We’ve all heard the stories of professional card counters being thrown out and/or banned from casinos. Playing blackjack successfully certainly has its ups and downs. But if you want to win, and continuing winning in the long term without having to travel to a new casino every other week, developing a strong relationship with the staff is a must.
You may not realize it, but psychology isn’t just a solid strategy for poker players. The psychological aspect of blackjack is just as valuable. Having a positive attitude, being friendly and interacting affably with a casino’s dealers, pit bosses and higher level employees is a proven way to avoid being labeled a professional.
Think about how the majority of card counters employ their skills. To maintain an accurate count, they often remain quiet, reserved and avoid lengthy conversations with dealers or the players around them. Distractions can certainly be counter-productive to one’s win rate, but it’s also a clear indication that you’re counting cards and will raise a red flag among security faster than you can down your first complimentary beverage.
Once a player is labeled a professional, they are observed incessantly. If the casino deems the player worthy of ejection, one of the first things they will do is inform other casinos of the player’s existence. Pictures are taken and distributed among operators to ensure immediate detection everywhere they go.
Suffice to say, once you’re labeled a card counter, your career is essentially over.
Wearing a disguise can counter this, but if you don’t change your ways, you’ll only be caught again, and again, and again, until there’s no casino you can enter without being promptly escorted back out the doors.
2012 Blackjack Hall of Famer Ian Andersen wrote of the psychology of blackjack in both of his books, Turning the Tables on Las Vegas (1976) and Burning the Tables in Las Vegas (1999). While the card counting techniques and basic strategy charts in the original publication are considered obsolete these days, both books are still considered a must-read for any professional blackjack player who wants to extend the longevity of their career.
Andersen, a surreptitious gambler who has managed to maintain his anonymity to this day (Ian Andersen is merely his pen name), has been playing high-stakes blackjack for more than four decades in live casinos all over the world, mastering the art of detection avoidance by developing lasting friendships.
Players must maintain a positive attitude, smiling frequently, making eye contact and nodding while listening to relay an attentive nature, and using affable body language. Crossing the arms or legs gives off a reclusive vibe, so don’t do it. Lean into the table, not away from it. When interacting with staff, especially away from the tables, touching is actually a good thing, so long as it’s done in a light and brief manner, such as the momentary placement of a hand on the shoulder.
If you’re visiting the same casino frequently, seek out those you’ve befriended and make sure to say hello, increasing your visibility and familiarity with them. Once a positive relationship is established, your façade can serve as a perfect shield against the fact that you’re counting cards.