Saturday, May 16, 2009

Blackjack Card Counting...When Does the Casino Know You're Doing More Than Just Counting the Cards?

Most of you know that counting cards at blackjack has evolved into several more methods of advantage play over the dealer. There is hold card play, which allows players to secretly view the dealer's hole card, which gives them a solid edge over the house. There is Ace tracking, allowing the card counter to keep track of aces in the deck and knowing with a fair degree of accuracy when an Ace will be dealt to him, greatly increasing his chances of a blackjack for which he can be heavily in advance. There is cutting-and-steering Aces as well, where a skilled player can cut the cards a certain way that will result in his receiving a first-card Ace on the deal.

And, there are some other more blatant blackjack scams as well. Let's take a look at two of these, and how the casino catches on to them.

Blackjack Cheat Scam #1

Spill, Cut and Steer

A cheat receives and Ace on the deal. He then casually spills his drink on it. The casino will immediately remove the wet Ace from the game and replace it with another brand-new Ace from an identical deck. How does this replacement work for the blackjack cheat?

Well, assuming he spotted when the new decks of cards were loaded into the blackjack card shoe, all he'd have to do is wait after two shoes were dealt to spill his drink on the Ace. Then when the replacement Ace is inserted into the pack of six or eight decks, he would be able to distinguish it by the brighter white edge the new card would have over the rest of the cards when the dealer presents the pack for him to cut. In other words, the new Ace would stick out like a sore thumb. So then he will just cut the cards a specific number of cards in front of the Ace, depending on his position at the blackjack table. Believe it or not, most casinos are still not hip to this relatively rank blackjack scam, and when the cheat gets it down, he makes money by betting heavily knowing the bright white ace is coming his way!

How do casinos defense against this? First, they would have to know about it, and then they would have to replace the entire six or eight deck shoe!

Blackjack Cheat Scam #2

This one is an inside scam performed by a dealer with a cohort player, and it's a good one!

I am sure you have noticed that whenever the dealer has an Ace or a 10-value up-card, he slips the cards into a card reader built into the table that will tell him whether or not he has blackjack. This device saves the casino lots of time in speeding up the game and avoiding playing hands that would be nullified after the fact by a dealer´s blackjack. The machine also curbs dealer/cohort signalling scams because the dealer doesn't have to manually look at the hole card in these situations as he had to in the old days before the advent of card readers.

But can the dealer still perform an old-tine signal scam on today's modern card-reader equipped blackjack table?

Check this out:

If a hole card is placed in the card reader horizontally instead of vertically (the way it is supposed to be), the dealer will see the index value in the optic viewer if the hole card is a 10-value card. He can then signal this information to his cohort. Knowing that the hole card is not a 10-value card is also useful information in the scam. So, in both instances this dealer/cohort cheat operation can rake money off blackjack tables by increasing the accuracy and effectiveness of blackjack playing strategies, such as hit vs stand, split and double-down.

How do casinos pick up on this:

First, they will get suspicious when paying attention to the cohort's play. Once they see that the play deviates from basic strategy with a 10-value up-card, or they notice that the cohort has an uncanny ability to win on insurance bets, or not take insurance when the dealer doesn't have blackjack, they will look at the dealer's hand movements on camera. When the dealer slips the cards into the card reader horizontally rather than vertically, (and some of them can do it lighting fast in one motion, which of course ends with the dealer placing the cards proplerly into the reader vertically), certain hand and wrist movements are different and noticeable. Normally, dealers place their hand on top of the card, covering most of the card as it is placed into the card reader. Surveillance will look for wrist movements to spot the dealer placing the cards horizontally into the reader.

How often is this scam done in casinos? Not very, but Atlantic City was hit by this and some other card-reader scams in the late 90s and early 2000s. I would imagine that some reservation casinos are still being victimized by it today.