride, Caesars Chief Information Officer, admitted in the November 3rd issue of USA Today that, "In less than 6 months we’ve made our money back." Al Rogers, a professional gambler in Las Vegas states, "The casinos already have everything (stacked) in their favor and they want to make sure no (players) ever win. It's another example of corporate greed wanting to slaughter the cow instead of milking it, and the poor tourists just line up to get killed."

This ripoff device is currently in use at the Flamingo in Vegas. The Las Vegas Hilton had a table, but removed it after the Hilton was purchased from Caesars Entertainment by Colony Capital. Ira Sternberg, spokesman for the Hilton declined to comment on why they removed their MindPlay table.

Knowledgeable players in Las Vegas have drawn the line on the anti-gambler trend on the blackjack tables. They filed a lawsuit on October 18th against Alliance Gaming, Caesars Entertainment and the Nevada Gaming Control Board. The lawsuit was filed by Bob Nersesian, who represents gambler John Allen. Read the entire lawsuit here, compliments of

The basis of the complaint is that casinos are being allowed to use a ‘device’ on a table, when Nevada statutes prohibit such usage. It’s ironic is that if a player uses a mechanical device to count cards, they are charged with a felony. If a casino uses a mechanical device, such as MindPlay, to count cards nobody on the Gaming Control Board bats an eye.


The MindPlay device is particularly odious because the patron has no way to tell what is happening.   The casinos train their employees to paint a rosy picture of MindPlay and tell patrons who inquire that the device is somehow for their "benefit."  The marked cards and potential for cheating is not mentioned.  As pointed out in the lawsuit, the offending casinos, with the acquiescence of the  Nevada Gaming Control Board, have "foist(ed) an illegal and thieving game on the unsuspecting public, … whereby the randomness natural to ‘21’ is removed from the game, and the casinos are assured of always having a mathematical edge over patrons at all times … allowing the gaming licensee (casino) to avoid the random dealing of a 21 deck or shoe that would occasionally result in decks or shoes that are favorable to players."

The easiest way to tell a MindPlay table is by the recessed "well" to the dealer's right.  After shuffling or removing the cards from the shuffling machine, but before dealing, the dealer will insert the cards into this "well." Inside the "well" is a scanner that reads the marked cards, enabling the MindPlay device to know the exact order of the cards before they are dealt.  A normal table does not have this recessed "well."  In addition, you will see a black contraption that is used to "hold" the dealers first 2 cards. If you see such a table, do not play.

When you see a MindPlay table, tell the dealer and the pit boss that you won’t play at their casino because of MindPlay - any casino that wants to know the order of the cards before they're dealt is not a casino you will patronize. Tell other patrons about the device, in the presence of the pit boss.  Refuse to play, try to get others not to play, and make sure the casino knows why you won’t play.  If there is a "Comments" card available in the casino, fill it out and send it in.  Tell them that you; your family, and your friends won’t be back until MindPlay is gone. 


Special thanks to LVBear for his contributions to this article.


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