Cheating by a brick-and-mortar casino is not a widespread practice, largely because the penalties are severe in most locations. Most gaming commissions keep a close eye on casinos, and will not hesitate to revoke their license and file criminal charges against individuals who are involved. Simply stated, casinos make astronomical profits by legitimate means, simply by virtue of the house advantage that’s built into every game they offer, and it’s simply not worth the risk.
However, there may be a few employees that may cheat players, and locations in which gaming isn’t sufficiently regulated or monitored (cruise ships are rumored to be notorious)so it’s worthwhile to be aware of some of the techniques that may be used against a player. Naturally, many of these techniques can be practiced on the opposite side of the table, though player cheating is not recommended, for much the same reasons (sever civil and criminal penalties).
The most effective way for a casino to cheat a player is to manipulate the gaming equipmentspecifically, the deck. Removing one or more ten-value cards from the deck can dramatically increase the house’s edge, and few players will notice the difference between a deck of 52 cards and a deck of 48, or even an eight-deck shoe from which half a deck has been removed. Alternately, instead of removing high cards, additional low-value cards (particularly fives and sixes) can also be devastating to the player. This same technique can be utilized from the player’s side, but it requires considerable sleight-of-hand to be able to add or remove cards as the dealer picks up thehand at the end of each round while remaining undetected by the dealer, the pit boss, and the cameras. Moreover, since cards are inspected when they are taken out of play, a crooked player is certain to be discovered after the fact, and security tapes reviewed to discover his identity.
It’s also fairly simple, in a hand-held game, for the dealer to manipulate the deck by picking up cards in a certain order (high-low results in more busted hands), executing false shuffles, and manipulating the cards that are dealt.With practice, it’s possible to manipulate the cards to come out in any order one desires, and to use sleight-of-hand to “double deal” them (to deliver a card other than the one on top of the deck). For shoe games, a “holdout shoe” can be used to allow the dealer to see the value of the next card (by the use of mirror and prism) and to deal the one behind it instead. Any of these techniques can be used to deal the players a sound beating, and none of them are useful from the other side of the table except in cases where dealer and player are working together to cheat the house.
Marked cards can be used for the benefit of either the house or the player, though the house has a greater advantage, as it controls the equipment. Players generally have to rely on visual cues such as smudges, folds, markings, or tears on the card, while the house can also use tactile cues, such as “pegged” cards that have a small indentation that is invisible to the naked eye, but can be felt by the dealer. The markings tell the value of undealt cards, which can be used by the player (knowing the next hit), or by the house (in combination with double-dealing) to great advantage. Again, inspection of the cards at the end of the day makes this a dangerous proposition from the player’s perspective.
Sleight-of-hand can also be used on either side of table to swap out cards that have not been exposed, such as the dealer’s hole card or any of the player’s cards in a hand-dealt game. One of the most common player chats is to play two or more hands and rearrange the cards among them. In this regard, the player is at a distinct disadvantagethe full attention of the house is focused on him, and is primarily geared toward detecting these cheats, whereas the player only has one pair of eyes to keep track of the dealer.
Other cheats that are commonly used only from the player’s side of the table include adding or removing cheques after the cards or dealt, which is the reason the house seems to be so paranoid about players who touch their cheques during play. A player may also “peek” at the dealer’s hole card- the third-base seat in a handheld game and the first-base at a shoe dealt have the best chance of seeing (inadvertently or purposefully) the hole card as it is removed from the deck. Also, most pit bosses will confront players who set reflective items (such as a cosmetic mirror or metal/metallic cigarette lighter) on the playing surface.
The least detectable player cheats require a team of players who signal one another. Although signaling is expressly prohibited in all casinos, it’s fairly easy to work out an unobtrusive set of signals that may pass without detection. Two players sitting on opposite ends of the pit can easily signal one another when they see the dealer’s hole card. This technique used to be pretty easy to do for anyone facing a dealer’s back, but the use of mirrors and scanning devices that allow the dealer to keep the cards against the table when checking for a blackjack. Also, players may work in tandem to count or track cards, though it is more difficult for players on the same side of a table to signal one another discreetly.
The final word on cheating is, simply, avoid it. If you notice the house is cheating, leave discreetly and immediately. It’s almost never worthwhile to make a scene or alert the authorities, because it’s extremely difficult to substantiate any allegations from the player’s side of the table. If you notice another player is cheating, even if it benefits you, you should also leave, and perhaps alert the house to avoid suspicion. For example, a player who palms cards will share the wealth with everyone at the tablebut at the end of the day, when the deck is inspected and security tapes reviewed, everyone at the table will be considered a suspect.