Card counting in blackjack is a contentious issue for casinos.
While the practice isn’t illegal, as it only involves a player keeping track of the cards they’ve seen on the table and reacting accordingly, casinos have the right to stop allowing anyone to play at any time.
They’re quick to do so if they think a patron is card counting to a point where they have an edge over the house.
Typically, being caught card counting means that you’ll be asked not to play blackjack anymore, but you’ll be allowed to continue playing other casino games as long as you don’t cause trouble.
In some cases, a casino may simply say they don’t want your business, and ask you to leave outright. But for one Maryland poker player, the consequences of card counting seem to have gone much deeper than that.
In a video interview with The Baltimore Sun, Joseph Stiers says that he was asked to leave the Horseshoe Baltimore Casino on December 19 after he was card counting at a blackjack table, and that he has been subsequently been banned from playing at any Caesars property, meaning that he won’t be able to participate in the World Series of Poker.
That’s a big deal for Stiers, a professional poker player who has had significant success in the last two years in live poker tournaments.
According to Stiers, employees at the Horseshoe asked him to leave while he was playing roulette after a blackjack session. It took him a while to realize what the issue likely was, especially when security personnel weren’t sure themselves and couldn’t even confirm to Stiers whether or not he was welcome to return to the casino at a later date.
Stiers then left contact information with the casino so that they could alert him as to whether or not he would be allowed to play at the Horseshoe in the future.
Although he didn’t hear back from the casino, he did continue to receive promotional offers, which led him to come back to play in a poker tournament on December 27.
That turned out to be a mistake. After about an hour and a half of play, during which Stiers said he was doing well, security once again told Stiers that he had to leave, this time suggesting that he was trespassing by being on the property. Stiers held his ground, saying he would only leave if he received a refund for his tournament buy-in.
Eventually, that led to police having to arrive; while Stiers said that they too seemed confused when the casino couldn’t give them an answer as to why he had to leave, he eventually left without a refund.
State regulatory officials did agree that Stiers deserved his money back, however, and received a refund about a month later.
If Stiers has truly been barred from playing in the WSOP, it could have a serious impact on his poker career. While he’s far from a household name, Stiers has won over $500,000 in live tournaments over the past two years, including taking down a side event at the 2013 World Poker Tour Borgata Winter Poker Open in 2013.
Stiers is currently ranked 628th in the world by the Global Poker Index.