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by Eliot Jacobson, Ph.D.

Eliot Jacobson, Ph.D. is the author of the new book "Advanced Advantage Plays" ( and "The Blackjack Zone." He also hosts, which contains the latest information on beatable games, side bets, and promotions. This article is reprinted by permission from Dr. Jacobson. (Note: It was written for casino personal as a warning against skilled hole-card blackjack players that exploit the weaknesses described in this article.)

Few who work in table games management, and even fewer Advantage Players (i.e., APs) know that blackjack shoe games offer hole-carding opportunities. How could this even be possible? Yet, advanced APs know that shoe games have been one of the most reliable sources for hole-carding opportunities over the last 20 years. Hole-carding opportunities do not exist by themselves, ready to be discovered by the astute scout. Rather, in shoe games hole-card opportunities are created by APs. To make these opportunities occur, APs understand subtle principles of blackjack layouts and know how to identify key flaws. Poor layout design together with a lack of awareness allows APs to force dealers to expose their hole-card. In the right circumstances, even skilled dealers can become vulnerable targets.

There are two basic designs for blackjack layouts: pitch layouts and shoe layouts. In a pitch layout, there is more room between the betting circles and the lip of the layout on the player's side. This design gives landing room when the dealer tosses the card towards the players. The action is behind the betting circles. That's where players receive their cards, make hand motions for additional cards, and where players tuck their cards after completing their action. The following pictures illustrate correctly designed pitch layouts:

Conversely, the layout design for a shoe game is designed so that there is plenty of room in front of the betting circles. This is the territory where the dealer will place the player's cards, face up. There must be enough room for splits, double downs, and hits. There must be plenty of room left over for the dealer's cards. The following pictures illustrate correctly designed layouts for shoe games:

Hole-carding opportunities arise in shoe games when...

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