Tracking system spots card counters

A Dundee University graduate has developed a system that has the potential to make the game of Blackjack fairer by detecting card counters and dealer errors.

Kris Zutis developed the system, which uses complex algorithms to analyse information captured by cameras set up in casinos, as the final-year project of his Applied Computing degree, working closely with staff from Dundee’s Gala Casino.

Card counting is a method of tracking the cards dealt to manipulate the player’s odds of winning in their favour. To counter that, Zutis’s software analyses the correlation between the player’s betting patterns and the game card count to determine the likelihood that a player is card counting. Upon positive identification of a card counter, the software alerts the casino staff.

While the card counting strategy is not illegal, casinos will move suspected card counters to a new table, where the counters are forced to start afresh or eject them.

The Blackjack tracking system devised by Kris, with guidance from his project supervisor Dr Jesse Hoey, also has the ability to detect errors by monitoring dealers’ actions made during the game and ascertaining whether or not the correct action was taken.

To capture a live feed of the game, a stereo camera is placed above a Blackjack table. Software algorithms using methods such as contour analysis and template and feature matching are then employed in order to recognise each card as it is dealt.

The player’s bets are detected using stereo imaging, by measuring the height of the player’s chip stack to determine the number of chips that are being bet.

The system shows considerable promise for commercialisation and could become an invaluable asset for casinos. According to Zutis, the system could, theoretically, be adapted to track any casino game that uses cards or chips, such as roulette or three-card poker.