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In a world of casinos there will always be new scams and cheating scandals. Casinos believe anything that reduces their edge should be considered cheating, but there is no law against card counting or shuffle tracking. There are of course laws against outright theft, and that’s what some crooks are into.

Most every cheating scam at a blackjack table should be stopped by a good dealer who is attentive and suspicious. That doesn’t mean they’ll catch each individual move, but they’ll see the action and alert their Pit Boss. If they don’t, the cheats are very, very good, or playing with the aid of a cheating device. Pit Bosses should learn the main scams players use to cheat casinos, including those listed here. You too should learn them if you are planning a little blackjack party at your house.

Player Distraction

While distracting a dealer isn’t cheating, a group of players often play at the same table to “get it on” during play. If it helps distract the dealer at the right time to cover a move, it happens. Classic distraction moves include sudden clapping or table –pounding (such as when a player makes their hand or gets a blackjack), spilling a drink, knocking a stack of chips over, and even touching their cards on a game dealt face-up. Some dealers can be easily distracted by a pretty woman in a low-cut blouse.

Pit Bosses too, can be distracted, and casinos teach dealers and bosses to keep their eyes on their games and players, not on the physical attributes of individual players. A very well organized team making large wagers can easily distract a Pit Boss simply by having a friendly player come ask them a few questions to get them turned away from the table they should be watching.

Bet Capping and Pinching

Dealers are taught to walk their tables, meaning they should take a step to the right and turn their body slightly to their left as they approach third base(and vice versa) when taking and paying wagers. They should also try to memorize the wager of the first base player and the third base player. When they are distracted, or have their back turned to one side of the table, they can easily miss a good bet capper adding a chip to a winning hand or pinching a chip from a losing hand. This usually happens at first base as the dealer turns to handle a double down, split, or just to pay or take the hand at third base.

Bet cappers love to play very close to their chips. They often wave their hands over their chips in a semi-normal fashion to get the dealer used to the move before actually doing it with a purpose. In games where the cards are dealt face-down and the players touch their cards, cappers are known to cap their wager when turning their cards over to signify a double down or blackjack. A $100 wager can easily become a $200 wager when the player has been dealt a blackjack and they cover their capping move with their cards!

Card Mucking

There aren’t too many cheats who muck cards anymore, but this used to be a play by many players where they would hold-out a single card from a hand and use it later. Imagine a player takes several hits and busts, but when they turn over the two cards they hold in their hand, they hide one. It takes a lot of nerve, and large hands to accomplish this, but can be done when a player uses an additional device such as a cocktail napkin to hide the card.

A favorite hold-out card is the ace. The player makes a large wager knowing they have held out an ace and just need a single ten-card to make a blackjack on the next card. The other card is then held-out until it can be used in another exchange, or dumped into a five or six-card bust where it won’t be noticed.

Sometimes players work together and share cards, but this takes excellent timing and plenty of practice. However, players have had good success with this method of cheating at the popular game of Three-Card-Poker (See our friends 3 Card Poker Site for more info).

Bending the Cards

Again, this scam can only be successful at tables where the players hold their cards, but many cheaters casually bend certain cards while playing. The most useful cards to bend are the aces. When properly bent in a single corner, a single-deck game is easy prey for ace-steering. Usually one player bends the cards and another player stationed at first-base benefits from either their or the other players cutting ability.

This allows the first player to get an ace as their first card on every new shuffle, increasing the player’s odds considerably. The most dangerous form of this scam is when a single player bends the cards and leaves, while three other players stay on the game. They spread to two hands each, locking up the table, and each can cut to the aces. First base always bets the most, sometimes just on the first hand, or for more cover, on each hand.

Warping the Cards

Another scam casinos have to look out for involves warping the cards. This is accomplished by bending every ten-card vertically (very slightly) as play goes on. Eventually the tiny warp can be noticed by the cheater when the dealer’s up card does not settle flat against their down card.

The slight bend or helicopter effect tells the players that the dealer has a ten in the hole. Oh my, what good knowledge to have!

Sanding the Cards

Players have been known to use a rough edge or even a tiny piece of sand paper glued to their hand or fingernail to sand the edges of certain cards. If they manage to get both vertical edges of each ten, the same signal to the players as the helicopter above becomes very valuable to the players.

On multiple-deck games dealt from a shoe, the ten cards are sometimes scratched very slightly in the middle of the back. This allows the cards to be identified through the opening (sometimes called the mouse hole) on the shoe. Although dealers are taught to keep their hand over the whole, they can’t do it every second.

Players have also been known to mark the cards with a glow-stick type of paint or daub. A much diluted mixture can produce a tiny, faint image.  It is nearly invisible to the naked eye, but seen with special lenses, even some sunglasses. While some players use it to mark the back of the cards in one of several spots to signify its value, the use on the edge of the card so it can be seen on the dealer’s down card also is a problem for casinos. However, when used on the edge, the marks are likely to be noticed when the dealer offers the cut to players.

Electronic Devices

In the 1970’s an early computer designer produced a series of small tracking devices at his home in Danville, California. He then sold the devices to several individuals. He also convinced Ken Uston that the devices might be good for his blackjack team. Eventually Uston and the man’s family took a trip to Lake Tahoe to test and play with the devices.

It is now against the law to use any such device, but Uston’s cheating scam was successful at several properties in Las Vegas. They returned to Lake Tahoe and played several days before most of the team was detained and/or arrested. Similar devices were sold in the 1980’s for as little as $2,000. Today’s devices are even cheaper.

For the cheater, the use of an electronic device is tempting, but concealment and use is tough. Fortunately for casinos the use and/possession of such devices in a casino is more than just a slap-on-the-wrist punishment today.

Switching Decks – Shoes

Although it would seem to be impossible to actually switch decks, the move used to be seen on occasion. The single-deck switch isn’t likely because dealers are diligent about keeping hold of their cards while offering the cut. Of course if the dealer was involved, it could happen. The exchanged deck would already be beautifully marked and ready to play.

Switching an entire shoe takes even more nerve. There have actually been several instances where this was accomplished, with or without the dealer’s knowledge. Obviously this works with a table full of cheats and a shoe that is already set-up to have the dealer pay-off nearly every hand.

Switching Cards

A favorite move by cheats where cards have been removed from a deck or decks, is to set-up a blackjack hand. Then the cheat holds a wad of cash as they pick-up their cards. They push the two-dealt cards into their cash and drop the blackjack down on the table. Quick cash at 3 to 2.

You may also enjoy reading about blackjack cheating when a with the dealer involved.



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