As the old saying goes, failure to plan is planning to fail. Being prepared to handle the success and failure of playing while losing will minimize overall playing losses.
A brief word on the myths that casino management is operating under the same “rules of engagement” under which most normal people and businesses operate.
Reality #1: Casinos, and casino personnel, view red chip counters much like we view children; i.e., one day our children will grow into adults, therefore red chip counters will (potentially) grow into black chip counters and pose a real threat to the casino's bottom line. Card counters to casinos, as they believe, are viruses infecting their “healthy” environment of stripping everyone of all the money that enters a casino. It is important to understand that in their minds, every dime (literally) that walks into a casino, is now theirs. It doesn't matter that it's not in their hold yet; they assume that the reason it's there in the first place is to be handed over to them before the patron leaves. This is why they are so distressed by anyone winning.
Myth #2: Players who win or lose moderate sums raise no red flags from the pit, therefore they experienced no heat.
Reality #2: The moment a player sits at a table, heat begins. The reason heat is omnipresent is that every table (and pit) has an expected hold and when that is threatened (by the mere act of playing), it threatens the pit. Therefore everyone is suspect. Heat needs to be shared. It is called the CYA approach to job security. In fact, the built-in checks and balances in casino management only function when shared heat exists. Heat, like excrement, flows downhill.
There are, in fact, many myths that players (mostly civilians) operate under, and are likely to never experience at lower bet levels as long as they are losing. This is why skillful advantage players sometimes believe that we also get the same pass that civilians receive (once the pit is convinced a player is a loser) while losing, because that's what's supposed to happen -- people are supposed to lose.
However, losing is not always losing. Most advantage players understand that they need to appear like civilians when winning. They (we) understand that the casino has marketed gambling as “gaming” and as a form of “entertainment.” So we are supposed to be able to smile, converse, appear as if we're having fun, and basically be a lovable loser. But as difficult as it is for casino management to accept and acknowledge, there will be an occasional winner amongst the thousands of daily losers, and winners are still an anomaly, and so we learn to act like the occasional winning civilian.
All in the attempt to appear normal. To them.
A player winning is NOT normal at a casino. Ask any casino employee on whether or not people are supposed to win, or are supposed to lose, and hear what their answers are. They will be overwhelmingly slanted towards “they didn't build these fancy hotels on people winning,” all while nodding knowingly, like the sages they think they are.
Almost anyone who has a desire to actually win at a casino already exudes a different air about them from those who expect to lose. It is probably no different than a single woman in a nightclub/bar type environment, sizing up whether or not a man is available, on the hunt, or is a married guy looking for some action on the side. Believe me, they can tell whether a man is available or not, with uncanny accuracy! Well, many casino personnel pick up that same type of signal from many players. And they almost surely pick it up from new card counters.
It is with that in mind that I thought I would provide some do's and don'ts, to cast doubt upon those who are the first line of a casino's defense, against us, their perceived mortal enemy.
A few caveats may be needed here.
I know there are many recreational counters, whose primary goal is to either have free vacations, or offset some expenses, for the few times they visit a casino locale. They have learned the Hi-Lo count system, learned some index numbers and understand Kelly betting -- all in all, most counters come from a background of higher intellect, no doubt about it. So they are usually of the mindset that they don't pose a real threat to the casinos, they don't play enough anyway, and if they get backed off, if that thought really enters their consciousness, tell themselves that's okay, as I'm not doing this for a living. This is all true. But unless the expenditure of time and effort mean nothing to you, which I highly doubt, based on the prerequisite of higher intellect, then you're operating under a delusion and this article should not, and will not apply to you. But don't say you weren't told when it happens to you. And I would also ask, why did you go through the time and effort to learn how to count in the first place -- read these boards, books, etc., if winning meant nothing to you? But I digress.
If you want to be able to continue to play without the casino world knowing who you are everywhere you go, then some of these points may be helpful to you.
1) Do not think that you're under the radar in a casino. You are not. The dealer that is dealing to you may be a dual-rate employee. He or she has an ambition to no longer be a dealer. A casino's very first line of defense is the dealer. They are not your friend. They may, on occasion, become an ally but that topic is not on the docket today. Every casino has a table threshold, both for winning and for losing. The reason for a table losing threshold is twofold, a) for casino marketing purposes, as in calling a host and b) the table hold means good things for the pit. Yet there is a third reason, and that is due to the player specifically. Obviously, a red chip player is unlikely to lose $2K at any one table. But if they did, it's important to know what that level is where they take notice. If this was in a short period of time, you are most definitely on their radar. If this was due to you setting up camp -- five or six hours -- you're not setting off bells and whistles. Every casino has these built-in indicators, mostly for winners, but losing has these triggers as well.
2) Casinos are in the “people business.” My thoughts in how they view people are well-known. But yes, they are in the people business, much like law enforcement is in the people business. So they try to get a read on people. All people. An astute game-protection employee, whether in surveillance or on the floor (or both), will try to determine if you are a threat when you first sit down at a table. The infamous players card acts like a resume to an extent, if the pit crew does not know who you are. So they pull you up into the system and read whatever notes that are in there. If there are none, then it is their job to pay even closer attention to you than they may otherwise, due to your unknown status. If playing anonymously, you need to understand that all bells and whistles are going off silently -- based on your buy-in and your persona. They will attempt to size you up. They too, have a mental checklist, one they have compiled in their head from seeing thousands and thousands of people, which brings me to ...
3) Dress for success. Everyone in life wears a “uniform.” When my son was in high school, his attire (allowed by his mother) was such that you could put two of him in the pair of pants that he'd wear. I wore bell-bottoms (dating myself here) when I was younger, as that was my uniform. What are you wearing? Is it consistent with what is happening at the table? Although a player winning brings out the worst in casino management, losing brings out their treachery, slyness, their “we know who and what you are'' type of thinking. A casino employee -- and this shows how disturbed the industry is -- will be just doing their job; i.e., it's what's expected of them all, much like taking out the garbage is expected. But the real kudos are for identifying the threats even when a player has been losing and they back you off. That helps prove their worth. So if you're dressed like my son was in high school, sit down at a $10 min. table, buy in for $500, start losing, raising your bets, and money starts to fly out of your pocket, you're going to be toast. It's not complicated. The tells will be like neon signs. No matter how long your playing session is or isn't, that's a recipe for being kicked out. Always try to match your buy-ins with the attire, the table minimums, and the casino you're playing. Remember, the objective is to either be allowed to keep playing or being able to return and play again. You want to avoid videotape review of your play.
4) Ask about how much are you’re in for when losing, as well as time played. Ask this of the floor. See how they react. They may have missed some buy-ins (and that's important, both for comps, and your overall win record) Take the offensive here. You're supposed to be a loser. To losing civilians, when getting stuck and knowing that they are on a junket, staying at the hotel under comps, having a host, anything that requires the casino to be on the hook for freebies is normal to inquire about. In fact, many high stakes losing players (who have more money than sense) completely understand the comp structure where they're staying. They feel entitled to it, especially when they lose. It makes you fit in with the expectations that casinos have of their good customers -- not the "big, bad card counters” who just happen to be losing today. Angling for freebies is not only the right thing to do, it's the expected thing to do, not to mention that you're likely to get most of what you ask for.
5) Candid Camera: Although casinos pay low wages to surveillance personnel, most of those employees are not stupid. Some even have ambition. And they have cameras everywhere. You are on candid camera, all the time. If you play for moderately high stakes, you are guaranteed to be on camera. But what is often forgotten, dismissed as a non-issue, is that anyone who is with you is also on camera. Friends, family, anyone who is sharing a room with you, etc. will be reviewed if you set off the bells and whistles at the tables. I know that is more geared to casino comportment, but if you have a buddy who is also a counter, you immediately put them at risk as well.
6) Chips, chips, and more chips: This is like the dressing for success points, in that how you handle chips, as opposed to other elements of your table behavior, will set off bells and whistles. And I'm not talking about the “shuffling” of chips that people caution players on. That's nonsense, especially if your persona is one of being comfortable both in a casino environment. Watch high stakes players who are not counters, and you'll see many of these players handle their chips with aplomb and dexterity. That's not a tell. But if you're playing with a basic strategy card out, and shuffling chips, well, that's a tell, as well as being stupid, neither which a skillful counter is attempting to become.
There's many more, but that's enough for now. Playing, and being allowed to continue to play, requires a full understanding of all sides of the game. Losing sessions, as everyone discovers, are as much a part of the game as winning. Most people, as they should, focus on how to handle the positive results that we expect will happen, and handle them accordingly, as we know that a player winning, in and of itself, is an anomaly to casino personnel. Anyone who wins must be doing something “wrong” because the casino expects to win every time. Understanding how to play when losing and being allowed to return and play after a big losing session is an important part of your development as a skillful player.
Originally published on bj21.com Green Chip, edited for this format.