AOH :: P43-10.TXT

How To Hack Blackjack (Part II)



                              ==Phrack Magazine==

                 Volume Four, Issue Forty-Three, File 10 of 27

                            How to "Hack" BlackJack
                                      By
                                  Lex Luthor
                            lex@mindvox.phantom.com

                               Part 2 of 2 (50K)



Card Counting:
--------------

   Card Counting? Don't you have to be some sort of mathematical genius or
have a photographic memory to count cards? No, these are as mythical as that
415-BUG-1111 "trace detector" number posted on all those old hacker BBSes.
Well, you may now say, what if the casino is using 4, 6, or even 8 decks?
Surely you can't keep track of 300+ cards! Don't sweat these details. Probably
the hardest part about learning to play successful BlackJack has already been
accomplished in the previous section. That is: memorizing the appropriate
basic strategy chart. All you really need to count cards is the ability to
count up to plus or minus twelve or so...by ONES! Of course there are more
complicated systems but that is all you need to do for the simplest ones.

   The first card counting systems were developed by our old friend Dr. Thorp.
He determined through mathematical computation that the card that has the most
influence on the deck being in a favorable condition (for the player) was the
five. When the deck is low in fives, the player has a higher advantage than if
it's sparse in any other card. Logic dictated that for a very simple card
counting strategy, simply keep track of the abundance (or lack thereof) of
fives. This is the basis of his "Five Count" system which was later improved
to include tens and renamed the "Ten Count" system.

   Today, there are many different card counting systems. Typically, the more
complex a system is, the better your advantage should you master it. However,
the difference between card counting System X and System Y is usually so small
that ease of using the system becomes more important than gaining an
additional .15 % advantage or whatever it is. I am going to restrict the
discussion to a single card counting system: the high/low (also called the
plus/minus) point count. This strategy is very easy to master. Two other
methods that I recommend if you're serious are the Advanced Plus/Minus and the
"Hi-Opt I" systems. The former being similar to the high/low but assigns
fractional values to certain cards as opposed to integer values which are
easier to add in your head. The latter method is considered one of the most
powerful yet reasonable (with respect to complexity) counting systems of all
time and is detailed extensively on pages 213 to 277 of [7].

   The quick and dirty reason why card counting works is this: The player
gains an advantage when a deck has a SHORTAGE of cards valued 2, 3, 4, 5, 6,
7, 8. When a deck has a SHORTAGE of cards valued 9, 10, Ace; the player has a
DISadvantage. If you can tell when the deck is rich in 9's, 10's, and Aces
(ie, when you hold the advantage) you can do one of the following things:

      1) Bet more money when the deck is favorable to you.
      2) Alter your Basic Strategy play to account for the favorability
         thereby increasing the odds of winning a particular hand.
      3) Combine 1 & 2 by betting more AND altering Basic Strategy.

   Now lets discuss the +/- Point Count. As you can see from the small chart
below, a plus value is given to low cards, and a minus value is given to high
cards. Notice that 7, 8, and 9 have a value of zero. This is because their
overall effect is negligible as compared to the others. Some systems use a
value of -2 for the Ace instead of -1 and give a value of +1 to the seven
instead of zero. If you are using a BlackJack computer game for practice,
check to see what card counting system(s) it uses. They should offer one of
the above two variations. Learn that one, since it will allow you to prepare
well for actual casino play. See the "Some Comments Regarding Computer
BlackJack Programs for the PC" section for more on this. Now the chart:

                   +-----------------------------------------+
                   |    PLUS (+1)      ||     MINUS (-1)     |
                   +-----------------------------------------+
                   | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 || 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | A |
                   +-----------------------------------------+
                   | 1 | 1 | 1 | 1 | 1 || 0 | 0 | 0 | 1  | 1 |
                   +-----------------------------------------+

   As you may notice, this is a balanced system. There are 20 cards in a deck
that are valued +1: two through six. There are 16 ten value cards and 4 Aces
in a deck (20 total) that are valued -1. The remaining 12 cards (7, 8, 9) have
a value of zero. At the end of a deck the count should be zero. A good drill
to practice is to get a deck of cards, turn them over one by one, and keep
track of the count. If you enter a game mid-way between the deck or shoe, flat
bet until the cards are shuffled. Once the cards are shuffled commence
counting from zero.

   Lets do a quick example using ten cards. The following ten cards are shown
in the course of a hand: A, 4, 7, 10, 10, 9, 10, 2, 10, 5. Just so no one gets
lost, we will do one card at a time and then keep the running total: the first
value is -1 (the Ace) & the second is +1 (the 4) = 0 (the current total hand
count). The next card is the 7 which is zero so disregard it. The next card is
a ten so the total count is now -1. The next card is another ten, giving a
total count of -2. The next card is a nine which has a value of zero so ignore
it, total count is still at -2. Next is a ten, total count is at -3. Next is
a two which adds +1 to the minus three yielding a total of -2. A quick look at
the next two cards shows that the two will cancel each other out (-1+1=0). So
at the end of a hand of ten cards dealt to 2 players and the dealer, the point
count is minus two. This provides you with the knowledge that your are at a
slight disadvantage. Your next bet should either be the same or a unit or two
lower.

   From this example you see that it would be easier to count cards if you
play in a "cards-up" game. That way you can see all the cards as they are
dealt and count them as they go by. When the dealer deals fast, just count
every two cards. You still count each card but you only add to your total
count after every two cards since many times the two values will cancel each
other out to give a net value of zero, which doesn't need to be added to your
total. If you play in a cards-down game, you may want to consider playing at
third base. The reason being is that in a cards-down game you only see the
other players' cards:

 a) if you peek at their hand (not polite but it's not cheating like in poker)
 b) if a player busts
 c) when the dealer settles each players' hand.

   When there are other people at a table, all this happens rather quickly and
you may miss a few cards here and there which essentially invalidates your
count. You can't control how fast the dealer deals, but you can slow things
down when the dealer prompts you for a play decision.

   I am not going to discuss changing basic strategy here. The chart you
memorize in Basic Strategy section of this file will be fine for now. If you
are already adept at the plus/minus count then find a book that has a complete
system including the appropriate changes to Basic Strategy that reflect the
current running and/or true count.

   For one deck, alter your wager according to the following table:

                        BET UNITS   +/- Running Count
                        -----------------------------
                            1            +1 or less
                            2            +2 or +3
                            3            +4 or +5
                            4            +6 or +7
                            5            +8 or more

   Example: After the first hand of a one deck game, the point count is plus
four and you just bet a $5.00 chip. Before the next hand is dealt, wager
$15.00 (three units of $5.00) as the above table mandates.

   What if there are four, six, or more decks instead of just one? I recommend
that you perform a "true-count" rather than trying to remember different
betting strategies for different number of deck games. By doing a true count,
the above table can still be used.

   The True Count is found by the ensuing equation. I provide an example along
with it for the case of having a running count of +9 with one and a half decks
left unplayed. It doesn't matter how many decks are used, you just have to have
a good eye at guesstimating the number of decks that are left in the shoe. I
just measured the thickness of a deck of cards to be 5/8 (10/16) of an inch.
Hence the thickness of a half deck is 5/16 of an inch. One and a half decks
would be 10/16 + 10/16 + 5/16 = 25/16 or a little over an inch and a half. You
probably see a relationship here. The number of decks is approximately equal
to the height of the cards in inches. Easy.

                             Running Count           +9
            True Count = ----------------------  =  ----- = +6
                          # of Decks Remaining       1.5

   Looking at the table of betting units above, the proper wager would be four
units.

   If you have trouble keeping the count straight in your head, you can use
your chips as a memory storage device. After every hand tally up the net count
and update the running or true count by rearranging your chips. This is
somewhat conspicuous however, and if done blatantly, may get you labeled a
counter.

   If for some reason you despise the notion of counting cards, you may want
to pick up Reference [11], "Winning Without Counting". The author writes about
using kinesics (body language) to help determine what the dealers' hole card
is after checking for a Natural. He claims that certain dealers have certain
habits as far as body language is concerned, especially when they check to see
if they have a BlackJack. The dealer will check the hole card if he/she has a
ten value card or an Ace as the up-card. When the hand is over you will see
what the hole card really was. You may be able to discern a certain
characteristic about the dealer, such as a raising of the eyebrows whenever
the hole card is a 2-9 or perhaps a slight frown, etc. There is some
usefulness to this method but I wouldn't rely on it very much at all. I have
only used it for one particular situation. That being when the dealer has a
ten up card and checks to see if the hole card is an Ace. Note that many
dealers check the hole card very quickly and turn up just the corner of the
card so as to prevent any of the players from seeing the card. If the hole
card is an Ace, the dealer will turn over the card and declare a BlackJack.
However, if the hole card is a 4, many times the dealer will double check it.
The reason for this double take is simply that a 4 looks like an Ace from the
corner, get a deck of cards and see for yourself. A 4 really looks like an Ace
and vice-versa when the corner is checked in a QUICK motion. So, if you see
the dealer double check the hole card and NOT declare a BlackJack, you can be
fairly sure the hold card is a four, giving the dealer a total of 14. You can
now adjust your basic strategy play accordingly. This situation has only come
up a few times in my case, but once was when I had a $50.00 bet riding on the
hand and I won the hand by using that additional information. Dr. Julian Braun
has previously calculated that the player has about a 10% advantage over the
house should he/she know what the dealer's hole card is. This is quite
substantial. Of course you have to memorize a specific Basic Strategy chart
for the case of knowing what the dealers' total is in order to obtain the
maximum benefit. I haven't bothered memorizing this chart simply because it is
a rare occurrence to know what the dealers' hole card is. If you sit down at a
table with an inexperienced dealer, you might catch a couple more than usual,
but I don't think it is enough to warrant the extra work unless you want to
turn pro.

   Another thing Winning Without Counting mentions is to pay attention to the
arches and warps in the cards. Perhaps a lot of the ten value cards have a
particular warp in them due to all those times the dealer checked for a
BlackJack. The author claims that he has used this to his advantage. Maybe so,
but I don't put much stock in this technique. I have enough things to worry
about while playing.

   One last thing. There is no law or rule that says a dealer cannot count
cards. A dealer may count cards because he or she is bored but more likely is
that the casino may encourage counting. The reason being that if the deck is
favorable to the player, the house can know this and "shuffle up". This is
also called preferential shuffling (a game control measure) and it vaporizes
your advantage.


Shuffle Tracking:
-----------------

  Shuffle What? Shuffle Tracking. This is a fairly new (15 years +/-)
technique that has not been publicized very much. One problem with many of the
BlackJack books out there is that they are not hip to the current game. The
obvious reason for this is that many are old or simply re-formulate strategies
that were invented decades ago. It's just like reading "How to Hack the Primos
Version 18 Operating System" today. The file may be interesting, many of the
commands may be the same, but it doesn't detail how to take advantage of, and
subvert the CURRENT version of the OS.

   The best definition I have seen is this one quoted from Reference [5]:
"'Shuffle-tracking' is the science of following specific cards through the
shuffling process for the purpose of either keeping them in play or cutting
them out of play." The concept of Shuffle tracking appears to have resulted
from bored mathematician's research and computer simulation of shuffling
cards, a familiar theme to BlackJack you say. The main thing that I hope every
reader gets from this section is that just because someone shuffles a deck (or
decks) of cards does not in any way mean that the cards are "randomized". The
methods mentioned in the two previous sections (Basic Strategy and Card
Counting) ASSUME A RANDOM DISTRIBUTION OF CARDS! That is an important point.
According to some authors, a single deck of cards must be shuffled twenty to
thirty times to ensure a truly random dispersion. If a Casino is using a 6
deck shoe, that's 120 to 180 shuffles! Obviously they aren't going to shuffle
anywhere near that many times. But don't despair, there are some types of
shuffles which are good, and some that are bad. In fact, if the cards were
always randomly disbursed, then you would not be reading this section due to
it's lack of relevance. As in the Card Counting section, I am going to
restrict the discussion to the basics of shuffle tracking as the combination
of references listed at the end of this section provide a complete discourse of
the topic.

   A beneficial (to the player) shuffle for a one deck game is executed by
dividing the deck equally into 26 cards and shuffling them together a minimum
of three times. This allows the cards to be sufficiently intermixed to yield a
fairly random distribution. An adverse shuffle prevents the cards from mixing
completely.

   The simplest example is the Unbalanced Shuffle. As its name implies, the
dealer breaks the deck into two unequal stacks. As an example, lets say you
are playing two hands head on with the dealer and the last 10 cards in the
deck are dealt. The result of the hand was that both your hands lost to the
dealer primarily due to the high percentage of low value cards in the clump.
Note that if you were counting, you would have bet a single unit since the
deck was unfavorable. The dealer is now ready to shuffle the deck, and
separates the deck into 31 cards in one stack and 21 in the other stack. The
dealer shuffles the two stacks. If the shuffle is done from the bottom of each
stack on up, the top ten cards of the larger stack will remain intact without
mixing with any of the other cards. Those ten cards can remain in the order
they were just dealt throughout the shuffle if the process of bottom to top
shuffling is not altered. You are now asked to cut the deck. If you don't cut
the deck, the 10 cards that were dealt last hand will be dealt as your first
two hands. The result will be the same as your last and you will lose the two
hands. However, if you cut the deck exactly at the end of those ten cards, you
have just altered the future to your benefit. Those cards will now be placed at
the bottom of the deck. Should the dealer shuffle up early, you will avoid them
altogether. In addition, if you were keeping count, you would know that the
deck was favorable during the first 3-4 hands since there would be an abundance
of tens in the portion of the deck that will be played. You would accordingly
increase you bet size to maximize your winnings.

   Some dealers will unknowingly split the deck into unequal stacks. However,
more often than not, they are REQUIRED to split the deck into unequal stacks.
If they are required to do this, they are performing the House Shuffle. The
casino has trained the dealer to shuffle a particular way...on purpose! Why?
Because in the long run, the house will benefit from this because most players
will not cut any bad clumps out of play. If you have played BlackJack in a
casino, how much did you pay attention to the way they shuffled? Like most
people you were probably oblivious to it, perhaps you figured that during the
shuffle would be a good time to ask that hot waitress for another drink.
Regardless, you now see that it may be a good idea to pay attention during the
shuffle instead of that set of "big breastseses" as David Allen Grier says on
the "In Living Color" TV show ;)-8-<

   There are a number of shuffle methods, some of which have been labeled as:
the "Zone Shuffle", the "Strip Shuffle", and the "Stutter Shuffle". The Zone
Shuffle is particular to shoe games (multiple deck games) and is probably one
of the most common shuffle methods which is why I mention it here. It is
accomplished by splitting the shoe into 4 to 8 piles depending on the number
of decks in the shoe. Prescribed picks from each pile are made in a very exact
way with intermittent shuffles of each pair of half deck sized stacks. The net
effect is a simple regrouping of the cards pretty much in the same region of
the shoe as they were before, thereby preventing clumps of cards from being
randomly mixed. If the dealer won 40 hands and you won 20, this trend is
likely to continue until you are broke or until the unfavorable bias is
removed through many shuffles.

   What if the players are winning the 40 hands and the dealer only 20? If the
dealer has been mentally keeping track of how many hands each side has won in
the shoe, the dealer will probably do one of two things. One is to keep the
shuffle the same, but 'strip' the deck. When a dealer strips a deck, he/she
strips off one card at a time from the shoe letting them fall on top of one
another onto the table. This action causes the order of the cards to be
reversed. The main consequence is to dissipate any clumping advantages (a bunch
of tens in a clump) that the players may have. The second thing the dealer may
do is simply change the way they shuffle to help randomize the cards.

   I personally believe that casinos use certain shuffles on purpose for the
sole reason that they gain some sort of advantage. A BlackJack dealer friend
of mine disputes the whole theory of card clumping and shuffle tracking
though. The mathematics and simulation prove the non-random nature of certain
shuffles under controlled conditions. Perhaps in an actual casino environment
the effect isn't as high. Regardless, next time you are playing in a casino
and its time to shuffle a shoe, ask the dealer to CHANGE they WAY he/she
shuffles. The answer will nearly always be NO. Try to appeal to the pit boss
and he/she will probably mumble something about casino policy. Why are they
afraid to change the shuffle?

Relevant Reading: [4], [5] Chapters 5 and 6 pages 71 to 98, [14] pages 463
to 466, and [15] which is very detailed and accessible via Internet FTP.


Casino Security and Surveillance:
--------------------------------

   I figured this section might get some people's attention. It is important
to know what the casino is capable of as far as detecting cheating (by
employees and customers) and spotting card counters.

EYE IN THE SKY: A two way mirror in the ceiling of the casino. It's not hard
to spot in older casinos as it usually is very long. Before 1973 or so,
employees traversed catwalks in the ceiling and it was easy for dealers and
players to hear when they were being watched. Sometimes dust from the ceiling
would settle down onto a table when someone was above it. Newer casinos use
those big dark plexiglass bubbles with video camera's which should be watched
constantly. These cameras have awesome Z00M capabilities and according to
Reference [9], the cameras can read the word "liberty" on a penny placed on a
BlackJack table. I am sure the resolution is better than that for the latest
equipment. The video images are also taped for use as evidence should anything
that is suspect be detected. Just like computer security audit logs, if no one
pays attention to them, they don't do much good. If you want a job monitoring
gamblers and casino employees, you need to train for about 500 hours (about
twenty 40 hour weeks) to learn all the tricks people try to pull on you.
Pretty intensive program wouldn't you say?

CASINO EMPLOYEES: Then there are the casino employees. The dealers watch the
players, the floor men watch the dealers and the players, the pitbosses watch
the dealers, the floormen, and the players, etc. There may be plain clothes
detectives roaming about. In a casino, everyone is suspect.

BLACK BOOK: A company that you will see mentioned in a lot of casino books is
Griffin Investigations. They periodically update a book that casino's
subscribe to that have pictures and related info on barred card counters and
known casino cheats.....I suppose the "black book" as it is called, is
analogous to the "Bell security hit-lists", that had (have?) files on known
phreaks and hackers.


Social Engineering the Casino:
------------------------------

   If you are good at getting an ESS operator to enter NET-LINE on DN COE-XXXX,
and at getting those "Engineering Resistant Hard Asses up at SNET (Southern
New England Telephone)" [as The Marauder affectionately calls them] to give
you the new CRSAB number; then this section will be a piece of cake for you
to master.

   References [3], [7], and [8] have many stories regarding playing in
casinos, getting barred, and various exploits. I am not going to repeat any of
them here. In each of those books, the authors talk about their first
experiences getting barred. In each case they were fairly bewildered as to why
they were kicked out, at least until some casino employee or owner told them
things like "you're just too good" and the ever diplomatic: "we know your
kind, get the hell out!".

   As you probably have gathered thus far, card counters are as undesirable in
a casino as a phone phreak is in a central office. There are a number of
behavioral characteristics which have been attributed to the 'typical' card
counter. Probably the most obvious act of a counter is a large increase in bet
size. If you recall in the Card Counting section, when the deck is favorable,
you bet more. When the deck is unfavorable, you bet less. Dr. Thorp's original
system required a variation in bet size from one to ten units. When the deck
is favorable the system may dictate that you go from a ten dollar bet to a
hundred dollar bet. Kind of gets the attention of the dealer and the pit boss.
However, this type of wild wagering is typical of big money hunch bettors.
Hunch betters will just plop down a bunch of chips at random due to 'hunches'.
Therefore, a large increase in bet size won't necessarily cause you to be
pegged as a counter.

   Intense concentration, never taking your eyes off the cards, lack of
emotion...ie, playing like a computer, is pretty much a give away that you are
counting. Other things such as 'acting suspicious', meticulously stacking your
chips, betting in discernable patterns, and a devout abstention from alcohol
may also attract unwanted attention.

   Another criteria used for spotting counters is if there are two or more
people playing in concert with one another. Ken Uston is famous for his
BlackJack teams. They have literally won millions of dollars collectively.
When the "Team-LOD" gets together to play, we have to pretend we don't know
each other so as not to attract undue attention ;-)

   What I mean by Social Engineering the casino is to list ways that trick the
casino into thinking you are just a dumb tourist who is throwing money away.
Look around, smile, act unconcerned about your bet, don't be afraid to talk to
the dealer, floorperson, or pit boss. Don't play 8 hours straight. Perhaps
order a drink. Things of this nature will help deflect suspicion.

   I only recall attracting attention once. The casino wasn't very busy, there
were 3 people at the table including myself. I only had about an hour to play
so I bet aggressively. I started with $5 and $10 but made some $50.00 bets
whenever I got a feeling that I was going to win the next hand (quite the
scientific strategy I know). A woman next to me who seemed to be a fairly
seasoned player made a comment that I was a little too aggressive. The pit boss
hovered about the table. My hour was nearly up, I bet $10.00 for the dealer and
$50.00 for myself. I lost the hand leaving me only $100.00 ahead, and left. The
only thing I could think of besides the betting spread which really wasn't a
big deal was that the casino was FREEZING inside. I was shivering like hell,
it probably looked like I was shaking out of fear of being spotted as a
counter or worse...a cheater.

   So what if a casino thinks you are counter? To be honest, there have
probably been less than 1000 people who have been permanently barred from play
(ie, they have their mugs in the black book). A far greater number have been
asked to leave but were not prevented from returning in the future.

   Tipping the dealer may not necessarily get the casino off your back but
certainly doesn't hurt. When you toke the dealer, place the chip in the corner
of your betting box a few inches from your bet. You may want to say "we are in
this one together" or some such to make sure they are aware of the tip. This
approach is better than just giving them the chip because their 'fate' is tied
in with yours. If your hand wins, 99 out of 100 times they will take the tip
and the tip's winnings off the table.

   The 1 out of 100 that the dealer let the tip+win ride happened to me over
and over again for the better part of a day. It was a week before I had to go
back to college and I was broke, with no money to pay the deposits for rent
and utilities. Basically, if I didn't come up with some money in 7 days, I was
not going back to school. This was 4 years ago BTW. I took out $150 on my
credit card (stupid but hey, I was desperate) and started playing and winning
immediately. I pressed my bets time and time again and in an hour or two had
$500 in front of me (+$350). I started losing a bit so I took a break for a
short while. I went back to a different table with a different dealer. As soon
as I sat down I started winning. I started to tip red chips ($5.00) for the
dealer. The first couple of times he took the $10.00 right away. I kept
winning steadily and continued to toke him. Then he started to let the $10.00
ride! I was amazed because I had never seen that before. That is when I knew I
was HOT. If the dealer is betting on you to win, that says something. When I
stopped playing I cashed in eight black chips. I left with eight one hundred
dollar bills, a net profit of $650.00, just enough to cover everything. Whew!
I probably tipped close to $100.00 that day, and the dealer must have made
double to triple that due to him betting with me. There were a number of times
when the pit boss wasn't close that the dealer would IGNORE my hit or stand
signal. The first time he did this I repeated myself and he did what I asked
but gave me a 'look'. Needless to say, I lost the hand. After that, if he
'thought' I said stand, I didn't argue. This occurred when he had a ten as the
up-card so he knew his total from peeking at the hole card. I am not sure if
this is considered cheating because I did not ask him to do this, nor did we
conspire. It just happened a few times, usually when I had $25-$50 bets on the
line which is when I made sure to throw in a red chip for him.


Casino Cheating and Player Cheating:
------------------------------------

   Cheating by the house is rare in the major casinos ie, those located in
Nevada and Atlantic City. The Nevada Gaming Commission may revoke a casino's
gambling license if a casino is caught cheating players. Granted, there may be
a few employees (dealers, boxmen, whomever) that may cheat players, but it is
extremely doubtful any casino in Nevada or Atlantic City does so on a
casino-wide scale. You definitely should be wary of any casino that is not
regulated such as those found on many cruise ships. Because a casino does not
have to answer to any regulatory agency does not mean it is cheating players.
The fact is that casino's make plenty of money legitimately with the built-in
house advantages and don't really need to cheat players to survive. I provide
some cheating methods here merely to make you aware of the scams. These
techniques are still carried out in crooked underground casinos and private
games.

   The single deck hand-held BlackJack game is quite a bit more susceptible to
cheating by both the dealer and the player than games dealt from a shoe. The
preferred method of dealer cheating is called the "second deal". As you may
infer, this technique requires the card mechanic to pretend to deal the top
card but instead deals the card that is immediately under the top card.
Imagine if you could draw a low card when you need a low card, and a high card
when you need a high card. You could win large sums of money in a very short
period. Well, a dealer who has the ability to execute the demanding sleight of
hand movements for second dealing can drain even the best BlackJack player's
bankroll in short order.

   If someone is going to deal seconds, they must know what the second card is
if he or she is to benefit. One way to determine the second card is by
peeking. A mechanic will distract you by pointing or gesticulating with the
hand that is holding the deck. "Look! There's Gail Thackeray!". While you are
busy looking, the dealer is covertly peeking at the second card. A more risky
method is pegging. A device called a pegger is used to put small indentations
in the cards that the dealer can feel. Pegging all the ten value cards has
obvious benefits.

   Another method is the "high-low pickup". I like this one because it's easy
for a novice to do especially in a place where there are a lot of distractions
for the players. After every hand, the dealer picks up the cards in a high-low
alternating order. The mechanic then proceeds with the "false shuffle" in
which the deck is thought to have been shuffled but in reality the cards
remain in the same order as before the shuffle. As you well know by now, a
high-low-high-low arrangement of the cards would be death to the BlackJack
player. Get dealt a ten and then a 5, you have to hit, so get another ten.
Busted. Since the dealer doesn't lose until he/she busts, all the players who
bust before lose. Bottom dealing and switching hole cards are other techniques
that may be used to cheat players.

   For shoe games, there is a device called a "holdout shoe" that essentially
second deals for the dealer. Discreet mirrors and prisms may be contained in
the holdout shoe which only allow the dealer to see what card is next.
Shorting a regular shoe of ten cards will obviously have a detrimental effect
on the BlackJack player.

   Player cheating isn't recommended. However, I'll quickly list some of the
methods for awareness purposes. The old stand-by of going up to a table,
grabbing some chips, and running like hell is still done but certainly lacks
originality. Marking cards while you play is another popular method. "The
Daub" technique is done by clandestinely applying a substance that leaves an
almost invisible smudge on the card. High value cards like tens are usually
the targets. One scam mentioned in one of the references was the use of a
special paint that was only visible to specially made contact lenses. The
"hold out" method requires the palming of a card and substituting a better
one. This is usually done when there is big money bet on the hand. One of the
risks to these methods is when the deck is changed since the pit boss always
scrutinizes the decks after they are taken out of play.

   Other methods entail playing two hands and switching cards from one hand to
the other, counterfeiting cards and/or casino chips, adding chips after a
winning hand (I have seen this done twice, couldn't believe my eyes but
certainly wasn't going to RAT the thieves out). Some dealers may be careless
when looking at their hole card for a BlackJack. A person behind the dealer on
the other side of the pit may be able to discern the card. The value is then
signalled to a player at the table. Astute pit bosses may notice someone who
is not playing that scratches their head too much though. Wireless signalling
devices have been used for various purposes but some casinos have new
electronic detection systems that monitor certain frequencies for activity.


Some Comments Regarding Computer BlackJack Software for PC's:
---------------------------------------------------------------

   I strongly recommend that you practice using a BlackJack program of some
kind before going out to play with real cash. The first program I used for
'training' some years ago was "Ken Uston's BlackJack" on my old Apple ][+.
Later I acquired "Beat The House" for the same machine. I recently bought a
program for my IBM and have been using it to refresh my memory regarding basic
strategy, card counting, and money management techniques. I assume you will
recognize the guy's name in the title now that you have read most of this
article. I bought: "Dr. Thorp's Mini BlackJack" by Villa Crespo Software at a
Wal-Mart of all places for a measly $7.88. This is an abridged version
however. Villa Crespo charges $12.95 for it if you order via mail. They also
offer an unabridged version for $29.95 via mail. Villa Crespo (don't ask me
where they got that name) offers other programs for Craps, Video Poker, and
7-Card Stud in case you are interested in those games of chance. By the way,
on the order form I also noticed "FAILSAFE Computer Guardian (Complete
protection and security for your system)" for $59.95. For some reason any time
a piece of paper has the word 'security' on it, my eyes zero in on it....

   Some features that I liked about this scaled down version of their
BlackJack program were the TUTOR, which advises you on whether to hit, stand,
take insurance (no way), etc. as per Basic Strategy. The Tutor for the
abridged version does NOT take into consideration the card count when making
recommendations though. If you are counting the cards, the program keeps count
also, so if you lose count you can check it by pressing a function key. The
STATS option is neat since it keeps track of things such as how many hands
were dealt, how many you won/lost, etc. and can be printed out so you can
track your progress. The program allows you to save your current session in
case you get the urge to dial up the Internet to check your email, something
that should be done every hour on the hour....

   One thing I did not like about the program was that it allowed you to bet
over your bankroll. I accidentally pushed [F2] (standardized at $500.00 a
bet instead of [F1] (standardized at $5.00 a bet) ---- a slight difference in
wager I'd say. Having only $272.00 in my bankroll didn't stop the program from
executing the command and in my opinion it should have prevented the overdraft.

   The first time I played Dr. Thorp's Mini BlackJack, it took me about 95
hands to double my money. I started with $200.00, bet from $5.00 to $25.00,
never dropped below $180.00 which surprised me, and received 3 BlackJacks. I
won 63 hands, and lost 32. I played head on against the dealer, although the
program allows for up to 6 players. I consider that lucky since I had my fair
share of going broke in later sessions.

   My advice when using a BlackJack computer program is: do not start with a
bizzillion dollars or anything like that. Start with the amount that you truly
plan to use when you sit down at an actual table. If you play in a crowded
casino, all the low minimum bet tables (ie: $1.00 to $5.00) will most likely be
filled to capacity and only $10.00 or $15.00 tables will have openings. Keep
this in mind because when you make bets with the computer program, you should
wager no less than whatever the minimum will be at the table you sit down at.
If your bankroll is only $200.00 playing at anything more than a $5.00 minimum
table is pushing it.

   Another thing to note is that playing at home is kind of like watching
Jeopardy on TV while you are sitting on the couch. People who have been on the
show always say it was much harder than when they blurted out answers during
dinner with their mouths full (the Heimlich maneuver--a real lifesaver!). The
same thing goes for BlackJack. When you are sitting at an actual table, your
adrenaline is flowing, your heart starts to pump faster, you make irrational
plays especially when you start losing, and odds are you will forget things
that were memorized perfectly. There is no substitute for the real thing and
real experience.


Quick Comments on Other Casino Games:
-------------------------------------

   A few people suggested I briefly mention some of the other casino games so
I added this section. I don't go into much detail at all as this file is too
unwieldy already. Besides, if you want to know more, I am sure you'll pick up
the appropriate reference. Hundreds of books have been published on gambling
and they are available by contacting [2]. My aim here was to mention details
that most people may not be aware of.

BACCARAT: This is the game you see in movies a lot. See [12]'s FAQ for a good
explanation of this game.

CRAPS: Craps is probably the most complicated casino game as far as the
different ways to bet things are concerned but its really not that hard to
learn. I just want to throw one table at you adapted from Reference [13]. The
table won't make much sense unless you are already familiar with craps. In
case you have forgotten or didn't know, craps is 'that dice game'. The purpose
of presenting it is to save you $$$$$ <-- Still love that dollar sign key! hehe

                         Lamest Bets at the Craps Table

                BET            PAYS     SHOULD PAY   YOUR ADVANTAGE
              -------------------------------------------------------
              Any-7            4  to 1     5 to 1         -16.7 %
              2 (or 12)        30 to 1    35 to 1         -13.9 %
              Hard 10 (or 4)   7  to 1     8 to 1         -11.1 %
              3 (or 11)        15 to 1    17 to 1         -11.1 %
              Any Craps        37 to 1     8 to 1         -11.1 %
              Hard 6 (or 8)    9  to 1    10 to 1         -9.1  %

SLOTS: Playing slots is a gamble. Obviously you say. No, I mean its a gamble
to play them. House advantages are almost never displayed on a particular slot
machine. Different machines and different locations may have different casino
win percentages. When you go up to a slot machine, you have no idea if its'
advantage over you is 5% or 25%. Unless you have been watching it, you don't
know if it just paid off a big jackpot either. I don't play slots as a matter
of principle. If you do play I think there are still some $.05 slots in Vegas.
Play the nickel slots and keep your shirt, especially if its an LOD T-shirt.

VIDEO POKER: Reference [13] gives the following advice regarding video poker:
"...don't expect to win. Manage your money so that you limit your losses." I
think its a bit negative but I can't argue with the logic. Also, as with
slots, you may want to play at a machine that is networked with others which
has a progressive payoff. This way at least you have a chance of making the
big bucks in addition to those periodic small payoffs.

VIDEO BLACKJACK: If you like to avoid people and like BlackJack, you may be
thinking that this is a great way for you to "hack two systems with one
password" and make a little money on the side. Before you start putting
quarter or dollar tokens into video BlackJack machines there are a couple of
things to know. First, you can't use card counting techniques because
every hand is essentially dealt from a new deck. When the computer deals a
hand it is just providing 'random' cards. Perhaps if you saw the source code,
you may be able to determine some sort of bias but I suspect it would be
minuscule at best. The rules vary from machine to machine and the maximum
allowable bet varies also. As with the video poker and video slot machines,
the owner of the machine may set the options to their taste (amount of profit).


Selected Bibliography:
----------------------

The following are some references you may want to check out and some of my
sources of information for this article. They are not in any particular order
and the format is far from standard as opposed to my thesis bibliography :)

[1] "BlackJack Forum Newsletter" by RGE Publishing in Oakland California. This
is a quarterly publication which has the location and rule variations info
(among other things) for casinos in the state of Nevada.

[2] The Gamblers Book Club (its really a store) can sell you a sample of the
BlackJack Forum Newsletter for $10.00. They have all kinds of new and out of
print books, used magazines, etc. They are located in Vegas (630 S. 11th St.)
so stop by in person or call 1-800-634-6243 which was valid as of 6/1/93 since
I just gave them a ring...the guy I spoke to was very nice and helpful so I
thought I'd give them a plug here.

[3] "Beat The Dealer" by Dr. Edward O. Thorp. Make sure you get the SECOND
edition (1966) since it has Dr. Julian Braun's additions to the original 1962
edition.

[4] "Gambling Times Magazine" (now defunct), 'BlackJack Bias Part 1 and 2' July
and August 1987 Issues by Mason Malmuth. This magazine was great because it
kept you up to date on the latest in gambling systems and what casinos are up
to. The article is about the author using his PC to perform simulations
regarding the effects of non-random card distribution on BlackJack.

[5] "Break The Dealer" by Jerry L. Patterson and Eddie Olsen, 1986 Perigee
Books. Worth the money for the chapters on Shuffle Tracking alone.

[6] "The Optimum Strategy in BlackJack" by Roger R. Baldwin, Wilbert E.
Cantey, Herbert Maisel, James P. McDermott. Journal of the American
Statistical Association, September 1956. Eight of ten pages are mathematics.

[7] "The World's Greatest BlackJack Book" revised edition (1987) by Dr. Lance
Humble and Dr. Carl Cooper, Doubleday. I am not sure it is THE world's
greatest, but it is an excellent book. It is 400 pages and provides more
details than you probably care to know about the Hi-Opt I counting system.

[8] "Turning the Tables on Las Vegas" by Ian Anderson, 1978. This is an
excellent book if you were interested in The Social Engineering the Casino
section. The author shares a lot of interesting and funny stories that can
keep you from getting barred. Note that 'Ian Anderson' is the authors' handle.

[9] "Las Vegas, Behind the Tables" by Barney Vinson, 1986, Gollehon Press.
Written by a casino executive, I found it to be quite illuminating.

[10] "Gambling Scams" by Darwin Ortiz, 1990, Carrol Publishing. If you play in
any private games, be sure to read this one to avoid getting screwed. It even
has a section on crooked carnival games.

[11] "Winning Without Counting" by Stanford Wong. This book has an interesting
section on 'Dealer Tells' and how to exploit them.

[12] "Rec.Gambling" Internet USENET Newsgroup. The rec.gambling newsgroup is
an excellent free source of current information on BlackJack and other games.
People who have just gotten back from various casinos post about their playing
results and the treatment from casinos. One person just posted that he was
barred from playing BlackJack (a casino employee told him he could play any
game in the casino EXCEPT BlackJack) after he was ahead only $40.00. The
reason apparently was due to his fairly mechanical play and betting. The
rec.gambling FAQ was message #15912 when I read the newsgroup on 6/8/93. They
plan on posting the FAQ every month or so. I found the FAQ to be very
informative. There is an alt.gambling newsgroup but it is dead with 0
messages.

[13] "The Winner's Guide to Casino Gambling", revised edition by Edwin
Silberstang, 1989 Plume printing. This book covers a wide range of casino
games and has a large list of gambling terms in the back.

[14] "Gambling and Society" edited by William R. Eadington, 1976. This book
provides plenty of information on the psychology of gambling. I found the
section on 'Who Wants to be a Professional Gambler?' interesting as the study
indicates the types of vocations that show high correlations with being a
professional gambler. One of those vocations with an 'extremely high
correlation' was being a Secret Service agent. Maybe Agent Foley will change
jobs.....he can't do much worse, ahem. Chapter 24 by James N. Hanson is
entitled "Nonlinear Programming Simulation and Gambling Theory Applied to
BlackJack" which some of you programmers might be interested in.

[15] "The BlackJack Shuffle-Tracking Treatise" by Michael R. Hall accessible
via the Internet by anonymous FTP: soda.berkeley.edu in the
pub/rec.gambling/blackjack directory. This is a very detailed 78K file that
was well done. It provides plenty of the nitty-gritty details that I did not
have the space to mention in this article. I highly recommend it.

[16] "Risk of Ruin" by Michael R. Hall available from same source as [15]
above. This paper provides some mathematical formulas for helping you
determine the likelihood of losing portions of your starting bankroll.
Although the equations look complicated, anyone with a $10. scientific
calculator can use them. The author provides source code for a program written
in C that calculates the risk formula. Also get his "Optimal Wagering" file
which helps you determine your bet size.

[17] The movie: "Fever Pitch" starring Ryan 'O Niel. This is the most realistic
movie I have seen regarding the psychology of a gambler. If I recall correctly,
it was made in 1985 and is in most video rental stores.


Final Comments:
---------------

   Let me quickly thank those who took the hour to read my article, recommended
corrections and offered their insightful comments: The Marauder, Mark Tabas,
Professor Falken, Al Capone, Jester Sluggo, and Bruce Sterling. Also, I would
like to thank JLE, my 'gambling mentor' mentioned earlier even though he
doesn't know me as 'lex' and probably will never see this file.

   If anyone has comments, corrections, etc. feel free to email me. Kindly
note that I have no interest in receiving flames from any self professed
BlackJack experts out there as I do not claim to be an expert and due to size
restrictions, I couldn't get all that complicated regarding counting
techniques and such. Besides, anyone who wants to get serious will take the
time to thoroughly read the references listed in the previous section. My main
purpose was to familiarize you with the game of BlackJack and provide a
resource which can point you in the right direction for more in-depth
information. Thank you for your time and I hope you learned something from
this article even if you don't put any of the information to use.

   If you have something really SEKRET to tell me, here is my PGP Public Key:

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                 End of "How To Hack BlackJack": File 2 of 2

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