With the stories of card counters being kicked out of casinos, you have to wonder if you should learn card counting.
Why should you take the time to learn card counting if it’s just going to get you kicked out of the casino?
First of all, card counting will surely give you an advantage when it comes to playing blackjack, so it is worth it. The casino’s term is an “advantage player”. This means you have found a way to decrease the house edge (you can’t totally eliminate the house edge in any game) and the house doesn’t like that.
Secondly, card counting is absolutely legal, but highly frowned upon by casinos and they can’t arrest you. It’s actually a very rare occurrence to be kicked out of a casino, more likely, you’ll be asked not to play blackjack any more. You would be welcome to play any other game in the casino.
In casino lingo, you will kindly be “backed off” the blackjack tables.
How Does a Back Off Happen?
If you have been suspected of counting cards, the casino will find a way to stop you from playing.
They want to be careful about it though, because not everybody suspected of card counting is actually card counting. You don’t want to alienate a good customer by making him stop playing because he’s on a winning streak.
In many instances, the pit boss will just stop by and have you stop playing by talking with you. He will be looking to interrupt your game enough that you lose your advantage count. You won’t be asked to leave, but they hope your count will be disrupted.
Outcomes of a Pit Boss Talk:
- Allowed to remain playing, but don’t make the wide ranging bets, you’ll be asked to make the same size bets for the remainder of the shoe
- Says you can’t play blackjack, but you can remain in the casino and enjoy any other game
- May ask for your ID and ban you from the casino
- May ask for your ID and permanently ban you from that casino, as well as an associated casinos
While you’re not legally to bound to show your ID to a casino employee, they can ask to see it. If you refuse to show your ID, they can ask you to leave their private property. You will probably also be asked to never come come back and be warned that you will be charged with trespass if you do.
Is a Back Off Headed Your Way?
Each pit boss is different, but in general, if they come and ask your name, after some increased betting, you’re probably under suspicion. Just saying hello is not a clear sign, but if they’re staying in your general area, you might want to adjust your play.
Pit bosses probably know how to count cards, so they will watch and count to notice if your bets increase markedly when they figure the shoe is player favorable.
Card Counting without getting Caught
- Don’t get greedy! Don’t make your card counting obvious with large bet variances. You don’t want to be making the minimum bets and once you know the cards are in your favor, jump to the table maximum bet. That is an obvious sign that you count cards.
- The professional card counters try to stay within a 1-15 spread, meaning $10-$150 bet range. If you’re new to card counting, stay within a 1-4 spread, or $10-$40 bet range. That bet range will still give you a better than average profit advantage from knowing when to increase your bet.
- Don’t play at one table for more than a couple of shoes. If you stay at one table, you give the pit boss a better chance of watching you play. That works vice-versa as well, in that if you see he watches where you move to, you’re probably under scrutiny
- If you have the ability to easily go to different casinos, do so. While casinos like regulars, it gives them more reason to watch your play. If you don’t have a wide variety of casinos to choose from, be sure to play at different times and/or shifts.
- As a last resort, consider wearing a disguise. It doesn’t have to be anything elaborate, just maybe a hat and sunglasses. You basically want to alter your appearance.
- Consider a playing partner or team. The first player will sit and play minimum bets and when the count becomes favorable, signals a nearby partner to come and make bigger bets while in the favorable period.
Card Counter Fate
Most books will tell you that as a card counter, you will eventually be backed off or caught. I don’t believe all card counters will be caught. If you’re a smart card counter, you shouldn’t be caught. If you can play by the outlines above, you should not get caught.
Pit bosses are good at spotting counters, but they won’t look your way unless you give them a reason to look your way.
If blackjack is going to be your casino game of choice, learning to count cards is something you should do. It’s not illegal, so you shouldn’t be afraid to do it, and it will make a big difference in your profits.
The question should be if you can be content with just doubling or tripling your bet, with a favorable count, so you’re not suspected of card counting. If you’re not looking to become a professional blackjack player, I think you can effectively use card counting to make it a comfortable hobby. Play smart and don’t give the casino a reason to watch you play, they have many more patrons than can be looking at.