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RECOGNIZING AND AVOIDING CASINO HEAT

by Nicholas Colon

Nicholas Colon is the Managing Director of Alea Consulting Group, a casino gaming consulting firm with a player centric philosophy. It is staffed with world class players, gaming authors, mathematicians, top legal minds and a variety of industry professionals.

When a player has prolonged success at any level, another level of observation and understanding comes into play. This is recognizing how casino personal behaves in the presence of a continuously winning player. A common question I get from players who are seeing modest success from their efforts is this: "What do certain pit behaviors indicate?" To answer this question, I'm going to break down their behavior into three sections, each with increasing cause for concern. A full outline can be found in the classic gaming text Beyond Counting by James Grosjean; however, for now I am just going to hit the high points that I have encountered during my playing career. The topics are as follows:

  1. The behaviors that indicate superficial curiosity.
  2. The behaviors that indicate moderate interest.
  3. The behaviors that indicate that you have been made as an Advantage Player.

Level One is usually triggered by a larger bet or a medium-sized betting spread, approximately 1-6. The fist recon move that is done by a pit personal is the approach or engagement. Here they are merely sizing you up and seeing what information they can gather. For example, they will ask about your trip player's card and rating your play, and just trying to distract you. Another Level One behavior involves phone calls in the pit. If the pit boss makes a phone call to surveillance, he or she is telling them to keep an eye on this specific player. A phone call from surveillance to the pit is more concerning because now they've noticed something. Next behavior is when the pit bosses will closely inspect the back of playing cards being used. Essentially, they are looking to see if they are marked. Another tell is when the pit boss picks up the cards in the discard tray and counts them down (or pretends to be doing it). They will likely be using the Hi-Lo count system so any multi-level count system diffuses this. In most instances they are just looking to see how the player reacts. The last Level One behavior is for pit critters to initiate a tray fill to a tray that does not need to be filled. The reason they do this is to give surveillance more time to evaluate your play.

Level Two is slightly more severe, and again is designed to elicit a reaction from the player. The first behavior of Level Two is a pit boss that is paying way to much attention to your play. When multiple pit bosses are glaring at you, then the heat increases. If the dealer changes the cut card to an unfavorable position (like going from a one deck cut to a three-deck cut on a six-deck shoe game in blackjack) then a back off is imminent. If a casino pit boss or floorperson is sitting next to you or standing behind you, now things are getting pretty serious and they suspect that you are doing something other than counting cards. They think you are either marking cards or frontloading (seeing what the next card will be before it is dealt). For the most part, the behaviors up to this point can be diffused by simply leaving. No real lasting damage has been done. They are merely scare tactics designed to induce a reaction. By keeping calm and leaving the premise, things return to the status quo. And perhaps the most important aspect of walking away is that there is no permanent record of the pit boss's interest level.

The final Level 3 behaviors are what you have to be concerned about...

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