Casino Game Strategies and Tricks: Insights from the Movie 21

Casino Game Strategies and tricks from the movie 21

Movies can be incredibly informative, but you should take everything you learn from them with a grain of salt. Movies need to create a dramatic and tense atmosphere, tell a gripping story, and have impressive visuals. So, the authenticity of the information tends to erode when you add all of those elements to the mix.

There are many gambling movies that actually use real-life strategies or tactics in their writing. Viewers can get hyped after watching and are eager to test these strategies, by playing in online casinos. Of course, it’s important not to get played yourself, and that’s why you should choose a legitimate operator. If you live in Poland, you should definitely look at, the site that aggregates data from licensed casinos and reviews them. They evaluate sites based on games, payment methods, bonuses and other relevant features.

One of the most popular strategic games online is blackjack. One reason why it manages to stay relevant is pop culture.  And one of the most popular blackjack movies is 21. This is a true story about blackjack players from MIT, who managed to beat the casino. So, let’s go over the strategies they used and explain them.

Casino Game Strategies

Source: Unsplash

Perfect Blackjack

This is a strategy developed by the mathematician called Rodger Baldwin. Back in the day, it was called optimal strategy, and then the name changed to “basic strategy”. Today a lot of people call it a perfect strategy. Basically, it is a set of rules that are designed for the regular game of blackjack played in Las Vegas casinos. This version uses 6-8 decks in the shoe, and the dealer needs to hit on a soft 17.

All you need to do in order to play optimally is to memorize the basic or perfect strategy chart. It tells you what to do in every possible situation. If you do this you reduce the house edge to less than 1%. However, even with this strategy, you are at a disadvantage.

Nowadays it’s really easy to practice the basic strategy. You can download blackjack apps, play online for free, or even play blackjack in video games that feature casinos. Once you fully master the basic strategy, you can move on to card counting.

Counting Cards

Casino Game Strategies and tricks

Source: Pixabay

The main strategy that characters in 21 use is called card counting. This is perfectly legal in blackjack, but the casino always has the right to deny you service. The reason characters get in trouble is because they are counting while they aren’t playing and because the movie has to look more dramatic. With card counting you can actually increase the odds in your favour, but you still won’t be guaranteed to win every hand. So, remember to play responsibly even if you learn how to count cards. 

You might think it’s impossible to keep track of all the cards in the shoe, especially since there are up to 8 decks there. Luckily, this isn’t how card counting works, it’s more simple than you think, but it still requires a lot of focus. The actual name is “plus 1 minus 1 balance system” and it’s easy. Let’s break down this strategy:

  • Cards from 2 to 6 are all given the value of +1
  • Cards 7,8,9 are all neutral and have a value of 0
  • 10, J, Q, K and Ace all have values of -1

So, when everyone at the table gets their cards you start to add and subtract cards based on the values provided above. You need to memorize the final result and then add the result from the next hand. However, you also need to pay attention to the number of cards in the shoe. If the shoe is stacked and there are at least 5 decks remaining you will have to take that into account.  You need to divide the number you got from adding and subtracting with the number of the decks remaining in the shoe.

Let’s say you played a few hands and the current value is +15, but there are 5 decks in the shoe. That means the true value is +3 because 15 divided by 5 is 3. Once the number of cards gets low enough you can start to win consistently. If the total number is high that means a lot of high-value cards like 10, J, Q, K and A are still in the shoe. You are more likely to get a blackjack and win, so bet higher. If the score is low that means smaller numbers are more prevalent and you are more likely to go bust. In this case, bet minimally.


Bear in mind that as a card counter, you only have a slight advantage, so don’t get too seduced by the story of 21. You can try card counting online in a live dealer online casino game, as it’s slower and gives you time to calculate. However, always look for tables or rules that pay at least 3/2 or better on blackjack, and when the dealer needs to hit on soft 17.

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