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Is “21” The Movie Responsible for An Online Blackjack Explosion?

21-blackjack-movieA few years back I ran into a friend who had just seen the movie “21″. The movie is based on the book, Bringing Down the House by Ben Mezrich. Mezrich’s book tells the inside story of the MIT Blackjack Team, who used card counting to take Vegas for millions.

This particular friend was the one who introduced me to online poker back in 2004. So I was anxious to hear his thoughts on the movie “21″.

He raved about the movie. He told me that right after they left the theater, he and his wife went to a local casino and played blackjack for a few hours. He also expressed interest in learning to card count (find out how much money a casino keeps on hand on any day of the week).

So what is it about this movie that makes people want to learn blackjack? I had to watch it to find out for myself.

After finally getting around to watching “21″, I can see why so many might want to learn card counting. I already knew how to play blackjack, but this movie still made me want to learn how to card count, or at least hit Vegas for a few days.

Having been involved in the online gaming industry for years, I’ve definitely seen an increase in the number of players interested in playing online blackjack for money.

But I started to wonder whether or not “21” sparked an online blackjack explosion similar to what happened to online poker after the debut of Rounders in 1998. In this article, I’ll share my findings from search trends data and information from one leading industry expert.

But how did other people feel after watching “21″? My first answer came from analyzing search data from Google.

Search data shows a surge in searches for the terms “blackjack” and “card counting”.

I decided to search Google Trends for the terms “blackjack” and “card counting”. As you can see on the screen shot to the right, there was a significant spike in search traffic around the March 28, 2008 release of “21″. There was a similar small spike (not shown here) around the time of the DVD release. So, plainly the movie helped increase the search volume for the terms “blackjack” and “card counting”. The next thing to look at is whether a completely new group of blackjack players was born, or if it was just curiosity that led to the flood of people searching the internet.

Sites report more traffic, but not quite an explosion in signups.

For specific information, I knew I had to find someone who owned a blackjack website, and would be able to analyze the traffic trends and new player signups. This led me to my friend and gambling expert who has many sites aimed at helping players learn proper gambling strategy. I asked him how the movie “21″ influenced his blackjack sites. He had this to say:

“I saw a five-fold increase in traffic to my blackjack sites when the movie was first in the theater, and that increase gradually trailed off until it reached previous levels. Since the DVD came out, traffic has tripled again. I expect that to level off in another week or two.”

Regarding new player signups he commented,

“I’ve seen an increase in signups, but it doesn’t correspond to the increase in traffic exactly, as a lot of people are finding information about card counting.”

What I’ve concluded is that many people turned to the internet to find out how and if card counting works. Most probably decided it wasn’t worth the effort, while a few were inspired to try blackjack for themselves. Perhaps “21″ didn’t create the explosion I thought it may have, but it is certainly responsible for a loud boom in the online blackjack world.

What do you think? Please post your comments or questions about this article, blackjack card counting, or the movie ‘21′.

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