Live dealer blackjack has become one of the most popular ways to play this game. It allows you to enjoy brick and mortar-style blackjack from the comforts of your own home.
Assuming you can’t make it to a land-based casino, then live blackjack is the next best thing. However, it can also raise concerns about the dealer cheating.
The concept of blackjack dealers cheating is nothing new. In fact, one live dealer studio was actually caught ripping players off!
I’ll discuss this incident later. But first, I’ll cover the different ways that live dealer casinos can cheat when you play live dealer blackjack and if you have to worry about the matter.
Ways That Live Casinos Could Cheat at Blackjack
You don’t normally need to worry about blackjack dealers cheating in live dealer or land-based casinos. After all, many gaming establishments already make solid profits and these casinos have no need to cheat.
Nevertheless, a casino could use one of several methods to con you if they felt like doing so. Here are the main ways that live dealer casinos can cheat.
Second Dealing Cards
A dealer is supposed to pull the top card off a deck/shoe. With second dealing, however, they’ll draw the second card from the top.
Meanwhile, they keep a choice card on top. These crooked croupiers keep second dealing until getting back to themselves. At this point, they’ll finally give themselves the top card.
Removing High Cards From the Shoe
High cards (A-10) improve your chances of getting a natural blackjack (21 on first two cards). They also increase the odds that the dealer will bust out. After all, the croupier must hit until drawing a 17 or higher.
With that said, live casinos could cheat by taking one or more high cards out of the shoe. Every high card they remove will boost their odds of winning.
Assuming the dealer does this discreetly enough, then you might not even notice that a few high cards are missing. This is especially the case when a six- or eight-deck shoe is involved.
Stacking the Deck or Shoe
In contrast to the method covered above, casinos can always add more low cards (2-6). Additional low cards serve the following two purposes:
- Reduce your chances of getting a natural blackjack
- Improve the dealer’s odds of not busting out
This is another situation where the casino could successfully cheat without you even realizing it. They simply need to add a few extra low cards and benefit over time.
Using Sleight of Hand
Sleight of hand refers to various skill-based tricks that dealers can use. For example, they could quickly pull a card out of their sleeve.
The aforementioned second dealing is another example. In this case, the dealer attempts to grab the second card off the top without anybody seeing.
These tricks require a great deal of skill on the croupier’s part. They must be able to pull off sleight of hand with all eyes on them.
The Infamous Live Dealer Blackjack Cheating Incident of 2017
The thought of live dealer casinos cheating in blackjack isn’t just some hypothetical scenario. After all, a dealer from Global Gaming Labs (GGL) got caught second dealing during a BetOnline Casino blackjack game.
The GGL croupier was playing against a gambler named Michael Morgenstern in 2017. The latter caught this dealer cheating and quickly spread word across the internet.
Here’s how the scenario unfolded:
- The dealer had an eight up-card.
- Morgenstern hit with an 11.
- Morgenstern drew a six (17 total) and chose to stand.
- He noticed that the dealer took the second card, rather than the top one, when dealing to him.
- The croupier proceeded to give themselves the top card—a 10.
- The dealer ended up with an 18 and won the hand.
Assuming this deal went down as it should have, Morgenstern would’ve received a 19 (11+8). The dealer, meanwhile, would’ve had a 16 (8+8) and been forced to hit again.
BetOnline doesn’t really factor into the equation here, because they didn’t control GGL’s dealers. They merely licensed the studio’s games.
That leaves two potential scenarios for what happened:
- The dealer accidentally second dealt.
- The croupier was second dealing on behalf of GGL.
It’s hard to definitively prove that the second scenario is true. However, BetOnline Casino did quickly switch live casino providers from GGL to Visionary iGaming the following month. With that said, we lean towards the second option being true.
Is It Safe to Play Live Blackjack Online?
You can see that the possibility for live dealer casino cheating exists. However, you don’t necessarily need to let such potential incidents keep you away from live dealer blackjack.
First of all, live dealer studios that run these games are putting their reputations on the line. They could disappear from the industry if anybody within their outfit is caught cheating.
The 2017 incident involving BetOnline and GGL saw the latter quickly lose its clientele. They’re no longer working on BetOnline’s behalf as a result.
The costs are extremely heavy for any live dealer gaming outfit that cheats. Therefore, I doubt that any live dealer studios will convince their workers to rob players.
Of course, the possibility still exists that a rogue dealer could collude with another player. Casinos and studios take precautions, though, to prevent this from happening.
They pay their dealers pretty well and usually feature a tip option. This way, croupiers aren’t as motivated to risk their jobs by cheating.
Live blackjack studios also screen employees before hiring them. Screening helps them avoid hiring dealers who would potentially be unscrupulous.
How to Avoid Being Cheated by Live Dealer Casinos
If you’re still worried about being ripped off by a live casino, then you can take certain precautions to make sure it doesn’t happen. Here are some steps that’ll help you avoid getting cheated.
Read Reviews on Live Dealer Casinos
Many websites offer online casino reviews. You can consult one of these sites and read reviews on a variety of live gaming sites.
If you already have a particular live casino in mind, then you should read reviews about it on multiple websites. This way, you get different opinions on the gaming site.
Such reviews discuss multiple topics regarding a live dealer casino. For example, they may cover bonuses, game variety, customer support, and banking options.
Search for Relevant Gambling Scandals
Luckily, live dealer blackjack scandals aren’t common. But you might consider doing some research into the matter just in case. The GGL/BetOnline incident from 2017 is perhaps the only result that you’ll find.
You may want to perform such research anyways just to see if there’s a new scandal(s). This way, you’ll be sure to avoid any live casinos and studios that have been involved in questionable incidents.
Keep Up on Gambling News
Continuing off the point above, you should check out gaming industry news from time to time. Doing so will fill you in on any relevant scandals.
Nevertheless, you should pay attention to gaming news just in case. You’ll be able to find entertaining stories surrounding the industry in the process.
Watch the Casino Games Closely
Your own eyes provide one more way to check if any cheating is going on. You can closely watch games to ensure that the dealer isn’t pulling a fast one.
Observation is exactly how Michael Morgenstern figured out the GGL cheating scandal. Morgenstern noticed that the croupier grabbed the second card at an opportune time.
If nothing else, you can keep your head in the game by watching for potential cheating. Doing so helps you stay focused and using good blackjack strategy.
There’s Only One Known Case of Live Dealer Cheating
Live dealer blackjack cheating is possible. Luckily, though, you’ll almost assuredly avoid any such problems.
The GGL incident in 2017 is a rare case of cheating. Beyond this story, though, no other high-profile live casino cheating incidents exist to date.
But just in case you’re still worried, you can take a few precautions to protect yourself. Live casino reviews, reading gaming news, and closely watching the blackjack action can all pay dividends.
Again, though, you shouldn’t need to worry about being cheated. Live dealer casinos and studios have too much to lose by cheating customers.