Cheating at Blackjack
Wherever there is money to be made, there is going to be someone trying to do it in the fastest and biggest way possible. At all costs. Morals, ethics and consequences aside aka cheating.
I can’t think of an industry more rampant with cheating than gambling. Cheaters take millions of dollars from brick and mortar casinos from all over the world. Some do it for years, only to tell the world about it once they’ve retired. Others end up getting caught, and end up spending years of their lives behind bars.
And we’re kind of fascinated by it. Purely from an ethical and curiosity point of view, of course.
If you are, too, you’ll want to read the rest of this page. We cover the different ways to cheat in blackjack, some of the most famous blackjack cheaters and an example of the consequences for getting caught.
Methods for Cheating at Blackjack
Cheaters have come up with many methods for how to cheat at blackjack. I’ve listed the most common methods below with a brief description. To learn more about that particular cheating method, including how it works, what to look for and who made the method famous, just follow the links.
Card Marking – Card marking is a cheating method used in several card games. The cards are marked in such a way that the players at the table will know the value of each one, preferably the 10-point cards, 5-point and aces. Marking can be done in many ways including scratches, inks and pigments.
Switching Cards – Switching cards can be between an individual or team of players. It involves hiding cards up your sleeve or swapping cards with your partner when the dealer isn’t looking.
Dealers – This can go in one of two ways — in favor of the casino (or the individual if a private game) or in favor of the players. Dealers can deal from certain parts of the deck, help player cheat or not shuffle the cards (so players know where the good cards are).
Electronic – Players use devices to count cards and track the shuffle. They can tell you where all the big and small cards are in the deck. These devices are all small enough to fit in your pocket.
Counting Cards is NOT Cheating
You might be wondering why I didn’t include counting cards above in the cheating section. The reason is simple.
Counting cards is not cheating.
Card counting is only cheating when it’s done using an electronic device or partner. Other than that there are no laws prohibiting players from doing it.
I think the confusion comes from hearing about players being banned from casinos or from watching movies like 21 where the card counters are caught, taken out back and beaten like a red-headed step child. But the movie is just that — a movie. Not everything you watch is real.
Now, casinos do ban card counters. And you can’t blame them either. Would you want someone in your casino, with an advantage, winning millions of dollars from you?
So casinos ban these players. If the players come back on the property (to play blackjack) the casinos can have them arrested for trespassing.
However, not all casinos are able to ban players. In fact, New Jersey casinos are not allowed to ban players for being skilled. Ken Uston filled a lawsuit in 1979 for a casino that tried — and won.
Since then the casinos in Atlantic City have decided to add decks, increase shuffling and get dealers to communicate with suspected card counters to try to break their concentration.
So to reiterate, counting cards isn’t illegal. It’s just frowned upon. In a worst case scenario you’ll be asked to leave and to never return. You won’t be beaten up for it.
Unless you’re a character in a movie, of course.
Famous Blackjack Cheaters
There are a number of well-known blackjack cheaters. Many of these guys were the pioneers of blackjack cheating — they invented the moves, taught them to other cheaters and took the casinos for millions of dollars. In fact, many of them were never caught. Their cheating exploits were later surfaced through autobiographies.
Here are 5 famous blackjack cheaters and what they were known for.
Jerry Palmer – Jerry Palmer was a member of the Classon Past Posting Team. The team initially worked on crap and roulette tables, but after a little encouragement, Jerry convinced the team to try the blackjack tables. He had a payout rate of over 95%. He died in 1994 of an overdose.
Joe Classon – Joe Classon was taught how to past post by his brother. From 1969 to 1989 he ran the most successful past posting team in the world with Jerry Palmer and Duke Swenson. He retired in 1989.
Dustin Marks – Known as the most prolific inside casino cheater, Dustin was known for cheating while dealing at the blackjack tables. His specialty was the peek and second deal, but he also stacked and false shuffled decks. He made millions of dollars cheating, and officials only knew about it after he wrote about it in his book.
Sherri Skoons – Sherri was the only known female past poster. She worked with Richard Marcus’ team, with smaller tasks like cashing out chips and distracting the dealer, and later graduated to the roulette claimer position. Sherri quit in 1995 to go back to school so that she could become a CSI.
Richard Marcus – Richard joined Joe Classon’s past posting team. He learned how to past post on blackjack, roulette and craps tables. He’s known for developing the Savannah roulette pinching move, referred to as the best cheating method. He retired in 2000 and has written 5 books. Richard is known as the best all around casino cheater of all time.
Consequences of Cheating at Blackjack
I’d like to wrap this page up with an example of what happens when you’re caught cheating. Just because I’d hate for the information on this page (and sub pages) to be misconstrued as advice or tips on how to cheat, or that we’re trying to glorify cheating in some way.
That’s not the case at all, though. All I want to do is make you aware of how cheating works in blackjack, so that maybe you can prevent yourself from being scammed in the future.
But just to “scare” you a little bit, consider this recent event from someone who tried to cheat the casinos. Van Thu Tran was a co-founder of the Tran Organization, a group of cheaters that took over $7 million between 2002 and 2007. She was caught and recently sentenced to 3 years in prison and was ordered to pay $5.7 million in restitution.
That’s just one example of hundreds. Keep in mind, too, that jail time and fines are just a small fraction of the negativity she’ll face later in life. She’ll be lucky to ever get a job when she gets out of jail (which may force her to go back to cheating), no one else will trust her and her name will forever be tarnished. So those are some consequences to keep in mind if you ever find yourself considering the thought of cheating at blackjack.