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They thought that the world was their oyster. Then, technology caught up with them. Card counters are the bane of casinos, but this perennial game of cat and mouse is entering a new stage.

The big question is: how to spot a card counter?

Casinos seem to have found an interesting solution by recruiting card counters to help them address the issue, and yet – there is no one way to pinpoint the mavericks who come to the casino floor to pilfer the Baccarat and Blackjack tables.  

Despite the difficulties that now lie ahead, card counters are still going to try, but casinos are also getting smarter. From facial recognition to having card counters on the payroll themselves, the casino ecosystem is evolving. Some card counters find these new challenges just as titillating as winning a big pile of cash.

How to Spot Card Counter: Facial Recognition

A lone Matt Damon plays the casino odds.
Counting cards is a lonely business.

Old acquaintances of the casinos will often run into a wall when they want to enter properties from which they have been evicted in the first place. While the fake beard and glasses camouflage might have worked in the past, these days it’s a signal that the customer is fishy.

Not only that, but casino facial recognition software, and the technology’s power is leveraged in the world’s gaming centers, from Las Vegas to Macau. Having automated solutions, though, doesn’t quite cut the whole thing, as this is only good for individuals who have been blacklisted from the property. There are many fresh faces to consider as well.

Eyes in the Sky and Security’s Watch

No casino customer is ever alone. The cameras that hang from the ceiling are there to keep a vigilant watch and security have eyes on all gamers. Now, this doesn’t mean that they are prying in your business unless you make yourself worthy of attention.

The casino’s security is continuously watching and trying to spot gamers who are showing symptoms of card counting. Unusual concentration is usually the first sign of a guilty party, and the casino has several ways of prodding a player to establish whether they are up to no-good.

Can You Hold Your Liquor?

Card counters are often showered with complementary drinks. Casinos have long established that the average customer doesn’t turn a free drink and if they are reluctant to imbibe the brew, then this is only one more reason to look into the customer.

Staff is sent to try and distract the individual and card counters are once again reluctant to bandy words while a hand is dealt. While a casino has to do some guessing work, these red flags are enough to win a potential card counter all the attention they have been hoping to avoid.

Shuffling After Dealing

You don’t have to picture casinos as places where security comes along with a few brawny looking guys who are quite happy to toss you out of the property. Rather, casinos prefer to beat you at the table. So, they ask dealers to shuffle more often, adding a new layer of difficult to card counters. Make no mistake, though, because this is just one of the many steps.

Ocean's Eleven duo wheeling out a safe full of cash.
Don’t ever try waltzing out of a casino with a safe.

Your drinks will keep coming and the waitress staff will be particularly loquacious. If you are in the position of a card counter yourself, then you can rest assure that the casino is onto you.

Adding decks to the shoe is also used as a deterrent and making things a little more difficult even for counters to work their magic.

Secret Customers Aren’t Card Counters’ Friends

Meanwhile, casinos don’t only require on “control” to oversee all that is going on on the casino’s floor. There are secret customers who amble around the casino floors and try to identify other customers who exhibit the behavior that is commonly associated with card counting.

Want to go to a casino and beat the house by counting cards? Then remember that apart from learning how to count cards, you will have to learn how to not flinch in the face of mounting pressure.

Hiring the Pros to Help Out

In many cases, casinos have figured that they can do some good and help a card counter make a living without gaming the system. Instead of trying their luck with a fake mustache, gifted card counters have been asked to join the surveillance and security teams at casinos. Not all of them agree, of course as you have all sorts there.

The card-counting scene from 21.

There are MIT scientists, mathematicians, physicians, and even people who hold down regular jobs but have decided to teach themselves how to count cards. Some do it for the thrill and kicks, others just want a quick buck.

In any case there are those card counters who are actually applying for a job by laying financial waste to casino tables – these are the people who also wouldn’t turn the drinks nor avoid chatting up a fellow gamer, which makes identifying them even harder.

Spotting the Teams of Card Counters

Card counters these days don’t always work alone. Some do it for the fun of having a partner, others have devised even more successful strategies along with others. A good example of a team that really knows what it’s up to is MIT Blackjack Team proved that counting cards can be perfected down to a scientific principle.

Yet, successful card counters today have to do with so much more than just crunching probabilities in their heads. Aptitude at maths has never really been an issue. But playing on a casino floor at a time when there are eyes everywhere and each security member has been trained to spot the card counters – isn’t.

To be successful, a card counter has to feel comfortable which doesn’t come easy to all. For starters, smart people aren’t really inclined to cheat in the first place, especially if they appreciate scientific endeavor above all else.

Card counting is here to stick and as casinos become better at spotting it, so do players devise newer and cleverer tricks to beat the house. It’s an ongoing fight.