Card Counting and Casino Heat: When to Get Worried
From ET Fan:
How Hot Is It?By Arnold Snyder
(From Casino Player, November 1996)
© 1996 Arnold Snyder
Question from a Card Counter: How does a card counter know when heís getting heat? I play at moderate to high stakes ($25 -$500), but Iíve only been doing this for a short time ó a few weekend trips so far.
I get very nervous whenever the pit boss seems to be looking at me, or even in the direction of my table. I do try to be friendly toward the bosses and floormen, and I believe I act like nothing is bothering me, but I often have the urge to bolt out of there as soon as any conversation with pit personnel is over.
I feel like they are also just acting nonchalant when theyíre actually scrutinizing my play. A few times I have left tables for no other reason than the floorman came over and watched my table for a while, scribbling notes. I feel like heís recording what Iím doing and that Iíd better leave before his notes get too detailed.
Iíve walked out on a number of pretty decent games, and it irritates me whenever I feel I must do this when the count is high. I havenít had any trouble so far, but am I being too cautious? It sure would be nice to relax a bit more and hang in there when Iíve got an otherwise profitable situation.
At your level of play, Iím sure you are being asked continually if youíd like a VIP card, which would require you to furnish your name and address, and which also allows the casino to rate your play any time you show your card when youíre playing. This rating system is how the casino determines the value of the comps to award you.
Letís Define Various Types of Real Casino Heat
Heat is when a pit boss or floorman literally, and obviously ó within your line of vision ó starts glaring at you. This type of heat generally means that you are under suspicion, and they are attempting to see if this direct surveillance unnerves you, flusters you, or causes you to leave.
The worst reaction to this type of heat, as you might assume, is to act nervous, and the most obvious sign that you are nervous would be your failure to look back at them, i.e., pretend you donít notice them glaring. If you casually and naturally leave the table, without showing any other sign of nervousness, this may get you off the hook.
The best reaction, however, is to look back at them, and if the glare continues, to strike up a conversation, ask for something, be friendly ó ask for information about the showroom, or a dinner comp, whatever. If a boss who has been glaring at you reaches for his phone, or is talking on the phone, you should assume that you are, or have been, or will soon be, under eye-in-the-sky surveillance. Not a good sign, but also not fatal.
This, however, is a countermeasure that literally kills your chances of profiting from that shoe, and it also sends a fairly strong message that your play is not trusted. This is a sign that the boss has already made a decision about you. The wisest decision may be to leave casually, and simply avoid playing whenever this boss is in the pit.
If this type of surveillance is strong enough you should stop using whatever technique you are using to gain an edge. You may elect to continue playing, at least for a while, strictly for camo, but don't show them any more of your real game. When you leave, always leave as casually as you can.
For more on casino heat and how to prevent it, see D.V. Cellini's The Card Counter's Guide to Casino Surveillance. For information on how professional players avoid detection by surveillance, see Arnold Snyder's Blackbelt in Blackjack.
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