1/20/97 EDITORIAL WINTER 1997
Surviving Today’s Casinos
By Michael Dalton
For card counters around the world “survive” has a unique meaning. To make any significant money at this game you have to survive everything the casino can throw at you. You have to survive an atmosphere that is noisy and unhealthy, casino personnel that can be both verbally and physically abusive, dealers that shuffle up anytime you increase your bet, reduced penetration, preferential shuffling, bully tactics, out-right barrings, lying, and in some cases even measures that border on cheating.
Once your skills are confirmed (and in many cases just suspected) you will have the pleasure of witnessing many of the counter-measures above. Many card-counters find it hard to play in their local casinos because they are “known” to the pit. There is not much you can do once they have confirmed their suspicions except to leave. You could, of course, disguise yourself and you might even attempt playing for short periods of time. But, for the most part your playing career is over in this casino — at least for 6 months or so. After a reasonable period of time you could attempt to play here again but remember that pit personnel have a long memory. If you are unlucky enough to be included in their “black” book you may find yourself barred from more than just one casino.
I have a very simple rule of thumb when it comes to surviving in the casinos — “I will do everything in my power to avoid detection. I will not play long enough for them to suspect me. I will always be friendly and cordial. At the first sign of heat I will leave.”
Card-counting is a cat-and-mouse game. If you give them enough time they will confirm their suspicions and your days will be numbered. Avoiding detection is a skill in and of itself. This skill is a combination of acting and playing camouflage, the ability to speak and count at the same time and the ability to “read” the pit.
“I will not play long enough
for them to suspect me.
I will always be friendly and cordial.
At the first sign of heat I will leave.”
Many inexperienced players read the pit incorrectly. A pit boss approaching the table after you have just put out a big bet is not heat. A general interest in your play by pit personnel is also not heat. It’s their job to monitor your play and to make sure you are treated well. But a pit boss who stares you down, excessively talks to you, makes quiet comments to the dealer, has security show up, and then goes to the phone can all be considered heat.
But heat from the pit can also be a test! I will occasionally ask for a comp in the midst of battle to see if that reduces the flames. If I am refused, I’m generally out of there anyway. It is easy to use a poor comping policy as a reason to leave. “Hey, I get my dinners comped down the street — why would I want to play here!”
The best advice I would give to new and inexperienced players is to take your time and learn to read the pit correctly. There is nothing more frustrating than to finally have mastered a card-counting system only to be barred on the day you finally start increasing your bets.