The Role of the Pit Boss in Catching Card Counters

Man with Arms Crossed, Three Blackjack Cards Floating
You’re probably aware that card counting in blackjack isn’t welcome in casinos. These advantage players are skilled enough to win profits off the house, which casinos hate.

Of course, card counters don’t wear blinking cursors. Casinos must be adept at catching counters to avoid losing too much money.

Various employees work together to make this happen. Dealers, surveillance, and floormen can all play a role in thwarting counters.

But while it takes a team effort, pit bosses often receive the most attention in this matter. They preside over the table games section, which is why they’re often feared by counters.

What exactly is their role in rooting out card counters? I’ll answer this question by discussing their day-to-day duties as well as how they help catch advantage players.

The Normal Duties of a Pit Boss

As their name implies, a pit boss is in charge of many aspects relating to casino pits. First off, they need to manage the employees running the table games, including floormen and dealers.

The floormen also lend a helping hand by managing several tables. They can even handle minor disputes or problems that arise.

However, the pit boss deals with any serious issues. If a croupier severely misdeals a hand and players grumble, the pit leader will have to sort out the dilemma.

Aerial View of Casino Blackjack Tables

The pit boss also has to complete paperwork regarding inventory. For example, they might have to go through various tables and make sure that the inventory numbers add up.

They’re tasked with rating players too. Anytime a gambler wishes to be comped, the pit boss will be called over to rate their play.

Obviously a pit boss can’t watch the same gambler hand after hand. So they watch a gambler for several hands every hour and use this info to determine comps.

Pit Bosses Don’t Have Time to Fixate on Card Counters

You can see from the above that pit bosses don’t have time to play cat-and-mouse with potential advantage gamblers all day.

Their job description includes a broad range of duties. Not only do they manage lots of employees, but they also have to rate gamblers for comps.

Of course, pit bosses aren’t inept when it comes to watching for card counters and other types advantage players. They need to thoroughly understand all of the table games, from blackjack to roulette.

Such insight gives them the tools to catch counters when the need arises. But the key point is that they don’t walk around for 10 hours with counters on their mind.

What Does a Pit Boss Do When There’s a Suspected Counter?

Considering their multitude of tasks, the pit boss isn’t usually the first employee to observe a potential card counter. Instead, dealers, floormen, and/or surveillance are the first line of defense.

Row of Blackjack Tables In Casino

These employees have more time to observe counters at their respective tables and can get a good read on the situation. The pit boss may then be discreetly notified of the potential counting action.

They can use several tactics to determine if counting is indeed happening and proceed accordingly. Here are some of the actions that they take to both catch and deal with advantage players.

Back Off the Counter

One of the first things that a pit boss may do is “back off” a counter. Backing off refers to various tactics that are used to better judge the player in question and/or pressure them.

For example, the pit leader may watch a gambler closely, stand behind them while they’re playing, or even chat with them.

The pit boss doesn’t want to creep out the player. They don’t yet know if the gambler has done anything wrong.

They merely want to see how the gambler reacts to the situation. A friendly conversation won’t rattle a non-counter, but it can make an advantage player nervous.

A backed-off card counter may stop what they’re doing and leave the casino altogether.

Switch Dealers

Counting cards isn’t the only way to beat casinos. Players can also use techniques, such as hole carding.

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The latter refers to spotting a dealer’s hole card when they peak for a natural blackjack. Only a small percentage of dealers are bad enough to consistently flash their hole cards when looking for a blackjack.

In any case, pit bosses will sometimes switch dealers to thwart this very technique. This is the perfect way to stop a hole carder.

Switching dealers doesn’t technically do anything to disrupt a card counter. After all, the count will be the same after the new dealer takes over. But it can serve as another method of backing off counters.

Have the Dealer Shuffle the Shoe

Card counters need to have sufficient deck penetration in order to confidently raise their bets. A big positive count means little if the first deck of an eight-deck shoe is still being dealt.

Hand Reaching for Blackjack Cards, Shuffling Cards

Re-shuffling the shoe eliminates all of the progress that a counter has made. This is exactly why pit bosses will sometimes come over and tell the dealer to shuffle earlier than usual.

Offer to Rate a Player

Most advantage gamblers avoid being rated, because they don’t want their information on file. Such info can help a casino more easily identify card counters and eventually ban them.

Pit bosses normally ask any gambler with a big chip stack if they’d like to be rated. The casino gets a chance to win all of these chips if they can lure the player back.

Asking a gambler if they want to be rated accomplishes the dual goal of determining if they’re a counter. An advantage player will often refuse the invitation.

Offer the Gambler Comps

Offering casino comps to a possible card counter is a bit different than extending an invitation to be rated. This tactic is used to draw the player’s attention away from the game for a short while.

The pit boss may offer a free drink or chat with the gambler about a free meal or hotel stay.

When done long enough, such conversations can break the player’s concentration and make them lose track of the count.

Back Count

Being a professional card counter isn’t automatic prerequisite for becoming a pit boss. However, these employees are usually somewhat adept at counting.

They can count off to the side of a table and see if a player raises their bets during positive counts. If so, then the gambler in question may very well be a counter.

Call Security

Assuming the pit boss is indeed sure that they’re dealing with a card counter, they’ll like call security to escort the player out.

Security Guard Going Down Escalators

Contrary to what the general public believes, security doesn’t take these gamblers out back and rough them up. However, they will ask the player to leave nicely and follow them to the door, no matter how much they’re gambling in blackjack. This applies to every gambler.

Conclusion

Counting cards is already a difficult task when considering all the conditions that you must deal with. You need to keep up with the dealer’s speed, know when to raise bets, and camouflage your counting efforts.

Counting becomes infinity harder when considering that employees like the pit boss are out to get you. Unfortunately, you can’t just ignore their existence when playing with an advantage.

You should know various things about the pit boss’ job as it relates to catching card counters. The best place to start is with how little time they have to monitor players themselves.

A pit boss is one of the busiest people in the casino. They need to manage pit employees, fill out lots of paperwork, rate gamblers, and settle major disputes.

They’re not typically the ones who first suspect card counting, because they don’t have time to stare at individual tables.

Dealers, floormen, and surveillance usually alert the pit boss to potential counting, because they work more directly with certain tables.

Once the pit boss is alerted to the situation, they can use a variety of techniques. Here’s a recap of what they’ll do:

  • Back off counters
  • Switch dealers
  • Ask the dealer to shuffle the shoe
  • Ask a player if they want to be rated
  • Offer comps
  • Back count
  • Call security

The pit boss likes to verify that card counting is indeed taking place before they take any drastic actions. That said, backing off a player is usually their first resort.

They may also watch the suspected counter from a distance, then call for the shoe to be reshuffled. This action not only throws off card counters, but also lets them know that there’s cause for concern.

A pit boss can gauge a player’s reaction by asking them if they want to be rated. Most normal players will say yes.

Offering comps can also help determine a normal gambler versus card counter. The latter crowd will at least be distracted by the conversation.

Knowing the various ways that a pit boss spots card counters doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll be in the clear. However, this knowledge will give you some indication of when the casino is on to you.