Card counting is a great way to leave the casino with more than what you entered with. First you have to learn how to do it, then you have to learn how to avoid getting caught.
Using a card counting system is a great way to avoid getting taken at the casino. Expert counters generally estimate that when done correctly counting reduces the house edge by 2 percent, actually given the player the overall advantage over the casino. The best part is that it’s not all that difficult to do. Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to be a math whiz. You just have to practice, practice and practice some more. Honing your counting skills is one thing, but it’s also important that you are able to avoid getting caught. This piece will show you what not to do.
Drastically ramp up your bet when the count gets high
When using such a system the count is used to predict which cards will be dealt in upcoming hands. If the count is high it means that a lot of low cards have been dealt, so you can expect more face cards. This is in the players favor, because a blackjack (and its bonus payout) becomes more likely. So a player will place higher wagers as the count becomes more positive. They will still lose hands (and money) but over time they should win more than the casino.
But it is important to do this discreetly, increasing the bet incrementally in order not to catch the pit bosses attention. This counter made the mistake of starting off with $5 bets and then jumping up to $200 bets as soon as the count got deep. That’s a dead giveaway, as most non-counters bet the same amount throughout the game. There isn’t much reason to vary your bet if you aren’t counting.
Luckily for him the pit boss allowed him to stay, on the condition that he flat bet for the rest of the evening. At most casinos counters are immediately escorted off of the premises. Counting isn’t illegal; it isn’t even considered a form of cheating. However, casinos reserve the right to refuse service to counters, even if it is just impeccable blackjack strategy.
What should you do? Blackjack expert Henry Tamburin advises players to spread their bets within a range of $10-50. This is enough to increase the bankroll once the count increases but small enough that the pit boss won’t take notice. A larger bankroll allows the player to be more aggressive with larger bets, while a smaller bankroll means betting conservatively.
Sending signals during team play
Skilled counters often work in teams. Usually a few “spotters” count while playing at different tables. Once the count gets high they signal over to the “big player,” who comes in and makes large bets. As the spotter doesn’t up their bet the dealer and pit boss shouldn’t suspect them of counting. If done correctly, team play can be very effective. But the spotter must signal discreetly (the discreet thing is a common theme in card counting).
Sometimes spotters make the mistake of giving clumsy signals like tugging on their ears or moving in a mechanical way. In addition, spotters sometimes make eye contact with big players. A skilled pit boss can pick up on this, and both players will be immediately kicked out. Casinos do not look kindly on team play. Those caught doing it usually get a lifetime ban from any casino.
Getting too comfortable at the casino
Another easy way to get caught is to spend too much time at the same casino. Dealers and pit bosses get to know the regulars, usually on a first-name basis. It’s similar to a bartender getting to know the regular customers. So if you count at the same casino a few times per week, the staff will recognize you and start to pay attention to how you play. Familiarity leads to scrutiny, which leads to getting caught.
Pro counters know better than to haunt one or two casinos. They move among various casinos, and in some cases even disguise their appearance so staff cannot recognize them. This is much easier to do in gambling hub cities like Las Vegas or Atlantic City. The famous MIT blackjack team chose Vegas as its theater of operations, while blackjack hall of famer Ken Uston ran teams in Atlantic City during the late 1970s. It is much tougher to make it as a professional counter if you live in an area with only one casino.
Behaving in overly concentrated manner
Another way to get caught is to be singularly focused on counting. This means acting in a very detached way, avoiding interaction with the dealer and other players. Also making the mistake of counting verbally is a dead giveaway (no skilled counter would ever make this error). Of course players have the right to keep to themselves at the table. But a jovial player is less likely to catch the staff’s attention as a potential counter. Most experts advise working on the ability to count while holding conversations. The more natural you act, the better.