Would the Movie 21 Be Possible Today?

June 19, 2020
When noticing the stellar rise in online gambling and gaming, it is hard not to wonder how the future casino movies might look like. There are many stories, like from the cult classic 21, where a brilliant recluse finds the way to trick the house and break the bank by using some revolutionary math.

The movie 21 is also quite specific here because it is based upon a true story. You can’t help but wonder if you would be able to do something similar if you just paid attention to those math classes.

But, is something like this even possible in an online casino?

Math-wise? Probably not, at least not for a human by him or herself.

Theoretically… everything is possible.

The Plot

21 is a tale depicting the dual nature of the human mind. On one side, there is a brilliant math professor played by Kevin Spacey, who can figure out how to count cards on a blackjack table and teaches his students to do the same. But on the other, there is a tendency for indulgence and hedonism that causes their demise in the end.

His students, a group of six MIT misfits, join the plan to win big on the Las Vegas strip, which works in the beginning but things quickly turn to hell as the casinos catch up on what they are doing.

Not to spoil the movie for those who maybe haven’t watched it yet, but the middle is filled with trickery and intrigue, as well as crosses and double-crosses.

It is like a heist movie and apparently played like a heist movie in real life as well, but with an important twist. There is no heist. The money isn’t stolen but won in a way that should be fair and square.

The movie is slightly played for thrills, but the information given about card counting is real, albeit slightly simplified when it comes to why.

How Card-Counting Works?

Not to go into statistical chances and formulas, counting cards is simply keeping an eye on how many big cards and small cards have already been played.

Because in a regular blackjack game you can pull as many cards as you like and the dealer must hold at 17 and play if they are under, you have a distinct advantage if you have a general idea of how big the next card will be.

Unlike in the movie, card counting is a long game and you won’t win every time, simply because you can’t choose which cards will come next. But, positive hands will be more frequent than negative ones, making you come out on top in the end.

Working in Practice

Using the high-low card counting system with a single deck, you know you have 20 cards, tens to aces, that give you a -1 negative value, indicating that the house has the advantage. Then, there are 20 cards, twos to sixes, that give you a positive value and indicate that you should push your advantage.

Finally, there are 12 cards, seven to nine, that are neutral and are not important for the count. This doesn’t mean that you should forget them, but simply that they don’t give an advantage to either you or the house.

As the game plays, you keep counting how many of these have passed to know when you have an advantage, and when you don’t. If there are multiple decks, you just need to divide your running count with the number of decks played.

This method won’t tell you exactly which cards will come out, and a reasonable player will stop at nineteen. But, if you are observant you can push your individual RTP to 102%. That might not sound a lot, but with a cycle of 6-18 games, you can double your money in about 6 hours of playing.

New Math

The method mentioned above is strictly for IRL playing cards. If you want to play in an online live casino the decks will be entirely logarithmical. As there are virtually unlimited decks in the stack and they are paced out semi-randomly, there is no reason to count the cards that have already passed.

This being said, the RTP for online blackjack is 99.58%, which is more than most other games. But, you will need to win on strategy.

Theoretically speaking, you might use the coding to determine how often the computer will dish out which cards, but you will need a serious processor to give you your chances for every game, and even more advanced mathematics than there were in the movie.

Ironically, the online casino doesn’t care if you do this, and you are more than welcomed to try. As the money getting out will always (ALWAYS) be less than coming in on a global scale, they are not concerned if you know how good your chances are for each hand.

Is this Better?

For a regular player, playing in an online live casino is better than going to a brick and mortar establishment. Except for the dress up and the joy of traveling, online versions offer better chances and you can play with any amount of money.

Finally, unless you try to hack the system directly and gain access to the servers containing private information, you won’t be thrown out of an online casino for trying to fool the system or employ a strategy.

And, you can do with your winnings anything you want, as online operators can’t really afford goons to travel around the world catching people who use their places of business for immoral purposes… because it’s the internet, and without immoral purposes, it wouldn’t even exist.


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