Tag Archives: Game Protection

The Ongoing Battle Against Card Counting

Anatomy of a Card CounterBy Chloe Lunn.

Card counting in blackjack has long been a thorn in the side of casinos. This practice, which can tilt the odds in favor of the player, led to an ongoing cat-and-mouse game between casinos and skilled gamblers. Over the years, casinos have employed various strategies to counteract card counters, evolving their tactics as card counting methods became more sophisticated. This article explores the measures casinos have taken to protect their interests against the art of card counting.

Early Responses: Increased Surveillance and Shuffling

Initially, casinos responded to card counting by enhancing their surveillance systems. This included closely monitoring blackjack tables through cameras and training staff to spot potential counters. Another early method was frequent shuffling of decks, which disrupts the count and makes it challenging for players to gain an advantage.

Implementing Multiple Deck Games

One significant change that casinos introduced was the shift from single-deck to multiple-deck games. This strategy dilutes the impact of card counting as the increased number of cards in play makes it much harder to maintain an accurate count.

Betting Limit Variations

Casinos also started varying betting limits to counter card counters. By limiting the range of bet sizes, casinos reduced the potential profitability of card counting. This strategy was particularly effective against players who would significantly increase their bets when the count was in their favor.

Banning Known Card Counters

In some cases, casinos resorted to outright bans, ejecting and blacklisting known card counters. While effective, this approach often led to legal challenges and public relations issues, as casinos were accused of discriminating against skilled players.

Advanced Shuffle Machines

The introduction of automatic shuffle machines was a game-changer in the fight against card counting. These machines continuously shuffle the cards, making it virtually impossible to maintain a count. The use of such technology has been a major deterrent against card counters.

Behavioral Analysis and AI

Recently, casinos have started employing advanced behavioral analysis and artificial intelligence to identify card counters. These systems analyze players’ behavior, betting patterns, and play strategy to flag potential counters, allowing for subtle interventions without causing a scene.

The Legal and Ethical Debate

The measures taken by casinos against card counters have sparked a legal and ethical debate. The question of whether skilled players should be penalized for using their intellect and skills has been a topic of discussion, with varying opinions in the gambling community.

Enhanced Dealer Training and Tactics

Casinos have not only relied on technology but also on the human element in their battle against card counters. Enhanced training for dealers and floor managers in spotting card counting behaviors is a key strategy. Dealers are trained to look for signs such as betting patterns, extreme concentration, or consistent winning. Some casinos have even employed tactics like engaging players in conversation to disrupt their concentration and break the count.

Changing the Rules of the Game

Another approach has been to alter the rules of blackjack to reduce the effectiveness of card counting. Changes such as reducing the payout for a blackjack, restricting the ability to double down, and limiting the use of splitting and surrendering can all affect a card counter’s edge. While these rule changes can apply to all players, they particularly target the advantage strategies used by counters.

Networked Information Sharing

Casinos have also started to use networked information sharing to combat card counters. By sharing information about known or suspected card counters, casinos can preemptively prevent these players from gaining an advantage. This collaboration extends across different casinos and jurisdictions, creating a more challenging environment for professional card counters to operate in.

Psychological Tactics and Player Profiling

Some casinos employ psychological tactics and player profiling as part of their strategy. This involves creating a more challenging and stressful environment for suspected card counters, such as through increased scrutiny, frequent dealer changes, or even subtle distractions. The goal is to unsettle the player and disrupt their focus and concentration.

Encouraging Other Forms of Gambling

Casinos also mitigate the impact of card counting by encouraging players to engage in other forms of gambling where the player’s skill does not significantly impact the outcome. This includes promoting games like slots, roulette, or other table games where the house edge is more consistent and not susceptible to counting strategies.

Navigating the Modern Blackjack Landscape

In the modern landscape of blackjack, where the strategies of both players and casinos are continuously evolving, platforms like HideousSlots.com become essential for players. Hideous Slots provides up-to-date information on where to play blackjack, highlighting casinos that offer a fair balance between player-friendly rules and measures to counter card counting. For players looking for an enjoyable and equitable blackjack experience, Hideous Slots offers insights into the best places to play while respecting the integrity of the game.

The strategies employed by casinos to counter card counters have become increasingly sophisticated, incorporating a mix of technology, rule changes, and psychological tactics. These developments reflect the ongoing evolution of the game of blackjack and the casino industry as a whole. For blackjack enthusiasts and players looking to stay informed and enjoy the game fairly, resources like HideousSlots.com offer invaluable guidance and information in this ever-changing landscape.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Chloe Lunn is content writer at Hideous Slots.

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The Buster Blackjack Side bet

By Bill Zender.1)EDITOR NOTE: Post below updated in 2023 to reflect Bill Zender’s comments on the Buster Blackjack Side bet.

Bill Zender and Associates

Email

Interesting Emails

Over the past month I only received one interesting question regarding table games that I wish to pass along to my readers.  The question has to do with protecting the Buster side bet from card counting attack.  A lot of game protection professional try and apply a blackjack count system to all aspects of the game including side bets.  In some situations, the object of the side bet is parallel to the primary game which dictates that higher value cards (specifically ten-value cards) are important to the players successful wager outcome.  However, many of the side bets are NOT designed to follow the object of the main game, and to successfully attack those side bet, a totally different count system needs to be employed.  This is the case with the Buster sidebet.  The following email outlines this exact situation:

Executive’s Email

In the past month or so we’ve experienced a rash of card counters at our property. What makes this all the more intriguing is that three out of the last four have wagered on the Buster Bet side wager upon the count hitting -4 or below. Is this anything you’ve come across recently? The last two using this strategy I asked if they had any information for me, realizing that they didn’t owe me a thing, one of which let me know that it was -5 but he had no mathematical evidence to back this. Only that he had been told to do so.  I read Eliot Jacobson’s two articles in AP HEAT, but this was far more advanced and was hoping to discover something easier to train, if it existed. Any insight would be welcome, as usual. 

My Reply

First off, counting the Buster side bet requires a different count system than the main game of BJ.  If you count using a hi/lo system, you will notice that side bet counters of Buster would bet in a negative hi/lo true count.  The Buster count system usually has the 7,8,9,T labeled as +1 when removed, and cards like A,2,3 labeled as -2 (or greater).  The system used depends on your pay schedule, but the count labels will vary only slightly.  In addition, pay schedules that pay 3:1 for busts with four cards are more likely to get attacked.  With that said, the return for the player counting the Buster is not as good compared to counting the main game.  I would assume the maximum bet limit on the Buster would have to be greater than $25 if it is the primary area of attack.  If the players are professional level counters then they could be attacking the main game using a hi/lo (or similar) count system, and have another person on the table or standing behind, counting the Buster using the Buster count system as mentioned above (signaling to the others).  My two cents on the situation.  I hope that helps.

My reply to this casino executive is based mostly on supposition, since I am not observing the play directly but analyzing it though the executive’s narrative.  As mentioned in the reply, the Buster is only vulnerable when the maximum bet limit exceeds $25, and when the pay schedule indicates a four-card bust pays at least 3:1.  Also, it goes without saying that a double deck Buster game is more attractive than a six or eight deck game under the same limits and pay schedule.  Any comments regarding attacking the Buster side bet are welcomed. Email me at: wzender@aol.com.

Questions???
 
I am always available to answer your questions. If you have any questions on gaming; do not hesitate to contact me through email.  I answer emails about gaming every daywzender@aol.comI really am here to help.
 
Cheers, good luck, and stay safe!
 
Bill Zender and Associates
wzender@aol.com
702-423-5734

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Footnotes

Footnotes
1EDITOR NOTE: Post below updated in 2023 to reflect Bill Zender’s comments on the Buster Blackjack Side bet.

Bill Zender Newsletter – Down Under Blackjack and Emails

Bill ZenderBill Zender. 1)EDITOR NOTE: Post below updated in 2023 to reflect Bill Zender’s email responses including Down Under Blackjack.

Answers to Important Emails

Correcting a loop-hole in their manual multiple deck shuffle

Below is the follow up to an email I received two months ago.  The casino executive contacting me had been watching a BJ customer punishing him with occasional large bets in the casino’s multiple deck shoe game.  The game was a higher limit table, and was hand shuffled.  Base on the original email I noted that the shuffle they used did not incorporate a deck “strip” in the shuffle procedure.  When questioning this oversight, I was told that any shuffle, or change to the shuffle, had to be approved by the gaming regulator.  I advised the casino executive that it was imperative that the casino insert a deck strip during each card grab selection where the cards are riffle shuffled.  I received the following reply the middle of July;

Reply by the casino executive:

I just wanted to drop you a quick follow up…

We obtained approval to change the shuffle procedure to incorporate a more standard riffle, riffle, strip riffle for all cards during the shuffle, and…

Our most recent suspected AP and associate returned, checked into a comped room, bought in for a large amount, observed the shuffle, played utilizing a minimal bet spread redeeming all the match plays available to him, retired to his room with his associate cashed out a short time later checked out of his room and left property in an Uber.  I can’t thank you enough for your insight and recommendations.

Additional comment on this subject:
Regulators need to understand that for the most part, they do not possess the knowledge needed to judge and dictate various procedures required to make their casino providers’ games safe from scams and advantage play.  I appreciate the job done by regulators, and I respect their watch-dog position for protecting the industry, however many regulators need to lose their egotistic attitudes, admit they don’t know the best method for conducting certain tasks and procedures, and seek outside expertise.

No commission Pai Gow Poker Variations

Email from a Director of Casino Games:
Have you ever seen a commission free PG that offered player banking?  I can’t think of anything that would vary the math away from the house and that would be different from a standard commission game.  In the game in question a Q High Pai Gow for the Banker results in a push of all Pai Gow hands.  We would just simply add a rule that states if a player is banking and the dealer’s hand is a Q high Pai Gow the “Banker’s” hand would then always push with the dealer.   Have you even seen a casino do this?  
Thanks for any input.  Also thanks for your input a few month ago about Baccarat.  Our game is up and running now and doing quite well.  Hope this finds you and yours well. 

My Reply:
There are versions of “Pai Gow Poker” where the game is dealt without charging the customer a commission on winning “player” bets.  I have attached a PDF of a slide I use in my math presentations.  It show three forms of PGP where commission is not charged on the customer’s winning player bets.  Remember, the banking customer is either prohibited from banking or still charged a 5%commission on winning banking results.  These games are based on a joker being used wild for straights/flushes, and as an Ace otherwise.

  1. You can change the standard PGP game to commission-less, however it reduces the H/A% from 2.7% down to 1.23%.  All customers banking results are still charged 5%, and are subject to the standard H/A% of 0.12%.
     
  2. In “Commission Free” PGP the bank pushes ALL bets with a 9 high (or less) low hand (based on house way).  Because a “9-high” low hand can be manipulated, customers are not allowed to take the bank.  House H/A% of 2.5%.
     
  3. In “EZ Pai Gow Poker” the bank pushes ALL bets with a Queen high (or less), and the customers can still bank, but are charged a 5% commission on all winning bank outcomes.  House H/A% of 2.47% on the player hands, and I’m not sure about how the customer bank is handled.  

 
That should help answer that question.  I do believe that the Commission Free PGP and EZ PGP games are both proprietary (if the patents are still good), and you will have to contact with the vendors.

Questions about “Down Under Blackjack”

There has been a lot of interest in the past several years for different versions of blackjack.  The most popular by far is “Spanish 21” which is a copy of Australian Pontoon.  The next popular variations is the BJ series of “push 22” designed and patented by Geoff Hall.  More lately, is the Dave Wisler creation of Down Under Blackjack. For those who are unfamiliar with the game concept, Wisler has developed a hole-card peeking system that actually informs the player about the approximate value of the dealer’s hole-card on every hand.  This information is broken into three different categories of “Blue” (low 2-5), “Red” (medium 6-9), and “Gold” (high T & A).  The information is helpful to a point, but it still presents the player with a number of hole-card value possibilities that the player has to consider before reaching a hand play decision.  Following is my Q&A with this executive.

Executives Email:
I am sure you know Dave Wisler from Masque Publishing.  He just got “Down Under Blackjack” approved in this State.  I remember looking at the game last fall at G2E.  Please share your opinion when you have time. 

My Reply:
In reality, it’s another BJ variation in the same fashion as Geoff Hall’s “22 push” series of BJ games.  The H/A% will be the same as your standard BJ games give or take a small percentage, but it will cater mostly to lower limit players (and the occasional high limit player who is temporarily curious).  You should also get a high degree of side betting action on the Match the Dealer which should raise the return high enough to easily offset the proprietary fee.  To my knowledge, DUBJ does not pose any new game protection issues, however the game does require the floor/surveillance to understand three different basic strategy charts correlating to the three hole-card categories of small hole-card, medium hole-card, and high hole-card.  That is my two cents on the game.  I hope to see you at one of the conferences this fall.

Note: DUBJ strategy charts can be found at: https://wizardofodds.com/games/down-under-blackjack/
 
Knowledge SharingQuestions???
 
I’m always available to answer your questions. If you have any questions on gaming; don’t hesitate to contact me through email.  I answer close to a half dozen emails on gaming every day wzender@aol.com. 
 
Cheers and good luck.
 
Bill Zender and Associates

Footnotes

Footnotes
1EDITOR NOTE: Post below updated in 2023 to reflect Bill Zender’s email responses including Down Under Blackjack.

Bill Zender on the One2Six Shufflers

Card Counting Isn't IllegalBy Bill Zender. 1)EDITOR NOTE: Post below updated in 2023 to reflect Bill Zender’s email responses including the One2Six Shufflers.

Emails I have received

Following are several email questions I have received over the past month that I felt were important enough to pass along to friends/associates. 

Question:

Note: I received a text message from a casino executive who had not used a continual shuffling machine (CSM) previously.  Although I answered his text message regarding game effect of using a CSM, I felt he needed to know some more important information regarding using a CSM for the first time.  Following is my reply through email.  My thumbs are too fat for texting any quantity of information.

Answer:

It appears that you haven’t used One2Six shuffling machines (CSMs) before.  Following are some things you need to know when using an One2Six shufflers:

  • Be sure the dealers are “trained” to pick up the cards and place the cards face up in the machine.  If the dealers aren’t trained correctly, the game will slow to nothing while the floor supervisor has to remove the “upside-down” cards from the interior wheel of the machine.  I learned about this the hard way.
  • You need to stay on the dealers about maintaining an adequate game pace.  For some unknown reason, the dealers will slow their game pace on CSMs.  I think it has something to do with the removal of the deck manual shuffle or transfer time when using batch shuffling machines.
  • Don’t allow the dealers to keep several previous hands in the discard holder before placing them into the machine.  CSM machines can’t be traditionally counted; however holding out groups of cards can make it a countable game.  I would remove all discard holders from the CSM table, and force the dealer to insert each round that has been dealt immediately into the CSM.
  • This is really important: The lip of the One2Six shuffling machine is quite high as compared to most dealing shoes.  Some dealers will have a tendency to stick their thumb of their left hand (dealing hand) under the drawn hole-card.  If the dealer does this, the hole-card can be lifted and exposed accidentally to a customer sitting at third base.  Make sure all dealers remove their hole-card while the thumb of their left hand is away from the edge of the card.

I would imagine you know most of this, but since you haven’t used CSMs machines before (to my knowledge), I would feel bad if something happened and I hadn’t mentioned it.  Have a great holiday season my friend.
 
Question:

My question is for a player’s average bet on Ultimate Texas Holdem. Should the “play wager” be counted in a player’s average bet?

Answer:

With UTH, the average bet is the amount of the ante plus the blind, i.e., the amount of money on the layout when the first hand is dealt.  Any additional wagering is optional, and is not included.  In addition, the H/A% for UTH in most player tracking systems is usually wrong.  The game has a 2.2% H/A [applied using the ante/blind wager] if the player uses optimal computer strategy.  No one uses optimal strategy, so the true H/A% is probably around 3.5%.  Note that I didn’t include any UTH side bets.  They differ, are optional, and the average bet wagered in the side bets varys.  It’s better to leave their existence out of the player “average bet” rating equation.  BTW, the 3.5% suggested also includes a gain in H/A% from any side bet/jackpot bet H/A% influence.
 
Question:

Good afternoon Bill, what is the more effective/profitable to have a table of 6 players compared to 2 tables with 3 players in terms of hands per hour?

Answer:

Good question.  It would be better for gaining more bet decisions if more tables were open and less players were on each game.  This is a problem for brick and mortar casinos, though.  You have limited space, and the increased cost of personnel and equipment need to be considered as well.

There is some table game yield management information out there on the Internet that recommends 3 to 4 player hands per table (check Tangam Gaming http://tangamgaming.com/).  You would need to do your own cost analysis before making an educated decision whether this is better for you at your casino or not.  Personally, I would open enough games to allow for a couple of unoccupied betting circles per table average.

Once it starts to get really busy, the 3 to 4 player hands per table advantage goes out the window, and then the strategy is to open games to accommodate players.  At this point you may also consider raising minimum limits in order to maximize revenue potential.  I guess that is table game yield management in a nut shell.
 
Questions???
 
I’m always available to answer your questions. If you have any questions on gaming; don’t hesitate to contact me through email.  I answer close to a half dozen emails on gaming every day wzender@aol.com
 
Cheers and good luck.
 
Bill Zender and Associates
702-423-5734

Footnotes

Footnotes
1EDITOR NOTE: Post below updated in 2023 to reflect Bill Zender’s email responses including the One2Six Shufflers.

How Casinos can be Sure a Person is Counting?

By Bill Zender

October 2, 2017

Dear Friends and Business Associates,

Galaxy GamingI will be attending this year’s G2E tomorrow, October 3rd, and Wednesday October 4th.  Since I am on the Board of Directors, I will be “hanging out” primarily at the Galaxy Gaming booth 4208.  The convention area is like a small city so be sure to grab a map and look for the booth’s location.  Come by and see Galaxy’s sales “guru” Dean Barnett, or the company’s new CEO, Todd Cravens.  A longtime associate of mine, Gary Saul, will also be working the booth.  While you are there, ask Gary to show you a card trick or two.

Part of the time I plan to visit the Techart booth 3535.  Techart is the maker of the MAXTime hole card reader.  I will be there visiting two of my good friends, Bob Del Rossi and Artie Miller.  Artie is one of the winners of the World Game Protection Conference’s “Lifetime Achievement” awards for his contribution to the gaming industry and game protection.  Not a bad place to spend time.
If you catch me around 2PM on Wednesday, maybe you can join me while I walk the exhibition floor.  I like to tour some of the booths and look at new and improved products that involve table game productivity and protection.  It’s usually a fun table game “walk-about”, and you never know what you might find.  Hope to see you there.

How can a casino executive be sure a person is actually counting?How can a casino executive be sure a person is actually counting?
This is the third portion of the Card Counting Protection series I have detailed in my monthly eBlasts.
Before backing anyone off a game, changing deck penetration, or limiting the player’s bet spread, one needs some reasonable tools to determine that the suspected person is a professional level card counter.  The executive or surveillance professional who is conducting the evaluation needs to use some type of analytical tool that will accurately determine the possibility that the suspected player is in fact a card counter, and also provide the evaluator with a printout, or hard copy of these results.  This hard copy can be used to back up the evaluation, and to later serve as proof that the suspect was in fact counting cards.  How many times have your department taken action against a player for counting cards, only to have the legitimacy of the “back off” questioned by a host or casino marketing afterwards?  In addition, this evaluation tool can serve as evidence as to why a player wasn’t backed off even though the customer was a big winner.

There are two tools that I recommend casino executives can utilize.  The first tool is a blackjack software package that analyzes a blackjack player’s skill and betting level.  There are two very effective software packages available to the casino executive.

Information regarding the person’s actual play is entered into the program either manually or through a voice recognition program.  After enough hands are entered into the program, it is queried by the analyst. The program will indicate to what degree the information of the betting and hand decision patterns indicate the suspected player is counting cards.  It’s important when using any type of card counter verification method that several decks or shoes are analyzed in order to calculate the best possible decision outcome.  The primary drawbacks to the software are in its inability to take into consideration other influences in the game, and the hefty price tag that comes with the software.

The second card counting analytical tool is a much lower tech, less expensive system that accomplishes the same goal just as accurately.  This is known as “charting”.  A number of surveillance departments already use some form of charting a customer’s plays as a means to better understand the person’s play characteristics.  Charting is most effective as a card counter catch tool when the evaluator uses it to determine the breadth of the suspect’s betting spread, and the suspect’s betting correlation with the true count of the cards.  In order to win money counting cards, the counter must wager significantly more money when he has the advantage, and as little as possible when the casino has the advantage.  If the charted observations of a suspected player indicate that he is utilizing a large enough bet spread, and increasing his wagers to the larger bet level when he has a mathematical advantage of 90% or greater, then the evaluator has enough information to safely rule that the suspected player is counting cards.  As noted when using a software package to evaluate a suspected card counting play, it is prudent to watch no less than 4 decks or shoes before making the final decision about the player.

Following are points that need to be followed to ensure the casino executive or surveillance professional is making the correct analysis regarding a suspected blackjack player’s long-term ability to be a card counting threat to the casino’s bankroll.

  • Don’t automatically assume that a winning blackjack player is counting cards.  There’s a greater chance he’s a desirable player who is running luck.  Assuming a winning person is a card counter will also cloud one’s ability to look for other more costly problems such as advantage play techniques and cheating.
  • It’s a must for a successful card counter to have an effective bet spread, especially in the six deck and eight deck games (don’t forget the 6:5 single decks).  Without the necessary bet spread range, the player cannot gain an advantage counting cards.
  • Never cut the shoe in half on a player to look for a reaction.  You need to analyze the play before taking any action. If you cut the shoe in half on a desirable blackjack customer, he could get upset and never play at your property again.
  • Don’t rely on a decision that is made by one of your floor executives or surveillance operator who is not at least on a semi-professional card counting level.  I’ve known a number of executives who claim to know card counting inside and out, but when asked, can’t answer simple questions such as the mechanics of true count conversion and hand strategy deviations.  Take the Ouija board out of the equation.
  • Whether your organization uses a counter catcher software package or elects to chart the play, always look at several shoes or decks before making a decision about a player.  I prefer looking at several examples where the count is mostly minus throughout the shoe, as well as several examples where the count is mostly plus.  Taking your time to compare the extremes will help eliminate the chance of getting “false positives”.
  • Do not take action against a suspected player until you are 100% sure the player is counting cards.  If you wish to error on the side of the casino, take your time and make sure you correctly identify a customer as a long-term card counting threat before disrupting his play.

For more information on charting, please feel free in contacting me wzender@aol.com.
 
Seminars and workshopSeminars and Workshop

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 have 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.

At this time I’m not sure whether the presentation will be held in the morning or afternoon session.  I will inform everyone of that schedule 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 drive hold percentages 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 games and table limits
  • Determine the best metrics to use in player tracking systems.
  1. 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 effect 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 moveOn the Move
It appears I will have at least one week open each month to the end of the year.  I always have time open to conduct winning player reviews.  If you have any questions, let me know wzender@aol.com
 
October
G2E
Open
California Gaming Association Presentation
Northern California
 
November
Albuquerque NM
Open
Table Game Cutting Edge Las Vegas
BOD Meeting Arizona
 
December
Open
Central California
Holidays
 
Please let me know if I can provide one of my services for your organization.
 
Questions???
 
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
702-423-5734

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
 
September
Open
University of Nevada Reno
Open
 
October
G2E
Open
California Gaming Association Presentation
Northern California
 
November
Open
Open
Table Game Cutting Edge Las Vegas
BOD Meeting Arizona
 
 
Please let me know if I can provide one of my services for your organization.
 
Questions???
 
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
702-423-5734

Understanding Blackjack Bet Spread Requirements for a Card Counter in Blackjack

Chip SpreadBy Bill Zender. 1)EDITOR NOTE: Post below updated in 2023 to reflect Bill Zender’s interesting comments on the state of advantage play.

When I ask table game executives what signs they use to detect that a person is on their tables counting cards, I get the following list of “tells”;

  • Guys winning a lot of money
  • Young guy with a baseball cap
  • Guy sitting on third base
  • A Guy who watches all the cards

If you agree with this list, you probably are in a position to make a lot of wrong calls to surveillance, or you could be allowing actual professional level card counters to slip through the cracks.  Also notice that the previous list is gender specific indicting that it is “guys” who get your attention even though a number of good card counters are women.  However, the number one “tell” that I hear from the table game’s executive is “winning a lot of money”.  This is not a valid “tell”, although it is a good reason to monitor a person’s table play.  When someone is winning, the number one default of table game’s executives is, “he must be counting cards!”   I would suggest that 99% of all players winning a large sum of money on your table are due to two factors; (1) their average wager is considered to be “high limits”, and (2) they are running lucky (known as negative statistic fluctuation for the house).  Under standard statistical deviation, out of 100 higher limit players, 2 to 3 of them will be beating the casino for a scary amount of money.  That’s just the law of normal distribution.

Detection from the casino floor can be accomplished quite easily even with today’s floor supervisory situation (too many player ratings, and too many games to watch).  Even under these conditions you can teach your floor supervisors (and surveillance operators) three key tools to use that will increase your card counting detection rate by 200%, and  decrease your false positives (think a person is counting when they are not).

The first tool the supervisor needs to learn and be able to recall correctly is basic strategy.  In July, I linked a basic strategy examination to my eBlast.  The purpose was to allow all my eBlast readers to evaluate the level of basic strategy knowledge among their staff.  As I have said before, basic strategy is the foundation of the game of blackjack, and without knowing how each hand should be played, you can’t protect the game of blackjack effectively.  You need to be able to watch a person wagering a significant amount of money, and determine if they are a good strategy player, an average strategy player, or are deviating from basic strategy because they are using card or deck composition knowledge to make their hand decision.

The second tool your floor supervisors (and surveillance operators) need to grasp is the required bet spread that the professional level card counter needs to employ to gain an advantage over that specific blackjack game type.  Approximately 80% of a card counter’s advantage is gained through wagering more money when he or she has a mathematical advantage over the house based on the remaining cards in the deck or shoe.  For example, using a six deck shoe game using standard rules and hitting soft 17 with a deck penetration of 4 ½ decks before shuffling.  Approximately 80% of the hands played will be in the house’s favor or neutral (no one’s favor), and 20% of the hands will be in the player’s favor (between slight to 3 ½% player advantage).  If the counter does not increase his or her bets, or does increase their bet limitedly during those 20% favorable deck occurrences, they cannot win money in the long-term.  In addition, using this same blackjack game and penetration, the professional card count will need to maintain a bet spread ratio of 12 units (example, $25 to $300) to gain a marginal overall win rate (less than 1%).  In most cases, that counter will strive to achieve a win rate equal to or in excess of 1%, and opt for a bet spread ratio of at least 16 units (example, $25 to $400) or greater.  If the card counter cannot achieve at least a mathematical overall return of 0.8%, counting that game is considered a waste of time and resources.
Following is a table that illustrates approximate bet spread ratios against numbers of decks and deck penetrations;

Blackjack Spread Requirement Ratios

For blackjack games where 6:5 is offered, multiple the maximum level units by 5 (example, 1 deck blackjack 6:5 would require a bet spread ratio of 1 to 20 and 1 to 25 Units).

Next month we will look at the most important of the three tools for detecting card counting, and that is the correlation of bet size to the suspected blackjack player’s hand decisions (deviations from basic strategy).

Simple game protection tips for baccarat

I recently received this email from a casino executive regarding his introduction of the non-commission EZ Baccarat game into his Las Vegas based casino.  Even though the casino offers standard 5% commission baccarat, management felt that they could attract more Californian based Asian business if they offered the baccarat format most common in the Golden State.  This executive’s question and my reply are as follows:

Question:
Hi Bill, can you email me any new information on EZ Baccarat, and also the Dragon 7 side bet.   Also do you have any material on the use of Promos Chips in baccarat?  When you come to town next, let’s have diner.

My answer:
Good to hear from you.  I heard you are putting in EZ Baccarat.  Be sure the dealers understand the three-card 7 banker rule.  I’ve seen casinos where the dealers were pushing both the banker and player bets.  Be sure they take the players bets with a three-card 7 banker winner.

This is a great game, but just so you know, the Dragon 7 and Panda 8 can be counted successfully using a modified count system.   Please read through the attached material, and if you have any questions, let me know.  [Note: If any readers want information on detecting counting of the Dragon 7 side bet, email me and I’ll send the information to you.]

BTW, I know most of the scams that have hit California baccarat games.  Here’s what you need to do to protect yourself (in any baccarat game for that matter);

  • Do not use the ribbon spread for inserting the shuffle point indicator card.  Have the dealers insert the shuffle point cards approximately 20 cards from the back.  Prevents back card location play.
  • When presenting the decks to be cut, always have the dealer present the cards with his right hand regardless where the customer cutting the cards is sitting.  This prevents camera-up-the-sleeve scam.
  • If possible, use an MD shuffling machine on the game.  There are a number of card sequencing cheating moves that can be done by the dealer.  Lately, it’s been the camera in the dealer’s shirt or vest.
  • If you use a squeeze baccarat game, be sure to use an Intelligent shoe.  There are a couple of good switch teams working in California (and North America).
  • Don’t let any of the customers dictate changes in procedure.  Think the Ivey edge sort play.
  • Be careful of California junket reps who insist on giving their players promotional chips.  Know the cost before agreeing to any promotions of this nature.
  • If it looks like marketing wants to start a “rolling chip/dead chip” program, let me know because I just put out some information on the mathematics and short comings of that program.

Rolling chip programs are, in actuality, a different form of player rating system; however a number of junket reps in California are insisting on a rolling chip program, so they can put money into their own pockets.  Imagine that!  Many of the junket reps out of the LA area are bandits.  Count on it.
 
Questions???
 
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 and Associates
702-423-5734

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Footnotes

Footnotes
1EDITOR NOTE: Post below updated in 2023 to reflect Bill Zender’s interesting comments on the state of advantage play.

Blackjack Basic Strategy – Is It Important?

From Bill Zender’s email discussing his upcoming activities and events.

July 5, 2017

Dear Friends and Business Associates,

I hope everyone is doing well.  First off, I want to give the University of Nevada Reno’s Extended Studies course in Casino Management a recommendation, especially the Table Game Management course that is scheduled to be held in Reno Nevada September 18th thru 21st.   Earlier this spring the course was pushed back to September because it lacked participants.  I’ve been involved with this University of Nevada program for the past fourteen years, and I feel that it is the best casino management program in the country, if not the world.  The week session in which I will be participating, features two other individuals involved in that week’s presentation whom I believe do an outstanding job. 

On Monday, September 18th, Bob Ellsworth presents a session regarding the overview of casino table games.  Bob Ellsworth shows the students all aspects of table games and procedures that the gaming professional needs to understand in order to operate an efficient table game operation.  On day 2, September 19th, Bob Del Rossi presents an outstanding session on table game protection.  He covers all the common methods used to attack table games, and drills down into the different “indicators” that table game and surveillance personal need to identify in order to catch and stop both legal and illegal intrusions.  On September 20th and 21st, I conduct my presentations on table game mathematics and methods for better managing table games (see descriptions of those session below).  As you can see, the four days of table game training are quite invaluable to the novice table games and surveillance executives, as well as the more experienced individuals looking for ways to improve their operations.

Second, I want everyone to know that you have a rare opportunity in August and September in which I have plenty of weeks open to conduct work.  If you are considering in-house training sessions on game protection, or areas table game management, please contact me.  Right now I have about six weeks open this late summer.  It’s also a golden opportunity to have me come to your property to conduct a table game operation evaluation.  I have conducted a number of these evaluations over the past several years for several casinos throughout North America.  If you want to know how to better position your table games to be safer, and at the same time create opportunities for greater revenue potential, please let me know.

Remember, I always have time to conduct “winning” player evaluations.  Just recently I conducted an evaluation on some high limit Pai Gow tiles play that indicated that the players involved were passing along hand information in order to determine the dealer’s hand.  Sometimes it a good thing to get a second opinion.

Blackjack Basic Strategy
Blackjack Basic Strategy: Is it Important? 

During a casual discussion with a table games manager in a Northwestern casino, he asked me how important it is for the floor supervisor to know basic strategy.  His contention was that since most ratings systems in blackjack don’t require a player skill evaluation, he didn’t understand why the floor supervisors should learn basic strategy and be tested on that knowledge.  He also related that his casino had recently given all floor supervisors and pit executives a basic strategy test, and the result was dismal at best.  He also experienced a lot of negative feedback from his staff regarding being tested in the first place.  Is knowledge of the “exact” plays regarding basic strategy really that important?

Based on my 40 years of experience in blackjack as dealer, floor supervisor, casino executive, professional level advantage player, and a game protection expert, the answer is YES!  The foundation of the game of blackjack is anchored around the customer’s ability to make hand decisions accurately.  Without knowing how the customer should play each and every hand decision, the floor supervisor, casino executive, and surveillance operator will not be able to determine a customer’s level of blackjack skill.  Subsequently, they will be unable to detect most situations of advantage play and cheating. 

Experienced blackjack customers use two different types of strategy to play their hands; (1) basic strategy, the computer calculated best hand strategy based on the player’s two-cards (or sometimes more) and the dealer’s up-card, and (2) common strategy, the more popular strategy derived from some understanding of basic strategy and table observation of other players.  I will go out on a limb and suggest that approximately 90-95% of all blackjack players use common strategy when deciding how to play their hands, and only a small percentage of players (1-2%) use perfect basic strategy.  What the floor supervisor, casino executive, and surveillance professional need to be able to do is identify which strategy style each blackjack player uses.  Customers who use a common strategy are normally no threat to the casino while basic strategy players know more about the game than the casual blackjack player, and may extend their knowledge further into areas of advantage play, and possibly cheating.

Following is a link to a blackjack strategy examination I have created.  The purpose of this examination is to determine whether your table game or surveillance employees can spot the difference between a non-threating blackjack customer who uses a common strategy, or that of a potential threating customer who follows basic strategy.  The link to the blackjack strategy examination and answer sheet are as follows:  Blackjack Strategy Examination.1)Bill Zender’s Blackjack Strategy Examination appears to be no longer available.  It was previously at http://billzender.us11.list-manage.com/track/click?u=1a57e68a82b308dad579ff3af&id=b117a76687&e=dffc884c7f .  Please feel free to download and use this blackjack strategy examination at your property.  If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

Note: A professional level card counter will use basic strategy 4 out of 5 hands while deviating that one hand out of five based on the count.  Advantage players will also use perfect basic strategy, however APs obtaining the dealer’s hole-card may use neither basic nor common, but exhibit hand strategies based on advanced knowledge of the hole-card.  Cheaters will use basic strategy up until the point where their cheating technique require them to do otherwise.  The cheater uses basic strategy to give back the minimum amount of money to the casino until they can apply their illicit trade.

Why we can't beat this guy
Why can’t we beat this guy!!!

Here is an email correspondence that needs to be passed along to everyone on my email list.  I received this email from a casino executive regarding a winning higher limit player in blackjack.  For a consultant like myself, this type of email is very common.  A higher limit customer is winning a large amount of money, and upper management does not understand why anyone could be beating the house, especially if the house losing streak has continued through several of the customer’s visits.  The executive’s question and my answer to his situation are as follows.

Question:
I believe I know the answer to this but it would be great to hear it from the expert.  Assuming we can rule out collusion, card marking, card counting, and shuffle tracking.  Can a player with a large bankroll overcome the HA by only attempting to win a small amount.  
 
We are under new ownership and I would like to give the new ownership some piece of mind other than “it’ll come around”.  We have a handful of regular, well known, lifetime losers with that play style.  They will win 20K several days in a row and historically will blow 200-300K when they lose.  We are playing unlucky in 2016 with our top 3 players and the questions are coming in.  There hasn’t been any rule or procedural change.   I look forward to hearing from you.
 
My answer:
Don’t think for a moment you are the only Table Games Director with this problem.  I guess the basic answer is that some players win for periods of time, and that’s why it’s called “gambling”.  There will always be an “element of uncertainty” in the business.  Statistically, within 10,000 hand decisions in a game like blackjack, 16% of all players will be below -1 standard deviation.  This usually means those players are beating the casino, and doing so while still playing against the casino’s natural mathematical edge.  Taking the normal distribution curve further, 2-3% of your players will be winning below even the -2 standard deviation point.  If you have 100 higher limit players, based on statistics, two or three of those players will be big winners.
 
What I usually suggest in this situation is that you use two primary strategies; first, conduct an evaluation of all possible and logical ways of gaining a player’s edge over the game in question.  In blackjack that would be card counting, hole-carding, location play, marked cards, collusion, etc.
Put together a concise report to present to upper management with your findings that nothing can be detected.
 
Second, go back historically and build a profile of the player or similar past players to show that the games will “turn around” eventually.  Be sure to point out periods when a player has lost back a lot of his winnings.  Players who gamble with an advantage or down right cheat, do not gamble back a large percentage of their past wins.  I would use periods of loss-back of 50% of previous winnings or better as strong evidence the player is a desirable gambler and not playing with an advantage.
 
Another course of action could be the need to “educate” non-table games executive in the games and the slime mathematical edge of the games.  Right now with your region’s BJ rules the average high limit BJ player is subject to a mathematical house advantage of 0.3% to 1.0% depending on how good or poorly he makes hand strategy decisions (baccarat is around 1.2%).  In comparison with slot machines, the average slot machine “floor PAR” in your region is about 10-12%.
 
Statistically speaking, the average 1% H/A% player could be winning at maximum risk after about 8,000 hands while the guaranteed win point is around 40,000 hand decisions.  If the BJ player was a good hand strategy player and drove the expected H/A% down to 0.5%, the maximum risk and guaranteed win point could be as much as 16,000 hands and 80,000 hands respectively.
 
There’s my two cents on the topic.  If you want me to conduct a player evaluation, let me know, and if you need me to conduct a table game evaluation at your casino, feel free to contact me so we can set something up.  Take care and good luck with your situation.
 
Seminars and Workshop

I am still considering conducting a seminars on the cost of casino promotions along with a section on Dead Chip/Rolling Chip programs somewhere in the USA, preferably in Las Vegas.  I’m also looking to conduct another Optimal Baccarat Seminar somewhere in the East or Midwest.  Please watch for future eBlast to find out what seminars, dates, and locations will be offered.

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

I always enjoy presenting at the UNR Extended Studies Gaming program regarding table games management.  The students are from different gaming regions throughout North American, and occasionally, from around the world. I will be covering the topics of Casino Mathematics and Table Game Management on September 20th and 21st.  Following are the topics covered during my portion of the four-day program:
 

  • Hold-percentage analysis as a management tool
  • Game probability and profitability factors
  • Game selection, location, mix and pricing
  • Marketing strategies and customer development
  • Customer service strategies and applications
  • Maximizing department profitability and efficiency
  • Casino database management for table games

As I mentioned previously, these are the days I will be presenting; however, to attend you need to sign up for the entire week’s program.  I truly believe that price and time spent in this University of Nevada Extended Studies program is well worth it.
See the Gaming Management Series overview for a full schedule of upcoming courses.  Email gaming@unr.edu, call 1-800-233-8928 or visit the website for information about gaming management education from the University of Nevada, Reno.

On the Move
Summer is a slower time for me so if you are looking for a game protection or table game management seminar, or need your table games evaluated, this is the perfect time to contact me.  Right now all my available time slots in July are filled, but my schedule is wide open for August and September.  If you have any questions, let me know wzender@aol.com
 
July
South Dakota
Las Vegas BOD Meeting
Northern California
 
August
Open
Las Vegas BOD Meeting
Open
Open
 
September
Open
Open
University of Nevada Reno
Open
 
Please let me know if I can provide one of my services for your organization.
 
Questions???
 
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
702-423-5734

chips

 

Footnotes

Footnotes
1Bill Zender’s Blackjack Strategy Examination appears to be no longer available.  It was previously at http://billzender.us11.list-manage.com/track/click?u=1a57e68a82b308dad579ff3af&id=b117a76687&e=dffc884c7f .

Bill Zender on Table Game Advantage Play and Cheating Scams

By Bill Zender. 1)EDITOR NOTE: Post below updated in 2023 to reflect Bill Zender’s comments on advantage play in 2017.

2017 Table Game Advantage Play and Cheating Scams to Watch Out For

Blackjack – Still the dominate table game on the casino floor, I believe the primary avenue of attack will come from advantage players finding weak dealers in order to spy the dealer’s hole-card.  Please don’t rule out shoe dealt games!  Finding dealers that give up the hole-card (unintentionally) in shoe games is more common than you think.  Also, don’t rule out card marking (both daub and punch) and card switching in hand pitched games.  The biggest cost to the gaming industry will come from card counting; however it’s NOT the players at the table creating the cost.  It’s the FEAR of counters that hurts our industry.  For example; do you cut off more than one deck from the back of the 6 or 8 deck shoe games?  If the answer is “yes”, there’s the cost!  Cutting off more cards than necessary decreases hand decisions per hour which costs blackjack revenue.

Baccarat – Baccarat is internationally popularity, simplicity, and offers “sky-high” wagering limits, and it will remain the primary game to beat in 2017.  My biggest concerns lie with cheaters gaining access to playing cards, and either recording pre-shuffled card sequences, or using invisible paints to mark the card (primarily the sides, surprised!)  If you question my thoughts on using invisible paints to mark the sides of cards, please go on YouTube and watch videos (there are several) regarding the “Holdem Analyzer”, and consider how that principle would work in regards to baccarat and card sequence knowledge.  Also, beware of the high limit customer who requests changes to the games dealing procedure (dealer turning up the cards, as well as determining the method for inserting the shuffle point card).  Procedure manipulation through social engineering has been a big problem over the past several years, and probably won’t diminish in 2017.

Craps – One of the hardest games to cheat or gain an advantage by the customers.  Be on the lookout for dice sliding (not controlled throws).  Dice sliding appears to be on the rise in smaller, less game protection educated casinos, or in high limit games with “demanding” VIP players.  Make sure the dice hit the back wall and be done with it.

Roulette – The color scam, buying in for a minimum denomination chip, and getting another person to cash those chips out at a higher denomination, is still being accomplished.  Educate your staff on the technique.  The cheating scam of past posting is becoming a dying “art” with the advent of HD cameras, however don’t rule it out.  Also, be careful with computer “clocking” and “number bias” regarding the roulette wheel head…but not necessarily on the “cloth” table games; on the physical roulette wheel heads used in conjunction with electronic roulette games (you know….the games the slot department think they own).

Alternative Games and Side Bets– Some of the smartest people in the world are advantage players, and they closely examine every new table game and side bet released each year for advantages.  Be sure you understand the procedures and mathematics of any new game or side bet before offering it to the public.  If in doubt; keep the maximum limits low.  Also, be on the constant lookout for dealers unintentionally exposing dealer controlled cards, either a hole-card or a community card (or both).  Educate your dealers and floor staff, and then hold you managers responsible for guaranteeing proper dealer hand/community card protection.  One other point; watch out for possibilities of card switching between two players, especially in Three Card Poker.  Other alternative games are susceptible as well.

And the biggest area of concern moving forward into 2017… Marketing Promotions. – More money is lost every year from bad promotions and programs.  Be sure that someone in your organization runs the numbers!  In addition, don’t copy someone else’s promotion, and then deem it OK just because someone else is doing it (especially from big gaming companies).  If you think your organization’s marketing strategy is OK, ask yourself this question; “Do we use Match Play Coupons and/or Promo Chips as a strategy to attract table play?”  If the answer is “yes”, then you have a problem!

At this point in time in the gaming industry’s history, we operate the safe table games ever.  The recent developments in equipment technology, time tested game procedures, quality floor and table camera coverage, and the availability of game protection education, have made are jobs a lot simpler and easier.

With that said, every organization still needs to stay up to date with the new advantage plays and cheating scams.  One of the best ways to stay up to date is to send at least one person from your organization to the World Game Protection Conference (WGPC) each year in Las Vegas.    Anything threatening to the casino bottom-line which has arisen in the past year is discussed at length by some of the top game protection experts in the world.  One topic of interest, although not about table games, will be an exclusive look into how computers and devices are being used to attack slot and video machines!!

I hope these prognostications help enlighten everyone about the possible pitfalls of this upcoming year.  I wish everyone a prosperous and safe 2017.

For more information on the World Game Protection Conference please go to; http://www.worldgameprotection.com/

Questions???
 
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 best wishes on a new year.
 
Bill Zender and Associates
702-423-5734

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Footnotes

Footnotes
1EDITOR NOTE: Post below updated in 2023 to reflect Bill Zender’s comments on advantage play in 2017.