How Casinos Spot Card Counting

If you want to become a blackjack card counter, you’re going to need to know how casinos spot card counters. It’s not illegal to play perfect blackjack strategy. It’s not even illegal to count cards when your play blackjack. But the casino has the right to refuse service to anyone, including gamblers who count cards. The trick is to keep the casino staff from noticing your tactics.

The big downside of being caught counting cards is being placed on a list that will bar you from playing in that casino ever again. Yes, there really is a nationwide database of suspected card counters.

Here’s a look at how blackjack dealers, casino staff, pit bosses, casino security, and gaming managers spot card counters.

Changing Bet Levels

The best way to get busted by casino management for card counting is to alter your bets after a lot of low cards come out of the deck. If a ton of low cards are dealt in a row, your chances of seeing cards worth 10 or 11 become much higher. If you start betting 5 or 10 times your normal wager amount after this streak, you’re going to stand out to the casino as a card counter. Card counters make their money by figuring out when the odds are in their favor and making big changes to their bet size based on that advantage.

Many casinos have a system that scans all the cards dealt from their blackjack shoes automatically, meaning the casino maintains its own running card count. If you’re a blackjack player who is consistently betting smaller amounts when the deck is cold and larger amounts when the deck heats up, you will most likely be asked to leave the casino or switch games to something like a slot machine that is based on luck rather than skill.

Facial Recognition – Spotting Card Counters

Casinos now use facial recognition programs built into their surveillance camera equipment to look for known card cheats. When you walk in these casinos, your face will be compared to the faces of card cheats in a large database. If you match, you’ll probably be asked to leave.

Gambling Chips and Computer Chips

Facial recognition is not the end of the technological aspect of catching card counters. The latest in anti-card counting technology is a set of special intelligent blackjack chips that track your bets automatically.

Obvious Card Counting Behavior

You can be the best card counter in the world, but if you don’t use subterfuge, you’ll get busted every time. Counting cards is about more than tracking specific cards and keeping a running count. Part of the trick of card counting is to maintain the count in your head while blending into the casino environment. This isn’t as easy as it sounds, because the average gambler is likely to want to talk to their neighbor or the dealer every once in a while. Any type of distraction can blow the count, so you have to be able to walk and chew bubble gum at the same time.

Card Counting Teams

Some card counters might try to do like you’ve seen in the movies: team up with other card counters to distract casino management and improve the counting technique.

Each member of the team has their job, from the back-spotter and the spotter to the gorilla, each with their own distinct role. With one or two people watching the tables and finding hot shoes, and one or two moving in and betting big when the table is hot, you can hardly go wrong. But the problem comes with signaling. There’s really no good way of sending signals that isn’t obvious.

Being seen together at different casinos is another great way to get busted teaming on a casino. Blackjack teaming may work for a while, but like in the famous Kevin Spacey MIT blackjack team movie, you’ll probably end up with broken thumbs.

How Casinos Deal with Card Counters

Casinos have a number of ways they deal with card counters. The obvious one is what I mentioned before: ask them to leave the casino or stop playing blackjack. But if you’re card counting, the casino might take less extreme methods, just in case.

One method is to have the dealer engage in conversation with you, to distract you from your count. Another tactic is to send an employee of the casino (who isn’t the dealer) to start a conversation with you. Some casinos have been so aggressive at this that laws have been passed to keep it from happening—not in America, though. So if you’re a card counter, you can expect a visit from casino management or security. And they’re going to want to talk your ear off.
Anti-Card Counting Measures

The most common way to deal with card counters is to increase the number of decks in the blackjack shoe. Casinos have between 1 and 8 decks in the shoe, though 4-6 is more common than 1 or 8.

Another method is to shuffle the deck more often. Casinos might have a policy where they reshuffle the deck every so often, or when the card count gets to a certain point. But frequent shuffling means the table deals out fewer hands in an hour. Since most players at a blackjack table are not card counters (and therefore play at a disadvantage), fewer hands means less profit for the casino. Some casinos place tables with only 6 spots for players, instead of the traditional 7 player spots. Again, this has the obvious drawback of less players playing and therefore fewer profits, though it does lower the advantage of the card counter by about one-half of one percent.

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