Tag Archives: cheating

Game Protection and Card Counter Detection

From Bill Zender and Associates
Bill Zender Newsletter
September 6, 2017

Bill Zender NewsletterI cannot believe the number of “winning” player evaluations I have conducted this summer.  Most of them concerned higher limit blackjack players, but I still had a couple higher limit baccarat players, and one Pai Gow tiles evaluation.  Usually the evaluations only confirm what the surveillance department had already concluded; the player in question was experiencing an unusual run of luck, and was no long-term threat to the casino.  However, every once and a while I do come upon winning player or players who are winning because they were able to use advantage play techniques (legal but undesirable), or illegal techniques against the house to win that money.  I found just that sort of problem while conducting my Pai Gow tiles evaluation.  After reviewing all information provided along with several hours of video imaging, I was able to establish that a group of players were actually passing around hand tile information so the group could determine the value of the four tiles in the hand controlled by the dealer.  Because of this evaluation, the casino could take the proper steps to neutralize this attack when the group returned to the casino.

Of course winning player evaluations is not the only service I provide.  My list of services are as follows;

Table Game Evaluations – The evaluation of your table game operation to determine game protection weaknesses, and opportunities to change specific procedures in order to increase table game revenue potential.  I’m surprised more casino executives do not take advantage of this service.  The return on investment is outstanding if the customer accepts and implements my suggested procedural changes.

Game Protection SeminarsGame Protection Seminars – These seminars are presented to individuals who are responsible for the supervision and protection of table games; i.e., floor supervisors, dual-rates, pit and shift managers, table game managers, surveillance operators and supervisors, gaming investigators, and upper level casino management.  The approximate 6+ hours of material covers card counting blackjack and side bets, baccarat side bets, hole-card play in blackjack and alternative games, key-card location play, advantage play and cheating in roulette, cheating in craps, and cheating in blackjack, baccarat, and alternative games.  I try to tailor the material specifically for your table game operation, but will show you situations that could result in future problems.

Table Game Management Seminars – I offer a list of topics that I can mix-and-match for your operational need.  The most asked for (and important) areas are, the cost of table game promotions, the mechanics that move hold percentage, managing effective side bets in blackjack, understanding game win-loss volatility and loss risk ranges, understanding the effect of time and motion on table game revenue, and the effective strategies for managing table game limits (both minimum and maximum).  This is a great session if your organization has some up and coming table game management talent that need to learn the finer points of managing table games.

Remember, I do conduct a lot of individual winning player reviews.  All I need is for the casino management/surveillance to send me documentation of the suspected person’s game play, and a video sample of their play.  Some casinos are not allowed by regulations to send anyone video segments.  In these cases, I can conduct reviews and evaluations from detailed player tracking sheets.  If you have any questions about winning player reviews, please feel free to pick up the phone and call me (702-423-5734).  I’m more than happy to answer questions about conducting these evaluations for casinos, regulators, or prosecutors looking to build a case against someone violating gaming laws. 

If you have a question regarding any of the above services (or anything about table game management or protection), please feel free to contact me at wzender@aol.com, or by phone at 702-423-5734.  I look forward to speaking with you.

Your Card Counter Detection Arsenal: The “Third” (and most important) Tool

Card Counter DedectionIn this eBlast I will be examining what I believe is the most important of the three tools for detecting card counting.  The first two tools were learning and recalling basic strategy perfectly, and understanding the minimum bet spread the professional card counter needs to gain a long-term profit from counting.  The third tool involves identifying a correlation between the suspected counter’s bet sizes with that of the person’s hand playing decisions (deviations from basic strategy).  The professional level counter will use basic strategy on 4 out of every 5 hands he plays.  However, approximately 1 out of 5 hands, the counter will deviate from basic strategy in order to use the remaining card composition in the deck to the counter’s advantage.  Note: The counter gains approximately 75% of his advantage from betting more money (a lot more) when the composition of the cards in the deck/shoe are in his favor; however approximately 25% of that gain comes from altering his hand strategy play to the count.  Following is how you can use a wager-hand strategy correlation to increase card counter detection from the casino floor significantly.

Situation: You notice that a blackjack player is wagering with a bet spread that will provide him or her with a long-term advantage.  For example, the player in question is spreading from one hand of $25 to two hands of $200 ($400 total) for a 16 unit spread.  If the player is wagering near the top of his require bet spread, $200 to $400, it could be assumed that the larger wagers indicate the count is “plus” or the deck composition is rich in ten value cards and aces.  If the player is wagering near the bottom of his bet spread, it can be assumed that the count is either “minus” or neutral, and is rich in small value cards.  Based on these two assumptions, if the suspected player is counting cards he will be seen adhering to the following bet-wager correlation:

– Key hand decisions with a “LARGER” wager placed

Aggressive doubles and splits: 11 v. A, 9 v. 2, 10 v. T, 10 v. A, TT v. 5 & 6 (split).

Passive standing/Aggressive surrendering during some “bust” situations: 16 v. T, 15 v. T, 16 v. 9, and
12 v. 2 & 3.

– Key hand decisions with a “SMALLER” wager placed

Passive double downs (hitting instead): 11 v. A, 11 v. 10, 9 v. 3, and 10 vs. 9.

Aggressive hitting during “bust” or surrender situations: 16 v. T, 15 v. T, 16 v. 9, and 12 v. 4 & 6

Note: These above hand strategy deviations from basic strategy are based on Donald Schlesinger’s “illustrious 18”, the eighteen most important hand deviation decisions a professional card counter can make when counting cards.  Several of the above hand decisions noted DO follow basic strategy; they are noted only to illustrate the difference between the two situations, i.e., “larger” bet versus “smaller” bet situations.

As important as these above deviations are to the professional level card counter, the most important…what I call the “million dollar” indicator is…INSURANCE!

Question: What hand totals does the average blackjack player insure?  Are the hands 20?  Even money? Possibly 19?  What about hand totals of 12 through 16?  Does the average player ever insure those?  Never!  But the professional level card counter will.  He does not care what his hand total is.  He is not trying to protect a good hand like the average player, he is wagering on a side bet (insurance), and bets this side bet when (and only when) there is a high count (Hi/Lo count of +3 or greater).  The third tool for detecting card counters can be reduced to this following Game Protection procedure:

If your floor supervisor observes a blackjack player wager a significant amount of money, and this player is seen wagering on insurance when holding a 12 through 16, there is a better than average chance the player is counting cards (or spying the dealer’s hole card).

An “insurance bet” placed while holding a hand of 12 through 16 by a player wagering a significant amount of money is the MOST IMPORTANT indicator that a player might be a card counting threat.  If you teach your floor supervisors to look for this one situation, you will greatly increase you professional card counter (and hole-card advantage player) detection.

A review of the final three tools a floor supervisor needs to know to adequately protect the game of blackjack;

Have the supervisors (and surveillance operators) know basic strategy well enough so that they can instantly tell whether or not a BJ player is following basic strategy.
Be sure all floor supervisors know the minimum required bet spread needed by a professional level card counter in which to gain a long-term advantage over the chosen blackjack game (based on game rules and deck penetration).

Have the floor supervisors look for situations where blackjack players wagering a significant amount of money take insurance with a hand of 12 through 16.

Based on these three tools, be sure the floor supervisor is given directions as to who to notify when a “positive” card counting situation occurs.  One of the biggest problems in casino gaming is the failure to communicate situations to the right person who can help solve the problem.  Remember, you detect problems from the floor, but confirm the problem from surveillance.

In next month’s eBlast, we will look at methods surveillance can use to confirm a person is a professional level card counter.
Seminars and Workshop

Seminars and WorkshopUniversity of Nevada Reno Extended Studies: Table Game Management – September 18th thru 21st, 2017 – Reno Nevada

In a couple of weeks I will be presenting at the UNR Extended Studies Gaming program regarding table games management.  I will be covering the topics of Casino Mathematics and Table Game Management on September 20th and 21st.  The mathematics portion of this course will dive into the understanding of gambling probabilities, along with converting probabilities into gambling odds.  Once odds have been established, we can convert the difference between true odds and payoff odds into a wager’s mathematical house advantage.  As far as I’m concerned, house advantage is the money tool for operating table games; however we do examine hold percentage and the factors that contribute to hold percentages move up and (Yuk) down.  On the second day, I use the mechanics provided the first day to support theories that will result in increased table game revenue.
I know the staff at UNR’s Extended Studies program will accommodate any last minute requests.  Please contact them at gaming@unr.edu, or call 1-800-233-8928.  You can also visit the website for more information about gaming management education.
CGA Conference – Protecting Cardroom Table Game Integrity – Monday, October 16th, 2017 – Hard Rock Lake Tahoe Nevada

I just finalized the material in my presentation at this year’s California Gaming Associations meeting at Lake Tahoe which will be held October 14th through 16th.  I will be presenting a 60 minute session on Protecting Cardroom Table Game Integrity.  The presentation will include different methods that are being used to cheat table games in the California card rooms.  This not only concerns poker games, but also the rotating bank games such as baccarat, blackjack, and pai gow poker.  The following topics are:

Capturing playing card sequencing

It has become a common attack for cheaters to attempt to capture shuffled card sequencing on high limit games.  The captured sequences are used to learn winning hands occurrence before making wagers on the game.  The primary game of attack is baccarat, but this techniques has also been used in higher limit blackjack.

Switching hands in Pai Gow Poker
The game of Pai Gow Poker is played with seven cards placed into two separate combinations.  What if a player was able to place a large wager on one hand, but have the ability to choose from two separate seven-card hands?  In this segment the participants learn how a husband and wife team were able to switch hands without the dealer, floor supervisor, or the designated player questioning their actions.

Protecting Bad Beat and High Hand Jackpots in Poker
Ever have an unusual cluster of “Bad Beat” jackpots occur over a short period of time?  Was it a statistical anomaly or was it created by cheaters working with the dealer.  Learn how a group of cheaters would set up a “Bad Beat” cooler deck, and what your surveillance personnel need to look for specifically.

Player collusion in Pai Gow tiles
What would happen if a group of Pai Gow players shared their tile information with each other?  Do you know what to look for?  Learn the primary indicators of a player collusion scam in Pai Gow tiles, and learn what you can do to prevent them from taking advantage of your Pai Gow customers.

I’m not sure whether the presentation will be held in the morning or afternoon session, but I will be sure to inform everyone in next month’s eBlast.  I believe you have to be a member of the CGA in order to attend.  For more information please contact California Gaming Association, Joe Patterson, Executive Director, (916) 297-4822, www.californiagamingassociation.org.
Cutting Edge Table Game Seminar – Tuesday, November 14th, 2017 – Paris Resort – Las Vegas Nevada

I will be presenting once again on the first day of the Cutting Edge Table Games Conference.  This is another conference in which I like to present.  This year’s session covers a lot of the information presented last year, however I have included the much talked about topic of “Rolling Chip/Dead Chip Programs”.  I always like to update my information and slip in topics that I feel need to be covered regarding the operation of table games.   Following is an outline of this year’s session:

I.     Table Games Mathematics – 9:00 AM to 12:00 PM

  • House advantage of major casino games
  • Mechanics that drives hold percentage up (and down).
  • Table game procedures that waste time and money
  • Understanding how to optimize side bets
  • Managing table game minimums to yield the best returns
  • Calculating risk range for table game and table limits
  • Determine the best metrics to use in player tracking systems.

II.     Understanding Rolling Chip/Dead Chip Programs – 12:00 PM to 12:30 PM & 2:00 PM to 3:00 PM

  • What is a Rolling Chip Program?
  • Understanding Multi-play Chip mathematics
  • Percent of the Rolling Chip Buy-in that you can use for Player Reinvestment
  • Points needed before initiating a Rolling Chip Program

III.     The Cost of Table Game Promotions – 3:00 PM to 5:30 PM

  • Effect of changing table game rules
  • Cost of “value added” promotions
  • Cost and affect of using Match Play
  • Cost of using Single Play Promo Chips
  • The pitfalls of using play-till-you-lose Promo Chips
  • Problems with discounting player losses
  • Using an Adjusted T-win model

The conference will be held at the Paris Resort in Las Vegas, November 14th through 16th.  For more information please go to their website www.tablegamesconf.com/ .  I hope to see you in Las Vegas in November.
On the Move
On the moveIf someone needs me to conduct a Table Games Evaluation or a Game Protection Seminar the second week of this month (September), let me know ASAP and I can still fit you in.  Right now my schedule is open for the last week of September, a week in October, and two weeks in November.  If you have any questions, let me know wzender@aol.com
University of Nevada Reno
California Gaming Association Presentation
Northern California
Table Game Cutting Edge Las Vegas
BOD Meeting Arizona
Please let me know if I can provide one of my services for your organization.
I’m always available to answer your questions. If you have any questions on gaming; don’t hesitate in contacting me through email.  I answer close to a half dozen email on gaming every day wzender@aol.com
Cheers and good luck.
Bill Zender
Bill Zender and Associates

Use of Rolling Chips in North America

By Bill Zender. 1)EDITOR NOTE: Post below updated in 2023 to reflect Bill Zender’s comments on the use of rolling chips in 2017.
Attached to June’s eBlast is a link to a report I just finished.  Over the past spring, it has come to my attention that a number of North American casino operators are searching for information on the use of non-negotiable chips in conjunction with a marketing program known in other parts of the world as “rolling chip” or “dead chip” programs.  The rolling chip/dead chip program is used extensively overseas to market and track high limit VIP baccarat customers.  A number of casinos have started similar programs domestically here in the USA and Canada.  I have also realized that the motivation to enter into a rolling chip program is stemming from requests by junket representatives, and marketers who work outside the casino operations.  In some instances, this could turn out to be a costly situation for the casinos.

These junket reps have informed the different casino marketing departments that they can provide a number of high limit baccarat players if the casino offers this non-negotiable chip form of player tracking. Unfortunately, many executives in casino operations who have either started the rolling chip programs or are strongly considering starting one, are misinformed as to the mathematics behind rolling chip “theoretical win” (T-win) projections, and are relying on the outside promoters and marketers for this information.  As one can imagine, this presents a seriously dangerous situation for the casino operators.

Because of this disturbing trend, I have compiled a report, or “white paper” if you may, that discusses several issues everyone considering entering the rolling chip/dead chip program needs to know.  The link is as follows: Rolling Chip Program in North AmericaFor some reason, a very inflated T-win percentage has been “floating” around that I’m having difficulty in pinning down the mathematics.  The higher percentage might be related to the mathematical win difference between the standard 5% Banker commission game, and the 1 to 2 Banker payoff on the “Punto Banco 6” version that is used extensively in Asia.  Regardless of the way it is calculated, the higher T-win percentage projects a higher than expected game revenue potential that subsequently helps to falsely support higher commission paybacks to either the customer or the junket rep (or both).  In many cases, domestic casinos are giving back a “lions share” of the win potential to outside interests while maintaining 100% of the gaming “risk”.  It is in the best interest of anyone entering into or considering a rolling chip program to read this report.

Marking Cards in Face-up Blackjack

A week ago I received an email from a casino executive who inquired about possible marked playing cards he had recently found on a face-up game of blackjack.  This is the second time I’ve heard about this possible scam in the last several months.  I think his question and my reply needs to be read by everyone on my eBlast list.  The question he sent me will be followed by my reply to him.

I have something that came up that has me really stumped.  While sorting cards from a six deck game at the end of the shift, one of the dealers found that a number of cards had a dimple or dent in the middle of the backs of the cards.  The cards were a number of 10s through Aces but not all.  When we went back over the play on that table, we only had one player betting black chips, but he won several thousand dollars.  Surveillance ran the player down for counting but found nothing.   My question is how would only a certain group of cards get dented like that in a face up game, and do you think we might have been hit by cheaters?  I haven’t seen anything like this before.

There is a strong possibility you experienced a card marking team.  If the tens and aces were dented, the cheater were probably using a “top card” marking system.  If a card sitting on top of the shoe is marked (dented) the player sitting in first seat (before the shoe) will wager up to maximum bet, and if the card is not marked, the player will wager around their minimum bet.  Not all the cards are marked because it takes a long time to make sure all the “target” cards are marked.

Usually with this scam, the cheaters send in a team of players who “dent” the faces of the cards hours before the play actually goes down when the table has minimum action.  They dent the cards by hitting the faces of the cards with a chip or the tip of their fingers.  By denting the face of the playing card, one also creates a dent on the back of the card as well.  Cards marked in this manner must be read while in the window of the shoe when glare from overhead lighting reflects off the dent or bend.  After several shoes (and hours of play), the card marking team leaves the game.

As I mentioned previously, hours later the cheaters return with their “big player”.  They approach management and request a higher limit (sometimes).  Then they either get a private game for the big player, or have him sit in the first seat position in order to always receive the first card (top card) of the shoe.  A second cheater either stands or sits at the table around 5th/6th position to read the top card of the shoe.  When the top card is dented (marked), he signals the big player to place a maximum bet.  This gives the cheaters an approximate 20% edge on that wager.  If the team marking the cards is able to mark 70% of the tens and aces, a marked card will appear as the top card prior to the next hand about 25% of the time.

If you still have the video of the black chip customer’s play, see if there is a correlation between his increase in wager size, and the appearance of a ten or ace as his first card.  If so, then you need to go back over the entire day to see if you can spot the cheaters who marked the game.  You may be able to get enough video evidence to take it to the authorities.  If you have any other questions, please let me know.  Good luck with your review.

Unfortunately, I never heard back from this individual so I don’t know whether or not his surveillance personnel found anything suspicious.   Some executives believe that marking cards in a face-up game is impossible.  This is not true.  Although the act of hitting the face-up card in plain sight is obvious, these teams train to make the move look like a show of excitement, or pointing out a “lucky” card to their friend.  Here is more information on the scam setup:

First, the cheaters must find a table where the overhead light shines down and reflects off the top card of the shoe.

Second, the cheaters have to mark up the cards using a highly overt action of touching the face of the cards as they lay on the table.  This motion is usually done at the moment the dealer starts his/her bet settlement process.  The card markers will sit in the last two positions on the table and will usually control two to three hands.  The cheaters have to mark the cards without drawing suspicion to their intentions so they may use several different players over a several hour period.

Third, hours later they will confirm the marked cards are still on the game, and if so, have their “big player” buy-in and play the first hand position.

I hope the information in this email, reply, and follow up comments gives you better insight into protecting your blackjack games.


I’m always available to answer your questions. If you have any questions on gaming; don’t hesitate in contacting me through email.  I answer close to a half dozen email on gaming every day wzender@aol.com

Cheers and good luck.

Bill Zender
Bill Zender and Associates

Copyright © 2017 Bill Zender and Associates, All rights reserved.


1EDITOR NOTE: Post below updated in 2023 to reflect Bill Zender’s comments on the use of rolling chips in 2017.