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Is Button Sequencing the Same as Card Counting?

17 January 2011 by admin

Recently two men were arrested out in Las Vegas on conspiracy because they were busted for using a certain button sequence on the video poker machines that allowed them receive jackpot wins. And now they are arguing that what they did is no different than what card counting blackjack players do; and since there is nothing that says that card counting is illegal, what they did cannot be illegal either.

The two men are John Kane from Las Vegas and his friend Andre Nester of Pennsylvania. The way the story goes is that Kane figured out a button sequence that allowed him to trigger the jackpot. He would play until he got a win off of a small bet. Once he had secured a win, he would press a certain button sequence that would then let him up his wager and then the video poker machine would immediately trigger the jackpot. Upon figuring all of that out, Kane called up his pal Nestor in Pennsylvania and had him come down to Vegas to join him. Once Nestor was in town, the two spent two weeks in 2009 hitting up the video poker machines in casinos around town.

Now both Kane and Nestor face a federal level charge of conspiracy, and both men are arguing that they did not do anything illegal, saying that what they did was like what card counters do.

Card counters will assign counting values to the cards and then add and subtract the values to gauge whether the remaining unplayed cards are rich in high cards—10s and Aces—or low cards—2s, 3s, 4s, 5s and 6s. Card counters will then alter their wagers to reflect their either increased or decreased chances of being dealt a natural blackjack or a strong hand. But card counting, while it can tilt the odds in the player’s favor a bit, does not guarantee a win.

That is what Kane and Nestor are comparing their actions to. Nestor is quoted as having said, “I’m being arrested federally for winning on a slot machine. It is just like if someone taught you how to count cards, which everyone knows is not illegal. If someone told you that there were machines that had programming which gave players an advantage over the casino would you not try to win as much money as you could on that machine?”

In all of US history of gambling related court cases, no one has used such a defense—comparing a button sequence on a video poker game or other similar machine to the card counting that blackjack players do. But here is where I see the difference being. Just because a card counter is counting the cards that are moving out of play it does not mean that he is guaranteed to win. Yes, his odds are increased, sometimes and usually to the point that they have a slight edge over the house. But using the skill does mean that the player is going to win.

The button sequence that Kane and Nestor were using was not a skill and it was guaranteeing them a win every time they used it on a video poker machine. That was the point of the sequence, to trigger the jackpot, not to maybe trigger it. That is where I see the difference. Card counting increase odds and is still in the skill category, whereas a button sequence that causes a jackpot to trigger is cheating. But then those are my thoughts. We will have to wait and see what the judge says.

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