Blackjack Espionage

From: "zengrifter" <[email protected]>
Date: Fri Aug 9, 2002 11:26 am
Subject: Blackjack Espionage

Blackjack Espionage

"I am not what I am" - Iago, Othello

Left alone, professional card-counters can grind out significant
profits in the long-term. Unfortunately, the casinos fear and take
measures to prevent card-counting. If, anywhere in the world, you are
suspected of card-counting, your play will be analyzed by invisible
surveillance operatives (the eye-in-the-sky). If their suspicions are
confirmed, you will be:

- Politely welcomed to play any game except blackjack.
- Given a verbal warning.
- Given a written warning and formally barred, being given notice
that a return to the casino will result in your arrest for trespass.
- Subjected to any of an array of countermeasures, such as
increasing the number of cards cut out of play or restricting your
bet size.

How much of a problem this is depends greatly on the individual. For
the full-time player who is always travelling, there is always the
next casino. A barring from one is not of great significance, though
he must be careful not to get himself on a blacklist.

For the casual player, who may be tied down to a full-time job and
patronizes only a few local casinos, the problem is more serious.

Most modern blackjack literature overemphasizes the problem of
barring. Great importance is based on the establishment of an "act."
This requires the card-counter to assume a persona that would not
normally be associated with the obsessive and intelligent
characteristics of the card-counter. This, of course, will not fool
anybody who is familiar with card-counting and is analyzing the
counter's play. The act is designed to prevent this from ever
happening. In general, this will only happen if the pit boss becomes
suspicious of an individual's play, and requests confirmation that
this is the case. A pit boss is naturally going to pay more attention
to a middle-aged professorial type than a loudmouthed tourist, or a
rich playboy, for example. Acts are fun. They allow you to play
different characters and revel in your own deception, and they can be
successful in throwing the pit off your trail.

If you adopt an "act," you must not be half-hearted about it. You
must be 100% committed to the character you have created. Often high-
stakes players become enamoured with the possibilities inherent in
disguises; some even employ special effects whizzes to kit them out!
In truth, most of a successful act can be accomplished by adopting
subtleties of movement, mannerism and speech. You must become the
character you are playing. It is not enough to put on an accent. That
is not convincing. Good actors, both in the casinos and on the stage,
do not act from the neck upwards. Create your own character's
history, friends, occupation etc. You should never be asked a
question you do not have an answer for. Moreover, if you are not
wrapped up in the lifestyle of your character, your body language
will give you away in many small, unconscious signals. Other people
pick up on these signals without realizing it and they will become
suspicious without knowing why. Pay attention to details such as the
way you walk; these little details can give you away.

Another method of avoiding detection involves making cover plays,
i.e., a play not in accordance with the recommended actions of a card-
counting system. This may mean making incorrect
drawing/standing/splitting/doubling decisions, not raising your bet
when the count goes up and not lowering when it goes down, or betting
high off the top of the shoe. Be careful with deviations from your

The reasons for being careful with your deviations is simple: your
edge is small, do not jeopardize it further. You will make incorrect
plays from time to time in any case. You cannot make playing errors
when you have large bets out, because the cost is too high--your
profit depends on these large bets. This is precisely when the pit
will be watching you closely.

My opinion concerning the necessity of cover is simple: while the
card-counter plays blackjack against the dealer, he plays poker
against the pit--that is, his play is geared towards the intelligence
of the pit. Against incompetent or disinterested casino personnel,
the counter plays tight, i.e., in accordance with the precise
recommendations of his system. Against personnel skilled in the art
of game protection he plays tight and loose, i.e., he mixes up his
play between correct and seemingly random play. He is always keeping
the pit guessing but plays close enough to the dictates of the system
to win consistently.

Note that the poker analogy extends to the importance of body
language. Game protection personnel are instructed to look for
giveaway mannerisms which mark out the professional card-counter,
much as expert poker players can deduce the strength of their
opponent's hand from subtleties of movement and behavior. Counters,
even ones who put on a fairly good "act," have certain unconscious
habits: they handle chips in a precise and skilled manner, they are
often over-friendly, they stare at the pit boss. The lessons are
clear: handle your chips in a clumsy and awkward manner. Do not
interact with casino staff unless you can do it in a natural manner.
By all means monitor the pit bosses behavior, but do it with your
peripheral vision.

In general, once the pit has identified you as a potential threat,
they will look through the surveillance tapes for any record of your
play they can find. These tapes are kept for a finite period; they
may be erased after a week. Your play will be thoroughly analyzed to
determine if you are counting. According to the former card-counter
catcher Max Rubin, who worked at the Mirage casino in Las Vegas, it
typically required a hundred hands to determine if a player was or
was not counting. Obviously, this would be higher or lower depending
on the correlation between the counter's play and perfect
mathematical application of the card-counting system. It is evident
that a player who travels from club to club, plays only forty minutes
at a time in each, and does not return for a week to the same shift
has a very good chance of falling through the system. Bryce Carlson,
author of Blackjack for Blood and one of the great Lawrence Revere's
most successful pupils, advises not returning to the same casino for
a period of three months!