In this Blackjack Forum article, Arnold Snyder discusses psychic dealers and dealer peeking at blackjack. In this case, the dealer peeking is being used for entertainment, but the cheating of players, but dealer peeking should still be regarded as dangerous to players.
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Casino Cheating at Blackjack

A blackjack card counter finds second dealing, short shoes, the high low stack and other forms of dealer cheating at blackjack games in Puerto Rico.
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Psychic Blackjack Dealers

By Arnold Snyder
(Originally published in Casino Player , October 1996; revised for Blackjack Forum in 2012)
© 2012 Arnold Snyder

If you play blackjack professionally for thirty years, sooner or later you run into everything.

On occasion I've encountered a blackjack dealer with the uncanny ability to call card values before the card is exposed. Once at Mandalay Bay, a playing partner was pretending to hesitate before drawing a card and muttered something like, I need a six. The dealer said, I can give you a four, and out comes the four.

And once at the Flamingo a dealer made a face when I scratched the table for a hit, as if to say, Dont draw. It was as if the dealer was trying to tell me she had a bust card, and what do you know--a ten came out. I didn't think much of it until she repeated it a couple dozen times.

In my experience these "psychic" dealers are either extremely sympathetic toward players, or enjoy showing off their skill. Either way, they will call cards a lot during their shift at the table. In Las Vegas, this has only happened to me in handheld blackjack games, but I've heard of it happening to other pros in shoe games in the islands. (That's a particularly bad sign, as it requires gaffed equipment, and suggests that cheating is official house policy, even if your dealer of the moment is helping you.)

On another session at the Flamingo, some years ago now, my wife and I had been losing badly for the entire shift of a female dealer. She was one of those dealers who really seem to care about players--she commiserated with us on every bust. Once she looked as if she would throw all the cards in the air after she made a 6-card 21. We were tipping (despite our losses, we had a high EV on the game) but we never felt that was the reason for her sympathy. She was just one of those really nice dealers you run into from time to time.

When her replacement came to tap her out (a male dealer of the same nationality of origin) I heard her say softly to him, "Be nice to these people. They were very good to me, and they're losing." He asked us how much we were down, and we told him. He then encouraged us to show him our hands as he was dealing, and he advised us on how to play them. We rarely lost a hand once we started following his advice.

Once we had come back up to a little over even, he said to us, "That was a very lucky run. It might be smart after a run like that to stop and lock in your profit." We took his advice and left the table.

If you have run into such a dealer, you might be wondering how they do it. Are they guessing? Are they peeking?

Since in each of the cases described above, the dealers were "guessing" perfectly for an extended period of time, lets eliminate pure luck as a probable cause in these cases, and consider the other possibilities.

Actual psychic ability is what comes to mind next. Is it conceivable that this dealer truly had paranormal powers? Skeptic that I am, Id dismiss this possibility with little serious consideration. If, in fact, there are people who have such psychic abilities, would such a person be working as a blackjack dealer, using this phenomenal power like a silly parlor trick to entertain tourists? Seems pretty inconceivable to me. Scratch psychic power.

That leaves us with the one remaining possibility: Were they peeking?" And, if the dealer has called the cards to this extent and level of accuracy, my answer is: Yes, he was peeking.

The next time you run into a dealer you're suspicious of, here are some of the other signs that a dealer is peeking.

There's always a move, after the dealer has positioned the next card for peaking, or in the course of positioning the card, where the dealer has to actually look at the next card. He has to physically turn the deck for just long enough to catch a glimpse of the index. This move is almost impossible to see--a pro will do it while adjusting the chips, or in the course of some other natural looking motion. Still, the dealer has to actually have an opportunity to peek to be doing it.

If you suspect the dealer of peeking to hurt you, what you're really watching for is the dealer taking advantage of the peek by holding back the top card and dealing the second card from the top. This too is almost impossible to see, but signs of it would include, if the casino is quiet enough, a slight difference in the sound of how the cards are dealt.

Also, if a dealer should accidentally deal two cards from the top instead of one, that is a strong sign that a dealer is seconds dealing. It's very hard to deal two cards at once unless you're trying to deal seconds.

(We had a team member get dealt two cards this way in a California Indian casino by a dealer that had been brought in after the player had won a lot of money. Fortunately this player had the presence of mind to stop playing and call in for advice.)

Bill Zender tells a story in How to Detect Casino Cheating at Blackjack from when he was a gaming agent investigating a dealer suspected of peeking and dealing seconds. He and a fellow agent ordered beers, and made sure to dampen their fingertips with the condensation on the outside of the cans before handling their cards. When the dealer attempted to deal a second, that slight amount of dampness was enough to cause three or four cards at a time to come out.

Other tips from Zender: "Watch out when a dealer frequently fails to deal a card when attempting to do so..."

Also, if you're playing in a handheld game where your cards are dealt face down, any dealer who seems to be continually trying to see your cards or is persistently asking about your hand might be a seconds dealer.  ♠

For more information on dealer cheating at blackjack and poker, and how professional gamblers deal with cheating, see the Blackjack Forum Professional Gambling Library.

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