16 December 2004
By John May
Every now and again, if you hang out on the various gambling message boards, someone asks about beating blackjack with a pair of x-ray specs to see through the card backs. They always say it in a semi-serious, aha-hah-hah-type way, to cover themselves for suggesting that a concept straight out of a comic might be a legitimate form of advantage play. But you can tell that they really do want to know if any type of device exists that could penetrate the card backs. The idea appeals to the seven-year-old in all of us.
The answer is yes. X-ray specs don't exist, of course. An x-ray is a strong form of radiation. Go around blasting people with radiation and you'll end up in jail. In any case, it isn't possible to minaturize an x-ray machine to the extent where it could be the size of a pair of spectacles.
However, the related field of thermal imaging yields much more interesting possibilities. A thermal imaging camera can be made much smaller than an x-ray device. It can tell you what rank and denomination a card is from the back because the paint on a card has a slightly different heat signature. Obviously, knowing what card you will be dealt before it has been exposed is quite enough to win any amount of money at any card game.
The difficult bit of this equation is getting a thermal imaging camera into a casino. Naturally this would contravene any sane device law. Even if no specific device law existed, the camera user would probably be prosecuted for some kind of fraud analog.
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