The Realities of Being Called Out While Counting Cards

Math Over Blackjack Players and A Blackjack Table

Card counters are the bane of the casino staff. These advantage gamblers rarely tip the dealers or cocktail servers. More importantly, they turn the tables on the casino and make a long-term profit.

Casinos take exhaustive measures to fight card counters, but everything that occurs when they catch an advantage player remains murky to many.

A large group of people assumes that card counting is illegal. While the casino doesn’t discourage that negative stereotype, card counting is perfectly legal.

Still, the casino has the right to refuse service to anyone they choose. Here are the realities of being called out while counting cards. You may be surprised at the backbend and side-steps casinos take just to prevent scaring away potentially good customers.

Gaining an Edge on the Casino

The reason why casinos are so vehemently opposed to card counters is because these advantage players hold an edge over the casino. It’s a slight advantage, but it’s enough to lead to long-term and, most importantly, sustainable profits.

Card counters gain an edge by tracking the high-value cards in the shoe and betting heavier when the deck is stacked with these cards.

Blackjack basic strategy on a table with good rules still faces a house edge of 0.5%. That’s supremely low, which is why many players take home wins playing blackjack.

However, card counters are able to gain an advantage of between 0.5% to 1%. So, it’s obvious why the casinos wouldn’t want them at their tables.

Suppose a team of card counters hits a casino and remains undetected for long enough. In that case, the casino accountants will surely take notice.

The Card Counting Struggle Is Real

I hear from a ton of casino gamblers that think card counting is complicated. They incorrectly feel like you need to have an advanced mathematical degree or be a genius to count cards successfully.

In reality, card counting is the easy part, not being discovered by the casino is the biggest struggle facing card counters.

The casinos employ several deterrents and security protocols to spot and eliminate any suspected card counters. That makes it incredibly difficult for newer advantage gamblers to keep an accurate count while flying under the radar.

Minimum-Bet-Blackjack Table

The best advice I can give the rookie to intermediate card counter is to practice keeping the count as much as possible on the casino floor. Don’t push your luck when the count is in your favor. The goal here is to become comfortable enough counting on the casino floor that it becomes second nature.

How to Spot Trouble on the Horizon

The pit boss is the tip of the spear when it comes to casino security. If you’re approached by the pit boss, it may be a friendly warning that you’re made.

They may merely be greeting new players. But if they start asking seemingly harmless questions like your name or where you’re from, it’s time to tap the brakes.

If a second pit boss comes over to watch your table, you’ve been made. It’s like being stopped by the police; when the second cop pulls up, there’s trouble ahead.

It’ll serve you best not to scurry away, drawing additional attention. But don’t start betting heavily when the count is in your favor. The pit boss is most likely keeping their own count, and they’ll have you dead to rights.

Avoid Being Caught for Best Results

Obviously, the best way to see your desired results at the blackjack table is to avoid suspicion. If you’re never caught counting cards, you can make a decent living as a professional advantage gambler.

The biggest key to never being discovered by the casino is to blend in with your surroundings. Avoid doing anything that will draw undue attention to yourself.

Once a player is on the casino’s radar, it’s difficult to completely rid yourself of any suspicion. There are ways to avoid being caught, but there’s no telling what may grab the dealer’s or pit boss’ attention.

Check out these ways to keep the ever-watchful eye of the casino off of you.

Get In and Get Out

One of the biggest misconceptions around card counting is the notion that card counters enjoy marathon sessions at the table. Many people think that card counters rake in huge wins and have to be sure to not win so much that the casino takes notice.

The fact is that the most successful card counters get in and get out relatively quickly. By only playing through a few shoes at the most, they make it significantly more difficult for the pit boss to dissect their play.

The best card counters know that whether they win or lose in these mini sessions, the most critical factor is to not be found out.

Casino Dealer at Blackjack Table, Blackjack Cards Spread Out, Icon of White Playing Cards

Yes, card counters sometimes lose. The advantage is still subject to variance and merely ensures a long-term positive expectation.

It’s the same reason the players sometimes beat the house edge and leave a winner.

Try to Appear Consistent

Having a wildly varying bet size isn’t anything new to casino personnel. Still, players that begin increasing their bets and winning are sure to catch the eye of the pit boss.

If you sit down and begin betting the table minimum, then jump to max bets when the count is favorable, you’ll probably be answering more questions than you should be comfortable with.

Do your best to appear as consistent as possible with your bet sizing, this can actually help boost your blackjack bankroll as well. Instead of jumping from the $10 minimum to over $100, try increasing your bet amount by 5x to 7x.

That will be less likely to draw unwanted attention. Once you’re more comfortable with your abilities, you can begin pressing the stakes up to 15x to 20x.

Don’t Become Predictable

If you hope to become a successful card counter, don’t be predictable. Mix up the casinos you’re playing in and the times you’re playing.

I have a friend that plays blackjack nearly daily. Nevada has over 450 casinos, with most being in Las Vegas, but not all of them. So, he’s never in short supply of places to play.

One technique he loves to employ when moving around is to play through a series of casinos at different times of the day.

So, he might play casino A in the morning on trip one, late in the evening on trip two, and mid-day on trip three. By spreading out his travels, he rarely sees the same casino staff.

The worst thing a card counter can do is become a regular at any casino.

Teamwork Makes the Dream Work

Some card counters work better as a team. The most obvious benefit of this is that the large betting accomplice can take a seat when the count is favorable and immediately start making large wagers without drawing too much attention.

You’ll also be able to switch the big bettor and the counter, which makes it more difficult for casinos to catch on to the counting.

Some card counting teams have been able to take millions from the casino. These well-organized card counters treat their gambling as a business, and the dedication pays off.

If you can find a skilled partner to count cards with, your life in the casino will become much more manageable. It also helps to have someone to motivate you and practice with; iron sharpens iron.

Master of Disguise

I’ve seen card counters portrayed in casino gambling films wearing outlandish disguises that would almost immediately have the pit boss and likely security wondering what you were up to.

The worst effort of disguising one’s appearance in the casino was a bad toupee. That poor guy wasn’t even counting cards, he was shooting craps with a couple of “working ladies.”

Normal People Playing Blackjack

Still, it’s advisable that you occasionally change your appearance. Cutting your hair, growing facial hair, and wearing glasses can all throw the casino off your trail.

I think the best way to keep them guessing is to completely alter the style of clothes you’re wearing. You can completely modify other people’s perceptions about your financial status and geographical region by wearing the right clothes.

For example, you may be a well-to-do cowboy from Colorado by throwing on some Wranglers and a pearl-snap shirt. On the next trip, be a hipster from California with skinny jeans and a pair of Toms.

Can a Card Counter Operate Long-Term?

When a casino suspects you of counting cards, they’ll try to “back you off” the table. Rarely, they’ll flatly run you out of the casino.

The potential of scaring off good customers is a paramount concern for security and pit bosses. However, they may bar you from the blackjack tables.

That allows non-card counters the opportunity to find another casino game to play. Yet, the advantage gamblers will need to find another casino to play in.

In some cases, the casino will ban a card counter from the casino. Being banned should be a genuine concern for every advantage player.

If you can’t find a casino to play at, there will be no money to win.

Card counters can efficiently operate long-term, given they hone their skills in counting and avoiding detection. I know many players that have made a solid career from moving around and playing blackjack.

Our Conclusions

The realities of being called out while counting cards aren’t nearly as frightening as Hollywood would have you believe. The biggest threat card counters face is losing places to practice their trade.

The days of hauling card counters into darkened back rooms and roughing them up appear to be behind us.