5 Ways You Can Cheat at Blackjack

Blackjack Cards in a Row, No Cheating Sign
Some gamblers think it’s okay to cheat. They feel that casinos are swindling them by only offering games that give the house a mathematical edge. In their minds, cheaters are just “evening out the odds.” But there are cheaters who are truly trying to get ahead.

Because casinos only make their money by gradually retaining a percentage of wagers, most of the money that people wager on casino games is actually paid back to players. But the games themselves are mathematically designed to create the house edge.

Most wannabe cheats don’t realize that if they’re cheating the casino, they’re cheating other players out of money, too. Clearly, the ability to cheat is glorified when it shouldn’t be.

If you think about all the cheating methods you’ve heard about, it means those methods are very well-known. And if they’re well-known, that must mean the people using them were caught. Keep reading and you’ll find five ways you can cheat when you play blackjack and why you should avoid them.

The Only Successful Cheat Is the Guy Who Is Never Caught

How do you collect statistics on people who are never caught cheating? And what counts as never being caught? I’ve read interviews with casino security experts who say that players cheat all the time. But there are no mass arrests. Mobs of players are not routinely evicted.

Are the casinos really allowing cheaters to get away with it? And if the casinos see these players cheating, that likely means they’ve been caught and released.

It’s almost like fishing. You let the small fry go and only bring in the big fish.

Instead of arguing semantics, let me just say this…

It’s possible you could find small ways to cheat and never be held accountable. But that doesn’t mean you should count on it.

While I don’t encourage anyone to cheat, if you’re going to do it, don’t make it a habit. And don’t get greedy, because that’s how you get caught cheating.

Remember that the casinos know about all of the cheating methods that follow.

1 – Replacing or Swapping Playing Cards

The classic stereotype of a cheating blackjack player is the one where they have cards hidden up their sleeves.

There really are retractable arm-mounted card holders. They slide the card out from your sleeve into the palm of your hand. Stage magicians, the kind who depend on illusions, use them. And you’ll occasionally see them in movies and TV shows.

I’ve heard rumors of blackjack players being caught using these devices but I’ve never seen that happen.

Woman Holding Blackjack Cards

At most casinos, you can buy decks of cards. But sometimes, they damage the cards so they can’t be used to cheat. If you’ve ever played with a deck of cards that came with a hole, it was probably bought from a casino.

Some players team up to swap cards at the table. This is a risky move and not one I would want to try. You could be prosecuted for cheating, but if you’re caught, you’ll most likely be turned out and blacklisted.

2 – Replacing Chips With Fake or Different Value Chips

According to some people who claim to have worked in casino security, this is the most common way blackjack players try to cheat. I’ve seen several variations on the scheme. It’s been attempted by individuals and groups.

The largest chip-swapping scheme I’ve heard about involved around 50 people playing roulette. But blackjack players sometimes do this, too.

The idea is to make a bet with say a stack of $50 chips. When you lose, you swap a $5 chip for a $50 chip, thus making an extra profit of $45.

Another way cheaters replace chips is to “cash in” chips they didn’t buy in the first place. That’s not quite the same as swapping chips during the game. The chips being cashed in might be counterfeit, stolen, or discontinued chips.

I once accidentally handed a cashier a chip from the wrong casino. She politely gave it back to me, and I apologized. They didn’t care. It happens all the time.

I guess it doesn’t require much imagination to run around to a lot of different casinos to try that. But that’s probably why a lot of chips have casino names and dollar values on them.

3 – Arguing With the Dealer

I’ve definitely seen people argue with the dealer before. At the time, I didn’t understand why they were doing that. And I can’t say I know for sure in retrospect that they were trying to cheat.

But this is a simple strategy. It usually follows one of two paths:

  1. The player denies asking for a bad card. If the player indicates a “hit” and is then dealt a high-value card, he may try to avoid busting by saying he didn’t really mean it. If the player is subtle enough in asking for the hit, the dealer can’t be sure the trick may work. Where small bets are concerned, some casino pit bosses have said they’ll take the loss rather than stop a game. This is a pretty ballsy move. You’re outright lying and risking ejection. If you’re going to try this, don’t be surprised if a pit boss moves over to your table.
  2. The player says he doubled down when he didn’t. This is an even ballsier move. You take a hit that clearly puts you in a winning position. Then, you slip an extra bet onto the table as the dealer moves onto the next player. If the dealer stops and challenges the extra wager, the player insists he called “double.” In a noisy casino this might work, but the casinos train their dealers to watch for this tactic. I’ve read that some players wait until the round is finished so they know the dealer has lost. If they move their hand over their chips, they might keep them covered long enough to fool people on the floor. Security cameras will see it, but security teams rarely intervene in small cheating unless a player is flagged. The video can be reviewed later if staff conclude the player has been cheating.

4 – Marking the Cards

Yes, this really happens in real life. In 2013, Archie Karas was accused of marking blackjack cards during gameplay with invisible ink. It took about two months for the casino to review the video and file charges.

In Karas’ case, he used special eyewear to identify the cards as they came back across the table. Other cheaters have been less sophisticated.

Casino Blackjack Piled in a Row

Card marking has always been frowned upon by a majority of players because, if done successfully, it creates an overwhelming advantage for the player marking and reading the cards.

One could argue that in blackjack, other players are not hurt by card marking. I don’t think it’s worth playing with the math. This is clearly a high-risk idea.

You might win a few thousand dollars and get away with it for a while.  But the Karas case shows that casinos are watching out for sophisticated marking schemes.

5 – Dealing With the Dealer

Casinos don’t trust their dealers and with good reason. Every few months ,I hear about another dealer getting arrested for colluding with a player.

Why do dealers cheat? They have their reasons, but most dealers realize this isn’t a smart career move. They’re more likely to be prosecuted for cheating than someone who is arguing about whether he doubled down.

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Cutting a deal with a casino staff member opens you up to felony charges. Law enforcement takes these schemes seriously.

You already know the casinos are watching their dealers closely. They might be good at cheating in casinos, but sooner or later, they all seem to get caught.

Conclusion

I’ve never met anyone who claimed to be a successful habitual casino cheat. I’ve met a few people who said they tried something simple and got away with it.

They only did it once or twice. Or so they say. And I tend to believe them.

When you stop to think about what being caught could cost you, playing an honest game of blackjack seems a lot more fun and free. You may lose all your money the next time you play, but at least you can go home knowing the police won’t have any reason to come find you in two months time.