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How Not to Get Barred
by Bobby Singer

I’ve personally been barred from casinos all over the world. Casinos from Monte Carlo to Africa to Tasmania, the Caribbean, New Jersey, Nevada and many more have requested that I refrain from playing Blackjack in their establishment, usually suggesting I play one of their other games. Games like Craps and Roulette are games of chance. As a professional gambler since 1960 I don’t believe in gambling or taking risks. I only play Blackjack, which, as a skilled player, gives me a mathematical advantage over the casino.

My playing career lasted more than twenty years because I was able to disguise card counting in many ways. I made myself aware of the casino’s attitude toward counters, how they determined a player’s skills, and how they reacted once they determined those skills, and, I learned how to react to their decisions.

Card counters and pit bosses have been at odds since the inception of counting. Casino employees are just that, employees — they put in their eight hours a day, five days a week. Most do not realize the time and effort it takes to become a successful card counter. When they see someone “playing” for a few hours, winning more than they make in a week, it is only natural for them to feel resentment. Casinos use all kinds of counter-measures to ward off skilled players: shuffling up, deliberately not dealing to a suspected counter if he raises his bet, and, of course, barring a counter from playing at all.

Being barred is something of which to be aware of, but not afraid of. It is an occupational hazard. There are only a handful of counters left that have made serious money, and yet, have never been barred. When a player is barred, the casino supervisor will approach him and politely ask him to take his action elsewhere. The player should not argue, he simply leaves. He can always return to that casino on a different shift. After a couple of months he will likely have been forgotten and can return to the same shift on which he was barred.

Some casinos subscribe to the Griffin Agency, which protects casinos from cheats, scams, and also counters. They do this through the use of a mug book. Only counters who bet unusually large amounts of money make this book, and fewer and fewer casinos are using this service, preferring to handle counters themselves.

Casino policy on counters varies from casino to casino. Some, like Caesar’s Palace don’t seem to care at all, while others suspect all Blackjack players as counters. In New Jersey, however, casinos cannot bar counters from play.

The ways counters are generally detected falls into two categories:

1. Careless betting practices;
2. Physical actions.

The following are suggestions and tips players should adopt to avoid being detected as card counters.

Let’s discuss some of the basics for disguising your play. These simple common sense tactics allowed me to play twenty years, undetected. If it hadn’t been for my appearances on widely viewed TV Shows, like Larry King Live, I might still be using some of these tactics and still playing. To begin, while counting, be careful not to move your lips. Don’t stare at all the cards. Look away, look back, and appear as if you’re gazing around the casino. I often wore sunglasses so they couldn’t see my eyes. When I did this, I would say things like “I forgot my glasses at home and only brought these prescription sunglasses,” or “I can’t see without them and it’s very dark playing with them.” If you’re playing first base and you bust or get a Blackjack, don’t wait for the other hands to be completed to have a completed count. Estimate the count and make your bet immediately. Adding to, or lessening your bet at the last moment is a dead give-away.

Card counters never drink. Therefore, I’d order double gin on the rocks occasionally fake taking a sip, and when I got a really negative shoe, leave the chips on the table, ask directions to a rest room, take my drink with me then pour it out and fill it up with water. I’d also take some chips (hopefully unnoticed) and pocket them to help disguise my winnings.

Don’t dress up to play Blackjack. A well-dressed person looks intelligent and will get more attention. I usually wear something like a Detroit Red Wings T-shirt.

Hone your counting skills so you can both count and carry on conversations with the dealers and pit bosses. Use chips from previous sittings whenever possible. When you take cash from your pocket, they know what you started with and therefore how much you win. Be careful when you take insurance. Your skills as a counter in reference to insurance rules dictate when the count warrants such action. However, you must exercise good judgment. Example, you have fifteen and the pit boss is standing at your table and you take insurance. That certainly shows the quality of your skills. If you’ve been on a streak and the dealer is now shuffling, don’t reduce your bet. That is looked on by the pit boss as a strong sign of counting.

Sit at first or third base so you can count cards in a straight line. If you sit at the center of the table, you will be looking left and right like you’re at a tennis match. An obvious sign you’re checking out all the cards. Do not study the discard tray. Just occasionally glance at it to estimate the number of remaining decks. All of the above, if followed, will certainly extend your playing career.

The number one reason card counters are detected is greed. On each Blackjack table there is a sign indicating the minimum and maximum bet for that table. Let’s say you’re on a table with a $5.00 minimum bet and a $2000.00 maximum bet. That doesn’t mean you can bet from $5-2000. A spread of 4-5 to one is usually tolerated.

There are many things I did as a player to increase the spread of bets. Let me share some of those plays with you.

Most players buy chips of only one color, red, green or black. Some get two colors. I always got red, green and black. I would usually begin a shoe with one black, many red and some green (approximately $200.00). Then I would mix my bets to several red and a few green (approximately $100.00). I would continually mix the colors to look like a lot of chips when really my average bet was only about $75.00-100.00. During the last deck before the shuffle when the count was favorable I would bet many black and many red with a few green and sometimes duplicate this for a second hand. This method always rated me in the casino as a big player, (whale) not as a card counter. The three chips color system will almost always confuse the casino! Sometimes I would play at a table with my wife, where we would alternate large bets. She would bet large and I would bet small when the count was favorable. Than I would bet large and she would bet small. Then we both made large bets. We referred to this style of play as the “Superstition Method.”

There are many ways to be careful and extend your playing career. Pay attention! Be aware of your surroundings. If the pit area looks empty, the eye in the sky is busy.

When the cut card placement gets shorter, you know the heat is on.

Don’t tip away your profits, however an occasional bet for the dealer can often get a deeper cut card placement. When tipping, do it in the fashion of a bet. I place their bet in my circle but tell them it’s for them. When the bet wins I give them the winnings and let the original bet ride. This way when you have a streak, the dealer may win 3-5 bets in a row. Sometimes I tip when I see the replacement dealer standing behind the dealer. This gets the attention of two dealers for one bet.

Above all remember, you have the edge. You’re holding all the “cards.” If you are ever told your action is no longer wanted at a casino, accept it, be courteous and leave. There are still hundreds of casinos left that just might be holding some chips for you. And above all enjoy the art of winning.

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