Blackjack is a card game in which one of the dealer’s cards is hidden from the player until the final stage of the game. Knowing in advance what a dealer’s hole card is would be a huge advantage to the player. It should come as no surprise that some live blackjack players have perfected a technique known as hole carding. This is the name given to efforts by a player to see the hole card in blackjack and other casino card games.
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About Hole Carding
Hole carding can be defined as gaining knowledge of cards that are supposed to be hidden from view in card games. In most cases hole carding is applied to blackjack, but other games are also vulnerable. These include Caribbean Stud and Three-Card Poker.
In cases where the player is attempting hole carding without the aid of some device, the technique is considered an advantage play and is not illegal. If the player were to use a mirror or some other device to assist with hole carding, that would be grounds for criminal charges.
Hole carding is popular in blackjack because it has the ability to sway the odds heavily in favor of the player. When a player is able to see the dealer’s hole card and also makes the correct plays with basic blackjack strategy, the advantage to the player can be as high as 13% You can see why casinos want no part of hole carding and the players who do it.
Methods of Hole Carding
There are a few different methods that are used by blackjack players for hole carding. Each has its own advantages and disadvantages. The player will generally be skilled in several different methods and will choose the method which fits a particular situation.
The first method is known as first-basing or spooking. This method of hole carding is virtually obsolete today because casinos have improved the way in which a dealer is able to peek at their hole card. The way it worked involved the player sitting in the first base seat at the blackjack table. This is the seat that is directly to the dealer’s left. First-basing is when the player in this seat tries to see the dealer’s hole card when the dealer checks for a blackjack.
There is a variation of first-basing known as spooking which involves two players. One sits in the first-base seat while another takes up a position behind the dealer. The person behind the dealer tries to see the hole card and then signals the player in the first-base seat. Attempting this in Las Vegas would get you arrested today, but years ago it could get you hurt.
Front-loading is a method of hole carding in which the player tries to look at the hole card as it is slid under the top card. This can be accomplished from any seat at the table, but it requires a keen eye and great skill. It also helps if the dealer is weak. Finally, there is something known as partial information. This is when a player tries to glimpse a hole card just enough to get a guess as to what it might be.
For example, if the player does not see a pip in the corner the card can be an ace, two, or three. A pip in the corner of the card would reveal that the card was a 4-10 but not a face card. The player is using partial information to make an educated guess as to what the card in the hole might be.
Is Hole Carding Effective in Live Blackjack?
As we mentioned earlier in the article, hole carding in live blackjack can be very effective. It can increase the player’s edge to somewhere around 13%. For this reason it is addressed seriously by the casinos. Hole carding in today’s casino environment is very difficult to accomplish.
One of the biggest obstacles to hole carding is the awareness of pit bosses and casino surveillance operatives. These individuals have learned to spot hole carding and can have the player removed from the casino.
If you are someone that prefers to play online blackjack instead of playing live, hole carding is not going to be an option. The virtual blackjack games do not rely on dealers to peek at the hole card unless the online casino is using a live dealer. In that case it would still be impossible for you to spot the hole card on the video feed.
Hole Carding Counter Measures
The way that casinos address things like hole carding is to develop counter measures that effectively nullify forms of advantage play. To stop card counters the casino will flat bet a player or call for a shuffle. Some casinos are even using automatic shufflers for blackjack. Shuffling the deck after each deal is a surefire way to prevent counting.
Measures have also been taken to deal with hole carding. One of these is to not deal the dealer’s second card until all the players have acted on their hands. This is standard practice now in casinos outside of the United States.
Double exposure blackjack is another method that casinos are using to deal with hole carding. In this variation of blackjack both of the dealer’s cards are visible. There is no advantage to hole carding in this game because there is no hole card. Of course, the casino adds other rules to the game to make sure it retains its house edge.