Blackjack has captured the imagination of gamblers for years due to its deep strategy implications and secondhand stories of regular Joes making personal fortunes at the tables. Naturally, we all wonder about blackjack cheating at some point. Is it possible? Does it still exist? Can I learn how to cheat at blackjack and get rich?
The truth is blackjack cheating is not a feasible way to make a lot of money. Not only are casinos very good at protecting themselves from cheaters, but cheating is actually illegal. If you get caught cheating in a major live casino, you might end up in prison. If you get caught cheating at the wrong type of casino, you might end up in a box.
And remember this: no matter how smooth you are, it’s hard to cover up your playing tendencies. A casino will take notice if your wagers increase every time the cards happen to be in your favor. Anyone winning significant money at a casino gets a second look.
This article will discuss a few of the most popular blackjack cheating methods that have come and gone over the years, but it won’t teach you how to actually cheat at blackjack in modern casinos. I’m sure there are people out there that get away with blackjack cheating, but they don’t exactly go around blabbing about it. As you will see, most blackjack cheating methods are complicated, difficult to implement or require inside help.
I also want to let you know that I do not support cheating at blackjack. Casinos may be portrayed as the “bad guys,” but they provide a useful service. Casinos provide entertainment, free drinks and a high class atmosphere in return for the money that you might (or might not) lose at the tables. Cheating at blackjack is no different than stealing money from the cash register at McDonald’s.
With that out of the way, I have to admit that blackjack cheating is a fascinating subject. The methods that players have devised over the years are ingenious. Any pursuit that involves large sums of cash money is going to be a prime target for sophisticated, determined criminals. Despite the risks of getting caught, blackjack is an irresistible target for certain types of troublemakers.
The following methods range from stupidly simple to impressively complex. The most successful blackjack cheating methods tend to be the simplest. When you see how some of these simple techniques, it’s almost like seeing how a magician accomplishes his illusions. What looks like magic at first ends up being the simplest thing in the world.
The Second Deal
This is a basic blackjack cheating method that is accomplished with the help of the dealer. In the second deal, the dealer deals the 2nd card instead of dealing the top card on the deck. This gives the dealer the option to pick and choose between two different cards: the top card or the next one down.
For this tactic to work, the dealer must find a way to peek at the top card. Dealers can accomplish this by distracting players during the frenzied action at the table. From that point, the dealer can either cheat on behalf of the casino by screwing players over, or he can work in concert with a player to rip off the casino.
Dealers can also use a rigged shoe (called a “prism shoe”) that can be used to peak at the top card before it is dealt. If the dealer doesn’t wish to deal the top card, he can simply push that card up out of the way and deal the second card. Even if the dealer can’t see the second card, he can still significantly alter the house advantage with the knowledge of that one card.
The second deal is most often used at single deck blackjack tables at smaller casinos. Larger casinos use multiple decks, regularly-inspected dealing shoes and shuffling machines. Additionally, security is much tighter at big casinos.
Card marking has been a popular cheating method for a long time. There are several ways in which cards can be marked to benefit either the dealer or the player. One form of marking, called “pegging,” placed small bumps on the cards that can be felt but not easily seen. The bumps on the cards tell the dealer what types of cards are coming up.
For example, someone might peg all 10-value cards in one location and peg all Aces in another location. The cheater will then know whenever a 10 value card or Ace is coming up. The cheater can then use that information to either help or hurt specific players at the table.
Another form of card marking uses special inks or dyes can only be seen by players wearing special contacts or glasses. Players then find ways to mark those cards at the table without anyone noticing. If successful, players can tell when the dealer is about to get a blackjack and then adjust their play accordingly.
Teamwork methods such as spooking, front-loading and first-basing are simple but effective methods of cheating at blackjack. Each of these cheating methods has one guy sit so that he can peak at the dealer’s down card at specific times. That person then signals the information to one of his friends at the table.
Spooking is accomplished by having one person sit or stand behind the dealer. This person often sits at a different game behind the dealer and peaks at the dealer’s cards when possible. That person will use some kind of signal to relay that information to a friend who is seated at the blackjack table.
First-basing uses two people at the same blackjack table. One person sits immediately next to the dealer and bets the table minimum. From his location, the first-base player can peak at the down cards of careless dealers. That player can then signal the information across the table to someone else who is betting large sums of money.
Front-loading is a technique in which a player sits in front of the dealer and gets a low angle on the table. If the dealer slides his down-card beneath the up-card from the front, he sometimes tips the down-card upwards slightly. Players with the right angle can see that card and then signal that information to someone else at the table.
The high-low pickup is a cheating method that the dealer can employ. After a hand of blackjack is completed, the dealer picks up the cards in a high-low order. The dealer then uses a fake shuffle to make it look like he has shuffled the cards without actually rearranging them.
From here, the dealer knows the basic order of the cards. This gives the dealer the ability to help players or bust them at will. The dealer can cheat on behalf of the casino or in concert with another player.
A number of cheating devices can be used to aid in cheating at the table. These cheating devices are illegal to bring into any casino, so don’t even think about bringing them in. Even if you think you have the perfect plan to sneak a blackjack cheating device into the casino, remember that casinos have seen it all and have developed some very good methods of detecting cheating devices.
Holdout shoes (also known as prism shoes) are specially designed dealing shoes that aid the dealer in peeking at the top one or two cards and dealing the desired card. Holdout shoes use carefully arranged mirrors to reveal those cards to the dealer, who can then decide which cards to actually deal.
It is highly unlikely that you will ever see a holdout shoe at a major Las Vegas or Atlantic City casino, but you might run into them at unregulated underground casinos. Here’s a video of a blackjack holdout shoe in action:
Some blackjack cheaters use hidden computers to help them count cards and choose the right play in any situation. Card counting itself is not illegal, but it is strictly forbidden to use any sort of machine or computer to help keep track of the count. However, this has not discouraged a long list of players from trying to sneak computers in anyways.
Casinos have developed sophisticated methods for detecting computers and other counting devices, so don’t fall into that temptation. The only computers that I know of can only help you keep track of the count. Card counting is great and all, but it’s not exactly effortless cheating.