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Blackjack Dealer Tells

One of the most controversial casino blackjack tactics ever devised can be found in Steve Forte’s  book Read the Dealer. Unlike most conventional techniques that focus on the mathematical aspects of the game, Read the Dealer was concerned with the psychological aspects of blackjack, and how understanding them could give players a genuine advantage over the house.

The book is all about blackjack dealer tells. Subtle variations in timing, facial expressions, and gestures carry a lot of information. Of course, after the book was published casinos started changing their rules to prevent players from using these methods to get ahead, but some smaller casinos will have dealers who are not trained in controlling their tells, and this can give the player an extra edge.

Current Scene Report

While Las Vegas Casinos are always the first to pick up on new player techniques and alter their rules accordingly, there are many other casino destinations that have not yet trained or their dealers to be aware of these tells. Do dealer tells really work? Yes, but depending on where you play it may be difficult to take advantage of them. Smaller casinos, and casinos outside the US, are all prime targets for players looking to use these techniques.

Unfortunately the book is now out of print, so we’re offering some of its best advice here.

What are the most famous dealer tells?

These dealer blackjack tells can give players information about what cards a dealer is holding, and can help the player decide what move to make next.

How to reveal the Dealer’s Hole Card?

  • Small stiff cards (2, 3, 4, 5, 6) are harder to read, and often a dealer will have to look longer or will look more than one glance to confirm the exact card they are holding. The hardest card to quickly read is the 4 card. So If a dealer looks for a longer than usual amount of time it might be a 2, 3, 4, 5, or 6.
  • Paint Cards: Just the opposite idea as above. Paint or face cards are highly readable and the natural reaction is to read them faster than usual. An untrained dealer might even quickly look away to avoid becoming excited about the card they hold. Since all paint cards have a minimum value of 10 (except for an ace), these tells mean that the dealer might have a high value hole card.