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Have you ever wondered what happens to someone that gets caught card counting in a live casino? Counting Edge has the inside scoop. An anonymous casino surveillance operative, one of the Eyes in the Sky, sat down with us to reveal exactly what happens when you get caught card counting. Some of the details might surprise you.

Catching a Card Counter

Our source for this article is a surveillance operative at a major casino who regularly catches card counters for a living. The operative agreed to share some information on the condition that we protected his or her identity. We’ll use the masculine pronoun to refer to the operative in this article.


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He sits in a windowless room, often located in an underground area of the casino, and watches a bank of television monitors. The operative is looking for suspicious activity on the part of both patrons and casino staff. Suddenly he spies a blackjack player who seems to be having a very good run of luck. The operative watches and waits.

It doesn’t take long to recognize the signs of a card counter. The operative has been trained in what to look for. In this case it is advantage betting. The player bets the minimum for long stretches before suddenly upping his bet. The only way to confirm his suspicions is for the operative to count cards. Yes, he has been trained to count cards in a variety of systems. We were surprised to find out that he and many of his fellow operatives learned some of their card counting systems right here on Counting Edge.

The operative waits for the cards to be shuffled and a new shoe to begin. He starts counting cards by zooming in one of the cameras on the table action. Sure enough, every time the count gets above +5 the player begins to up his bet. He wins a significant amount before the count comes back to earth and he once more starts betting the minimum.

There is a phone and a radio in the surveillance room. The agent picks up the phone and taps in the numbers for the blackjack pit. A pit boss answer the line. The agent informs the pit boss that the specific player in question is suspected of being a card counter.

Verifying the Identity of the Card Counter

The first things that happen when you get caught counting cards at blackjack are things that you don’t see. After making the call to the pit boss, the agent reaches for the radio. She radios the security supervisor on the floor to let him know that she has a “hard copy” of the player’s image. Sometimes the pit boss will tell security and the security will radio the operative to ask if a hard copy has been obtained.

A hard copy is a clear image of the card counter taken by the casino’s surveillance cameras. Once this image has been taken the operative will begin to cross-reference it with other photos that have been taken of those who misbehaved in the casino. In some cases the State Police have an office in the casino that is located very close to the surveillance room. The operative may walk down to that office with the picture in hand to see if the State Police have a match in their database.

While this is happening the pit boss has been getting identity information on the player. Many times this is a simple matter of looking in the computer to see what player rewards card the player used. This card will have the player’s information on it. Of course, they can be using a phony card so the pit boss will then fabricate a reason to see the player’s identification.

The pit boss can come cheerily over and state that he wishes to comp the player a meal or a hotel room. Would the player be so kind as to provide their ID so the comp can be entered in the system? A couple of things happen next. Either the player gives up their ID or they refuse, usually stating that they forgot the ID at home or outside. This is not a bad thing because it allows the casino to immediately eject the player from the casino.

If the player provides an ID it will be checked and verified. Now the casino has multiple photos of the card counter and his identity. It is now time for the real work to begin.

Casino Security Arrives

Now that the card counter has been identified and photographed, a casino security supervisor will casually approach the table. He will watch for a few moments before speaking to the player by name. Security will then ask to speak with the player privately. If the player refuses it is game over. The player will be escorted out of the casino. If the player agrees the security will lead them to an area of the casino that is not being used, perhaps to a nearby blackjack table that has not been opened for the night.

Security will then tell the player that they have been suspected of card counting or advantage play. In the case of the casino where our operative works the casino is not permitted to ban a player for card counting. All they can do is make them aware that the counting has been spotted and will not be permitted.

The casino will then take one or more measures to discourage the card counter. The first of these will be to restrict the player to a flat bet. In other words the player cannot raise or lower their bet at the blackjack table. They must keep it the same at all times.

The next step will be to ban the player from playing blackjack at all. They will tell the player that they are allowed to play slots or video poker but no table games. Usually these measures are enough to convince the card counter that their activity has been discovered and that the game is up. They will take their winnings and leave the casino.

What Happens After the Card Counter Leaves?

After the card counter leaves the casino the surveillance operative will file a report on the incident. The player’s information will become a part of the casino’s files. If the player is spotted entering the casino again they will be watched very carefully. If they continue to count cards the casino may be forced to find another reason to permanently ban them.

As for the card counter? They probably just find another casino at which to play blackjack. There is always another opportunity to count cards, and always another chance to be caught.

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