One of the easiest ways to avoid casino detection of your blackjack card counting strategies is to avoid looking like casino stereotypes of card counters. Arnold Snyder discusses what casinos expect the typical card counting blackjack player to look like.
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Card Counting Camouflage

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The Ultimate No-Brainer No-Cost Card Counting Camouflage

By Arnold Snyder
[From Card Player, January 1993]
© 1993 Arnold Snyder

Card counters live in fear of discovery. That’s what makes it fun. The cops-and-robbers aspect of professional blackjack adds play-acting, and a hint of danger, to the mundane recreation of gambling. You just can’t get that James Bond rush at a crap table or a bank of slot machines. Adults in our society, other than real cops and robbers, don’t often get a chance to pretend that they’re not what they appear to be.

Unfortunately, most card counting camouflage comes with a price tag. When you make “dumb” plays for the purpose of confusing the bloodhounds on your trail, it costs you. Holding down your betting spread, insuring your blackjacks, not taking advantage of surrender or soft doubling opportunities, etc., are all excellent methods of hiding your card counting abilities because, in fact, you are relinquishing varying amounts of your potential gain from counting.

If you make too many of these types of card counting camouflage plays, you will no longer have any advantage at all over the house. What is the value of eliminating the possibility of discovery if there is nothing worth discovering? If you don’t utilize the information you gather, then gathering the information in the first place was a waste of time. Use it or lose it.

Some card counting camouflage, however, is cost-free; and ironically, this cost-free camouflage is often the easiest type of camouflage to pull off. Misplays, as a form of disguise, require a knowledge of, and attention to, how much these plays cost, so that you don’t kill your edge. Cost-free card counting camouflage, on the other hand, is not based on misplaying hands, so it’s a no-brainer exercise.

What is cost-free camouflage? Rather than misplaying your hands, you allay suspicions by the image you project, the way you look, exploiting general prejudices and preconceived notions that exist within the common pit boss/casino security mentality.

Let’s dissect these biases.

Card Counter Stereotypes and how to Exploit them for Camouflage

1. Age: Young. If a young man and an old man are playing at a blackjack table, all other factors being equal, the young man will be suspected of card counting sooner than the old man.

2. Sex: Male. If a man and a woman are playing at the same table, all other factors being equal, the man will be suspected sooner than the woman.

3. Race: Caucasian. A white player spreading his bets will be suspected sooner than a black or an Asian player. This racial prejudice, as a matter of fact, even extends to casinos in other countries. Asian card counters often find the casinos of Korea, Macao and other Asian countries to be profitable, heat-free venues for their action. Their betting spreads and strategy variations are virtually ignored. White players, on the other hand, and especially Americans, are immediately suspect if they play for big money, and they often find themselves persona non grata if they spread their bets even moderately, or win any substantial amount of money.

4. Nationality: American. This is tied into the previous factor. All of the notable books on card counting have been published in the U.S.A., and few are obtainable in bookstores outside of this country. This fact does not escape the notice of casino management in foreign countries, nor is it ignored in this country. In fact, there have been some very sophisticated and well-bankrolled European counting teams that have attacked the casinos of the world, including those in the U.S. In many cases, these teams have gotten away with incredible betting spreads for lengthy periods of time before anyone in the pit took notice.

5. Demeanor: Introverted. You put a quiet, thoughtful player at the same table with a gregarious, talkative player, and the quiet player will be suspected of counting before the talkative one.

6. Dress Code: Stylish-Casual. A player who is nicely but casually dressed will be suspected of card counting before any other fashion type. Card counters don’t wear three-piece suits, nor do they dress like outlaw bikers. They don’t look like hippies or punks. They’re not decked out in Western gear. And they’re usually not shabby, not if they’re playing for serious money.

7. Body Type: Ectomorph. You put a fat man and a thin man at the same table, and the lanky guy will draw the heat first.

Now I’m aware of the fact that there are many exceptions to all of these prejudices. I know that fat card counters, and female counters, and nonwhite counters, etc., have all been discovered and barred at one time or another. And I’m sure there are some pit bosses and security personnel who will state emphatically that they only watch for playing styles to determine which players pose a real threat to their tables.

But all of these prejudices do exist in the general casino security mentality. I’ve heard so many stories from so many players who have found that one or more of these seven factors have contributed to their longevity (or lack of it) at the tables that I believe these biases to be real. Most of them (but not all), as a matter of fact, are based on truths.

Card Counting Camouflage: Conclusion

Looking at these seven bias factors, we can now draw a picture of the player most likely to be suspected of card counting, as well as the player least likely to fall under such suspicion.

Most likely card counter: A young, white, American male, who is thin, casually dressed, and playing quietly by himself.

Least likely card counter: A heavy set, gray-haired, nonwhite woman, who speaks with a foreign accent, is loud and talkative with friends or other players at the table, and is dressed in some unusual cultural outfit or simply cheap unstylish clothes.

The more a player looks like the “most likely card counter,” the more he will have to employ costly “misplay” card counting camouflage. The more a player fits the image of the “least likely card counter,” the more freedom he/she will have to play accurately and with a wide betting spread according to the count.

All of this is wonderful news for you card counters who have been struggling for years for picayune win rates with constant heat. You can forget all of those costly camouflage plays that have been eating away at your long run expectation lo these many years. Just walk in looking like a seventy-year-old grandmother, wearing a sari and a babushka, ranting loudly in some language other than English, and you can really take those casinos for a ride! Happy days are here again! Winning was never so easy! ♠

For more information on card counting camouflage, see Arnold Snyder's Blackbelt in Blackjack and Burning the Tables in Las Vegas by Ian Andersen.

For more professional gambling tips, see the Blackjack Forum Professional Gambling Library .

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  Insurance Bets for Blackjack Card Counting Camouflage
Insurance bets are one of the most likely plays to give away your status as a card counter. To extend your blackjack card counting career, consider these low-cost insurance camouflage plays.