By Allan Pell.
Most casinos are very paranoid about card-counters. They know good counters can beat blackjack. They are on the alert for any signs of card-counters. But that does not mean you cannot easily get away with it, if you know what you are doing and if you know what signs to look for.
1)EDITOR NOTE: This article was excerpted from the Blackjack Bootcamp video course workbook by Allan Pell and originally published in Blackjack Review Magazine in 1998. This product is no longer available. If anyone has any information on the whereabouts of Allan Pell or if he is still alive please contact me. Don’t be worried or intimidated by casino personnel — they won’t hurt you. They are in fact intimidated by you. They fear having a lot of money taken on their shift. They fear being cheated by scam artists. This is a real fear — there are crooks with countless schemes and illegal tricks for removing the casino’s cash. But remember, card counting IS NOT cheating and card counting IS NOT illegal. It is merely a mental strategy of play. You should never feel guilty about being a good counter. You are not “stealing”; you simply have a skill that can help you make a little more money than the next guy. Which is not much different from what the casinos are doing: using every trick in the book to take money from the gambling public. You should be proud of your skill, but always be sure to use it wisely. The last thing to do in a casino is to announce to the world that you are a skilled card counter.
Blackjack is the one game that can cost the casinos a lot of money, especially if they are hit by the teams. So they are constantly on guard for counters (and real cheats, for that matter). They believe that they know how to detect card counters, but if you know what signs they are looking for, you can usually outsmart them.
Do not walk into a casino with a sign over you head blaring “Card Counter Here.” It sounds ridiculous, but some players are practically doing just that. Some people like to play “know-it-all” and be the table instructor. The casinos will use any and all evidence they can pick up from you to determine whether or not they want your business. They can scrutinize your manner of dressing, body language, eye movement, tone of voice, table behavior, and of course, your playing and betting.
“You can’t expect to keep coming
back to the same casino day
after day while taking their
money and be welcomed with
Different casinos have differing levels of tolerance for counters. Some are more paranoid than others. While one casino will play the game with you, letting you win a bit, others believe they must show “Zero Tolerance” to all counters and will attempt to come down hard on you. In reality, there are so many counters out there who don’t know what they are doing (not playing blackjack basic strategy, for example) that the presence of a counter does not necessarily guarantee a big winner. So some casinos are actually wasting their time and money to eradicate bad counters who were going to lose money anyway.
When a casino wants to show you that you are unwelcome, it has several methods for making you uncomfortable. You want to avoid what is sometime called attracting “heat” or attention to yourself. Don’t worry about anything serious happening to you. The worst thing they can do is kick you out, though in some states they can kick you out permanently. This is called “barring” or “banning.” Atlantic City is one jurisdiction that doesn’t allow barring of players. That might seem like an advantage to counters, but the Atlantic City casinos counteract the fact that they must deal to counters by offering less favorable rules and conditions. For that reason, most pros would rather risk being barred in places like Nevada where the rules are generally more favorable.
Creating an Act or Legend
To conceal the fact that you are a card counter, you must fabricate an “act”. You must pretend to be someone besides yourself, someone who has a perfectly natural reason for being in a casino. You want to avoid all the telltale signs of card counters, which we’ll cover later.
Blend in. Be like everyone else who has come to the casino to have a good time. Do not do anything to call attention to yourself. Most are tourists on vacation. Look like a tourist. Tourists wear tourist clothing — casual clothes, T-shirts and caps with imprinted logos from other vacation spots, Bermuda shorts and so on. Even if you feel silly wearing this stuff, you will be safer if you blend in.
Have a reason for being on vacation. You must be able to talk to people as if you were a real tourist, so you must create an identity for yourself that is more or less complete, consistent and believable. This is all part of the act.
Dream up an occupation for yourself. Make sure it’s one that you know enough about to discuss reasonably. Perhaps a job you held in the past or one that a close friend has. If someone starts chatting with you, you should be able to react naturally. They might babble on about themselves for a while, but then say, “So where you from?” You have to come right back with something like, “Flint, Michigan. We run a plumbing supply company up there. Yeah, business has been pretty rough lately.” The more boring your occupation sounds, the less likely they will ask a lot of probing questions. As you become fluent in card counting and in putting on an act, you’ll feel the intoxicating power of being in control by being able to manipulate your surroundings to your benefit.2)We are not advising you to commit fraud. There’s no law that says you have to give people real information about yourself in social situations. You have the right to protect your own privacy. We’re not suggesting you use fake ID’s or sign into a room under a fake name.
Changing Your Act
You can’t expect to keep coming back to the same casino day after day while taking their money and be welcomed with open arms. They will get wise to you eventually. So your act has to be constantly changing. You need a handful of personae that you rotate. You also will want to move from casino to casino. Take a break after you pull in some decent money. Keep it fresh.
Concealing Your Identity
If you’ve been playing for a while and you’re winning, the house may offer you their player’s club card. The advantage of a player’s card, they’ll tell you, is that you can get free drinks and meals by showing it, based on how much action you put into play. The more you play, the more freebies they’ll give you. What they don’t tell you is that the card is a way for them to keep track of you. Keeping track of you lets them rate your play, and keep tabs on you. I don’t recommend getting a card, but if you do get one be sure to NOT give your real name.3)Not giving your real name may no longer be an option in today’s casinos as they will ask for an ID. Many card counters just refuse to be rated. The advantage of having a player’s card is that they will mark down how much you’ve played and how much you’ve bet and won or lost (as well as your playing history and skill level.) “Comps” or complimentary food and drinks are given to players based on how much they play, or how much they have bet. So you increase your chances of getting comped on food or a room if you have a player’s card that shows you’ve spent quite a bit of money. Its a form of bribery — if you play long enough, we’ll throw in a couple bucks worth of grub or booze.
Nearly all casinos track your play using computer systems. Each time you play or use your player’s card to get comp food or drink, casinos will collect data on you and store it in their database. So, the next time you show up at that casino or hotel, even if it’s a year later, they know what to expect from you. And if they have rated your playing ability as expert or professional, you will be greeted with more scrutiny than the average player. The casino will most certainly know that there is an expert player at the tables to keep an eye on.
Copyright © 1998 – 2023 All Rights Reserved
Originally published in the Winter 1998 issue of Blackjack Review Magazine
|EDITOR NOTE: This article was excerpted from the Blackjack Bootcamp video course workbook by Allan Pell and originally published in Blackjack Review Magazine in 1998. This product is no longer available. If anyone has any information on the whereabouts of Allan Pell or if he is still alive please contact me.
|We are not advising you to commit fraud. There’s no law that says you have to give people real information about yourself in social situations. You have the right to protect your own privacy. We’re not suggesting you use fake ID’s or sign into a room under a fake name.
|Not giving your real name may no longer be an option in today’s casinos as they will ask for an ID. Many card counters just refuse to be rated.