Card counting is a tried-and-true technique used by blackjack advantage players to determine when they have the edge over the house. It involves keeping track of the cards that have been played and using this information to calculate the odds of certain cards appearing. It can help the player determine when to bet more or when to hold back.
While card counting is not illegal, it is generally not welcomed by casinos, and players who are caught counting cards may be asked to leave the casino. That being said, there are several ways that people may get caught counting cards, including the following:
Being too obvious
If a player is very obvious about their card counting, they may draw unwanted attention from the casino staff. It could involve making large bets when the count is favorable or making other obvious changes to their play. For example, if a player always bets the maximum when the count is high but never bets more than the minimum when the count is low, this could be a red flag to the casino.
Other behaviors and things that make you an obvious card counter include:
- Hopping from one blackjack table to the next, often winning large sums of money
- Avoiding play rating
- Placing only a few number of blackjack hands, most often during the end of the shoe
- Making big buy-ins
- Displaying furtive or nervous behavior
- Never tipping the dealers
- Being very accurate with your cards or playing chips
- Keeps a keen eye on all the cards showing at the blackjack table
- Not talking to the dealer or other players at the blackjack table
- Making lopsided wager variations, particularly with bigger bets being wagered only at the close of a shoe
- Playing multiple blackjack hands
- Removing all of your blackjack payout or a tie bet stake
- Not drinking alcohol
Being too successful (checking your lifetime or session winnings)
If a player consistently wins at blackjack, it may raise suspicions with the casino. This is especially true if the player is winning at a higher rate than would be expected by chance. For example, if a player consistently wins at a rate much higher than the average player, the casino may suspect that the player is using an advantage play technique such as card counting.
Being on a casino’s “blacklist” (banned list)
Some casinos maintain a list of known card counters and may be more likely to identify and ask these players to leave. These lists may be shared among casinos, so if a player has been caught counting cards at one casino, they may be more likely to be seen at another place.
Using a known card-counting system
Players who use a card counting system well-known to the casino may be more likely to be caught. This is because the casino will know the telltale signs of the system being used. For example, if a player is using a card counting system that involves making large bets when the count is high, the casino may be on the lookout for this behavior and may ask the player to leave if they suspect they are counting cards.
Showing off your winnings
Contrary to popular belief, card counters don’t spend their winnings on lavish perks like lap dances and massages. In reality, drawing attention to yourself as a successful card counter is a surefire way to get kicked out of the casino. It’s best to keep a low profile and avoid drawing any attention to your card-counting activities.
Not keeping your card-counting skills to yourself
You’ll likely get caught if you start boasting about being a card counter, especially in the casino. You might think bragging to the cocktail waitress about your big win is impressive, but you’ll feel differently when she tells the shift supervisor. Casino employees are loyal to the casino, not to you. The same goes for other players you meet for the first time. Casinos may even use an employee or undercover person to identify card counters.
Surveillance cameras and facial recognition software
More often than not, people get caught counting cards because of an alert by the eye in the sky. CCTV cameras watch over all of the table games. The security officers working with the footage in the surveillance room are keeping an eye on all the tables and trying to look out for telltale signs of a card counter. This can often be brought to the attention of the security through players consistently winning big and winning big when they up their wager too.
Card counting detection systems
More recently, the casinos have started to invest in innovative tech that helps them pick up on betting patterns that are too coordinated with certain card counting systems. These casinos can count cards better than any pro player and will be hot on the tail of anyone whose strategy brings up red flags for being too consistently close to advantage play. This is spearheaded by table tech, such as smart chips that send betting data to the surveillance room.
Often you must have wondered what happens when you are caught counting cards? Do the casino beat you? If you are caught counting cards in a casino, you may be asked to leave the premises. While card counting is not illegal, it is generally not welcomed by casinos, and they have the right to refuse service to anyone. In addition, if you are caught counting cards, you may be banned from returning to that particular casino. Some casinos may also alert other casinos in the area about players who have been caught counting cards, so you may have difficulty finding a casino that will allow you to play blackjack.
Generally, you’ll be noticed first by the eye-in-the-sky surveillance camera that may have noticed you raking in a succession of healthy pots. When this official is confident that there’s advantage play going on, he’ll call up the pit boss or another security officer to approach the table and examine the game up close.
After a few moments, he’ll ask you for your ID card and often will give an excuse for this. After he has your identity, the officer will seek to have a private conversation with you to inform you of their surveillance and regarding your continued activity at the casino and will then impose new sanctions and rules on you for any future bets at their casino.
All in all, the consequences of being caught counting cards may vary depending on the casino and the jurisdiction in which it is located. Some casinos may take a more lenient approach, while others may be stricter.
To reiterate, if you are caught counting cards in a casino, the consequences may include the following:
- Being asked to leave the premises: This is the most common outcome if you are caught counting cards. The casino may ask you to leave the property and may require you to do so immediately.
- Being banned from returning: In addition to being asked to leave, you may also be prohibited from returning to that particular casino in the future. It means you will not be allowed to play blackjack, or any other games, at that casino.
- Being added to a “blacklist”: Some casinos maintain a list of known card counters and may add your name to this list if you are caught counting cards. This list may be shared with other local casinos, making it more difficult for you to find a place to play blackjack.
- Legal consequences: While card counting is not illegal, it is essential to note that each state and country has its own laws and regulations regarding gambling. In some jurisdictions, using an advantage play technique such as card counting may be unlawful, and you could face legal consequences if caught.
Card counting in and of itself is complex. Doing it without getting caught is no easy walk in the park. However, you can use the following tips to count cards and avoid detection:
Perfect your technique until you become a pro: Card counting can be a mentally exhausting task in a live blackjack game. If you awkwardly fiddle around and make it evident that you’re keeping track of all the cards on the table, you’ll definitely catch the eye of the casino staff. To avoid this, practice at home until you can covertly track cards with your peripheral vision instead of staring at them directly.
Be subtle: Don’t make noticeable changes to your play that may draw unwanted attention. For example, wait to start betting large amounts when the count is favorable or make other apparent changes to your play.
Remember to tip the dealers (and tip them well):
If you’re raking in the dough while counting cards at blackjack, make sure to spread the wealth and tip your dealer generously. Trust us; having the dealer on your side is in your best interest. Remember, dealers rely on tips to make a living, so show them some appreciation for their hard work. Plus, if you’re winning big and not tipping, the dealer might tip off the pit boss that you might be a card counter.
Don’t tell anyone: Keep your card-counting skills to yourself. Don’t brag about your abilities to other players or casino staff, as this may increase the chances of being caught.
Make deliberate mistakes: Pit bosses and other casino employees are well-versed in blackjack strategy and know how to count cards. They can spot smart plays and even more advanced ones. However, they also know when a player makes a deplorable decision, which they might interpret as a sign of amateurism. To throw them off the scent, try mixing in a beginner-level move every so often, like splitting a pair of tens when the dealer has a ten showing.
It’s not a winning play, but it’ll make you appear less skilled in their eyes. Just be sure to do it when the deck is not in your favor, and you’re only betting small amounts.
Use a cover: Consider using a cover to distract the casino from your card counting. This could involve pretending to be a tourist, acting drunk, or playing other games at the casino.
Leave a table with a hot shoe: When the count is exceptionally favorable (above +8), cash out and move on to another table. Few card counters have the self-control to leave a good situation, which can help you avoid drawing suspicion from the casino. You don’t have to do this often; just once can show that you’re just a lucky player and not a card counter.
Use a disguise: Some card counters use disguises to avoid being recognized by the casino. This could involve wearing glasses or a wig or changing your appearance in some other way.
Make quick decisions at the blackjack table: If the casino suspects that you’re counting cards, stalling will only confirm their suspicions. To avoid arousing suspicion, it’s essential to have a basic strategy memorized and be able to act on it instinctively and without hesitation. Practice until you know the correct play for every situation.
Don’t play at the same casino too often: If you play at the same casino all the time, you may be more likely to be caught. Try to vary your play and visit different casinos to reduce the chances of being identified as a card counter.
Don’t use your A-game all the time: It’s essential to throw the casino off the scent at times by showing them that you’re not a card-counting machine. Throw a low bet on a high count to reduce suspicion when you feel the eyes on the back of your head.
Don’t get greedy: It’s easy to think that you’ll play a ‘balls to the wall’ strategy when your count is high and walk out in an hour with a huge pot, but that strategy is likely to get flagged straight away. If you keep your bet spread tight, you’ll likely remain undetected, so long as you play smart.
If a casino suspects you’re counting cards, they may take a number of actions, including:
- Asking the advantage players to leave: The casino may ask the player to leave the premises and may ban the player from returning in the future.
- Shuffling the deck more frequently: The casino may shuffle the deck more regularly in an effort to disrupt the card counter’s count.
- Changing the rules of the game: The casino may change the rules of the game in an effort to make it more difficult for the player to count cards. For example, they may introduce a rule that requires the dealer to hit on a soft 17 (a hand totaling 17 that includes an Ace).
- Using multiple decks: The casino may switch to using numerous decks in an effort to make it more difficult for the player to keep track of the cards.
Yes, a casino may ask blackjack card counters to leave the casino floor or entire premise if they are caught counting cards.
While card counting legality is unquestionable, it is generally not welcomed by casinos, and players who are caught counting cards may be asked to leave the casino. It is important to note that each casino has its own policies; some may be more lenient than others.
Some casinos may ask the player to stop counting cards and allow them to continue playing, while others may ask the player to leave the premises. If a player is asked to leave, they may also be banned from returning to the casino in the future.