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Casino Cheating at Blackjack
Psychic Blackjack DealersBy 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, “Don’t 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.)
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.
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.)
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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