If you have ever been in Las Vegas, you haw probably noticed the mirrors on the ceilings—I mean the ones in the casinos, not in your hotel rooms. These two-way mirrors are pari of the casino's surveillance system, the 'eye in the sky" that watches out tor cheating. The casinos also use closed circuit IV and videotaping in their surveillance. In addition. :hey have their dealers watching the players, their fioormcn watching the dealers, and their pitbosses watching the doormen. Finally, most casinos subscribe to a service provided by Griffin Investigations, a detective agency, called the Black Book. 'I he Black Hook, which ih constantly being updated, contains the names, photographs, descriptions, and modus operandi of known casino cheaters.
I o the outsider, this creates a picture of an impregnable fortress in which cheating against the house is out of the question. Unfortunately, the reality1 is not so simple. Most players would be shocked to learn how often, even in the. major casinos, the television screens go unmonitorcd, or how frequently, when there is someone i:i the control room, the TV cameras are used to ogle passing cocktail waitresses rather than watch the action at the tables. And although :he material is recorded on videotape, these tapes are not systematically reviewed unless some other event occurs to make the casino suspect cheating. Otherwise, they just collect dust.
llie most serious problem is how often those watching tlie'lV screens or monitoring the action from *hc floor simply don't know what they an:
supposed to be looking for. In the casino business, as in any oiiici business, employees run the gamut from extremely capable to incompetent. In the casino tie d, the problem is magnified by the "juice'' system which |>ervades tlie industry. 'I his means that, too often, a person acquires his job because of whom he knows rather than what he knows.
f.vcn the most conscientious employees are under a handicap. They aie trying to police professionals who have spent their lives figuring out what can be done with a deck of cards or a pair of dice. They must watch a great many players, any of whom may be a cheat, but most ol whom are not. They are dealing in a field—cheating—in which information extremely secret, closely guarded by a tew, and in which new techniques aie constantly being developed V is also a held in which a lew have achieved such skill that even if one is watching closely, the cheating move is invisible. Under such circumstances. TV cameras are of limited value, finally, obtaining convictions in sleight of hand cheating eases is so difficult that, when they do catch a mechanic, rather diau prosecute, many easino> just take his. winnings anc throw him out to prcv on ottier casinos, (riven the financial incentives, nil of this creates a situation 111 which many are going to try to cheat, and some will he caught while others will riot. The following survey of techniques for cheating from the outside (the player's side of the table) should give yon some idea of what the casinos arc up against.
Procedures for dealing blackjack vary from casino to casino. Some use a single deck of cards or two decks shuffled together held in the dealer's liarid. Others use several decks of cards dealt from a shoe. Some deal die player's first two cards face down while others deal them face up and do no: allow tire player to touch them. As we shall see, the dealing procedures to some extent determine what cheating techniques may be used against die hou.se
The most effective method ot cheating at blackjack from the outside is hand mucking. As we saw in Chapter 1. »his involves the switching of cards one has l>ceu dealt for previously palmed cards. A typical approach is the following: When the dealer offers the deck to the cheat for the cut, the rmcker palms off two cards in the process of cutting. It doesn't matter what these cards are. Let's assume one Is a foer and the other is a seven. 'I he cheat dien
SO / GiUJibiiim Seems plays honestly until he is dealt a iiand containing either jii ace or a ten-value card. If, for example, lie is dealt an ace, the mucker will add the stolen four to his hand and palm out the ace. Later lie may he dealt a queen. If so, he substitutes the stolen seven tor the queen. He has now succeeded in abstracting a perfect blackjack baud of an ace and a queen from the deck. On the next round, he makes a large bet As soon a.s lie i* dealt his tirst two cards, he switches them tor the perfect blackjack. He not only wins the big bet, he also collects three to two on a natural.
The ability to muck cards in a deceptive manner is not easily acquired. It requires great precision which in turn means considerable practice. I low-ever, when performed expertly it appears merely as if the pJayei picks up his hand and turns it face up. In that instant, the switch occurs. The natural, which the player lays face up, ;s the one he had palmed, while the cards he was actually dealt end up in his palm.
At the end of the sequence described above, I he player is left with two random cards palmed. This sets him up :o start toe entire cycle over again, switching the random cards for the makings of a perfect hand, betting a large sum, then switching in the natural to collect on it. Between switches, the held out cards are kept in the cheat's lap or clipped in the crook of his knee. Ilie blackjack table covers his Jap and hides the cards from view from any vantage point.
The cheat will repeat the switching process as often as he thinks wise before heading for the door Before leaving, he has one last task to perform At any given moment in the cheating cycle. I he cmsroader always has two extra cards on him. Ihe one thing he does not want is to be arrested with cards on his person as he leaves the casino. Typically, the mucker will attach the extra cards to the underside of the table with wax just before leaving. He knows that once he has unloaded those cards it is almost impossible to make a case against him If he is arrested when leaving, the fact thai the deck is a couple of cards short doesn't prove he was responsible. Although they may have him on videotape, if he is a good mechanic, diere will be nothing on the tape that would convince a jury of his guill. All I hey would see is a man playing blackjack, handling his cards just like the o:her playeis. hi fact, even if he :s apprehended two steps away from the table and the cards are found stuck to Ihe table :-it the position where lie was sitting, he can always argue in court that the player who sat in that seat before him put them there "Those cards could have been there for hours. Just because I got lucky and won a couple of bets, I get die blame.''
There are several variant approaches to mucking cards at blackjack, including methods of exchanging cards between two adjoining hands when the cheat work* wi:h a partner who sits next to him. However, all the methods follow the same general approach of exchanging earth which were dealt to the cheat in previous hands for cards dealt in subsequent ones, mixing and matching to ensure that he always wins the big bets.
The hand mucker's favorite seat at the table is the third base position, which puts him a1 Hie dealer's extreme right. The reason is dial when the dealer gives hits to the first player, the one at his extreme left, he is momentarily turned so that rhe third base player goes, out of his line of vision It ix at this moment that the mucker makes his switch. For this reason, even some rather crude mucks often get by. Sonic muckers work with a partner who sib in the first base seat arc! acts as a stall. He hems and haws about whether or not to take a card, holding the dealer's attention until he notes out of the corner of his eye that his partner has finished his work. Most muckers work alone, however, and icly on whoever happens to be sitting at first base tc unwittingly serve this function for I hem.
The Money Switch One very little known blackjack muck, which has taken considerable sums from the casinos in recent years, is the money switch A guy slafcjgeis i.p to a blackjack table with a drink in his hand. It obviously isn't his first drink of the evening. With his other hand he dig* into his pocket and comes out with a huge scack of bills. With die same hand, he thumbs off five one hundred dollar bills or.to the belling spot. Ah soon as he is dealt his two cards he picks Mem up with the same hand that holds the slack of bills as lie lakes .molliei sip from his diink. Kor a moment he squints drunkenlv at his cards, then tosses them face up on rhe table, an ace and a ten. As soon as lie collects his $?$(! payoff for his perfect blackjack, he staggers off, apparently just another lucky drunk, one of Vegas's most common commodities that's the way the money blackjack switch plays; what actually happens is very different.
To perform this switch, the hust.er must first engage in some advance preparation, He takes two dollar bills and lines one side of each bill with Teflon. He then places the bills together with the Teflon on the inside and glues them Together along the two short edges and one of the long edges. T his creatcs what i.s, in effect, an envelope which opens on one side and is lined on the inside with 1 ef.on hut which appears to the casual observer to he 3u ordinary dollar bill. Inside this envelope the cheat places the perfect blackjack hand he intends to switch in. The whole thing is then placed in the middle of a stack of bills.
I he crossroader is now ready to approach a blackjack tabic while doing his best diunk impression. The drink in the hand is important. The entire j?. : Gamhiitv! .Scrims switch must be performed with the banc holding the bills. The drink that the cheat holds is his implicit reason lor not handling the cards wi!h Iiis other banc. As soon a.s t ie cro.ssroader is dealt his cards, he drops die slack of bills on them and scoops the whole thing up. He looks at the cards for a moment, then turns his hand pulri down, apparently tossing the cards on die table What actually happens is that Llie cards lie was dealt arc kept against the stack of bills by his thumb while the switch cards are allowed to slide out of the envelope bill onto the table. I lie Teflon coating eliminates any friction and guarantees the cards will come sliding out smoothly.
'I he rea cards arc hidden from view by the bills since the ehcat has his hand palm downward. While Iiis hand :s still in this position, the chcat folds the stack of bills in half. This completely hides the cards and allows liini to turn his hand palm up as he slips the bills back in his pocket. Now all thai reiuairs i.s It? collect his winnings and stagger away. Using this method, a Imstlci can easily hit half a do/en casinos in che course o: an evening as be walks down the Vegas Strip, GÜlccr Gulch, Virginia Street in Reno. 01 any otiier casino center. I bis extremely effective cheating method is almost entirely unknown among casino bosses and has never before been revealed in print, lis exposure here should make it a little biteasiei for the casinos to protect their bankrolls.
Bold Much In oider for a crossToadur to muck cards at blackjack, be must play in a game in which the player's fnsl Iwo cards are dealt face down. At least that's what 1 used !o think Recently I was talking to a friend who heads a Nevada-based gaming security consulting firm. We were trading stories about the most outrageous gambling scams we had ever encountered. I mentioned a hand mucker I had caught in an underground gambling house in New York What made this ease exceptional was the fact that the guy was playing in iwo deck game where the practice was to use a red deck and a blue deck shuttled together. The hustler in this case had blithely switched two red backet: cards for two blue-backed eaids. When 1 asked him afterward how he had the nerve to pull something so obvious, he answered eontemphi01.1 sly, "The dealers in this place y.rc idiots." tu liglr. of the rael that the dealei had been just alx.nit lo pay off the cheat when I intervened. I could only agree.
My friend said lie had a ease, to top fha: one. He told me about an investigation he had conducted in 3 casino outside the country. This was a casino where the players" cards are all dealt face up and players arc not allowed to touch their cards In reviewing videotapes taken from lire eye in the sky he repeatedly saw a player mucking cards: he was switching cards even though the faces of the cards were exposed. As if by magic, the cheat's cards transformed every lime tic touched them. I tc did this as the dealer was preoccupied with another player's, hand. The dealer simply did not notice that the identities of the cards had changed between ttie t:me he first dealt them and the time he came to the hustler's hand to give hits. Even more disconcerting. the tapes my friend was viewing had already been cheekcd by the casino's own security people who had noticed nothing out of the ordinary. The play had occurred weeks earlier and by now the cheat was long gone. Despite this bizarre example, most hand muckers would be daunted by a blackjack game that was dealt face up. As a consequence, many casinos have switched to this procedure.
One area of blackjack cheating that has developed considerably in sophistication and popularity in recent years is hole card play I he term refers to any of a number of techniques used to determine the value of the dealer's hole card. Perhaps the simplest method is front loading. Strictly speaking, front loading is not something the cheat does; it's something the dealer docs It refers lo the unconscious habit some dealers have of exposing their hole card by lirtinc ir too high as they slip it uncer their face-up card. Usually, this will be visible only from one player's sitting posr.ion. although the specific position will differ from one dealer to another.
Of course, such dealers arc in a minority. Kewcr than one in a hundred Nevada blackjack dealers are fror.t loadeis. But when a cheat locates one who is, it's as good as money in the ban< at least until they change shitts. Certainly, no good blackjack player can possibly need anything more than know ng the dealer's hole card in order to be a consistent winner. About the only thing he has lo guaid against is making very unusual plays which would alert the casino bosses to the fact thai he has extra information. A player who hit an eighteen because he <new the dealer had twenty would be bound to "wake up" the pit boss.
It can be argued that front-loading piny is not cheat ng, since it's not the player's fault that the deieei exposes his hole card. Undoubtedly, it is unethical, however, particularly when you consider how efficiently and systematically bustiers exploit this weakness in a casino's procedures. Because identifying a card correctly in the very brief n oinent -hat a front loader exposes it is tar from easy, some hustlers train themselves with a device called a tachistoscope, a machine that flashes images tor very brief timed intervals. Serious hole card players keep meticulous records on every front-
5-f / gambimg scouts loading dealer they encounter: physical description. what casino lie works at, which shift, and what seat the player must sit at to be able to "read" the hole card. If a goo-d front loading dealer changes casinos, the cheat will try to track him down and follow hirri to his new job.
Reading a front loader is much easier if you sit low m your chair. Cheats have evolved a number of ploys foi doing so without arousing suspicion. A standard method is the drunk aet. By portraying the part of an inebriated player, the cheat can slouch low in his chaii, apparently unable to sit any straighler due to the effects of the alcohol. Hustlers have been known to roll up to a blackjack table in a wheelchair as an excuse to sit low.
In order to confound casino oversight personnel, some front-loading players work in two man teams. I he spotter sits at a position at the table where he can read the dealer's hole card as it is dealt. This player makes minimum bets and makes no use ot his knowledge ol the dealer's hole card in playing his own hand. Therefore, there is nothing in his playing or betting to attract Lhc attention of a doorman or pitboss. I lb partner performs the role of W or bu> player. lie is the one who makes the large hcts. He may be betting five hundred dollars a hand while the spotter bets only two dollars a hand It is with the success of the HP's playng that both men arc concerned. I'lie HP makes a point of silting at a spol at Ihe table where he couldn't possibly see the dealer's hole card, and he also makes a point of looking away every time the dealer deals himself Ins hole card. Thus, while the BP's large bets and big wins might attract the attention of floor personnel, they can't possibly-suspect him of reading the dealer's hole card.
Of course, the secret is that the spotter signals the value ot the dealer's hand to the BP each time. 'Ibis is usua.lv done by the way the spotter holds his cards or fiddles with his chips. 'Ihe BP reed not even look al the spotter. I le can usually see the signal by means of peripheral vision Some teams use a sound signal based on the s|>ollei clinking his coins 01 chips. Ihat way lhc 13P can keep his eyes entirely away from the spotter at all times
Heading a front loader's hole card is made possible by the fact that he holds it too Irish or t:lls i( as he inserts d under the olhcr card. A good dealer will keep the card low .is he inserts it. However, an enterprising crosstoader can read the hole card even in this situation if he employs a glim. Any shiny object such as a highly polished cigarette case will do Ihe trick ifslrategically placed on the tabic. It will rcflcet the index of the card. However. 110 smart floorman would allow such an obvious glim on the table .So hustlers have devised a number of ingenious ways of disguising a glim so il will not arouse suspicion. Probably the cleverest is the use of a prism built into a plastic icc cube. With the ice cnbc floating in a half-finished drink, the glass is placed 011 the table at the right vantage point in front of the player. By looking directly down into the drink, die player can catch a reflection of the hole card as it is dealt. One cheat's winning streak was brought to an end and his ploy discovered when he threw a tantrum bccausc a cocktail waitress started to walk away with his empty glass.
Front loading and glims are only possible when the dealer deals from a hand-held deck. When die game is dealt from j shoe, the hole card is dragged from the shoe and slid a.ong the table surface, making the above techniques worthless. However, one form of hole card play that is equally effective in both shoe games and single deck games is spooking, In this case, the cheat sees the dealer's hole card only on those occasions when the dealer holds a possible blackjack. Whenever die dealer has an ace or ten-value card as his up-eard In: must check his ho c card to see if he has blackjack, When the dealer locks at his hole card, the cheat sees it too. Since this situation arises thirty-eight percent of the time, the cheat will know the dealer's hole card about two out of every five hands.
If you've ever noticed how cautiously a blackjack dealer checks his hole card, lifting only the inner end and shielding it with his hands against prying eyes, you may find il difficult to believe that a cheat could possibly get a g ir.ipsc of it. The only place from which tlia- card is visible is the dealer's side of the table. Casinos even prohibit their dealers from wearing large, shiny belt buckles w:hich might act as glims to reflect the face of the hole card :o a player as the dealer checks il. 'I hat would seem to cover every possibility. Actually, the cheat does see the hole card from the dealer's s?de of die table—at least lus partner docs.
Once more, the crossroaders must work as a team of at least two, the spotter, who in this ease is called a spook, and the BP. Instead of sitting at die same table, the spook sits at a table al the opposite side of the pit from the hP Thus, the BP's dealer has his hack toward the spook (Blackjack tables are always arranged in two back-to-back rows.) Depending on the location of 'he target table, the spook may even be at a roulette table or slot machine, fhc spool: positions himself at an angle to the other table so he c.an read the hole card in ihe space undei the dealerelbow as he lifts the inner end of die card to check it. He then signals it to the BP who must be seated so as to
H6 Cdir.hling Scum*
have a dear view of Ihc spook. The spook cannot see the index of the card at that distance, so he familiarizes himself in advance with the pip configurations of the various eards so he can nidge the value of any card just by seeing the pips at one end.
I he largest spooking scores have been taken off by teams of three working as a unit. The additional man allows for an extra subtlety which makes the whole scam far more difficult to nail First the spook enters the: casino and finds a seat where he can read one of the dealers across the pit. Not all dealers can be read, but it is easy enough to locate one who is vulnerable. Next the "relay" enters and takes a seat at the target dealer's table where he can have a cleai view of the spook. Like the spook, the relay makes only minimum bets Finally, the BP comes in and takes a seat at the same table-as the relay but positioned so he cannot possibly see the spook. 'Ilie spook reads the dealer's hole card and signals it to the relay who signals i! to Ihc BP
The addition of the third man may seem like a sma I point, bul it is actually a very powerful tlirowoff. A doorman who is suspicions wi I focus all his attention 011 the BP. looking for any funny moves. The possibility of spooking may occur to him, but he will dismiss it when he notes that the BP never looks up from his hand. ("ITie relay's signals are either auditory or perceived by peripheral vision, j If the foorinan is very suspicious, he may survey the players at the other side ot the pit who arc within the BP's range of vision. He will find nothing there since the spook is not within sight of the BP. The doorman will then >tart looking for other kinds of cheating moves and, of course, find nothing. He wi?' have to conclude that lie just has a lucky player on his hands.
If the relay is careful never to look directly at the spook hut to catch the signals only by peripheral vision, if the spook is careful to lock over at the target table only when the dealer cheeks his hoic card and keep his eyes away from there the rest of the rime, and if all three men act totally indifferent to each other, the scam is virtually impossible to spot One particularly successful spooking team had about half a dozen members. This allowed the BP to have more thai, one spook and relay in the casino at the same lime This meant Ihc HP could change tables from time lo time to further allay suspicion. The size of the team also allowed rhem to change personnel when hitting a casino a sccond time. Under these circumstances, the scam comes as close to being totally detection-proof as anything can.
Some dealers can even be read from the first base seat of the table at which they are dealing. Ibis technique, which is appropriately called first baaing, can be exploited singic-o or with a spotter and BP as explained in
If knowing the dealer's hole card two out of five hands doesn't sound like a very big cdge: that is only because you don't realize how small a mathematical advantage .s needed to provide a player with a steady profit Hole card players are invariably skilled card counters who can heal the casinos just through their mastery of the mathematics of blackjack. 'Ilie extra edge provided by hole card play makes them unbeatable in the long run.
No one really knows if spooking is illegal since it has never been tested ill the courts. Aside from -he difficulty of proving the issues ot fact in r-: courtroom, there is the question of whcllurr merely looking, signalling, and acting in collusion constitute cheating under Nevada laws. Recently a spooking team was caught at the Desert inn in 1 ¿is Vegas. Six people were arrested and over b 125,000 in cash and casino chips- were confiscated. But at tire last minute the casino dropped rhe charges. What the casino feared was a court ruling against lliein which would set a very undesirable precedent. It's a safe bet the casinos won't bring the mallei to court until they feel they have a particularly strong case
A completely different approach to learning the dealer's hole card is for the cheat to mark the cards during play. Every lime he is dealt a ten-value card lie will mark it so it can be read from the bai-k, Before long, all the tens will he marked ' I hat's when the hustler starts to make money. By knowing if the dealer lias a leu in the hole die cheat always knows whether to take insurance when the dealer has an act up. lh:s alone gives him a 2.5 percent edge-ever the house. Knowing whether there is a ten in die hole in odier situations helps him determine whether the dealer has a pat hand or a "stitf" (a hand thar requires a hit). This allows the cheat to decide whether lo lake a hit himself or stand and wait for Llie dealer to bust.
lu addition, if he can see the top ot the deck while deciding whether to hit, die hustler gains another massive edge. It is certainly easier to decide whether or not to take a hit when you know it the top cart is a ten. For this reason, blackjackdealeis are instructed by the house lo follow the practice of keeping die front of the deck tilted up while dealing. That way, the back of the top card is kept out of the players line of vision, |ust in case il is marked. However, this precaution docs not prevent rhe cheat from reading the back cf the dealer's hole i;ard as lie deals it to himself, and that alone is enough to give him the winning edge.
There are three methods of marking cards during play at blackjack The first is by means of daub. The use of du's sticky paste in poker was described in Chaptei 11. It is employed in essentially the same way to mark cards at
SB : Gambling Scarm blackjack. This method is particularly good if the game is being dealt face down from a shoe. In this ease, ihe ehcal is careful to place the marks so they will be visible through the feeder Ho'e at Llie front of the shoe. \'ovv he can not only read the dealer's hole eaid but can also read the top card before deciding to take a hit.
'Ihe next time you play blackjack, watch the dealing procedure and you will note that the dealer always gives himself his face-up card first and gives himself his hole card second. The reason the hole eaid is never dealt first is to make it more difficult foi a ehcal to read the bfick of :he eaid. Ifthc hole card were dealt first, it would lie on the table will» its back exposed for several moments as die dealer dealt die second round of cards to everyone before finally covering the hole card with his second card. By dealing himself the hole card second, he can immediately duck it under the up caul already on the tabic, thereby minimizing ex|x>surc of the back ot the card. This means a cheat needs fast eyes to read a daub mark on the card. Many can do it; however, Lhc other two card marking methods get around this problem, They allow the cheat lo read the hole card even after il has been slipped under the tip-card.
One of these methods is nail nicking. The crossreiader digs his thumbnail into the edge of lhc card, creating a notch, lie does this at both ends of the card so that it will not matter if 'he card gets turned around during shuffling and dealing. Now by looking at the frcut edge of the dealer's cards as they lie on the table he can tell whether ihe hole card is a ten.
Another precaution the casinos follow to make the crossroadcr's life difficult is to train their dealers to use the "protection grip." The next time you play blackjack in a game where the cards are dealt from the hand, notice that the dealer holds the cards in such a way as to cover the whole rront end or lhc deck. This is to prevent any nail nickers from spotting dieir marks while Lhc curds arc sliJI in the dcck. However, nail nickers occasionally encounter poorly trained dealers who tail to employ the protection grip, In this case, the cheat will exploit the situation by marking the aces in a different way from the tens. The tens are nicked at the center of the edge while lhc aces are marked off center. Now every time the cheat sees an ace near the top of rhe dcck. he increases his bet. Ht: knows that the likelihood of being dealt a blackjack on the next hand is much greater. Of course, lhc blackjack hand may fall to the dealer instead of the cheat but the cheat will get paid three to two if he eaLches the natural while the dealer will not. Therefore, it is still mathematically favorable for the cheat to bet more. In addition, with the dealer failing to cover the front edge, the hustler can read the top card bcfoie Liking a hit That is why this kind of dealer is a gold nunc to the nail nicker.
If the cards are being dealt from a shoe, the cheat will put the work into the side edges of the cards rather than the ends no he can read the top card through the feeder hole. He will, of course, be sure to take a seat at the table near llie shoe to avoid eyestrain.
The latest innovation in casino equipment is a b aekjack shoe with a plastic cover over the front. The cover is a I d which slides up and down so thai, in dealing a card, the dealer pulls up the lid with Ins fingers, then pushes ov.t the card. In the same motion the lid fulls back into place. The reason for this lid is, of course, to prevent crossroaders from reading any marks en the top card. But the gaining industry has always been resistent to change; so far, only a couple of casinos have adopted the new shoes.
The last kind of player card marking for blackjack is a form of crimp work. The chca: slightly bends up the sides of the card he wishes to mark, creating a trough running longitudinally along the back of the card. Try this yourself and note how easy it is to spot one of these cards from the front edge when it is face down on the table under another card as it would be if it were the dealer's hole card at blackjack. This kind of work can also be read while the card is in the deck if the dealer fails to protect the front end of the pack.
A crude but common method of putting in the work is to do it while sign a ing for a bit. The standard method for requesting a hit at blackjack is for the player to scrapc his two cards toward himsc f on the table surface. By pressing down a little harder as he does th:s, the hustler can put a bend into one of the curds he holds. The casinos arc starting to get wise to this method, so it is becoming harder to get by with it. Still, the cheat risks nothing by-trying it. The casino could never prove the action was intentional; the worst the playci lisL is a lecture from the dealer on the correct way :o signal.
Here is a much more sophisticated method of pulling in bend work. The standard procedure for a player to let the dealer know he doesn't want any more cards is to slip his two facedown cards under his bet In doing so, the hustler extends the lop card up beyond the lower card that he wishes to mark. As he slides the cards under the bet, he momentarily pulls up on the upper edge of the under card This bends the card against the table and puts in the work. It takes only an instan- and is completely irvisible since it happens under cover of the other card. Once die tens arc bent, the cheat can exploit his information in :hc same way as with daubing and nicking.
Hie last category of blackjack cheating methods involves a completely different approach; manipulating the bets instead of the cards. The cheating mr-tl-wvl« we- h-iw ^Yaminrrl mi f;ir are all desimifd In he In the hustler win
more hands. With thi.s technique, ihc cheat can lose many more hands than lie wins and .still come out with a healthv profit. Unlike poker, blackjack is a game in which the player most make his bet before receiving his cards and. except for special situations such as splitting., doubling down, and surrendering, he may nol change his bet after seeing his hand. It would be very advantageous if he could He would, of course, increase his bet whenever he received a particularly good hand and decrease it when he received a particularly bad hand. Although it is illegal, that :s just what some hustlers do. It is called copping a id dragging.
Capping, r-I.sr> known as pressing, means adding chips Lo one's bet after the cards have been dealt One method of doing this occurs as the cheat places his pat hand under h:s chips. Rather than just s idinghis cards under the bet, he lifts the stack of chips v,:idi one hand as ho places lliz cards under it with the other hand. I hc hand that picks up the bet has a chip palmed. It is an easy natter to leave this chip on top of the bet. Actually, the correct way to place one's cards under tiic beL is lo slide them underneath without picking il up. However, many novice players make the mistake of picking up the bet until they are corrected by l:ic dealer. 'Therefore, if the cheat is spoiled doing this, the dealer cannot be certain il was nol ail innocent error. If the crossroader is careful to do it only wher the dealer and floorman are not looking, be probably won't be spotted.
Another approach is tor the player to have a chip pained in one hand as he picks up his cards with the other hand. If, for example, he is dealt a peifeel blackjack hand, he vviT transfer the cards to the other hand, clipping the chip against the face of the cards with his thumb As he places the two cards face up on the -able in front of him to receive his automatic payoff, they must momentarily pass over his bet. In that instanl, the cheat deposits the hidden chip on top of his bet. If this method is well executed, it will go by even if the dealer or floor man happens to be looking at the hustler when he does it.
Both of the above techniques have one !imi:ation. They add the extra elnp to the top of the xrt stack. This restricts the amount that the cheat can add to the. hand. This is so because of a casino procedure adopted for precisely this reason. Whenever a player makes a bet containing two different denominations of chips, he must place Ihc higher donominaton on the bottom of the .stack. The dealer always looks over the bets before cealiog and, if he sees an improperly slacked bet, will re stick it correctly before commencing the deal That way, if he later sees a slack of red five-dollar chips with a green twenty-five-dollar chip on lop. he knows die player must have been cheating. This means that a hustler using either of the above techniques must- restrict himself to adding only live-dollar chips .f :11s original bet consisted ot five-dollar chips
The following method allows the erossroadcr to increase his profit potential by adding a higher denomination chip to the bottom of his bet in an imperceptible manner. Once again, the move is made in the process of placing the pat hand under ore's he:. I .et's assume the cheat has bet a stack ot five nickel (five-dollar) chips. Hie hustler begins with a twenty-five-dollar chip palmed n one hand and adds it to the face of his cards as explained earlier. He then slips the cards under his bet so the quarter chip ends up at the bottom of the stack, but with the two cards between it and the chips above it. As if having second thoughts, the cheat immediately removes the cards again and takes another look a: them. This leaves the quarter chip neatly on the bottom of the bet stack. After looking a-, his cards again, the cheat is reassured that he is doing the right thins and slips them back uudei hi«* bet. At that point, everything is as it should be. The crossroader has suceeeccd in doubling the si/.c of Ins bet. it's over in a moment and it is all covered by a natural action every blackjack player has performed countless times: starting to stand pat. reconsidering, then deciding to go through with it. This technique is a perfect example of the perennial cycle: casinos adopting precautions to make cheating more difficult followed by the cheats devising techniques to circumvent the precautions.
A hustler may cheat only by pressing, or lie may augment this technique by dragging or pinching. 'Ihis means that when he has a bad hand lit: steals back part of his bet 'The best method is tc> use one's caids. The cheat keeps one hand resting on the table. With the other hand he picks up his cards. If lie has a hopeless hand, lie holds die cards above the bet. With the lower edge of the cards, he flicks the top chip off the stack toward himself so it lands under his other hand. Me keeps die chip pnlme.d in tins hand until he i> dealt a particularly strong hand. At that point he ¿dds the chip to his bet. using any of the techniques explained earlier. The result is that the cheat wins a lot of big jets and loses a lot of small ones.
As in the case of hand muckers, cappers and draggers prefer to sit in the last seal at the dealer's extre ne right so they can work at the periphery of his vision as his attention is focused on the first player. They may work with a partner who sits at first base and acts as a stall, or they may rely oil whoever happens to l>e in thr.t seat to unwittingly perform the same, function for tlicm
92 i Gnmbtiw; 'jrams
Most sophist itrated merhods of cheating at craps involve substituting gim-inicked dice foi die legitimate casino dice. Typically, the hustler does this in the process ot picking up the dice to throw I hern. The two standard dicc switches are the thumb switch and the palm switch. We looked at die thumb switch in detail in Chapter III in connection with cheating by the Stickman. The same move is used by crossroaders to cheat the casinos. The cheat starts with the crooked dicc hidden in his cupped lingers. As he picks up the honest dice, he clips them in the crotch ol his thumb and cusses out the gaffed pair.
In the ease of the palm switch, the crooked dice start bidder, in the palm, trapped between the base o:the thumb and the edge of the hand. The re^l casino dice arc pickcd up with the fingers, the Lips of the forefinger and pinky trapping the two dice between them. As the fingers curl in, the jjalmed dice are dropped to the base of the fingers and the fingertips then push the honesl dice into the hand co be palmed in die same way the gaffed pair had been, They are retained in -he palm as die other dice are rolled out. The hustler is now set to repeat the process later when he wauls to switch the
squares back in. Tbe whole process takes only a spli: second. It may sound simple, but actually tbe palm switch is one of the most difficult dice moves to learn.
Mastering the art of switching dicc requires not only a tremendous amount of practice but also proper tutoring by someone who has perfected all the line points of the move. As might be imagined, mechanics who arc expert at their craft arc not easily persuaded to par: with their knowledge or o~fer instruction. Misinformation is easy to come by, but the real work on erooked gambling moves is as valuable and high y prized as the most exclusive technical ant" trade secrets in industry. It is, perhaps, even more difficult to gain access to sincc the aspiring ehcat cannot rely on the equivalent of industrial espionage. Cheating secrets cannot be stolen, they can only be passed on willingly. Most often, this occurs either through an informal system of apprenticeship, or by a trading of information among equals. Sometimes, however, secrets are sold outright for cash.
A late friend of mine who was well known for his mastery of dicc switching was once approached by a rackets guy who wanted to buy a move. They settled on a price of twelve hundred dollars On the evening of the sale, my friend asked me to conic along. I aeeomuauied him Lo a hotel room, the address of which he had received by telephone. When we walked in, we found all the furniture pushed back against the walls and a regulation size break-down crap table set on saw horses in the middle of the room. This is the kind of table dial can be quickly broken clown into separate parts or put back together and which is often used foi floating crap games. Obviously, an item like that couldn't have been smuggled into the room without anyone noticing, bul I guess the appropriate palms iiad been greased.
The rackets guy had along a buddy of the bent-nose variety who aetcd as stiekr.ian while my friend repeatedly switched the dicc at the table. The rackets guy watched closely, stationing li.mself first in the bexman's position, then at each of the two dealer's bases, and finally next to the stickman. He also requested that my friend change positions al the table from rime to time, 'this went on for about fifteen minutes with my friend switching :he dice over and over as he rolled them across the table. He used 3 green pair anc a red pai.. '1 he fact thai llie dice were continually changing color was the only evidence that anything out of the ordinary was happening. Finally, satisfied that the switch was invisible from any angle, the buyer counted out twelve one-hundred-dollar bills.
My friend wrapped the money m a sheet of typewriter papei and sealed it in an envelope addressed lo himself. 1 then went oalside and mailed it off from a street corner mailbox accompanied by the erstwhile stickman while mv friend and the buyer waited upstairs,
When wc relumed, mv friend began his lesson. After a few minutes, the stickman and I went down to die hotel cottee shop. About an hour later my friend joined us, his lesson finished. Of course, at that point die buyer still couldn't even come close to performing the witch, but he had all the work on it. Now it was his job to put in the practice. If he was conscientious, he could have it pretty well down in six months or so, although ieal mastery would certainly take more than a year.
Of the various types of gaffed dicc which might be switched in against a casino, Ihc most effective arc tops. As we saw in Chaptei III. these are dice that have been misspotted. They bear only three numbers, each appearing twice on opposite sides of the die.
One standard cheating method is for the mechanic to use a pair of dice which bear only the numbers 2. and 6. I'hcsc dicc can toll points four, five,, six. eight, and nine but cannot seven-out. I'hc cheat switches in these dice when it is his turn lo shoot. I le makes only small bcls on die pass line. However, his partner at the opposite end of the table bets heavily. The partner not only has a large bet on the pass line, he also bets the numbers across. This means that he has a large sum of money riding on each of the possible point numbers. Since the gaffed dice can roll only point numbers, Ihc cheat wins a bet on every roll. (Actually, the dice can also toll a twelve. This is a loser for die cheats if it happens on the first roll, But after that the appearance of a twelve means only a brief pause :n then wining screak.) Every time lie wins, the partner lcls his winnings ride. With ibis approach a considerable sum of money can be won m a very short lime. 'Ihc mechanic 'eaves the tops, in play as long as lie feels it is s.ife. He then signals his partner, who draws down his place bets and leaves only his pass line bet. At that point the shooter switches he squares back in and gambles honestly with the casino's dice until be sevens out. 'Hie entire procedure is repeated when the dicc again come around to the mechanic.
Another sc-L of tops which may be ased in the same way is a pair that bear only the numbers 1, 3. and 5. 'Ihesc will make the point numbers four, six, eight, and ten hut cannot seven-out. The play in this case is identical to that explained in connection with die 2, 3, 6 dice. The only way the cheats can .ose even a single bet is if the number two turns up on the first roll. On the rare occasions when this happens, the hustlers can easily absorb the loss in light of how much they are raking in the rest of the time. Many dice mechanics will employ both types of tops. The first time around they will switch in the 2. V 6 dicc. The next time thr dire rnmi» :innmfl t.-s tli^m th^.-
switch ici (lie 1, dice, and they keep alternating in tins fashion. Hie advantage of this is that the dice can make more numbers, and diercfore the number distention looks more natural, avoiding a pattern tliat might arouse suspicion among house personnel.
One .scrur that has been a-omd for quite awhi e but which issidl capabli ot gelling llie money is ihc use of lops lo take off the field. The held bet is a wager in which the player bets that the shooter will roll a tota of two, three, four, nine, ten, eleven, or twelve on the next roll. If he docs, the bettor gets paid off. Otherwise, he loses his bet. The tops used in this case bear only the numbers '1.5. and 6 The mechanic must rol an eight, nine, ten, eleven, or twelve every lime His pmatei. who is Ix-lling the field, has to win oil almost every roll. By letting the winnings ride, the money can be won very fast and the gaffs need only be kept in for a very short time, thereby greatly limiting the risk for the cheats. Since the tops cannot seven-out, the mechanic cannot lose the dice until after he switches the .squares back in.
Although tops arc the most lucrative kind of gaffed dice to use against a casino, 11 icy arc also the most dangerous. At any moment, the boxman or doorman may decree to pick up the dice and look at tire underside and i: will be all over. But the cheat knows that won't happen unless suspicions have been aroused A mechanic using tops must be very familiar with casino procedures in order to judge just how long he can keep rolling point numbers without arousing suspicion, lie must also be very good at reading a crap-table crew and gauging their thoughts. A few casinos follow the policy of having the stickman drag the dbc back after every roll in such a way that they slowly tumble over and over so that all the sides become visible and the box man can watch for misspotlec dicc. Naturally, no sine hustler would dare use lops in such a game. However, this practice slows down the game and thereby costs the casino money. The casinos know that the more rolls per hour they can gel out of the dice, the greater their profit. Consequently, this practice is not likely to ever becomc widespread.
A safer approach to casino dice switching is the use of loaded dice, known to the fraternity as weight. Such dice are termed percentage dicc since they don't guarantee that the cheat will win each bet the way lops do. They only tilt die odds in the hustlers' favor lit fact, occasionally a hustler will switch in weight only to hit a losing streak I lis short-term bad luck simply outweighs the effects of the gaits. Nonetheless, loads are usua.lv profitable enough to make them worth using.
Tlir* nHvantaof of loaded dire is that thev ran nass a casual examination
96 / Gcmhliitíi Sum*, by casino personnel and don't require constant switching in and out Of course, the cheats must make su~e the gaffed dice have the casino's name and logo stamped on them. Huwevei, it is an easy inat'.ci lo luid a dicc maker special¡7ing in gaffs who can produce a counterfeit version of any casino's dice indistinguishable from tlic real tiling.
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