Top 10 Mistakes in the Movie "21" - Blackjack Apprenticeship

Top 10 Mistakes in the Movie “21”


These are the top 10 mistakes we noticed in the first (and only) time we watched the film.

  1. “There’s not as much strategy as people think when you play blackjack.” Blackjack is ALL about strategy
  2. Tipping casino personnel. Professional card counters don’t tip like crazy. It’s just TOO expensive!
  3. They NEVER converted to the true count, or even mention it. 
  4. Getting pistol-whipped by Lawrence Fishburne. This does not happen in real life! Card counting is perfectly legal, so card counters have every right that any other US citizen has. If a casino actually did this to a card counter, it would result in a 6-figure, or even 7-figure, lawsuit.
  5. Having two high-stakes card counters play the same table. This is just Hollywood. It makes no sense in card counting.
  6. The “Big Player” was always called in at REALLY high countsIn real team play, you don’t need to wait for such a huge count to have a winning game.
  7. The players all walked into the casino together. If you want to not be associated with the other players on your team, you wouldn’t walk in together!
  8. You don’t need to be a genius! This is not true. We’ve trained electricians, housewives, writers, and pastors to be professional blackjack players.
  9. They NEVER lose! Card counters have a 1-2% advantage. That means you still have plenty of losing days, but you DO make money over time.
  10. The facial recognition myth. A common misconception is that facial recognition software will end card counting. Not true. The movie came out 10 years ago, and facial recognition software still isn’t stopping card counters.

About 21: The Movie

Twenty-One is the story of six MIT students who form a card counting team and take millions from Vegas. It is based off of Ben Mezrich’s book, “Bringing Down the House,” in which a group from MIT adapted the “hi-lo” card-counting techniques popularized by Edward Thorp in his 1962 book, “Beat the Dealer”, and took millions from Vegas. However, Twenty-One is set in a different era and takes it’s own liberties with the story.

These MIT students mastered the Hi-Lo system, the same system we teach here at Blackjack Apprenticeship with our online video course. It took a group of really smart students looking at the numbers and realizing that if they took even a slight advantage from the house with their simple card counting technique, they could beat them at their own game. But it doesn’t take a math genius to learn it and do it yourself. It just takes dedication and practice.

This movie is received positive reviews, which was been a surprise to us and our friends who play blackjack professionally, because it got so much wrong!

The project began when Kevin Spacy, who stars in the film, called Ben Mezrich out of the blue two weeks before the book came out. He had read an article about it in Wired Magazine and wanted to make the movie. Ben did his research writing the book while spending every weekend for a year with the team. He said it was one of the best experiences of his writing life.

Here are a few bonuses from the film, where cast members talk about card counting:

Kate Bosworth as “Jill” talking about cover:

Jim Sturgess as "Ben" talking about "the cardinal sin":

Counting cards successfully is an incredible experience and a place for all sorts of stories to take place. But it takes a good teacher. That is why we are here.