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Ben Affleck: a skilled cards counter

Published on October 25, 2014, 4:32 pm

by Jeff Grant Twitter account Jeff Grant LinkedIn account

Photo of Ben Affleck
American actor Ben Affleck

Ben Affleck is notorious for his love of all things gambling. Not only has he acted in casino-themed films like Smokin' Aces and Runner, Runner, he's won countless sums of money at poker and blackjack tables in Las Vegas casinos. The actor is so talented at counting cards in the game of blackjack, in fact, the Hard Rock Casino in Las Vegas recently banned the Oscar-winning actor from playing the game at their facility.

Hard Rock security staff reportedly told Affleck that he is “too good at the game” as they escorted him and his wife, actress Jennifer Garner, off the premises. Officials accused Affleck of using a card counting technique called “perfect basic.”

While not illegal, this practice gives gamblers an advantage over the house which Hard Rock officials appear to be unwilling to tolerate, even from an award-winning Hollywood actor/director/producer like Affleck.

Casino officials reportedly asked the actor to stop counting cards during the incident that led to the ban. Affleck paid no attention to their requests and continued to wield his advantage over the house. For this, he was “backed off” of Hard Rock blackjack, although he could theoretically still visit the facility for other purposes.

At this time, it is not clear if other Sin City casinos plan to follow in the Hard Rock's footsteps. At the time of the incident, a communication system that is shared between Las Vegas casinos called the Surveillance Information Network informed other buildings in the neighborhood that Affleck had been accused of “advantage play." The actor's talent for gambling isn't exactly news, however, and it appears at this time that he is still permitted to play at other Las Vegas facilities.

Hard Rock: Affleck Still a "Welcome" Patron

Even though Affleck might not be playing blackjack at the Hard Rock anymore, a hotel representative recently commented to reporters that the actor is a “valued guest” who is “welcome back any time.” Affleck has a history of gambling, and winning, in Las Vegas.

The NY Post reported that Affleck won $1 million over the course of two '21' sessions at the Hard Rock in the past. He's also won hundreds of thousands of dollars in poker tournaments at various locations. If the actor ever wants to play other casino games at the facility that banned him for card counting, he is evidently welcome to do so.

Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Las Vegas
Table games inside the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Las Vegas

Card Counting: It Takes Brains

Counting cards is not illegal if it is done without pencil, paper, secret signals, or electronic devices. Mental card counting is a mathematical feat that would be difficult for most people of average IQ, but Affleck apparently has the innate ability to mentally keep track of several decks of cards at once. By manipulating known variables in his mind, he can predict with fairly reliable accuracy whether each hand will be more advantageous to the dealer or the player.

Most people think of Matt Damon when they think of intelligent actors/gambling aficionados, but Affleck apparently has the academic scores to back up his smart gambling behaviors. According to numerous gossip websites, Affleck attained a near-perfect score on his SAT test. A perfect score, at the time Affleck took the test, was 1600. Other celebrities with high SAT marks in their profile include James Woods, Bill O'Reilly, Al Gore, and Stephen King.

How Casinos Try to Foil Card Counters

Banning patrons can potentially hurt a casino's reputation, so it's understandable that these businesses would try to minimize the number of times they back off a player. Card counting can be bad for a casino's bottom line, however, so other tactics are sometimes used to discourage those who count cards. These tactics include the following:

  • Lowering the stakes in the middle of a game.
  • Limiting double-down options.
  • Splitting a hand or playing multiple hands at the same time.
  • Slowing down a game for extra shuffling.
  • Verbally or physically harassing the card counter.
  • Using surveillance technology to identify and tag suspected and known card counters.

Governor Praises Card Counter

Because card counting is legal, Affleck and others like him (read about Don Johnson) cannot be criminally prosecuted for their actions. A governor in Indiana, in fact, praised the behavior of card counter Thomas Donovan, who in 2006 was banned from the state's Grand Victoria Casino and Resort for engaging in advantage play.

Governor Mitch Daniels lauded Donovan's behaviors while making a commencement speech at Franklin College. He reportedly told the students that Donovan's hard work, in combination with a bit of luck, earned him a great profit in the game of blackjack. Donovan's case ultimately went to the Supreme Court, where casino officials defended their actions by saying they have the right to refuse business to anyone they choose.

Card Counting: A Vocation for Some

Some gamblers make a living from their card counting. Perhaps one of the more interesting factions of counters is the "Holy Rollers," a group of Christians who play blackjack for a living by counting cards. A documentary called "Holy Rollers: The True Story of Card Counting Christians" was made about this group in 2011.

David Drury, one of the Holy Rollers, admitted in an online essay that advantage play is a "strange career choice" for a Christian. Drury justified his actions by saying that casinos are "evil entities" and his team is helping to "liberate" a portion of casino resources which "perpetuate evil." He asked his readers to decide for themselves if they thought card counting could ever be considered a "legitimate Christian vocation."

Perhaps the public does not hold Affleck to the same high standards that they do a Christian group. In any case, Affleck doesn't seem to care what the public thinks of him. Radio personality Howard Stern recently posted a tweet in Afflecks defense, saying that the actor did nothing wrong and "Vegas . . . won't let you win." Affleck tweeted back this response: "Interesting point, Howard."


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