Cheating In Blackjack

Understand the best cheating methods in blackjack and what techniques can still fool casinos. Also review why cheating is hard at blackjack.

Blackjack players often wonder how do cheaters manage to cheat casinos with blackjack. There are actually numerous ways and methods that a blackjack cheat can implement, though most of these come with high-risk factors. It is interesting to look deeper into these methods and how gamblers often try to win using these.

Cheating - at blackjack or any other game - is considered a crime in many jurisdictions. This article is published as an entertaining and informative piece of content. We really ask you to never ever attempt cheating at any casino game, online or land-based.

Cheating in Blackjack Basics

Blackjack is a game of skill and strategy and yet, many players look for an opportunity to cheat and beat the casino. Blackjack card counting, which is the technique of keeping a track of the cards being dealt and the ones remaining in the shoe, is not a cheating method anyway. There are a whole set of blackjack cheating methods, the most common among them being the techniques of:

  • marking cards,
  • trying to spot weak dealers and take a look at their hole card,
  • adding chips to an existing bet, and
  • using blackjack cheating devices.

However, a player who tries to cheat in blackjack must be extremely careful and vigilant at all times, as security officers and pit staff would spot any suspicious behavior within minutes. Additionally, casinos tend to pay particular attention to consistent winners so you would naturally get more eyeballs on your person if your cheating works.

Known Blackjack Cheating Methods

two cards (icon)

For those wondering how to cheat in blackjack given that it is a very strategic and mathematical game, here are some of the most applied cheating methods out there.

Marked Cards

Marking cards is one of the most known methods of cheating in blackjack. The cards can be marked physically or by special luminous dyes. These days, certain high-tech means have been shown to be adopted for the purpose of marking cards. However, the basic idea is to scratch or prick a card with a pin or something similar while playing. Marking just a few cards seems to be enough to bring a significant advantage to a player in blackjack. If a certain deck is being used that has chances of being manipulated earlier, then players usually lookout for blocks of color on the back of the cards or if some patterns are removed.

Marked cards are somewhat established cheating methods and hence, players often use dyes that can be seen only through special contact lenses and be detected only by special security cameras. This method of card marking lets the player often know what the dealer's hole card is, which allows him to adjust his own playing strategy accordingly. Knowing about the hole card can give the player the scope to stand and let the dealer go bust, even in apparently difficult gameplay.

Demonstration of card marking as an effective cheating technique.

Changing Your Bet

This method of changing the bet for cheating in blackjack is also referred to as Past Posting. Using this method, the cheat tries to increase or decrease the wager after seeing the final outcome of the hand. Let's understand how it works with an example. Assuming that the player starts with a hand of $100 bet using four green $25 chips in play prior to receiving a King and Queen for a pat 20. Now, as the dealer keeps distributing the cards around the table, the player will slide two more $25 chips on top of the original stack, increasing the bet to $150.

What happens as a result is that the player gets $150 instead of $100 on a bet that the dealer winds up busting or making an inferior total. On the other hand, if the player finds out that he is likely to lose, he will pull back a single green chip from the stack. Past Posting (or Late Betting) is a rudimentary form of blackjack cheating that is based on the assumption that the dealer won't notice.

Exploiting a dealer

Exploiting a dealer by bribing them to be able to cheat in a game of blackjack is a somewhat less prevalent method because, in reality, the player and the dealer are playing against each other. However, in some cases, the player might get the dealer to work in their favor. The dealer might be totally unsatisfied with the casino, that is their workplace, or they might be looking for a way to supplement their own income. Such a dealer will turn weak enough at times, to end up helping the player cheat in the game.

Another way of looking into the dealer's hole card is by having a partner and then, spotting a careless dealer who ends up exposing his hole card by flashing it too high for quite a long time. At this point, a cheating player can give a certain signal to his partner, asking him to adjust the playing decisions and actions. Exploiting the dealer by either of the ways is definitely not easy and can only be done by someone who is keenly observant and really quick.

Lying About Your Actions

Professional cheating at cards is often done by players who can also tactfully lie about their intended actions. In some situations, the lie can be convincing enough for the dealer to actually take back his card. The most basic form of this cheating method comes in the form of the player asking for the card and then, claiming that he did not ask for it in the very first place. This is particularly relevant when this card makes the player's hand go bust.

Apart from lying about the actions, a player who cheats can also claim that he had wanted to double their initial bet when they ask for a card and it turns out to be an advantageous one.

Similarly, players sometimes deliberately bet over or under the table minimum in the hope that the action will not be noticed. Now, if the bet loses because it is below the minimum, the player will simply declare it a 'no bet' and ask for their money back. Alternatively, if the player has bet a higher amount, then he will want the differential amount back in case he loses.

Card or Chip Switch

Card or chip switch is somewhat similar to the method of changing the bets, though card switch involves several other ways of switching the bet after it is placed.

This method of cheating was popularized by Ricard Marcus, who made millions using this process. What he did was finding out a casino where $500 brown chips and $5 red chips did not look much different. As a result, he would place two $5 chips on top of a $500 chip and whenever he lost, he would switch out the $500 chip and end up losing just $15. When he won, he would always let the dealer know the true value of the chip and win $1000 at one go.

Alongside this method, cheats often palm a chip from the top of the stack to minimize losses and add the chips back once already won. When the blackjack table is at its busiest, it becomes difficult for the dealer to take note of such quick switches.

Cheating Methods For Blackjack
Cheating Methods For Blackjack

Why Blackjack Cheating Has a High Failure Rate

Although there are quite a few methods available for cheats to use in the game of blackjack, all of these come with subsequent risks and also, very high failure rate. Following are some of the reasons why we say so.

Watchful Casino Staff

Many players are completely unaware but it is a fact that all the casino staff are being watchful enough to identify cheats. The staffs include the pit boss and even the floor supervisors apart from the dealers. They all work in conjunction and waste no time in alerting the security.

The dealers are, of course, on the front lines in the casino as they are the ones closest to the action and can spot fishy or suspicious plays. The floor supervisors and the pit bosses, on the other hand, walk around to monitor the actions and they might uncover cheating by noticing something. Some players, at some times, can possibly get away with a scam but it is not long before the casino staffs are able to spot the blatant cheating activities.

State-of-The-Art Surveillance 

Most casinos have technologically advanced surveillance cameras and this equipment is strong enough to identify and catch the cheaters. In fact, cameras are placed throughout the casino and many might not be aware but the reality is that the players are being watched continuously. Also, these cameras are usually covered, which implies that it is difficult to understand which way the lenses are facing.

These state-of-the-art surveillance cameras are controlled by trained operators sitting in the surveillance rooms. Some of the cameras come with motion sensors so, if a person appears suspicious even by his body language, he will be closely watched over by the security. Various casinos, today, use cameras with biometric recognition of facial features too, thereby; making it highly risky for blackjack cheats.

RFID Chips

RFID chips, or Radio-Frequency Identification chips, are recently being used by casinos to identify blackjack cheats. RFID enables casinos to track chip movements. The chips are normally used to track a player's betting habits and understand their VIP awards as well as improve overall marketing efforts thanks to targeting.

However, the main purpose of the chips is to catch cheaters and advantage gamblers. Through the movements of the chips, casinos track the winning patterns of the players and any unusually high rate brings their attention closer to the issue.

Even if a player has been winning a lot using cheat methods, the RFID technology ensures that such winning streaks come to an end as soon as possible. Casinos are very much aware that their edge is higher and that, no player, using legitimate ways, can beat the casino in consecutive blackjack games. Many successful blackjack players were legitimately banned by casinos as, after all, they can allow or deny entry on their own premises.

Casino Database

Even if the player who is trying to cheat overcomes most of the ways in which cheats are detected, they will somehow be spotted in the casino database.

Casinos have their exclusive databases where they keep track of every game and table's results. These results are compared with the past month's and past week's performances of the player and other aggregates (such as averages). By a close comparison using complex statistical systems and machine learning algorithms, all developed by well-known mathematicians in the field, certain patterns can be followed and detected.

Such statistical models also tell the casino what should be considered normal. From time to time, a player's results can be outside the model's expected limits but atoo many anomalies signal the casino to flag a player for scrutiny.

failure rate of cheating in blackjack
When Cheating Goes Wrong At a Blackjack Table

Blackjack Cheating Methods That Work

Card counting is more of a strategic technique that can be applied by blackjack players to beat the casino's edge in the game, rather than actual cheating.

Let's first understand how card counting works. In blackjack, counting cards can be done by players using the following three easy steps:

  1. First, each card should be assigned a value, according to the plus-minus count. Cards 2 to 6 have +1 count, cards 7 to 9 have a 0 or neutral count and cards 10 through Ace have a -1 count.
  2. The counting starts at 0. Players will add the card's value to the count as each card is dealt. For example, if an Ace, King, 2, 7, 6, 4 and 5 are dealt, the count is +2, based on the values of the cards. The dealer's face-down card is not counted until flipped.
  3. The counting continues as cards are being dealt out of the deck. Betting decisions are taken based on the count. Ideally, a player should bet higher if the count is negative and lower if it is positive.

Card counting is not a blackjack cheating technique. It requires a lot of skills and patience to master this technique. It is also a known way of improving the odds of getting a blackjack. That being said, many casinos do not encourage the practice of card counting and are on the lookout for identifying the counters. If a player is winning suspiciously high sums of money through card counting, he will soon be reprimanded by the casino.

Hi-Lo System (Blackjack Card Counting)
A simple card-counting technique: Hi-Lo System

Blackjack Cheating: FAQ

Here are some of the most common questions regarding cheating in blackjack, answered in brief:

How does a player cheat in blackjack?

There are some common methods of cheating in blackjack that players often use. These are marking the cards, changing the bets, denying their playing actions, and trying to take a look at the dealer's hole card while playing blackjack in a casino.

What are marked cards?

Marked cards are those cards that are marked in some way. It can be a scratch or prick on the cards, usually done with a pin, or a mark with a colorless dye. Marked cards are one of the popular methods of cheating in blackjack.

How can casinos catch cheaters?

Casinos can identify and catch cheaters by using advanced surveillance cameras, statistical tools to keep track of the players' performances, RFID chips, and so on.

Is card counting cheating in blackjack?

Card counting, unlike many other cheating methods, is a technique of keeping a running count of the cards remaining in the deck. It is not considered to be cheating. However, many casinos are against the practice of card counting and can ban a player who is seen to be winning consistently using this practice.

How does a casino punish cheaters?

The measures of punishment that a casino takes against a cheating player depend upon the stakes he is playing, how and where he got caught, and also, the temperament of the pit boss. The light punishments can be in the form of banning the player from the casino while punishments for severe offenses can be imprisonment as well.

Cheating in blackjack is not uncommon given that there are quite a few methods of doing so. However, cheating activities are extremely prone to getting caught, often leading to a reprimanding of the player.