Why Blackjack hole-carding is so vastly popular as a cheating method—even when handheld blackjack games have all but virtually disappeared.
Well, to start off, it is one of two cheating methods that carries very little risk to those participating in it. Like collusion partnerships in poker, playing the exposed hole-card at blackjack is considered cheating in the majority of land-based gaming areas, but conversely, it is almost impossible to prove, and I have yet heard of anyone being convicted of a crime for hole-carding blackjack. Yes, there have been a handful of arrests over the past few decades, maybe even a dozen, but when push comes to shove in court–in the rare event it gets that far–judges have always told the prosecuting casinos to take a walk.
So what have the hassled blackjack hole-carders systematically done after their day in court? Obviously take a walk right back to the blackjack tables.
When considering the vast forms of cheating inside land-based casinos in many important gaming areas like Las Vegas, Atlantic City, Mississippi and Connecticut, ANY form of casino–cheating is considered a felony–and can be punished with a five-year prison sentence even on a first conviction. So this makes hole-carding ever so appealing to casino cheats who want to stay inside the casinos and out of jail.
Casinos have long been aware of blackjack hole-carding and even longer simple blackjack card-counting. They have taken various measures over the years to protect themselves against it. The biggest measure taken against card-counting, as most of you are aware of, has been the installation of automatic card-shufflers and cutting off a sizeable percentage of the cards in the shoe remaining to be dealt.
But what some of you may not be aware of, especially those who were not frequenting land-based casinos before the 1990s, is that back then there were lots of handheld blackjack games using one or two decks, where dealers held the pack of cards chest-high and flung them to the players around the table much like poker-dealers do today. Casinos began removing handheld games in the 1980s when card-counting went on a rage similar to the one poker experienced in the 2000s. Today there a very few handheld games left in the world, and some major gaming areas including Atlantic City, Connecticut and Mississippi never even had a handheld blackjack game.
Even though hole-carding was not a well-known cheating-art when handheld games began disappearing, for those who practiced it, that removal was devastating. At the height of handheld games dozens of dealers could be found at every major casino flashing their hole-cards as they slid them off the top of the deck and tucked them underneath their up-cards. Hole-carders working in teams with players sitting at either side of the table and standing behind the dealer across the pit could get accurate reads on the dealers´ hole-cards better than 50% of the time in some cases. All that was needed to generate a good profit was 20% if the team applied accurate basic strategy to the hands where they couldn´t read the hole-card.
But suddenly the handheld games were gone, replaced by four and six-deck card-shoes, leaving the bulk of hole-carders looking for a new cheat-technique to apply. But some did not go away so easily. They found dealers who still gave a view to their hole-cards as they slid them underneath their up-cards, or during the instant before, when they would shift the card to one side to make the card-tucking a bit easier. Good hole-card readers were able to identify the value of the cards from just a tiny peak at their corners.
So hole-carding was born again, even though it took more than a decade to regain the popularity it had during the handheld days.
So what is the optimum hole-carding strategy like present–day? It hasn’t changed much. You can see all the different strategies (which operate basically the same) with a simple online search. But the two keys to employing them are these: find dealers that are at least 15% readable; and make camouflage plays every so often to hide what you´re doing. If you stand your hand three times against a ten up-card and then you hit three times against a ten up-card and are right all six times, someone watching will catch onto to you. So give up a bit of your edge to stay in hole-carding action longer. Remember this: DON’T BE GREEDY!
What does this mean? It simply means if you’re going to go through the trouble becoming an expert hole-carder, you might as well marry it to other methods of taking advantage of casino blackjack games. Advantage-player strategies such as advanced-counting, ace-steering and super-team play can be combined to give the hole-carders doing so a very ripe advantage over the casinos.
This article was written by former professional casino cheater, Richard Marcus. Richard Marcus is also the author of American Roulette, a controversial book that reveals how he and other professional cheaters ripped off casinos.
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