Steve Forte is one of the most enigmatic and colorful characters in professional blackjack. He is a recognized expert the game of blackjack and has written extensively on the subject. His theories about the game are somewhat unique, however. Forte’s focus as a blackjack player does not specifically include card counting, but learning how to interpret physical “tells” of the blackjack dealer. These theories are a worthy study for the serious player.
In his popular blackjack book Read The Dealer, Steve Forte tells players how to develop the ability to spot the physical tells of the blackjack dealer. Forte contends that all blackjack dealers reveal the nature of their hand with certain physical actions can include facial expressions, variations in timing, and specific gestures. By learning how to spot these tells, Forte was able to gather information about the dealer’s hand and act appropriately.
These theories proved to be somewhat controversial. Many were unwilling to accept Forte’s research. There were many blackjack players, however, who saw an understanding of tells as another way to increase their edge over the casino. Forte claims to have used his methods successfully for many years in addition to his knowledge of card counting to beat the game of blackjack.
Not only is Forte a blackjack expert, he is also considered to be one of the foremost gambling historians in the world today. Steve Forte’s library of gambling books includes over 3000 volumes. He also has a sizable collection of items which have been used to cheat the casinos, including loaded dice and antique devices.
Forte’s fascination with cheating can be noted in his skill as an expert card manipulator, and this is where the life of Steve Forte diverges from that of the expert card counter and moves into another realm which is often criticized by blackjack players. Since childhood, Forte had developed an interest in card magic. Through years of practice he has become an expert “mechanic” with cards. A mechanic is someone who can manipulate the cards in such a way as to deal themselves a perfect hand. Forte is such an expert at this that he was the technical consultant for the major motion picture Rounders starring Matt Damon and Edward Norton. In that film, Norton’s character is a card mechanic. Steve Forte provided instruction to Norton and also gave technical advice regarding the filming of Norton’s scenes.
Some might wonder how Forte’s skill in card manipulation relates to the game of blackjack. After all, in a casino the blackjack player never handles the cards except in a single or double-deck game. Even then, the player does not deal. Nevertheless, Steve Forte’s expertise at cheating has had serious implications for the blackjack player and also made Forte one of the most reviled figures in the blackjack community. In the eyes of many card counters, Steve Forte is a traitor. He took his knowledge of card counting, dealer tells, and forms of cheating and created a consulting business which specializes in helping casinos catch cheaters.
The company known as International Gaming Specialists was created to provide information and advice to casinos regarding what is known as advantage play and also outright cheating. In his role as an executive with International Gaming Specialists, Steve Forte teaches the casinos how to identify and catch blackjack card counters. Several big casino companies are clients of Steve Forte and his company, including Caesars’s, MGM, and Mirage Entertainment. These companies pay Steve Forte big money for the information that will allow them to create new methods of catching card counters at blackjack.
Although the legality of card counting has been challenged successfully in the courts by blackjack players, the casinos still consider card counters to be cheaters. And since many casinos are privately owned, the casinos can choose to ban anyone they choose. They have learned that the secret to stopping a card counter is to take away their privilege of entering the casino.
Some people find it duplicitous that Steve Forte continues to be a professional blackjack player and yet assists the casino in preventing players from counting cards. This makes Steve Forte a very polarizing figure in the blackjack community. He is either loved or hated, without much middle ground.
Recently, Forte found himself in the crosshairs of his own clients. In June of 2007, during a large poker tournament at the Borgata in Las Vegas, Steve Forte was one of several people arrested during a raid by casino security personnel. source. Allegedly, Forte and others were caught using electronic equipment in order to see other player’s hole cards in the game of poker. Forte has maintained his innocence, stating that he was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time and was trying to observe the methods of the cheaters. Many people, however, feel that Steve Forte’s job as a consultant essentially allowed him to become a wolf in sheep’s clothing.
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