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Blackjack Teams and Lie Detector Tests
The Politics of Polygraphs on Blackjack TeamsBy Arnold Snyder
(From Casino Player, September1997)
© 1997 Arnold Snyder
Question from a Reader: I have been playing for a blackjack team for about six months now. I believe I am a good player, but I have had some pretty bad losing sessions. I have been informed by the team leaders that before I can play any more, I must submit to a lie detector test. Apparently, the team has a contract with a private investigation agency in Las Vegas that regularly tests their team members.
When I first joined this blackjack team, I was told that all players had to submit to lie detector tests if asked. It seemed like a remote possibility at the time. Now, I’m terrified. I have been 100% honest in my dealings with the team, and I’ve never stolen a penny. But, I’ve read that these tests are unreliable, and it scares me to death to think I might be “identified” by some piece of electronic equipment as a liar and a thief. I’ve read that lie detectors actually measure “stress.” If so, I’m a dead duck, because I am really stressed out about this test, even though I’m innocent. If this test ruins my career, can I sue the agency that gives the test?
Answer: No. Prior to submitting to the test, you must sign a form releasing the agency from any such liability.
Most big money blackjack teams use polygraph tests. Some test all players; some test randomly chosen players; some test only players under suspicion. Players who have undergone such tests tell me your apprehension is normal. One player said he could not sleep at all the night before the test, and went in for his test a nervous wreck. When it was over, he was sure he’d “flunked.” Another said he was sweating profusely throughout the test, and whenever the “loaded” questions were asked, he could feel his heart pounding in fear, even though he knew he’d been honest. He was also sure he’d failed. Yet, both of these players passed. This is not to say that the tests are always accurate, only that it is normal to feel very stressed out by the prospect of being tested, and that this stress will not necessarily foul the results.
Polygraph experts will tell you that the tests are usually 90 - 97% accurate, depending on the number of questions asked. The more questions, the lower the accuracy. And some people just don’t give valid results.
Blackjack teams usually have six major areas of concern: 1) Did you report all wins/losses accurately? 2) Did you report expenses accurately? 3) Did you ever play under the influence of alcohol or drugs? 4) If you are being paid for hours played, did you report your hours accurately? 5) If there is some confusion about money transfers from player to player, did you report those transfers accurately? 6) Did you violate any procedures that the team may require to maintain a high level of competency, i.e. did you drill properly on the strategy prior to play, count down X number of decks, etc.?
It is unlikely that you will be asked questions about all of these areas of concern. The team leaders will instruct the examiner to ask about two or three of these areas of concern, depending on your circumstances and their suspicions — if they even have suspicions. Some blackjack teams really do test players randomly, just to keep everyone honest. If a team is losing, it often saves the investors worries to know that the team is seriously confronting all possible problems.
When you go in for the test, the examiner will go over all of the questions he will ask you. There should be no “surprise” questions. Surprise questions, according to reputable polygraph examiners, tend to foul the results.
Also, 90 - 97% accuracy is pretty impressive, but not if you’re in that 3 - 10% of the population that just doesn’t test accurately. One blackjack team leader told me that he has used polygraph tests for many years, and will always use them, but that he would never allow the test results to be his sole criterion for judgment.
“If I personally don’t trust a player,” he said, “I don’t care what the polygraph shows. He could come up smelling like a rose, but if I lose faith in him, and I think he could be ripping off the team, that’s it. My gut feeling means more to me than the test results. By the same token, if someone fails a test, and I think this person is a straight arrow, I wouldn’t automatically let that person go. These tests aren’t 100% accurate. I might watch this person more closely and talk about this with my associates, just to make sure I’m not deluding myself. But my judgment of a person’s character is always foremost in my decisions.”
In any case, if you’re going to play on a big money blackjack team, you’d better get used to the idea of getting a lie detector test occasionally. All of the smart teams use them. They’re just a standard condition of employment for professional players. ♠
For more information on blackjack team play and management, and other professional gambling techniques, see the Blackjack Forum Professional Gambling Library.
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