Unfortunately for Blackjack players the most effective methods of cheating at the popular card game are not for the players, but for the dealers. Today’s high tech world full of cameras and trained security staff makes it nearly impossible for players to cheat without getting caught.
There are some methods that a player could employ, but most casinos are aware of these tactics and employ security measures and highly trained “pit bosses” to watch for suspicious behaviors.
Among the traditional tactics that some players have used are teams of players that stand in an area behind a dealer and try to see their hand, and “hole card”. Using hand signals or wireless devices they indicate to a player at the table, or all of the players, just what the dealer has. Today however pit bosses and staff are trained to watch for people who are in specific locations, who are not playing a game of any kind and who are using repetitive gestures such as stretching, yawning, and scratching or even rubbing their eyes or legs. Most casinos also monitor the air waves in the casino for any wireless communications.
Another classic cheating tactic is “palming” a card and replacing it with a winning card. This is risky for several reasons – the dealer’s eyes rarely leave the table, decks of cards are swapped out frequently and checked for any missing cards, and security staff is aware of the common techniques used by those trained in the art of palming.
Players have also tried to mark cards with substances that can identify specific cards, mostly tens or high value cards. Leaving a smudge or “daub” helps a player to identify the cards the dealer has and also see if a card they need is next in the deck or shoe.
Players have also “palmed” cards during a split and switched cards from one hand to another, added chips after a winning hand, and even counterfeited cards to give themselves a winning hand. All of these tactics are extremely risky, illegal and subject to criminal penalties.
The casinos themselves are much more likely to be successful at cheating during a game of Blackjack. With the dealer in charge of the table, and also highly skilled at handling decks of cards it is almost inevitable that some form of cheating has taken place throughout the history of this lucrative game.
Most casinos are regulated agencies however, and the risks run by cheaters are huge. A casino can lose its licensing, face criminal charges and enormous financial penalties, so it is unlikely that the larger, regulated casinos practice any illegal operations. Players should be very wary of the small unregulated casinos, as these are the places where cheating is found.
The methods used include “shoes” that are tampered with to enable the dealer to see the next card in the decks, “high low pickup” which requires some skill on the part of the dealer, but which effectively stacks a deck with cards alternating high to low. What this means to a player is a hopeless situation – get a high card, such as a ten; then a low card, such as a four, then another high card to “bust”.
There are many other methods that have appeared throughout the history of the game, but today most players can be assured that they are playing against a fair “house” if they are in one of the major or larger professional casinos.