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by Mr. Insider

Mr. Insider has been working in the casino industry for many years and wishes to remain anonymous.

Counting cards is not illegal, but it is certainly not embraced by casinos. Casinos use a variety of strategies to catch counters and this article will illustrate some examples of how they have been spotted and caught. I'll look at the counter's inevitable dilemma: he or she cannot just play basic strategy or flat-bet but must use advanced playing and aggressive betting strategies for profitable play.

Spotting a Card Counter

How a card counter plays a two-card 12 is one of the most easily identifiable indicators from the casino's perspective. With small bets, a counter will hit his12 against a dealer's 2 upcard but with larger bets (because of a significant positive running count), the counter will default to the basic strategy play (i.e., stand). Standing lowers the negative expectation but it also may give the counter away.

Consider who in the casino is watching a card counter. They include:

1: Dealer

2: Floor

3: Pit Boss

4: Count Team

5: Surveillance

I'm going to explain how each of the above casino employees could spot a card counter due ti one of the following characteristics of counters:

  • Greed: It could be said that everything that follows could be categorized under this. Winning can ultimately give you away; that is the inherent risk and reward of advantage play.
  • Arrogance: In a multi-billion dollar casino are you capable of outwitting the smartest consultant?
  • Stupidity: This category shouldn't exist, but it is here for a reason.

The Dealer

Unless the dealer is determined to make a name for himself or herself, it is unlikely that he or she will signal superiors that you might be counting. Only an infinitesimal percentage of hourly-paid dealers understand advanced strategy, but they aren't entirely stupid either. As a card, you will soon know which dealer will remember which hands you play one way versus another way (e.g., 12 against dealer 2; 16 against a dealer 10; taking insurance). Many dealers couldn't care less how you play and bet, so long as you signal your playing decision clearly to them. In general, they are less of a threat to card counters. After all, the dealer is a $4-8/hour employee whose interest is in generating tips. (You are by no means obligated to tip; generating good-will doesn't hurt.)

The Floor (Supervisor)

This salaried employee (commonly referred to as the "suits") does not receive gratuities: their job is to track your buy in, your average bet, and your session win/loss, even if you aren't being rated. You should know both the floor supervisor and his or her relief. Are the suits paying attention to every bet fluctuation and strategy derivation that you make? If they aren't paying much attention, they are less likely to catch you but be careful of the reverse. You might make a large bet because you think no one is watching. The dealer will likely call "cheques play" (to indicate it is a bet, not a -in) and when you win, will pay with larger cheques (suits track bigger chips more closely). You can ask to be paid in lower denominations, but guess what ... that won't ultimately help you.

Some counters try to...

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