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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 blackjack player has prolonged success at any level, another level of observation and understanding comes into play. This is the recognition of how casino personal behave in the presence of a continuously winning player. A common question I receive from players, who are getting modest success from their efforts, is this: what do certain pit behaviors indicate? To answer this question I'm going to break down the behaviors into three parts, each with increasing cause for concern. For this article, I'm just going to hit the high points that I have encountered during my playing career. (A more detailed explanation can be found in the classic gaming text Beyond Counting by James Grosjean.)

The topics that follow are:

  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

Level one is usually triggered by a larger than normal wager or a medium-sized betting spread of approximately 1-6. The fist recon move that is done by pit personal is the approach or engagement. Here they are merely sizing you up and seeing what information they can gather from you. They will ask about your trip player's card and rating your play, and just trying to distract you. Another level one behavior is phone calls made in the pit. If the pit boss makes a phone call to surveillance he or she is telling the surveillance personnel to keep an eye on the player. On the other hand, a phone call from surveillance to the pit is more concerning. This usually means that surveillance personal have noticed something. Next, pit bosses will look at the back of the playing cards closely. They are checking if they have been marked. Another tell is when the pit boss counts down the cards from the discard tray (or at least pretends to be doing this). They will likely be using the Hi-Lo count system so any multi-level count system diffuses this. In most instances, they are looking for how you react toward their actions. The last level one behavior is a fill to the dealer's chip tray that does not need to be filled. This gives surveillance time to evaluate your play.

Level Two

Level two is slightly more severe and it is designed to elicit a reaction from the player.

The first behavior of level two is...

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