7 Steps Casinos Take to Stop Card Counters

Man in Suit With His Hand Up and a Casino Card and Chips Image

The casino’s battle to keep card counters from beating them is well known. They routinely use various measures to identify advantage players (APs) and kick them out.

Of course, they’re not always successful in this endeavor. But they do catch a lot of card counters and ban them.

If you’re interested in counting cards, you can benefit by knowing what techniques casinos use to identify and/or stop APs. Here are 7 methods that casino is used to root out counters.

1 – Lower Natural Blackjack Payouts

The general public has a common misconception that casinos spend massive amounts of time looking for and chasing APs. The movie 21 has a lot to do with this idea.

Pit bosses do spend some time looking for counters. But for the most part, casinos let the rules work for them.

Back in the 1960s, when card counting was first getting started, blackjack rules were extremely favorable across many tables. However, the industry gradually changed this by instituting house-friendly rules.

The worst of the bunch involves lowering the natural blackjack payout from 3:2 to 6:5. This single change increases the house edge by 1.39%.

Everybody from APs to amateurs have to deal with 6:5 payouts in many casinos. But card counters are largely to blame here.

Gambling establishments use 6:5 payouts to lower potential profits for APs. But they also benefit by making more money off unsuspecting novices too.

2 – Add More Decks

Just like with 3:2 natural payouts, real money blackjack tables previously featured single-deck games. A single deck lowers the house edge by 0.5% when compared to the common eight-deck shoes of today.

Aside from increasing the house edge, more decks also make it tougher to have confidence in your count. Here’s an example to explain:

  • A table features a six-deck shoe.
  • You start counting and have a +4 count after one deck.
  • Normally, a +4 count would be really good.
  • But with five decks remaining, your +4 count isn’t as strong.

Some casinos dangle single-deck blackjack to draw players. This move works because many gamblers understand that a single deck is more favorable than multiple decks.

However, casinos also include 6:5 natural payouts. The 1.39% house edge increase from 6:5 payoffs definitely overshadows the 0.59% decrease from a single deck.

3 – Allow Less Deck Penetration

Deck penetration refers to how much of the shoe a dealer goes through before shuffling. If they deal four out of eight possible decks, then they’re allowing 50% penetration.

This concept is extremely important to card counters when it comes to the common multi-deck games of today. You stand a better chance of winning money when you get further into the shoe.

Again, you can have more confidence in your counts after seeing more cards. Fewer remaining cards make it more likely that positive counts will result in profits.

Closeup of a Blackjack Table Game

For example, a +2 count can lead to profits. However it provides a thin edge that won’t necessarily result in winnings at 50% deck penetration or less.

You want fewer cards left, so that a positive count indicates a larger percentage of 10s and aces remaining in the shoe. 75% deck penetration, or better, is ideal for making this happen.

Some casinos do allow this amount of penetration so that they can keep games moving faster. As a result, they rake in more profits from amateurs.

Other casinos, however, are too leery of card counters to allow 75% of the shoe to be dealt. You definitely want to avoid these establishments.

4 – No Mid-Shoe Entry Rule

As covered above, deck penetration is really important with regard to successful card counting. You want to see as many cards/hands as possible to gain more faith in your count.

If this is the case, though, why not just count off to the side and jump into the game later with a favorable count? Actually, many counters from the past used this exact strategy.

Gambling author Stanford Wong was the first to write about this technique. This strategy has been known as “wonging” ever since. Wonging is a foolproof strategy that can result in big profits. The only problem, though, is that casinos have been wise to it for decades.

Most blackjack tables feature a sign that states “no mid-shoe entry.” You can’t enter these games until a new shoe starts.

The no mid-shoe entry rule is specifically designed to prevent wonging. If casinos didn’t institute this rule, they’d get crushed by APs.

5 – Chat with Players

Pit bosses have a lot of responsibilities around the gambling floor. Therefore, they don’t just sit around watching for card counters all day.

However, when a pit boss does catch wind of a potential card counter, they need to monitor their play. Sometimes, just the pit boss standing and watching the player is enough to back them off.

Other times, though, the pit boss takes a more-direct approach that involves chatting with the player. They may start out with a harmless conversation about the game or another matter.

But their end goal is to get the player to stop counting or even kick them out, depending upon the casino’s policy. These chats let the AP know that they’ve potentially been spotted and need to stop counting.

6 – Limit Bet Sizes

Sometimes, the talks described above result in the pit boss taking action. One of their favorite methods for dealing with counters involves limiting their bet size.

The pit boss has two different options in this case:

  • Cap how much the player can bet (e.g. no more than $50).
  • Force the AP to flat bet (e.g. $10 every hand).


The first route ensures that APs can’t take advantage of positive counts. After all, one needs to raise their bets at some point to capitalize on positive counts.

The second route accomplishes the same goal—only in a more-extreme manner. It doesn’t matter how skilled a card counter is if they can only bet $10 on every hand.

Pit bosses can limit bet sizes when they’re unsure if a particular player is actually counting. Assuming the gambler isn’t counting, they may continue playing even if they’re only allowed to flat bet.

7 – Ban Players & ID Them

The most-extreme method for dealing with card counters involves banning them from the casino. A ban may extend to all of the corporation’s properties.

If you get caught counting at MGM Grand, for example, then you’ll be banned from every single MGM casino throughout the world.

Many gambling establishments try to get your ID after catching you counting. They use this information to ensure that they can better identify you, in case you ever try stepping foot in their casino(s) again.

View of a Live Blackjack Hand

In the worst-case scenario, they’ll enter you into an international database of known advantage players. Such a database allows many casinos to check for your info if they suspect that you’re a card counter.

You may think that you must hand over an ID upon request. After all, casinos need to ensure that they only allow players who meet the legal gambling age.

The truth of the matter, though, is that no casino employee can legally force you to provide identification. Only a law-enforcement officer can do so.

If you’re a serious card counter, then you should never give a casino worker your ID. They’ll likely use this info against you and ensure that gambling establishments can better identify you as an AP in the future.

Conclusion

Casinos have known that card counters can beat them ever since the 1960s. They’ve spent considerable time learning how to spot card counters and stop them.

Rule changes are one simple way to hurt an AP’s bottom line. Unfavorable rules, such as 6:5 natural payouts, severely lower a card counter’s profit potential.

Of course, some APs still make money even with bad rules. So, casinos also have pit bosses watch for suspected counters and take necessary actions.

You might find this information discouraging, but you’re better off knowing it than not. That way, you know what to watch out for in case you get into card counting.