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Picking up heat in a casino? The clues to look out for


17 Nov 2017

As obvious statements go, this is one out of the top drawer. All gambling establishments would prefer their customers to lose, rather than win.

Lose as much as you like, but win a little too much or a little too frequently and you might find yourself struggling to bet at all.

Many sports bookmakers simply close the accounts of any moderately successful punters or put a stupidly low maximum bet restriction in place that virtually makes placing any bet pointless.

After all, who bets to stake 25p on an 11/8 favourite to get a return back of 59p if it wins?

Because of the house edge that exists in all casino games, it is much tougher to be a frequent winner. Even if you are a blackjack player with the skill to carry out perfect strategy, you are still conceding a 0.5% disadvantage to the house.

However, that doesn’t stop some players enjoying big wins, regular wins or both. Unsurprisingly, this may catch the attention of casino staff.

Ultimately, this could lead to a tap on the shoulder and a polite request to leave, but there are things that you can do to reduce the likelihood of things reaching this situation.

Being vigilant and aware of goings on around the casino is top of this list and below are three types of behaviour you should look out for if believing you are at risk of generating heat.

Staff engagement

One of the first things that pit staff are likely to do is make you feel uncomfortable and attempt to disrupt your play.

This could be an information-gathering mission, where staff will attempt to disturb you by asking distracting questions, such as having your play rated.

Equally, it could be a shift manager making phone calls in the pit. This may be harmless, but may also be to a casino’s surveillance team, asking them to monitor upcoming play or to go back over recorded footage of recent action to see if any foul play can be detected.

A sign that any heat is likely to have turned up a notch is when it is surveillance calling the pit and disclosing any findings or if multiple members of casino staff are suddenly fixated on your game.

Unusual actions

Most of the following actions will be more common at a blackjack table and aimed at you if you are considered to be counting cards.

One strategy is for staff to handle all of the used cards to have already been played in the shoe and to perform a basic hi-low count to establish the state of the deck.

They will also be looking to assess whether any cards have been marked or tampered with in another way to gain an advantage.

A dealer change is another way of working out if cards are being counted. The new dealer may be more adept at counting cards themselves than the original one and can look to evaluate play without seemingly being suspicious.

Alternatively, an unnecessary tray fill may be enforced, primarily for the sole purpose of slowing down a game. This gives surveillance extra time to trawl through footage.

Arguably the worst development for counters is for a shift manager to demand a cut card change to a more unfavourable position.

The more decks in play means the more potential for fluctuations in the running count, which can be taken advantage of by a counter.

Constantly asking for the cut card to be moved to early in the deck makes it nigh on impossible for counters to make money.

Visibility of the “Black Book”

If you are showing signs of picking up heat, the easiest solution is to up sticks and move to another venue, especially if there is another one nearby.

However, that doesn’t mean you will be completely free of attention. Casinos work together to attempt to stop those considered to be too successful.

This is done through the distribution of books containing pages of photos for staff to familiarise themselves with. This could be to help security cut people off at the entrance or shift managers dealing with players at tables early before they win too much.

Should you see one of these books in their eye line, it is predominantly a scare tactic conducted to bring about a reaction.

The Black Book is nickname widely given to such a book containing the details of those considered to be advantage players.

What to do?

Once you find yourself on a casino’s hitlist with a photo on their records, it is much more difficult to play regularly without generating attention.

Getting up from a table calmly and leaving at the earliest stage of heat is probably the best policy, as this will prevent a casino gathering a permanent record of any play.

To avoid heat in the first place, you may wish to avoid making a sudden shift in your betting pattern. Even a fairly unobservant dealer will automatically notice this.

Not playing at the same table for too long and frequently moving around is another wise strategy. This will limit the chances of a certain dealer or pit boss becoming to familiar with your general play and any winning run you may have established.