Cheating is only a small problem in legal casinos in the United States and Canada, but stay alert. You should be aware of ways that dealers can cheat and know what to look for. If you are cheated, you will lose quickly. It will take you at least a week of playing against honest dealers to earn back what you can be cheated out of in an hour.
From the reports I get, I am sure cheating still exists in Nevada and throughout the country. But I have not knowingly been cheated in a long time. I am still always alert to the possibility of being cheated. No matter how friendly the dealer or how long I have been playing in that same casino, I always watch for cheating.
I never cheat. I have had instances where a dealer gives me a sly or knowing look and flashes the next card to be dealt or the hole card. I always get up and walk away. I want to win, but I want to win honestly. I do not mind profiting from dealer errors or dealer sloppiness, but I refuse to be a partner with any dealer in a scheme to steal from a casino.
There will always be accusations of cheating whether or not cheating actually exists. Whenever anything unusual happens, some players are likely to claim that they were cheated. But you will occasionally lose ten or more hands in a row just by chance alone; losing ten hands in a row is not prima facie evidence of cheating. Some card counters incorrectly think that winning is due to skill and losing is due to being cheated. The truth is that winning and losing are both chance events in the short run.
Casino regulators are supposed to impose stiff penalties against cheaters. If gaming commission field agents spot cheating at a casino, they can close that casino. Cheating managers are not supposed to be allowed to manage casinos any more. Cheating owners are not supposed to be allowed to own casinos any more.
Unfortunately, most gaming regulators rarely impose strong penalties against casinos. Nevertheless, the possibility makes it unlikely that you will encounter a legal casino where cheating is house policy. But always bear in mind that individual employees and managers may be dishonest, and can create havoc for you.
Keep your eyes on the cards at all times. Occasionally watching the pack will make a dealer nervous, but you will not lose to a particular cheater more than once. Play only in big casinos. Do not play in little holes in the wall. Big casinos have more to lose than to gain by cheating and consequently should not tolerate it. If you see a cheating dealer, quietly inform the pit boss. The pit boss will not believe you, but, if he or she is not in on it, might watch the dealer more closely. An honest casino owner will fire and prosecute a dealer caught cheating.
Another option is to notify whatever agency regulates gambling at that casino. In Nevada it’s the Gaming Control Board. Don’t wait; call right away. You want to register your complaint while evidence still exists. Casinos record every table, but the recordings are usually preserved only upon demand from the regulatory agency.
A reader wrote:
On day shift at a large Las Vegas casino, I encountered a dealer who twice turned up his second card (instead of the first card, as normal) after considerable fumbling. The first time he had 10 up and a 4 in the hole. The second time the upcard was again a 10, so I stood with fifteen. This time the hole card was 5, and I won the hand.
In a situation like this, what the dealer did is against the rules and dishonest. However, it may yield information on which you can capitalize. For example, suppose the dealer looks at the first card before turning it over. If the first card is 2, 3, 4, 5, or 6, the Dealer then looks at the second card. If the second card is ace or 10, the dealer turns up the second card instead of the first card. Suppose the dealer is not cheating in any other way.
In the situation in the above paragraph, the dealer is giving you additional information you can use, despite trying to cheat you. If the dealer turns up the second card, you know it will be 10 or ace and the hole card will be 2, 3, 4, 5, or 6. If the dealer turns up the first card and it is 2, 3, 4, 5, or 6, you know that the hole card is other than 10 or ace. If the dealer turns up the first card and it is 7, 8, 9, 10, or ace, you have no new information about the hole card.
As an advantage player, this information is valuable to you. If you know how to use it, you are better off than if the dealer did not try to cheat. Since I do not want to encourage you to play against cheating dealers, I am not going to work out the appropriate strategy or expected value of this scenario.
If you ignore the dealer’s actions and just play your normal game with decisions based on the dealer’s upcard, you will be worse off due to the cheating. The cheating dealer shows aces and 10’s too often, and the players bust too often.