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In the world of blackjack, “Playing with the Help” used to be quite common. Dealers have been known to cheat on their own to beat certain players to make up for earlier losses when the player was nasty or refused to tip, but it’s certainly rare. What aren’t so rare are dealers taking chips off the table for their own use. That’s a scam, but that’s not what dealer involvement is all about. Players cheat at blackjack too, but their scams usually are done without dealer help. Read more here.

The better the Eye-In-The-Sky and the training of Pit Bosses at each casino, the less chance a cheating dealer has of getting away with theft. Players don’t consider card counting or advantage play to be cheating. Dealers know that helping players win is cheating. Somewhere in the middle of the two are blackjack advantage plays where the player needs a little help from the dealer, and then you really have a fight over whether it’s cheating or not.

The Over-Turn

The over-turn happens most often on a table where the cards are all face-up. The dealer is working with a player somewhere in the middle of the table and the middle player gives a weak hand signal. As the dealer slowly turns over the card they see if it will bust the player’s hand. If it will, they hit the next hand with the card. Obviously this can only happen when the next player needs a hit, but it’s a swift move seen often.

The Over-Pay

Obviously this is a quick and easy way to dump money to a player. The dealer simply overpays the gambler, often with a higher denomination chip under the small denomination chip. Image a player who wagers green £25 chips and also red £5 chips. On a winning hand with three red over one green chip the dealer pays two red and two green chips. The stack sizes are the same and the move is hard to see by surveillance.

Over-pays also happen when a player splits and then doubles down and have several wagers out. It is easy for the dealer to size-into each wager and still over-pay by bumping a payoff also, thus paying a bet one-time too many.

Misreading Totals

The “total” of a dealer’s hand is the number of points. Dealers occasionally make a mistake totaling their cards. This helps all players and is an obvious scam, but when a game has a single player it is easy for a dealer to make a mistake regularly on hands that involve several cards. If it gets caught on film, the dealer can be terminated, but players and dealers sometimes cheat in desperation.

The Peek

Dealers used to peek under their top card to see if they held a blackjack. Most casinos today use a peek-device to keep the dealer from knowing the value of the card in the hole. That isn’t so in home games. Blackjack party hosts should be very wary of this easy cheating move. If the dealer knows the value of the under-card they can signal it as a bust-card or not to players. That’s a potential disaster.

Dealers can also peek at the next card coming off a single or double-deck of cards and signal its value to a player. Dealers that have this ability can be very profitable to a cheating player. They used to be very profitable for casinos that cheated, as the dealer would go into a game a beat a winning player. These dealers were sometimes called “coolers.”

More often than not, these card mechanics were also adept at dealing “seconds.” This meant they peeked at the first card and if it didn’t fit, they dealt the second card on the deck. Occasionally this scam could only be heard and not seen, as the move produces a very specific sound.

Edge Play

A cheating scam that has been around for years is edge play. In the 1940’s and 1950’s, playing cards often had patterns on the back that were designed to be nondescript. However, these circles, squares and diamonds were sometimes used to cheat the house.

George Cannon, a casino owner from Lake Tahoe, Nevada used to play blackjack at Harold’s Club in Reno in disguise. Sometimes he would use edge play to improve his odds of winning when batches of cards were produced that had a small portion of the last circle on the back of the card showing that were all ten-value cards.

Sometimes he could turn all the cards in one direction so he could see the one vertical side with the cut showing. Sometimes he cajoled the dealer into helping him because they didn’t know it was going to result in what might be a cheating scam.

Regardless of how it was accomplished, is it cheating? That’s a question people right now might be asking since this scam recently resulted in poker pro Phil Ivey being barred from play at Crockfords of London. In addition, his win of nearly £7.8 million was withheld at the cage.

The casino used cards that were substandard and a shoe contained cards that were asymmetrical in design. Ivey and his friend convinced the dealer to turn the cards because they were superstitious, which resulted in easy detection of card values prior the dealing of each hand. This scam was accomplished on a baccarat table, but has repeatedly been used at blackjack. Is it cheating? When done with the dealer’s help, perhaps. In this case the courts will decide.





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