As I stated in a previous article, you can’t be kicked out of a casino in Missouri for counting cards. You can only be counter measured. However, let’s talk about what would happen if you were in a less advantage-player friendly state—the dreaded back-off. When I tell people about being kicked out of a casino for being a knowledgeable player, the first reaction is generally an incredulous they can do that?? They can, and they do quite often. If you’re in this industry and you’re successful, you’re going to get the boot—consider it a mark that you’re doing things right, at least from a play standpoint. There are ways to increase your longevity, but eventually the hammer always falls.
I’ve been asked to leave both politely and with a heavy hand on many occasions. I was once surrounded by security and pressured for ID. When I refused, I was followed through the casino, out the door, through the parking lot, and halfway down the street until they turned back (I can only imagine the dealer theft and collusion that could have occurred while security and surveillance tied themselves up by watching me walk away nonchalantly). Alternatively, I’ve been approached by shift managers who have shaken my hand and informed me that I’m too good at blackjack, and I can play any other game in the house that I’d like.
Generally the first step in being backed off is a security guard or a pitboss asking for your ID out of left-field. There are no other reasons for them to ask for ID if you’re already playing and have been for some time, and you should never be approached randomly by security at a table. The obvious response is to decline and let them know you were just getting ready to leave then make your way to the closest exit.
There are absolutely no benefits to providing them with your ID. If they have already decided you’re a profitable player, and especially if you are in a database of advantage players (Biometrica, OSN), giving ID will just give them an easy path toward identifying you.
You are under no obligation to hand over ID. You wouldn’t give your ID to a Wal-Mart manager who approached you while out shopping, nor should you give your ID to casino personnel.
Just because they’re wearing a suit does not make them an undeniable authority figure; you can and should just decline and leave the casino. Do not create a scene, and if possible, don’t say anything more than “I was just leaving.” You do not want to be memorable, and if you are lucky, they won’t send your flyer to nearby casinos. At best, they won’t get a chance to 86 (trespass) you.
So what can you do to avoid being backed off? It comes with the territory, and it can never be avoided—but there are ways to decrease your likelihood of being declared persona non grata.
- Develop a hit-and-run play style by minimizing the time spent at each casino. Ideally you will play a short amount of time until your maximum bet is reached during a high count, and then leave to go to another casino, regardless of results. This does not maximize profits, but it will certainly increase your longevity. It is much more viable in an area with multiple casinos within driving distance of one another.
- Become familiar with your casino’s schedule and play alternate shifts. Do not become a regular on any one shift at a casino. One day play grave shift, another day play daylight. Avoid playing while the pit changes shifts as they will be divulging information about you to the incoming crew.
- Play anonymously, or play rated on a clean name. Often the best way to stay under the radar is to develop a stealth approach. Don’t give your name and don’t get a player’s card. However, you need to know your audience. Some casinos will let you play for a much longer time if you’re playing rated, and your cumulative, lifetime win will be the only thing that tips them off. Develop a strategy for each casino.
- Network with your fellow advantage players. They can tell you what casinos are more tolerant and which places will bust a blood vessel when you play more than $100 a hand. You’re all in this together, and even if you’re not playing with a team, you need to make friends in the community and work with one another to maximize success.
- Be aware of your surroundings. If you notice a congregation in the pit, and they seem very concerned with your play, they’re probably not talking about last night’s episode of Game of Thrones. If you can avoid the impending back-off by keeping your eyes and ears open, you may still be able to play other shifts and return at a later date.
- Develop an act and a story. Some play the drunkard while others don a name-tag touting the convention that brought them to town. Just make sure it’s believable and don’t oversell it. Most people aren’t very good actors, and if you don’t research the part, you’re sure to crack under pressure. Think it through thoroughly before approaching the tables.
- Camouflage. This is last on the list for a reason—most players aren’t good enough to warrant camouflage, nor can they afford it. The average edge for a card counter is 1-2%, and if you throw any of that away, you’re taking a risk. Don’t go all out with camouflage. Keep it small, and restrict it to places you really can’t afford to lose (because the game is that good). For instance, if a shoe ends and you have a bet of $300 out, don’t start the next shoe out with a bet of $25. Try something closer to $100, or better yet, find another pit where they haven’t been watching your play.
Being backed off isn’t the end of the world, but you can at least take steps to delay the inevitable. Having a clean name can be invaluable if you have the knowledge to beat a casino in more than one way, so maximizing profit isn’t always the best course of action. Remember to diversify your strategy to take advantage of each casino’s weaknesses.