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Of all the casino games, blackjack gives the player the best odds. Still, players are constantly searching for ways to get an edge – even a slight one – over the house. A new study out of MIT and Caltech recently showed that players can gain an advantage using something completely surprising – quantum entanglement.
Want to win quantum blackjack at blackjack? How about using quantum entanglement?
In blackjack, each player at the table is given a face-up card along with a face-down card. They can then choose to “hit” – get a third card, or “stand”, to get as close to a total of 21 as possible. It seems simple enough. But experienced blackjack players know not only to pay attention to what cards they are receiving but also the face-up cards of their opponents, as well as the dealer. Play calm and collected and this comes down to a numbers quantum blackjack game – know the strategy and the math behind blackjack, and you’ll improve your odds even more.
You can take this one step further and count cards. Knowing what cards have already passed through the deck will give you a better idea of what card you will receive next. Work with a team and your odds go up even more. This was made famous by a group of students from MIT, Harvard, and Caltech and inspired the book “Bringing Down the House”.
Quantum entanglement is probably one of the weirdest ideas in modern physics. Two entangled particles, no matter where they are in the Universe, can communicate their states with one another instantaneously. This leads to the very surprising conclusion that this communication can seemingly “travel” faster than the speed of light. As weird as this is, entangled particles can exist, shown by an experiment devised by John Bell in 1964.
Entangled particles can communicate their states instantaneously, even if they are on opposite sides … [+] of the Universe
MORE quantum blackjack FOR YOU
What does this have to do with blackjack?
The authors of the paper, also coincidentally from MIT and Caltech, realized that the cards dealt to each person are correlated. They all come from the same deck, and there’s only one card of each kind. So they asked – is entanglement at work?
Amusingly, they named their paper “Quantum Blackjack – or – Can MIT Bring Down the House Again?”
The results of this entangled blackjack experiment, published in Physical Review A, describes two players – Alice and Bob – who are working together to beat the house, with Alice’s objective to help Bob win. They compared three strategies.
First, Alice and Bob traditionally counted cards. Second, Alice simply showed Bob her card. (This would be the best-case scenario for Bob). Third, they use a quantum system to help them to judge whether they should hit or stand.
Alice would go first, using the quantum system to inform her decision on whether or not she should pick a third card. Then Bob can use the information from the quantum system’s output, along with what Alice did, to inform his own strategy. In this case, he doesn’t know Alice’s card directly, but he gains information from the quantum system.
Surprisingly, this entangled system gave Alice and Bob a slight (very slight) advantage, but only when there were a small number of cards left in the deck.
This probably won’t be used in casinos anytime soon, however.
One of the authors of the paper, professor of physics Joseph Formaggio, says “It would require a very large investor, and my guess is, carrying a quantum computer in your backpack will probably tip the house. We think casinos are safe right now from this particular threat.”
Beyond the game, the experiment shows how entangled systems can show up in our macroscopic, every day lives.