Dealer Error at Blackjack.
Arnold Snyder's Blackjack Forum Online Home Arnold Snyder Contact Information About Arnold Snyder's Blackjack Forum Online How to Win at Blackjack Arnold Snyder's Blackjack Forum, Trade Journal for Professional Gamblers Since 1981, New Issue Blackjack and Gambling Forums Moderated by Professional Gamblers Blackjack Forum Gambling Library Best Internet Casinos and Smart Online Gaming Gambling Books Recommended by Professional Gamblers Links to Gambling Sites Recommended by Professional Gamblers  
 

Blackjack Dealer Error

 
Intro to Winning Blackjack
 
CARD COUNTING HOW-TO: CONTENTS
Blackjack Card Counting Tips and Techniques Costs of Card Counting Errors
    By Arnold Snyder
Blackjack Card Counting and Dealer Tokes Faulty Logic: To Toke or Not To Toke
    By Arnold Snyder
Blackjack Card Counting Tips and Techniques ...And Chew Gum at the Same Time
    (Tips on Card Counting Technique)
    By Kyle Sever
Report on a Year of Card Counting Card Counting: Report on My First Year
    By G.K. Schroeder
Report on a Year of Card Counting Graduating from Low-Stakes Blackjack
    By Barfarkel
 
A New Novel By
Arnold Snyder:



Risk of Ruin is a love story between two misfits: an antisocial biker / professional blackjack player and an underage stripper who believes she's God.

$11.99 / $2.99 Kindle, 260 pages
Vegas Lit (Huntington Press)
Order Risk of Ruin Now

 
 
 
 
Professional Blackjack Software
From ET Fan:

PowerSim analyzes innovative blackjack card counting systems




 

Exploiting Dealer Error

By ETFan
[From Blackjack Forum Vol. XXVI #2, Summer 2007]
© 2007 ETFan

Counting cards at blackjack is a fun, simple way to get an advantage over the house. But counting cards for a living is a tough row to hoe and for one simple reason—the casinos are fully aware of this technique and allow it to continue for their own selfish reasons.

They enjoy the word-of-mouth advertising that goes along with the "counter culture" but they don't want serious winners taking up space at their tables. With the heat that inevitably results, if all you do is count, you'll just b-a-a-a-r-e-l-y eke out a profit after expenses. You need more. You deserve more. You can get more by exploiting dealer error (DE).

However, some people in the "counter culture" object to accepting any of the fruits of dealer error. They take the position that this is akin to accepting change for a twenty at the supermarket when you handed the cashier a ten.

I feel this is a misguided analogy for several reasons, though I can respect that point of view. But these people must recognize they are relegating their play to amateur standing. Every advantage play in blackjack beyond simple card counting, from holecarding to steering to shuffle tracking, involves exploiting dealer or house error in one form or another.

Professional advantage players have few qualms about exploiting dealer error; it's the part-timers that seem to object. Professionals seem to agree with Stanford Wong who wrote in Basic Blackjack: "When a dealer makes an error in the casino's favor, speak up and get it corrected... When the dealer makes an error in your favor, overlook the error and forgive the dealer."

In fact, most pros have a trick or two up their sleeves to unsteady the hand of the dealers they face on a daily basis. This can be quite lucrative for an alert player, and will be the subject of this article.

To Find Dealer Error, Pick Your Casino

The casino gets to choose their opponents. If they don't think they can beat you, they'll show you the door. When possible, you should exercise the same discretion. Here are some desireable traits in a casino:

  • Any casino less than a year old still has a few dealers in diapers.

  • Any casino that has recently undergone expansion in size, hours of operation, or number of table games will have more than its share of error-prone newbies.

  • Any casino that supports many different table games, and rotates dealers amongst the games—well, you have to feel sorry for those crazy, mixed-up nerf herders.

  • Any casino on the weekend or a holiday will have some part-time dealers working the extra tables.

  • In particular, a casino that stays open all night, just on the weekends, will have some tired unhappy dealers working those shifts. (How well do you function at 3:00 in the morning?)

Desireable Traits in a Dealer if You Want to Exploit Dealer Error

Once you've chosen your casino, and enter the belly of the beast, you still have several choices to make. You get to pick out your table, your seat, and your dealer. Perhaps 90% of dealer error earnings comes from choosing the right dealer. Try to choose a dealer with one or more of the following characteristics:

  • Dealers who seem unhappy in their work.

  • Unkempt or harried looking dealers.

  • Dealers who seem to be "steaming" after a confrontation with a supervisor.

  • Very young or very elderly dealers.

  • Dealers with hands that literally shake.

  • Very fast dealers.

  • Dealers who seem to be on autopilot. No "pace in the face."

  • Dealers who seem pleased with big player wins (subconscious bias).

  • Dealers who are "yucking it up," and having a lot of fun with the players.

  • Very attractive female dealers. (They may be extremely competent, but there's also a chance they landed their positions for reasons other than skill on the job.)

  • Dealers who like you, personally.

  • Just plain crazy dealers.

  • Dealers with less than six months of blackjack dealing experience.

  • And (most important) dealers you've observed making errors in the past.

A word about fast dealers: Inexperienced counters may find rapid-fire dealing unsettling, but as you gain experience, you will find this a lucrative source of revenue. These people deal fast to escape from boredom, and often they are bored because the possibility that they could be making blunders right and left has never occurred to them. Here is my favorite story about a fast dealer:

Somehow, I found myself in this real dump of a casino. They have opaque covers over the shoes and the discard trays just to thwart card counters. They truly deserved this high and mighty dealer who pumped out about 700 hands a minute and honest-to-god believed she never made a mistake in her life.

The guy sitting next to me hits hard 13 and gets a 9. He waits for dealer to sweep up the cards, but instead he hears, "Sir, you have to make a hand signal." The guy just replies "Look at the cards!" Dealer says "Yes, I know sir, but you have to give a signal." ... "What signal? Just add up the cards!" ... "Sir, if you don't give me a hand signal, I'll have to call over the pit boss." ... At this point, I'm getting ticked off, because this is holding up the game. In unison, he and I together practically screamed "LOOK AT THE CARDS!!"

You guessed it—she didn't look. She was sure it was 21. Instead, she called over her boss. I swear on a stack of bibles, neither pit boss nor dealer ever once looked down to add up the man's hand. Boss looks this guy straight in the eye and intones: "Sir, the dealer can not move on until you give a clear hand signal." He shook his head while making frustrated waves in the air, which they took to mean stand.

The dealer eventually broke and payed off the 22. Man said: "I don't want this. I don't deserve it." They practically crammed that $20 down the poor man's throat.

But whatever dealer you choose, if you sit there for thirty minutes and don't observe a single error in any player's favor, you're at the wrong table. Professorial types may be surprised to learn this factor is even more important than penetration.

If you're in an unfamiliar casino, you may be wondering just how to tell whether a dealer has been working there for three months or three years. There's a less obvious way to ask besides just coming out with "How long have you worked here?" (although there's no law against asking it like that). However, it involves telling a little white lie. I'll leave it to you to figure out, and to decide whether white lies fall within your moral calculus.

While you're picking out a dealer, you also get to:

Choose Your Table

  • Choose a table in the region of noisy slot machines and distracting sirens, or where the dealer must stare right across at blinking neon lights. Anything to distract her! You may be distracted as well, but remember—her job is much more difficult than yours.

  • Choose a table where the players themselves are distracting.
    1. Attractive, scantily clad female players, with a male dealer.

    2. Drunk players who are giving the dealer a hard time.

    3. Players just generally raising a ruckus. Balloons, crazy hats, noise makers, the more the merrier.

    4. One player who chatters constantly about everything under the sun except blackjack. You know the type—borderline schizophrenic. It's best if this sad case talks in a loud voice and insists on engaging the dealer in dialogue. No normal dealer can maintain his equilibrium in this situation. If the guy starts talking to you, offer him five dollars to talk to the dealer. Explain that the dealer is having personal problems and "really needs to talk." In fact, it might pay you to find such a person and pay him minimum wage to travel from casino to casino with you. (Untested by the author.

Choose Your Seat

The ideal seat is to the right of an attractive player, and to the left of an obnoxious player, or that flashing neon sign I mentioned before. You want the dealer to rush past you to attend to the hottie sitting next to you.

All else being equal, it's generally best to sit at first base or third. It's an uncomfortable viewing angle for the dealer, and he may be distracted by action at an adjoining table. Also, several DE ploys depend on sitting at first or third.

At The Table

Once seated, the general idea is to tally all your totals, plus every dealer total, and watch every payoff like a hawk to make sure no errors work against you. If you are very quick at this, you may save the dealer the embarrassment of calling over her boss to fix the goof. (A grateful dealer may be subconsciously motivated to make future errors in your favor. She may even relax a bit, if she has the impression you're watching out for her.)

But just staying on your toes is only the tip of the iceberg. In Cheating at Blackjack, Dustin D. Marks (you gotta love that handle) describes a few "OEMs," which stands for "Oh, excuse me." He claims there are hundreds of them.

Now, being a crook, Marks has a guilty conscience and instictively gravitates to the illegal types of OEMs. He describes them as "a con game" where you "play the part of a beginner." But for most OEM, there is a perfectly legal, moral variation (advantage ploy?), assuming you agree with the court rulings that say it's legal to take advantage of dealer error.

I don't have a guilty conscience. I never say "Oh, excuse me." I say "Oh, I noticed the dealer made a mistake, but I didn't want to embarrass him." For example, Marks describes a con where he places a large bet half-in/half-out of the first base betting circle. Then, if the dealer mistakes this for a bet and the first card isn't to his liking, he claims he "asked for change."

There's no need for that. What you do (while sitting at first base) is wait until the dealer seems distracted, then place the large bet clearly outside the circle, but also outside her viewing angle. Then when you get a bad card, you're clearly entitled to bow out of the hand completely (though it would be a courtesy to place a minimum bet, so the next player isn't stuck with your bad card). And if you get an ace or ten, there's a chance your dealer will call over her boss. But whether she does or she doesn't, there's an excellent chance you'll be able to bet whatever you like—even more than the change amount—on that hand.

There's no need to lie; no need for a guilty conscience. Merely placing the bet outside the circle constitutes a request for change in every casino I've played. It certainly doesn't constitute a bet. If asked, you honestly, legitimately reply that you never intended to bet that amount.

I'm not sure there are "hundreds" of ways to encourage dealer error, but I have have dozens on file in my computer. I will only list those executed successfully by myself or other advantage players I know.

Dealer Error and Getting The Dealer On YOUR Side

  • Give the dealer an extravagent compliment after you play for a few minutes. Make her blush!

  • When it fits into the conversation, stress that everyone makes mistakes, and how we all hate people who claim to be perfect. (Give the dealer a subconscious excuse to screw up—but don't buy your own spiel.) This comment isn't about this dealer in particular, of course.

  • Ask the dealer how he can work when it's so hot/cold/dry/humid/nice outside—whatever! Anything to give the dealer an excuse for lapses.

  • Assure the pit boss that this dealer is quite efficient. (Reduce perceived or real pressure on the poor girl to perfect her skills.)

  • React with anger toward the pit boss if you witness a dealer reprimand. "Who does he think he is, yelling at you like that? How do you get to be a pit boss, anyway??"

  • If there is no job-related acrimony, it might pay to create a little. Mention you heard about the personnel cutbacks. "How can they cut five dealers, like so-and-so said, and still keep all their tables open??"

  • Ask about work rules for dealers. "You mean you're not allowed to have a drink at the table?" (Subtle message: dealers are good; the house deserves little consideration.)

  • On the other hand, if the dealer seems like a total house lackey, mention what a great place this is, what a nice guy the pit boss is, etc. Obscure the line between the cowboys and the Indians.

  • It helps if others at the table mention that you deserve a break, with all the bad luck you've been having. To say it yourself out loud draws too much attention.

  • It's ok to say "now be good to me!" once per dealer.

  • There are recent experiments from Princeton, Edinburgh and elsewhere that suggest there may be an unexplained form of communication between humans. Here is a fairly thorough popular exposition: http://www.dichotomistic.com/mind_readings_psi%20ganzfeld.html

It may simply be poor test design, but in any event it can't hurt to project the thought, the image if you will, that you deserve the benefit of dealer error.

Blend In

Although you're a nice guy(irl), you're not so obviously great that the dealer wants to spend all his(er) time on you. You don't need the attention.

  • Don't be loud or abrasive. Elicit sympathy when you lose, but don't swear. Give off good, friendly vibes when you win.

  • Don't let the dealer add for you. Release the dealer from this "obligation" by intoning "I know" if she announces your total.

  • Avoid heat like the plague. Even before getting "the word" from the boss, your dealer will sense heat and tighten up.

  • You don't need to telegraph the fact you're a big winner with huge mounds of chips. Color up often. Keep blacks and above in your pocket. Everyone knows they can be snatched right off the table.

  • Sit at a high rolling table with slightly higher limits than you're accustomed to.
    1. You can afford to bet a little more when the dealer is a dufus.
    2. Your bets will seem small to the dealer, not worth special attention.
  • If a player points out an error by the dealer to your spot, it's probably time to move on to another table.

  • On the other hand, if a dealer catches her own error to any spot, stick around! You know she's prone, but she'll be giving herself big strokes for catching the goof.

Increase Your Chances of Valuable Dealer Error

  • Play toward the beginnings and ends of shifts (but not through a shift change), when dealers are likely to be fresh, or tired.

  • In head-to-head play, try to quicken the pace to increase DE (but maintain your own accuracy).

  • Sit at a table where the cards are "sticking". This can disrupt a dealer's natural rhythm and enhance DE.

  • Playing on humid days enhances the sticking possibility. (It's especially nice if the air conditioning is on the fritz.)

  • Every dealer has a certain amount of time/energy she habitually devotes to mental arithmetic. Get the dealer busy calculating anything other than your total. Eg. ask how much profit the average blackjack table pulls in for the house per month. Or how much she made in tips last week.

  • At the end of a hand with many hits, as dealer is making payoffs and before hands have been collected, point at another player and say "Wait, she has X, doesn't she?" (where X would win), forcing the dealer to add up that total a second time. Time/energy again. In my experience, the time/energy factor outweighs the extra attention you receive—as long as the dealer continues to like you. Don't do this when the total is really wrong. That can slow down the dealer and make her more cautious.

  • Cap your bets with two reds or a red and a green, so you need to color-up often. The red on top makes your spot look less important, at first glance. And more color-ups means more chances for DE on color-ups. The impact on time/energy is inexorable. Most dealers are under pressure to deal a certain number of hands per hour.

  • Every time the dealer's total comes within one point—plus or minus—of your 4 or more card hand, quietly express satisfaction (smile and exhale). The idea is to get the dealer to have faith in your reaction, on the minus hands, so she pays off pushes, or pushes one-point losers, on the plus hands.

  • At a loose, happy table, try adding the dealer's total for her. Announce her first hit correctly, but one point low thereafter. This technique can draw the wrong kind of attention, so discontinue immediately when it fails (and it usually will fail).

  • On a round where there's a fair chance for DE in your favor, look like a winner—subtly smug, and pleased with yourself. Whatever you do, don't look chagrined when you lose by one point.

  • One $1 tip, along with the question "is there any way I can give this to you, personally?" will have more positive effect than two $2 tips. It's usually not advisable to place bets for the dealer. It draws extra attention to your hand.

  • After one or two hits, ask for a card that would make 22. If you actually get that card, the dealer may think you have 21.

  • With three or more cards that add up to 12 vs. a 2 or 3 upcard, jokingly ask for a ten without giving a hand signal. If the dealer gives you a ten, truthfully explain it was a joke. After all, the dealer is supposed to wait for a hand signal. For any card other than a ten, ignore the dealer's error, unless you happen to be sitting at third base, and the card would make the dealer bust.

  • When dealer is making payoffs, and you think she might push your one point loser, stare intently at the hand to your left. Deepen the impression your own hand holds little interest.

  • If you think dealer may push your one point loser, act like the winner you normally are. For example, stretch out your hand as if you're getting ready to pull back those chips!

  • When you do get payed on a push, or push a loser, always withdraw your money immediately after the dealer passes you—especially if some do-gooder is pointing out dealer error that hurts the house. Save the dealer some embarrassment; remove the evidence.

  • Many people realize that odd sized bets can increase the chance of certain payoff errors, but it's also true this can decrease your odds of getting paid on pushes. Adjust your approach to the dealer before you.

  • Strategy indices should be adjusted with an error-prone dealer. Doubling and splitting numbers can be lowered two points or even more versus a 2 through 5 (more likely to force multi-card arithmetic) and especially versus an ace. Double that hard eleven!

  • When the dealer makes an error in favor of the house, do NOT touch your chips. Speak up immediately. If you wait two seconds too long, you may wind up waiting a half hour for them to rewind the tape.

  • Any subtle odor the dealer doesn't care for may cause her to move her nose (which happens to be a fixed distance from her eyes) quickly past your position, increasing the error rate. There are several possibilities ... a touch of garlic ... a hint of musk. I don't suggest you take up smoking for DE sake. This is a game—not life and death.

  • If you get the cut card deep in a juicy shoe, cover it up with your hand or some chips. (Hey, you have to put your chips in neat stacks, don't you?) Dealers seem to use the cut card as a visual cue to remember to shuffle, but that's not your fault! I've seen dealers go all the way to the end of the shoe.

  • DE deja vu: If the dealer makes a mistake on a particular color-up, wait until you have that exact combination of chips, and color it up again! If the dealer pays too much on a natural with a $40 bet, bet $40 all the time, or if you have a strong count, try $140! If the dealer paid off once on your 3-4-5-T, you should be hitting your three and four card twelves vs. 4, 5 or maybe even a 6. You get the idea.

  • Some people consider this to be cheating. I don't do it, but it's between you and your conscience: In a pitch game, don't throw in your four or more cards totaling 22. Especially if the dealer busts, there's a fair chance he'll just scoop up your hand netting you a 200% profit.

  • This one is even closer to the edge. I call it "Surrender for less." If you decide to use it, use it only on your last day in a given casino for several months. With an even sized bet out, if you would normally surrender, remove half the bet while the dealer is occupied with players to your right. When it's your turn say "surrender" and if the dealer only takes half the remaining chips, according to one guy I know, proper etiquette is never to point out an error unless it hurts you personally. (Any lawyers in the house?)

Types of Dealer Error: Misdeals

Any time the dealer deals an extra hand, or misses a hand, or any of a number of other things, the pit boss will be called over, and generally you will have the option to play your hand, or call it dead. Over half the time, your hand will be a net loser, so you should drop out.

This is like surrender without having to surrender anything. Many people are surprised to learn any hard 17 is a loser, even against a 5 or 6 (so toss it in!). Any 18 should be abandoned vs. a 9, T or A, and soft hands below 18 should generally be dropped unless basic says to double down. And other than T-T and 5-5, pairs that aren't supposed to be split should be abandoned. Also abandon 8-8 vs. 8, 9 T and A. The precise strategy for handling the dead hand decision is given in Basic Blackjack.

Exposed Cards

Any cards exposed during the shuffle, the cut, or the play of the hands other than player hands and the upcard is a dealer error. There are strategies for playing exposed cards in several places, such as Basic Blackjack by Wong, Beat the Dealer by Thorp, and Beyond Counting by Grosjean. It's possible to get an edge over 10% with optimal hole card play.

One card that's often neglected is the bottom card after the shuffle and just before the cut. For example, if you know the bottom card is a ten, in a 1d game, and you can cut exactly in the middle, you know the 26th card dealt will be a ten -- and that can be very precious knowledge. Even if you can only cut to within one or two cards of center, you could profit handsomely.

Occasionally, the dealer will expose the hole card in plain view for all to see. In this case, don't be shy about hitting your hard 19 vs. the dealer's 20! If the dealer's two-card total is eleven or less, you should follow basic strategy for the corresponding upcard. Eg. if the dealer has 2-3, then you should play as if he has a 5 up. And if the dealer is stiff (total hard 12 - 16) you have only yourself to blame if you bust.

Much has been written about hole card play. James Grosjean has determined that perfect hole card play can net you +13% against the house, but that assumes you have perfect knowledge of the hole card 100% of the time, and you never make cover plays. If you forego the obvious giveaways, like hitting hard 17 or higher, you should net around 10% with perfect play.

If you know the top card of the deck or shoe you also have extremely valuable information. For example, if you're sitting at third base, and you know the next card is a ten, there are many counter-intuitive situations where you should stand, rather than hit.

Broken Equipment

Any faulty equipment can put the dealer off kilter and increase errors. My favorite is a broken card reader—often advertized by tape over the hole. You may have thought the information in Read The Dealer by Forte was obsolete, but the first thing I look for as I case a casino is that tape.

You have a dealer with zero experience in hiding her reactions, manually peeking at hole cards. They won't know the procedures, so you can be quite brazen. If you have a questionable play after a peek, look them straight in the eye and say "what do YOU think?" They won't tell you, but if they like you and their hand is poor, they will look pleased. More likely they will hate you, since you're a counter, so if they think you're in a spot, they won't be able to supress a slight grin.

Competent Dealer Incompetence

There are many players with a good knowledge of basic strategy who aren't professional card counters. The dealer begins fitting you into one of her pigeon holes the minute you sit down to play. But you are going to be a square peg. Once the dealer has you down as a nice guy ... knows his way around the table ... unlikely to cause any problems ... she will relax.

Here are some plays you should try only after the dealer has you categorized. They involve a higher level of deception than previous ploys, and may have more serious legal and moral implications. We list them for purely educational purposes without recommending them. They can work only once per dealer.

  • The ambiguous hit: While playing two hands, or with split hands, when you are done hitting the first one—or even if it's stiff with a high upcard—don't wave it off. Instead, wait half a second after the dealer gets distracted then make your next hit signal exactly in the middle between the two spots. If it looks good for hand #1, claim it was intended for hand #1. If it's good for hand #2 ... get the picture?

  • The hit/stand: To perfect this move you need to imagine what it looks like to the eye in the sky. It should clearly look like a hit to the camera, but like a probable stand to the dealer. You're on third base. The dealer knows you. She knows you're going to stand on that hand, and barely looks at you. She's still talking to somebody on first base about that thing that happened day before yesterday. She hits her hand and it's the seven that would have turned your 14 into 21. "Hey wait! I signaled for a hit!!"

  • The double/hit: This is a dealer on speed. He hits your hand the instant you give a signal. You have a few chips in the palm of your hand equal to the bet in the circle. You signal for a hit and simultaneously let go of the palmed chips, which fall in the vicinity of the circle. The instant you see the hit, if it's no good you say "Oops!" If it's a nice one, shout "Double!"

  • The quadruple down: All chips in the betting circle are the same color. You plan to double down. While the dealer is preoccupied with players on your right, add your doubling amount to the top of your bet. When it's your turn, incompetent little you asks "how much more do I need to bet to double down?". If the dealer says anything other than "zero," you follow his instructions. He is, after all, the boss. [There are specific laws against "capping your bet" in many jurisdictions, so this play is included only for completeness. Not recommended.]

Summary

In general, every picayune procedure, every little nit you observe in the most paranoid of casinos, has a reason borne out of experience with the small con artist. If you think about those reasons, you will know what to do when you encounter a dealer who takes short cuts.

There's not much in the literature on DE because mathematically it's, well frankly it's uninteresting. It's also uninteresting if someone just hands you $25 an hour because you look pretty, but that's no reason to turn it down. Nor is it a reason to stop shaving.

Over time, maximizing dealer error can have quite a salutary effect on your bankroll. In general, the win rate is increased with little negative consequence in the variance column. In fact, if you know for sure the dealer is a klutz, you may be justified in increasing your bets by 20 - 50% across the board.

Christmas comes early when the dealer is on your side. Always remember: "If the boss didn't see it—it didn't happen." ♠

Return to Blackjack Forum Home

Return to Professional Gambling Library




 
© 2007 Blackjack Forum Online, All Rights Reserved
 
 
 
  <h1>The Easy OPP Count: The Easiest Blackjack Card Counting System</h1><br>Many blackjack players have been unable to benefit from card counting because traditional card counting systems involve difficult calculations at the table. The OPP system involves virtually no calculations at the table. All you have to do with the OPP blackjack system is count the number of players before the round, then count the number of low cards dealt. That's it. You're now a winning blackjack player.  Summary: ETFan describes how to maximize your advantage from dealer error at blackjack.