MindPlay is a technology designed to monitor blackjack players’ actions while playing in a casino.Monitoring a person’s play traditionally is done visually, by the dealer, floorperson, pitboss, and the eye in the sky (video surveillance). If one of these observers notices something unusual in a person’s play, they will do what they can to either
- determine if the person is a cheat or a card-counter, or
- change the game to turn the odds back in favor of the casino, through more frequent card-shuffling or other methods, or
- casino personnel may bar a player they think is a card counter, even though the practice is legal.
(Cheating by various means is illegal, though, and may result in arrest.)
MindPlay utilizes a specially-designed blackjack tabletop that incorporates many features to monitor players’ actions:
- Specially encoded playing cards, using invisible ink and barcodes.
- 14 tiny cameras built into the dealer’s chip tray (which is now slightly elevated to account for the cameras). These cameras can read every card in play by reading the invisible ink printed on them.
- Special chips, so that sensors embedded in the table can automatically calculate each player’s bet more accurately than a dealer or pitboss could visually.
As MindPlay monitors every card that has been played along with players’ betting habits, it is also counting cards just as a card counter would do while sitting at the table. If MindPlay notices that bets are changing dramatically at the same time that a card counter would typically make those bets, MindPlay will notify casino officials that they may want to investigate further.
MindPlay tables cost around 20,000 USD.
Because MindPlay tends to thwart their efforts to beat a blackjack game, card counters generally avoid casinos which use the system and its competitiors, and often circulate news of such installations on various Internet sites. Some card counters have tried to make the general public aware of the use of these systems, in an effort to convince others not to patronize the games. Indeed, MindPlay has been somewhat slow to spread among American casinos, partly because of the cost (which may be more than what might be lost to a card-counter) and partly because of negative reaction by players.
MindPlay was first released in 2003. Since then, several newer-generation systems have been developed for chip tracking and card tracking.
For instance, RFID for chip tracking is gaining ground with casinos. The advantage of RFID seems to be that it can be used for games other than blackjack and also for more comprehensive tracking of chips throughout the casino. In other games, such technology would normally be used to track a player’s action for rating purposes, to more accurately determine the comps a player may be given.
Two other companies offer automated card recognition capability. Tangam Gaming’s solution tracks cards as well as player decisions using hidden overhead cameras, while ShuffleMaster only tracks cards, using a special electronic shoe.