Vegas casino bans actor Affleck for card counting
As a devious gambling tycoon in the film Runner Runner, Ben Affleck's character knew a thing or two about how to ensure the house always wins.
In real life, however, the Oscar-winning actor appears to have turned the tables on the casino industry, taking the Hard Rock in Las Vegas for hundreds of thousands of dollars through the legal but frowned-upon practice of card counting.
Now it seems that the high-rolling Affleck, 41, may have had his chips, after the casino barred him from its blackjack tables for life, with surveillance officers reportedly declaring his calculated playing "way too obvious".
"You're too good at the game," Hard Rock security managers are said to have told him as they escorted the actor from the blackjack tables and found him and his wife, Jennifer Garner, the actress, a taxi back to their hotel.
It was not the first time that Affleck – a one-time contestant in the World Series of Poker alongside fellow actor Matt Damon – has been accused of underhand practices at the card tables.
In 2011, he was named in a lawsuit as one of several Hollywood stars who were members of a clandestine gambling ring in California. Fellow members included Tobey Maguire and Leonardo Di-Caprio, the lawsuit alleged.
Affleck, a father of three, caught the attention of casino officials during a getaway with his wife, prior to filming of Batman vs Superman.
He was "backed off' by Hard Rock officials – a term used when a player is evicted from blackjack but still allowed to take a hand in other games – after they observed him allegedly employing "perfect basic", a beginner's method of card counting.
Card counting is a mathematical strategy that can be used by players to bet bigger sums at less risk, by keeping a running tally of the distribution and location of certain cards over a number of games.
It is not illegal, though the use of devices, or of signs and signals between players, to compile or communicate the information, is. There is no suggestion that Affleck had devices or accomplices.
A warning, circulated to other Las Vegas casinos on April 29 on a system known as the Surveillance Information Network, said Affleck was "suspected of advantage play," according to Star magazine, which claimed to have seen a copy of the warning.
A similar alert had also been issued days earlier, stating that Affleck had been spreading bets of up to $20,000 (€14,000) a time on "shoe games" of blackjack, according to the magazine. Shoe games involve as many as six decks of cards.
"While playing at a table, Ben was asked repeatedly to stop card counting. But he would not stop. The casino staff told Ben he was being too obvious," an insider said.
In 2001, Affleck allegedly collected blackjack winnings of $800,000 (€576,000) in one night and handed out tips amounting to $150,000 (€100,000) to dealers and waitresses at the Hard Rock in Las Vegas, the venue that has banned him from the game.