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by Paul Wilson

BJI contributing writer Paul Wilson is a quasi-Renaissance man and graduate of Millsaps College. Some of his interests and hobbies include finance, consulting, travel, photography, and rock music. He's an avid baseball fan. Paul has done freelance writing and editing for gaming publications and takes blackjack, video poker, and sports betting very seriously. As we learned in the November issue, he also might have a "thing" for Wonder Woman.

You may have heard and actually believe the old phrase "Everyone loves a winner." I hate to break it to you, but that is not always the case; especially in the world of casino gambling. Casino bosses don't like winners. Somewhere over the years they seem to have forgotten that you need winners to have losers. If you are a consistent winner, large or small, you want to be able to continue winning and collect your fair share of the comps you rightfully earn by risking your bankroll. Saving a bankroll, learning blackjack basic strategy, maybe learning a card-counting system, and all the preparation that might go into your casino vacations or regular visits doesn't mean much if you aren't allowed to play or you are forced to pay retail for lodging, meals, and entertainment on your gambling trips. In this month's column, I'm going to talk about some ways to avoid looking like a blackjack winner in the "eyes" of the casino.

Blend In and Buy-In

You are always subject to surveillance when playing blackjack - by pit personnel and the "eye in the sky." However, you can influence what they see. Start by dressing appropriately. If you are going to an upscale place (think Bellagio or Aria in Las Vegas for instance) with high table limits, then men should wear dress slacks and a collared button-down as a minimum. You may want to add a sport coat as well. This pretty much applies to any high-limit room and some nicer upscale regional casinos. On the other end of the spectrum, if you are playing the $5 tables on the day shift at your local casino, or visiting Las Vegas in the summer, shorts and a t-shirt are fine. Add jeans and a polo shirt for later in the day. What you want to do is fit in. When it comes to the casino world, you don't want to draw attention to yourself. As I once overheard an older gentleman tell a young guy, "Don't dress like a pimp!"

I don't profess to be an expert in female fashion, but I know what catches my eye. Ladies, do your best to blend in and dress appropriately for the venue. If you are working a host or pit boss for a higher comp rating or freebies for the show or steakhouse then feel free to unbutton an extra button or two. Use your best judgment in that scenario. Our goal for the purposes of this writing is to look like your fellow casino patrons. There's no sense having eyes on you as soon as you approach the blackjack tables before you even buy-in. Dress conservatively and like those around you when playing.

Place Your Bets

Have you ever sat next to someone betting black chips, and only black chips, at the $10 minimum table? I have. Don't be that guy. You stick out like the proverbial sore thumb. All eyes will be on you and the pit personnel will track your bets and stack size, especially with black chips. Instead play on the $100 minimum table or if $25 is your minimum bet, play your green chips on those tables. I understand if you don't want to play heads up with a dealer at higher limits. But when over-betting the table minimums by a large margin, mix in some green and red chips to vary your bet. Ideally you'd like others betting about the same and a bit more than you or your table to defer attention away from you and your chip stack. However, black chips on a red table will draw attention for everyone. It's just the way it is. Pit bosses monitor big bets and black chips. Don't be the largest bettor at the table if you can help it. If you can't avoid it, there's nothing wrong with betting "barber poles" either; that is, a combination of different colored chips with the lowest denomination chip on top and the highest denomination at the bottom.

Another way to look like a loser is to hesitate on those "difficult" decisions or even ask the dealer or other players for help. You know you are going to hit your 12 against the dealers 2; or double your soft 17 against that 5, but they don't. Look unsure of yourself and appear flustered. Think of it as "acting" and it even slows the game down just a bit. This is highly recommended if you run up against a "speed merchant" of a dealer. You know the type. They deal cards as fast as you can count them and act like it's a race to get to the next shuffle.

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