Controversial Card Counters of the 21st Century


They stand poised in scrutiny under the bright casino lights, cards fanning and mathematical probabilities ticking furiously in their heads. While most gamblers rely on luck and intuition during blackjack, card counters pin their fortunes on skill and strategy. And the best of them toe an ethical line that makes casinos and regulators watch them closely.

As card counting has moved from backroom technique to a mainstream phenomenon in the 21st century, several larger-than-life figures have emerged to shake up the Rocketplay casino industry. Some of you may recognize from tabloid headlines detailing their courtroom battles against major casinos, like Rocketplay.

Others keep lower profiles, inconspicuously traveling the global circuit and amassing small fortunes. Yet, they all generate controversy by beating the house at its own game.

Let’s examine three of today’s most daring and notorious card counters making waves from Las Vegas to Monte Carlo.

Phil Ivey: The “Tiger Woods” of Card Counting


Referred to as the “Tiger Woods” of card counting for his unmatched talent and work ethic, Phil Ivey ranks among the most famous counter players since the days of the MIT Blackjack Team in the 1990s.

The Atlantic City native demonstrated mathematical gifts from a young age, learning techniques like “edge sorting” to gain infinitesimal advantages over casinos. He’s credited with honing card counting into a science more complex than the basic systems taught in movies like 21 and Rain Man.

Yet as the New Yorker noted, Ivey combines this cerebral approach with an uncanny judge of human nature: “Ivey has mastered the ability to manipulate the cards as well as the dealers.”

This has enabled him to lucratively “fool” casinos over the years, including a reported $9.6 million win at Crockfords Club in London. These stunning heists have fueled Ivey’s tabloid fame, while also landing him in court against billionaire casino owners like Sheldon Adelson.

Though Ivey has faced accusations of cheating and shuffling technique bans, his skills remain strong enough to earn over $25 million in reported blackjack earnings. Love him or hate him, his headline-grabbing runs helped catalyze the card counting renaissance leading the 21st century.

Greta Schwartz: Blackjack’s Computer-Like “Ice Queen”

If Phil Ivey plays blackjack with a poker master’s cunning intuition, then Greta Schwartz counters cards with a chess grandmaster’s emotionless precision.

The slender blonde Polish-Canadian cut an icy figure during her rapid rise on the card counting scene in the early 2000s. Her mathematical modeling so astutely predicts probability outcomes that she earned the nickname “Computer Girl.”

Schwartz helped pioneer the “Wonging” and “back-counting” techniques used to covertly monitor tables before secretly joining in positive counts.

Her methodical systems confounded even seasoned pit bosses, enabling six-figure earnings within a couple years of turning professional. When casinos tried banning her, Schwartz used disguises before ultimately taking her card-counting empire abroad.

Over the past decade, she’s continued running up millions in winnings across Asia and Eastern Europe’s more forgiving casino culture. Schwartz grants few interviews and remains guarded about her personal life as she calculates her advantage playing faro in Slovenian poker clubs or baccarat in Macau’s high-roller rooms.

But the enigmatic “Ice Queen’s” computer-like assault on blackjack led casinos to further incorporate technology scanning for counters while inspiring more mathematicians to learn her techniques.

Zachary Crouch: The Supreme Court Card Counter


In contrast to secretive players like Greta Schwartz avoiding the spotlight, Zachary Crouch seized attention challenging Nevada casinos all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court earlier this decade.

The Los Angeles math tutor taught himself to count cards as a college sophomore in the 1970s. He soon scored big wins playing Atlantic City blackjack on weekends before establishing himself as a regular figure on Las Vegas marquees into the 2000s.

The math whiz relied on rapid mental tabulation rather than electronic devices to calculate his edge. But as advances in surveillance threatened traditional card counting advantages, Crouch adapted with legal, “team play” techniques that challenged casino practices.

For instance, one method called “rat holing” involved a teammate discreetly holding his chips to avoid detection. When Nevada authorities outlawed Crouch’s strategies as forms of cheating in 2011, it kicked off a high-stakes legal drama invoking statistical arguments.

In 2016, Crouchfinally saw vindication as the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 against Nevada’s broad casino enforcement powers in his case. While the decision upheld state bans on certain devices, it also asserted a counter’s legal rights to manually track cards.

It marked a landmark victory for Crouch and professional card counters pursuing legal ways to outwit the dealer. Even after passing age 70, the retired math teacher continues displaying his sharp faculties, winning five-figures sums in Atlantic City.

His courtroom gambit helped ensure card counters can still thrive in the 21st century through statistics rather than sleight of hand alone.

The Card Counter’s Edge Remains


As databases and facial recognition algorithms improve, one might assume the card counter’s edge may fade against technology in the 21st century. However, figures like Ivey, Schwartz, and Crouch show how mathematical skills, courage, and adaptability keep them staying steps ahead.

While plenty see them as public enemies, these card counters also have academic admirers and avid fans following their flashy victories. As Elon Musk demonstrated counting cards on Babylon Berlin or Ben Affleck made his blackjack celebrity rounds after directing a film on Molly Bloom’s counter ring, the techniques move increasingly into the pop culture spotlight today.

So whether they play the sly tactician or public crusader role, star card counters seem poised to remain key characters in casino lore decades after Rain Man first introduced counting to cinema goers. Scores will continue striving to strategically win like Phil Ivey.

Others may try emulating Greta Schwartz’s emotionless methodologies or Zachary Crouch’s legal moxie battling big casinos.

In any case, their steady success proves why casinos can’t rest easy even in surveillance technology advances. For as long as blackjack deals, the card counter’s gamble on skill and probabilities stays enough to keep beating the dealer’s hand.