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So, you want to be a blackjack card counter. You’ve bought and read all of the blackjack books, seen the movie 21 at least twenty-one times, and practiced at home for hours on end. You’re ready. The glamorous and sexy life of a high rolling, blackjack expert is calling our name.

Before you exit Counting Edge and rush to the nearest casino, here’s a little reality check for you. Casinos do not like card counters, not one bit. The casinos make every effort to identify and punish blackjack card counters. You might not go to jail for counting cards, but you can be banned from ever entering the casino again and suffer the embarrassment that comes from being kicked out. Click here to read more about it

If you are seriously considering becoming a professional blackjack player and card counter, you need to understand the things that make the casino’s counter radar start blinking and the ways in which you can disguise your skills.


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The Top Five Mistakes Made By Card Counters

There are many things which will cause the casino to suspect you are a card counter, but even professional blackjack players have fallen victim to one of the following mistakes.

Loose lips sink blackjack ships. If you start spreading the word around that you are a card counter, especially inside the casino, you are almost sure to be caught. You might think that bragging to the cocktail waitress about the big score you made is cool, but you won’t think it is too cool after she tells the shift supervisor. The people who work in the casino are loyal to the casino, not you. The same goes for other players you meet for the first time. Casinos regularly use a prop or a plant to identify card counters.

Pimpin’ ain’t easy. Do you think card counters spend all of their free time getting lap dances in the gentlemen’s club, massages in the casino spa, or cruising down the Strip in the casino’s limousine? Forget what you’ve seen in the movies. If you start throwing your card counting success around like Don Corleone, you’re going to attract a lot of attention. When it comes to card counting, any attention is bad attention.

Greed, not need. Some of the best card counters in history have been tripped up by this mistake—they got greedy. Knowing when to walk away and come back later is an important skill for a card counter. In the words of the great gambler, Amarillo Slim, “You can shear a sheep many times, but skin him only once.”

Watch the attitude. No one likes an obnoxious, arrogant jerk. That kind of attitude doesn’t work in other areas of life, so why would you think it would work at the blackjack table? Many card counters do. If you insist on abusing dealers and staff like Joe Pesci in Casino, things are going to go badly. Doesn’t it make sense that you would want the people who work in the casino to like you? It is harder for someone to suspect a person they like than it is to suspect a person they detest.

This Bud’s for you. Drinking and card counting are a bad mix. Some very talented card players, like Stu Ungar, have been completely wrecked by their weakness for alcohol and drugs. If you like to drink, there is nothing wrong with that. Just don’t drink while you are counting cards. When people drink they tend to get loose and start speaking out of turn. See rule number one!

If you are wise enough to avoid these five mistakes, there just might be hope for you as a card counter. Just like any other skill, card counting requires self-discipline. You have to know how to manage yourself. There is no boss standing over your shoulder and telling you what to do. Be responsible and treat the casino like you would treat any other workplace.

How Not To Get Caught Card Counting

There are a few things you can do which will go a long way toward eliminating the scrutiny of the casino bosses even though it is not illegal to count cards. Some of them will take a little practice, but once you make them a habit they will come very easy to you.

Make mistakes on purpose. The bosses in the casino know all of the basic strategy of blackjack. They know how to count cards. They know which plays are smart and which plays are very smart. They also know a bad play. In their mind, someone who makes very bad plays can only be an amateur. What you need to do is purposely make a play from time to time that only a beginner would make. Here’s an example: split a pair of tens when the dealer shows a 10. This is a play that only a beginner or a pure gambler would make. Of course, you will probably lose when you do this but that is not the point. Just be sure that you make these plays when the deck is cold and you are betting the minimum.

Walk away from a hot deck. When the count is very high (in the +8 range or above), color up your chips and cash out. Take a break. Find another table. Very few card counters have the self-discipline required to walk away when the deck is favorable. This is a very good way to remove the scrutiny of the casino. You don’t have to do this very often. Just one time is a powerful statement that you are not a card counter and are just very lucky.

Practice until you are smooth. Counting cards in live blackjack play can be mentally taxing. If you fumble around and make a show of looking at all of the cards on the table you will attract attention. Practice at home until you can observe cards with your peripheral vision instead of looking at them directly.

Make your decisions quickly. If the casino suspects that you are a card counter, hesitation on your part will often confirm their suspicions. Basic strategy is something you need to memorize and be able to execute instinctively without delay. Practice until you know the correct play in each and every circumstance.

Tip the dealer generously. If you are winning a lot of money while counting cards at blackjack, be very generous to the dealer. Tip them well and don’t be a stiff. Casino dealers work long hours and most of their money is made from tips. Believe us when we say it is much better to have the dealer on your side. If you are winning a lot of money and not tipping, the dealer will be tipping. He’ll be tipping the pit boss that you just might be a card counter.

Don’t play in the same casino each week. If you are lucky enough to live in an area such as Las Vegas which boasts numerous casinos this is definitely not a problem. You could spend one week in each casino in Las Vegas and it would take you almost a year to hit them all. You don’t want to become a familiar face if you are a card counter.

Give some money back to the casino. This might sound crazy, but if you intend to become a professional card counter you better learn how to do it. Take some of your blackjack winnings and spend thirty minutes at the craps tables. Play the slots for an hour with your wife or husband. It is very hard for the casino to toss out someone who is playing games which give the casino an overwhelming advantage. Just consider these sessions as investments in the longevity of your blackjack career. If you happen to hit a huge jackpot on the slot machines even better.

A Word About Disguises

If you happen to get caught counting cards and banned from the casino, you might be tempted to don a disguise in order to return. All we can say is forget about it. Unless you are a Hollywood makeup artist capable of changing your entire facial structure entering a casino in a disguise can lead to big trouble.

Most casinos are now using facial recognition software which is very sophisticated. It is capable of identifying you even if you wear a disguise. If you are caught entering the casino after you have been banned for card counting you will go to jail. You are no longer a card counter. You are a trespasser. It just isn’t worth the risk.

Hopefully, your knowledge of how the casino catches card counters and how to avoid being caught will prevent you from being singled out as a counter. Many very famous blackjack players, such as Ken Uston, saw their careers ended after being banned multiple times from various casinos. These days, many casinos share information. If you get banned by one you could also get banned by several others.

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9 Response Comments

    • countingedgeSeptember 5, 2013 at 2:00 pm

      Glad you enjoyed reading the article ! 🙂

  • Mr SirSeptember 23, 2013 at 4:55 am

    Too much exaggeration in this article. Some of it was interesting tho

    • countingedgeSeptember 23, 2013 at 5:41 am

      Glad you found it interesting!

  • Much appreciation to youJune 17, 2014 at 6:10 am

    Hello, what’s the most I can win without getting on a casino’s radar. Like if I am cashing out over $1000. would that get me more noticed. And if I am starting with bets around $15 or so what is the most I can win without attracting attention.

    And another question – i made a goal of winning $70 before I was going to leave a table. I ended up winning it very fast and did decide to leave. If things are going so well for me should i have stayed and kept playing or not?

    • countingedgeJune 18, 2014 at 5:27 pm

      Thank you for taking the time to post a comment. It would depend how often you do this and how often you visit the same casino. You could probably have gotten away with a bigger cash out but I would not recommend repeating it at the same casino within a short time frame. Hard to say if you should have stayed longer at the table after winning the $70. You probably did the right thing in leaving the table once you reached your goal.

  • StevenJanuary 1, 2015 at 11:55 pm

    I have many questions mainly because i am under age of 18 and have a few years to perfect my card counting ability and basic strategy knowledge. So i was wondering if you could compile a list of the best techniques to use. The technique/skill i have read the most about it the high low method and want to know if this is the best way to go and was a little un sure on how to get a true count with a 6-8 deck game and had no idea if you can count on a automatic shuffler. I wanna learn everything i can about blackjack because from what it seems to me it looks like the money it there for the taking you just need to know how to get it. Also this article was very informative and full of useful information.

    • countingedgeJanuary 2, 2015 at 9:14 pm

      First of all, thanks for being a loyal reader and it makes us very happy that you are finding our information useful! As far as a technique goes to practice your ability and basic strategy knowledge, it really doesn’t matter which counting method you choose to work with as long as you stick with it until it is perfected. Basic strategy will be pretty much the same across all methods. You can count on any type of shuffler or even practice counting by dealing to yourself, but something we always suggest to our readers is find an online casino that offers blackjack, register an account, and use that account to practice counting. The great thing about it is that you will learn to perfect your skills in a real, for-money environment without having to risk a lot of money. Most online casinos have a minimum bet of $1 per hand as opposed to a live casino where the minimum might be $10 or more. If you don’t want to go the live casino route, a handheld blackjack game is another good way to practice. Have a friend who is also interested in counting take turns with you dealing so both of you can practice. Lastly, don’t hit that casino until your skills are sharp. Aslo, if you have not already seen our card counting trainer take a look here: https://www.countingedge.com/blackjack-card-counting-trainer.html Good luck!

  • optionbetsMarch 11, 2018 at 12:50 am

    The thing people may not fully appreciate is that their entire net worth plus their entire lifetime of earnings is at risk no matter what people may think. Simultaneously, the bankroll they think they have may not be as large due to how they might react after losing, and as such, their risk may be too large relative to their true bankroll (or their potential gains when they are disciplined are too small when they are not relative to their true risk)

    If you think you have “tricked them”, they have tricked you. The amount you are earning due to all of your “tricks” to “stay under the radar” is deemed by them as small enough where they are more than willing to risk losing a small amount for the possibility that you bust and keep coming back every paycheck. You MAY not be the one that produces ruin, but enough will for large enough amount that it is +EV for them and a large majority of people think they are above average and the exception to the rule.

    IF the casino has facial recognition software, they can easily have algorithms that keep track of the card counting system and expected results based upon every card out there and how much you win or lose and the expectation of your decisions. So if they keep you around, it is because they are betting on breaking you. You count cards, they count people. You bet on the dealer busting, they bet on bankrolls busting.

    Unless you are there to enjoy yourself and are simply trying to make the game as good as possible in the meantime (without getting kicked out in the process unless you don’t mind potentially never playing again) or have a plan to make more than your lifetime net worth (and you know how many hours that will take you) it might not be worth it.

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