While the legality of card counting is still something very much in dispute, being argued again and again in the legal courts, the fact remains that the casinos regard card counting as taboo. The casinos may not be able to prosecute a card counter, but they can and will make life very difficult for a blackjack player who is caught counting cards.
In the old days of casino gambling, especially in the Wild West environment of Las Vegas, card counters were dealt with harshly. When someone was caught counting at the blackjack table, casino justice was swift and brutal. The stories abound of card counters who were physically beaten by Las Vegas casino heavies and ran out of town. This type of behavior continued right up until the early 1980’s when at long last the mob was ousted from Vegas in favor of a more family friendly atmosphere. The new gaming companies which operate now in Las Vegas and other areas where gambling is legal no longer adhere to the heavy-handed tactics of their ancestors. Instead, they simply ban card counters from the casino.
The reason the casino can get away with this is because casinos are private property and are the legal equivalent of a private club. When you pass beyond the security stand at the front of the casino, you are agreeing to abide by the rules established by the gaming company that owns it. While you are in the casino gambling you are considered to be a “member” of the club, with all of the benefits and privileges that membership provides. If you break those rules by card counting, the casino can revoke your access and throw you out.
The casinos know card counting happens. They know they cannot effectively stop it. Instead, they focus on some very benign methods before bringing down the hammer and tossing someone out. As a card counter, you need to recognize the methods used by the casino to deter card counters.
The “eye In The Sky”
The next time you are playing blackjack in a casino, take just a moment and glance up at the ceiling. Instead of counting cards, try counting the number of surveillance cameras up there! These cameras, and many more throughout the casino, are the first line of defense when it comes to identifying card counters.
The cameras all are routed to a room in the casino filled with closed-circuit monitors and guys in dark suits. These guys are the casino employees you never see, or at least hope you never see. If you ever happen to meet one of them in person then the chances are you won’t be returning to that casino any time soon.
The security personnel in the camera room are all highly trained in spotting cheats. They know what to look for and the cameras are so advanced they can read the color of your eyes. These men and women study the cameras, looking for signs of card counting activity. When they observe someone who they believe to be counting cards, they pick up a phone and alert the blackjack pit. At that point, the pit boss or shift supervisor will begin to implement a series of messages designed to send the card counter on their way with a minimum of fuss. The casino is smart. They know that causing a scene in the casino is counterproductive.
Comping The Card Counter
Very often the first measure taken by the casino will be to offer the suspected counter what is known as a comp. A comp is a voucher for a free meal or even a free room in the casino hotel. This being method of stopping a card counter works very well in many situations.
The pit boss will approach the table and begin to make very friendly conversation. He will remark about what a lucky streak the card counter has going. After a few minutes of this the pit boss will offer the counter a free meal at the buffet or a room for the night. In many cases, the card counter will accept these offers and decide to cash in with a nice profit before heading upstairs for some rest or to the steakhouse for a good meal.
Why would the casino willingly give a card counter things for free? The answer is simple. It is to get them away from the table they are at by any means necessary. The casino understands that when the counter comes back they will need to start counting all over again and find another table that is “hot”. If it is a weekend, they might not find an open table when they return. It doesn’t really matter. All that matters to the casino is getting the card counter out of that seat.
Casinos love to give card counters a free room for the night because they know that many blackjack players will sooner or later give in to the urge to gamble. They’re counting on you to give back all of your blackjack profits at the craps table or the slot machine.
Switching The Dealer
A forced blackjack dealer switch is another favorite method the casino uses to stop card counting. In the middle of a hot deck, the pit boss will pull the current dealer and move them to another table. Usually, the new dealer is one with experience in this situation. They will deal fast in an effort to disrupt the count.
How can switching dealers make a difference? It’s a psychological factor. All gamblers are by nature superstitious creatures. Their subconscious mind believes that a new dealer will change the game for the worse. Nothing could be farther from the truth, but it is an effective technique which has stopped many a card counter dead in their tracks.
A Forced Shuffle Mid-shoe
In a multiple-deck blackjack game the dealer has no control over when the decks are reshuffled. After the cards are cut, a yellow card is inserted near the bottom quarter of the deck. When this card comes out of the shoe, the dealer knows it is time to shuffle the decks.
If a casino fears that someone is counting cards, they may call for a forced shuffle. The pit boss will come over to the table and tell the dealer to shuffle after the current hand is over. Of course, a shuffled deck starts the count all over again.
The first two methods we mentioned are very mild. If a pit boss initiates a forced shuffle during a game of blackjack, things are getting serious. This means that the casino is convinced that someone at the blackjack table is counting cards.
Raising The Table Minimum
One last measure that is taken by many casinos before bringing in the heavies is to raise the table minimum. Each blackjack table has a minimum bet which is posted on a card on the table. Players must make the minimum bet on each and every hand.
Let’s say, for example, that a card counter is playing at a $10 table when suddenly the pit boss walks over and changes the card on the table. Just like that the minimum bet has been increased to $50 a hand. Shaken, the card counter looks around the blackjack pit for any open seats at the other $10 tables and finds them all taken.
The casino knows that even card counters have a bet range which is out of their personal comfort zone. Psychologically, some bettors cannot comfortably exceed a certain bet amount. When the table minimum is raised without warning, a person like this will look for another table, cash out, or begin to bet very conservatively. All three options are perfectly acceptable to the casino.
When All Else Fails, Bring In The Heavies
The casino will employ all of the aforementioned methods in their attempt to stop card counters. In most cases, these methods are very effective. Sometimes, however, people have to learn the hard way. If all of these preliminary methods fail, the card counter may be invited to count his winnings in private.
There are many stories of the bettors who have found themselves in the fabled “windowless room” of the casino, facing down an angry group of casino thugs. In Michigan, a gray-haired slot machine player even found herself in this room after she found a nickel someone had abandoned in a slot machine. She took the nickel and played it in the machine. Within moments she was taken to a room and detained for hours while the casino’s security personnel tried to intimidate her with threats of arrest. The lady sued, and eventually won her case in court.
Card counters have been no stranger to the hidden rooms of the casino. If things escalate to that point, the card counter can be certain of one thing. The casino will make it perfectly clear that card counters are not welcome in their establishment. Learn to read the warning signs and you can avoid being banned for card counting.
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