Wednesday, July 6, 2022
Wednesday, July 6, 2022
Home Guides Techniques Casinos Use to Prevent Card Counting 

Techniques Casinos Use to Prevent Card Counting 

by James Musoba
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If you have been playing games in casinos for a long time and you are up-to-date with the terms used, then you have possibly come across the “Card Counting” phrase. The phrase applies more to the Blackjack tables, but movies like 21 (2008) and Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (1998) popularized it. The plots of the movies revolved around Card Counting and The Hangover (2009) comedy had a scene in which people used card-counting technique. 

But if card counting sounds new to you, then you might ask, what is card counting? How does it work? Is it illegal? How do casinos deal with card counting? And what do they do if they catch a card counter? This guide has answers to all questions about card counting. 

What Is Card Counting?

While card counting may sound overwhelming, it has nothing to do with counting cards. Players that count cards use various techniques to note patterns that they can use to determine whether each hand dealt is beneficial to either the dealer or the player. Statistics have shown that high-value cards like 10s, 9s, and aces benefit the players, while low-value cards like 2s, 3s, 4s, 5s, and 6s benefit the dealer. 

High-value cards are known to increase the chances of a player coming across a natural, therefore, increasing the payout 2-3 odds. Doubling down in such times helps boost the expected value. The increase of aces and 10s influx raises the possibility of doubling down the success. 

Furthermore, high-value cards give players more splitting opportunities and ensure that the players are backed by an insurance bet due to the heightened dealer blackjack possibility. High-value cards increase the chances of getting more than 21 points worth of cards – player and dealer. Unfortunately, the players have an advantage of standing over the lower totals depending on the count. 

How Does Card Counting Work?

Players who use card counting simply keep tallies of some cards that the dealers hand out during a gameplay session. By counting cards, experienced players can get an idea of the cards to be dealt next for both the dealer and the player. If you do it properly, card counting can boost your odds by around 1 percent. Even though this might look low, the repetitive and long sessions of playing may lean towards your advantage at the end. 

One of the methods that most card-counting players use is the High-Low strategy. This strategy requires the player to monitor three groups of blackjack cards. The high-value cards include the Queens, Jacks, 10s, Kings, and Aces, while the low-value cards include 2s-6s. The mid-value cards are the cards between 7s and 9s. 

Generally, the players ignore the mid-value cards, and they have to subtract a value of 1 from their count when a high-value card is dealt. Likewise, they have to add a value of 1 to the count when a low-value card is dealt. A quick example, if the count stands at +3, then the next few hands are likely high-value cards, and the player would benefit more by placing high wagers. Still, if the tally stands at -2, the odds are likely in favor of the dealer, and the player would benefit more by wagering lower amounts. The count has to be reset at 0 after a reshuffling of the deck. 

Blackjack players who count cards must remain focused and avoid losing their bearings so that they can remember the tally count. That allows them to maintain and increase 1 percent odds. For card counting to be possible, the players must sit for extended periods in multiple sessions. They are likely to get distracted by the fast-paced actions that take place in casinos, something that makes card counting hard. 

Is Card Counting Legal?

Counting cards is more about understanding the basic statistics, and therefore, there are no laws that ban it. Actually, the only laws against this strategy are those against the use of devices, such as phones. You may find yourself in the long hands of the law if you try to track a deck with your smartphone. Still, you will be kicked out of most casinos if you are found counting cards. 

Most online and land-based casinos do not encourage card counting, and they might identify the advantage players and ban them from playing in the casino, whether land-based or real cash online casino. That is for the reason that they consider card counting as a trick and a violation of the unwritten rule that the casino should always have an advantage over all players. The casinos may also use several techniques to prevent card counting and avoid losing customers. Below are some of the techniques used in online and land-based casinos. 

Techniques That Casinos Use to Prevent Card Counting

Card counting was invented by Edward Thorn in the early 1960s, and it has been a big thorn in the flesh of casinos. Most legendary players relied on this technique to make huge profits. However, casinos are not bystanders. They developed their mechanisms of defeating the legal strategy. Here are some of the mechanisms. 

  1. Lower Payouts

Most players believe that casinos spend a lot of time looking for and even chasing APs, and Movie 21 was more about this idea. While the pit bosses spend some of their time looking for counters, casinos allow the rules to work for them mostly.

When the card-counting technique was getting started back in the early 1960s, blackjack rules were favorable across most tables. Unfortunately, the industry changed that gradually by adopting house-friendly rules. 

One of the house-friendly rules involves lowering the payout from 3:2 to 6:5. The single change increases the house edge by around 1.39 percent. Blackjack players – from amateurs to APs – must deal with the 6:5 payouts in most casinos but card counters are to blame for this. While the 6:5 payouts help casinos reduce the potential profits for APs, it also helps them make larger profits. 

  1. Addition of More Decks 

Apart from the 3:2 natural payouts, originally, blackjack tables featured single-deck games. The single-deck lowered the edge of the house by 0.5 percent as compared to the eight-deck shoes used today. In addition to raising the house edge, many decks reduce the confidence of card-counting players. 

For example, imagine that the blackjack table boasts a six-deck shoe. You start card counting, and after one deck, you get a +4 count. Normally, the +4 count would be great, but with five decks to go, the +4 count will be weak.  Some casinos prefer dangling single-deck blackjack tables to draw the players. The strategy works perfectly because most card-counting gamblers understand that single decks are more favorable compared to multiple decks.  

Still, casinos choose 6:5 natural payouts. Therefore, the 1.39 percent house edge increase from the 6:5 payoffs overshadows the 0.59 percent decrease from the single deck.  

  1. Allow Lesser Deck Penetration

Deck penetration pertains to what amount of shoe the dealer has to go through before shuffling. For example, they will be allowing a 50 percent penetration each time they deal four out of eight decks. The concept is important to card counters, particularly when it comes to modern multi-deck games. Your chances of winning money will be higher if you get deeper into the shoe. Further, your confidence in card counting is likely to increase if you see more cards. Few remaining cards will make it likely that the result of your positive counts will be positive. 

A quick example, a count that stands at +2 can result in profits. Unfortunately, it will offer a thin edge that may not result in winnings at deck penetrations below 50 percent. You will need only a few cards left for the positive count to indicate a large percent of aces and 10s in the shoe. A 75 percent deck penetration can make that happen. 

Some casinos allow the amount of penetration so that the games can move faster and thus make huge profits from amateurs. However, some casinos are wary of card counters, and therefore, they cannot allow the dealing of 75 percent of the shoe. You will have to avoid them if your goal is to win. 

  1. No Mid-Shoe Entry Rule 

Deck penetration is vital for the success of card counting. One of your goals will be to see as many hands/cards as possible to be sure that your card counts work. In the past, most card counters would watch the game carefully and then jump into the game later. Stanford Wong, a gambling author, was the first to write about this technique, and it, therefore, was named the “wonging” strategy. 

Wonging is a foolproof gambling strategy that results in huge profits but unfortunately, casinos have known about it too. For that reason, you will find a sign stating that “no mid-shoe entry.” They will not allow you to enter a game unless it is the start of a new shoe. The purpose of this rule is to prevent wonging. APs would have crushed casinos if they did not adopt this rule. 

  1. Chat with the Players

Pit bosses have many responsibilities in the casino. Therefore, they cannot sit in the gambling room throughout the day watching out for card counters. Still, each time they catch the wind of potential card counters, they will monitor their playing style.

Usually, the work of a pit boss is to walk around the gambling floor to observe the players and help those struggling. The pit boss may count all the cards in a discard tray backward to identify discrepancies each time they notice a substantial bet spread. If they realize that the player is card counting, the pit boss will not need to do more than stand and watch the player at times.

Other times, the pit boss may take a direct approach, which might involve chatting with the gambler. They may begin with a friendly conversation relating to the game or other matters, but the main goal is to stop the card counting or kick the player out of the room, depending on the set policies. The pit boss will let the AP know that they have been spotted and they have to stop the card counting. 

  1. Limit the Bet Sizes 

At times, the conversation between the pit boss and the players may result in the casino taking action. Limiting the bet sizes is one of the actions that most casinos take. The pit boss will have two options, which are capping the amount of money the player can bet and forcing the AP to a flat bet such as $10 every hand. 

Capping the amount of money the player can bet ensures that the APs cannot exploit positive counts. After all, they will have to raise their bets to capitalize on the positive counts. Forcing the AP to a flat bet also prevents the AP from exploiting positive counts but in an extreme manner. The skill level of the card counter will be irrelevant if they can only bet an amount below $10 on each hand. 

Pit bosses further limit the bet sizes if they suspect a player is counting. Assuming that the player is not card counting allows them to continue playing, including when only flat bets are allowed. 

  1. Scaring of Counters         

Casinos employ scare tactics to chicken out card counters. The casino may do anything possible to get into the head of the identified card counter. A quick example, the pit boss may walk around and identify the card-counting players. After that, they may walk to the dealer and start a conversation while pointing at the card-counting player. They may also move closer to the player and stand there. This might be enough to make the card-counting player uncomfortable.

  1. Keep Records of Advantage Players        

People who win more blackjack hands may find themselves in the bad books of a casino. Casinos have perfected their data recording tactics, and some will contract third-party database companies to help in data recording. Any target player will rarely get a seat at any blackjack table. Even more, some casinos may block such a player altogether. 

  1. Shuffling After Every Hand

When it comes to online casinos, people who program blackjack games will never offer a penetration above 70 percent. Instead, they program the games to shuffle after every hand. As a result, every round will have a brand new shoe. So, an online blackjack game will offer a zero deck penetration, and you will not get any chance to count cards or gain an advantage. 

Land-based casinos do not shuffle cards after every hand because they do not want to suffer any downtime. Every casino makes more money when the blackjack games are running fast. They also have an advantage over players, and many hands per hour can help them take advantage of this edge. 

  1. Watching Out for Unusual Strategies 

Skilled card counters may also employ unusual strategies. The counts tell them when to deviate from their basic strategies so that they can maximize the returns. Some of the bad plays that they make are splitting 10s, standing on 16 or 15, and doubling down on the soft 19 or 20. The dealers notify the pit boss immediately they notice that a player is employing such strategies. However, gamblers that play with real money rarely make such mistakes.

Getting away with such a decision is easy if you are good at camouflaging. Still, you will have to convince the casino staff that you are an inexperienced gamble and not a skilled advantage player. 

  1. Watching Out for Players That Make Huge Buy-ins 

Great card counters have a 1 percent advantage. That means that their losses might be as many as the winnings. They also require a lot of money to counterbalance the card counting difficulties. With that in mind, most card counters prefer placing thousands of dollars in every game. While such a move may not draw a lot of attention at the high-stakes tables, it will raise eyebrows at the low-stakes tables. The dealers may set low minimum bets to minimize losses during unfavorable situations. 

  1. Watching Out for the Big Bet Spreads 

An advantage player will raise their bets each time they detect a positive count to capitalize on the situation. They will mostly do this when the shoe penetration is more. The distance between the table’s lowest wager and the maximum bet of a player during a favorable count is the “bet spread.” For example, when the minimum bet on the table is $5, and the card counting player raises the wager to $75, their spread will be 1-15 (75/5).

Most casinos are aware that most card counters can spread their bets from 1-15 or even higher. Therefore, a pit boss will consider when identifying a card counter is the bet spread. Any player who goes from a minimum bet to bet above 15 times the size is possibly one. The casino may scrutinize such a player. 

  1. Watching Out for the Big Players and Spotters 

If you have watched the Movie 21, then the “big player concept” is not new to you. The concept involves spotters who spread out to several tables and place minimum bets. The main job of the spotters is to count the cards until they spot a favorable count. At this point, they signal the “big player” secretly to place their bet.

The strategy allows the card-counting team to camouflage its efforts. It also allows them to cover several tables while searching for the positive counts. Meanwhile, the big player can pick up their chips and move to another table. 

Unfortunately, the signal of a spotter, including the most skilled, can attract the attention of the pit boss. Also, the moving of a player from one table can attract the attention of the casino staff. 

  1. Installing RFID Chips in the Cards of Players

Recently, the efforts of casinos to catch card counters went high-tech. Most casinos now put RFID chips in the cards of their customers. For example, Protec 21 and Bloodhound software use RFID chips to determine the edge of a player. Some casinos use the chips to track the wager sizes of players in a room. 

  1. Banning the Card-Counting Players   

This is usually the last step of most casinos when it comes to preventing card counting. The ban might extend to all the properties of the corporation. For example, if you get banned for card counting at MGM Grand, then you will not have access to any MGM casino – including those outside your country. Most casinos will get your ID after you have been caught counting cards and use the information to identify you if you try to enter the casino again. 

In extreme cases, the casino will enter the information into an international database. That means that other casinos will check for your information if they suspect that you are a card counter. So, do not provide your ID to casino employees if you are a serious card counter. While you might assume that handing over the ID card upon request is important in proving that you meet the legal age, no casino employee will legally force you to provide it. In fact, only the law enforcers can demand to have your identification. 

How to Reduce the Chances of Getting Caught 

As we have already stated, card counting is lawful in blackjack. However, the casinos can kick you out if they realize that you are using this strategy. Most casinos will consider the extent of your wrongdoing when deciding on whether to kick you out. Fortunately, you can use several tricks to avoid being caught. Here are some of the strategies. 

  • Avoid making beginner or basic mistakes such as hitting when you should not. 
  • Tip the dealers more often. Your winnings will make them happy. 
  • Choose online casinos that allow the players to count cards. 
  • If you prefer land-based casinos, avoid being familiar on one floor. Switch between several casinos. 
  • Remember to keep the card counting private. So, never count loud or visibly. 
  • Emulate the regular players. 
  • Find tables with 3:2 natural payouts. 

Conclusion 

Knowing the techniques that casinos use to identify and stop card counters is important. However, knowing the techniques will not guarantee anything. You will have to adopt several strategies to avoid detection. Start by scouting several lenient casinos. Some casinos may ban card counters immediately, but some may wait for the obvious cues before they take any action. After finding the lenient casinos, note the spreads that you can get away with. Some casinos may allow 1-15 spreads, but others will be suspicious if they notice a 1-8 spread. 

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