10 Ways Casinos Stop Card Counters in Their Tracks

Cards in a Pile in the Background Man Holding Hands Together on Right Red Stop Sign With a Hand Showing Stop in the Middle

Card counting is one of the few ways that gamblers can move the odds in their favor. By betting heavily when the deck is favorable, they earn a positive expectation that results in profits.

The casinos are less than thrilled when an advantage gambler targets their casino. They want everyone to play the game “fairly,” which really means playing by their rules.

Blackjack has a relatively low house advantage, but you’ll permanently lose in the end playing by the casinos’ rules. So, they take extreme measures to combat card counters.

Casinos don’t discourage the notion that card counting is somehow illegal; this is patently false. However, the casinos will make every effort to thwart the practice.

Here are 10 ways casinos stop card counters in their tracks.

The Pit Boss Will Walk Over and Back You Off

One of the most stressful table experiences you’ll ever have in the casino is getting backed off a blackjack table. The casino personnel is always on the lookout for card counters.

When a dealer spots suspicious behavior, they’ll call the pit boss over for a closer look. That’s assuming the pit boss isn’t already onto you.

Typically, the first contact will be an effort to identify the suspected advantage player. Card counters don’t sign up for casino loyalty programs mainly because they don’t want the casino to track their play or identify them.

So, a player that is betting large with no interest in earning comps will be an immediate red flag. From here, the pit boss may ask you to come away from the table for a chat.

The casino doesn’t want the other players to know what sore losers they are, so this keeps the games moving and the average player blissfully ignorant. This can go a number of ways depending on the card counter and the pit boss, but usually, their night at the live dealer blackjack tables has come to an end.

Making You Wait Your Turn

Card counters primarily profit by betting the minimum and waiting for the shoe to be rich with high-value cards.

For example, a player may take a seat and begin playing $5 per hand. When the count is in their favor, they’ll up their bet size substantially to take full advantage of the count.

Closeup of a Blackjack Hand

Many players in the past would sit on the sidelines and wait for a favorable count, then hop in and bet big from the first hand. Other card counters work in teams, and when the counter has a favorable deck, they signal their teammates to get on the table to make the most of the advantage.

By making players wait for a new shoe to begin before getting into the game, they eliminate card counters’ potential to only play when a count is hot. It also makes it much easier to catch card counters for the casino.

Flat Bet a Suspected Advantage Player

Casinos are forced to walk a delicate line when dealing with suspected card counters. They are in the hospitality and entertainment industry, after all.

I’ve rarely seen a suspected advantage gambler booted from a casino. However, I’ve witnessed on numerous occasions and been party to a casino flat betting a player.

Casinos don’t want a reputation of being difficult to work with or running paying customers off. So, they can shut card counters down by flat betting them.

Making a card counter flat bet an entire shoe completely wipes away their edge. You can’t maximize the count when you’re stuck to a flat betting style.

Flat betting a player is the casino’s way of stopping a card counter without even pushing them off a table. Of course, this conversation will happen outside the earshot of the other players.

Dip Payout for a Natural

The most concerning trend in casino gambling is moving away from blackjack tables that payout 3 to 2 for a natural. More tables are moving to a much less favorable 6 to 5 payout for blackjack in casinos across the United States and worldwide.

This trend is just as devastating for a recreational blackjack enthusiast as it is for a veteran card counter. The subtle change seems to go unnoticed by a large number of average casino guests.

I was recently having a conversation in a casino bar with a group of people that believed 6 to 5 was a better payout than 3 to 2. I had to get a cocktail napkin and a pen to show them the difference, to which they were dumbfounded.

An Active Blackjack Table

Like I tell my wife, “Math is hard.”

When a casino pays 6 to 5 rather than the traditional 3 to 2, they essentially double the house edge. So, even the most accomplished card counters will move on to a better location.

Even if you’re not a card counter, you should never participate in blackjack games paying 6 to 5.

Keeping a Detailed Database of Card Counters

If you want to be a professional card counter, good luck. I mean that sincerely, not as a subtle dissuasion tactic.

I have several close friends that are professional gamblers, and a few of them are professional card counters. They seem to be entirely at peace with their career choice, but it’s not an easy life.

One of the biggest struggles they face relating to card counting revolves around their constant efforts to not be discovered as a card counter. The game of cat and mouse never ceases, and it takes a mental toll on players.

Once casinos confirm your identity as a card counter, they’ll add you to their massive database. This archive is shared with sister properties and other casinos throughout the region.

Having your name and image blasted around to different casinos as a card counter will make it challenging to find a place to count cards.

Spotting Any Unusual Behavior on the Tables

The casinos go to great lengths to train personnel on how to spot card counters. Dealers, pit bosses, supervisors, and casino security are all on the lookout for any suspicious behavior.

While you’ll be able to fool some dealers, some pit bosses, and even some floor supervisors, it’s rare that a card counter can sneak past the watchful gaze of all the eyes in the casino.

Casino Security Surveillance Room

Getting past the casinos’ frontline employees will be your most significant obstacle. Casinos rely on these employees to sniff out advantage gamblers and cut the action before the casino loses any money.

Increase the Number of Decks in Play

Card counting is just what it sounds like. Players keep a running tally of the cards played and wait for a count where the shoe is flush with high-value cards.

By significantly increasing the number of decks in play, the casino gains two advantages over players. The first is that the house edge goes up by about 0.5% when you move from a single deck game to a multi-deck game that’s more common today.

Secondly, it makes things more complicated for card counters. Card counting is far more straightforward than most casual gamblers believe.

However, when you add decks to a shoe, the task becomes more challenging. That can lead to counters losing confidence in their count and slowing their big bets due to uncertainty.

Keeping an Eye on Big Players

If you want to get the casino’s attention, hop on a blackjack table and start betting higher than average. The casinos want to know who is playing in their casino and especially want to know players that are betting large sums of cash.

Their primary objective is to ensure VIP gamblers have a fantastic experience and return to the casino. They also want to make sure everything is on the up and up.

Shuffle Decks More Often

Deck penetration is a tremendous benefit for card counters. The deeper into the shoe a card counter gets, the more information they have about what cards are available.

So, the casinos combat this by shuffling the shoes more often. Card counters are basically nullified into the same position as your average blackjack player on tables that use continuous shuffling machines.

Closeup of Hands Shuffling a Deck of Cards

The casinos are forced into shuffling more often to battle the amount of deck penetration card counters get or keep the games moving along swiftly.

Give Card Counters a Ban

Unfortunately, it happens. A casino that has a card counter in their casino may take the step of banning them from playing in their casinos.

Usually, this is the last resort. Casinos don’t want to run good business out the door, but they also can’t allow card counters to enjoy making a steady profit off the casino.

Casinos will take exhaustive measures to have it not come to this. They could flat bet a player, back them off, ban them only from blackjack, or take other steps to stop a card counter.

Some players refuse to take a hint and will go to great lengths to continue milking a casino. These players will get a blanket ban.

Catching a ban is devastating for a card counter. If players can’t find a table, they won’t make a single dime playing blackjack.

Our Conclusion

Card counters have done what most recreational gamblers only dream about. These advantage gamblers have turned the edge on the casinos and work their magic for long-term profitability.

That’s why the casinos must be diligent in thwarting advantage gamblers. The 10 ways casinos stop card counters in their tracks provide significant obstacles for the aspiring card counter and average players alike.