Blackjack Cheating : Switching Cards
I have something up my sleeve.
I’m sure you’ve heard this saying before. When someone says this it’s because they have a plan or solution to a problem they’re facing.
That phrase, and others like, I have an ace up my sleeve, actually comes from the cheating method of switching cards in card games like blackjack or poker. Cheaters would hide aces and 10-point cards up their sleeve to use when the opportunity was right.
These aren’t phrases you’ll want to use unless you’re in a MacGyver type situation or emergency, though. I don’t recommend saying them while at the blackjack tables. That is, unless you like the idea of living behind bars, openly showering with your peers and paying large fines.
If you do… that’s cool. I’m not judging you.
My lame attempt at humor aside, switching cards in card games has been around a long time. This article is going to look at this cheating method in more detail, including how to switch cards, who the most famous card switchers are and how the casinos catch these types of cheaters.
How to Switch Cards in Blackjack
The idea behind switching cards is simple; take your own cards, or cards that you’re given, and use them later on to make better blackjack hands.
For example, one way to switch cards is to bring your own deck from home. You’ll want to either be hosting your own game, or make sure that the cards you bring in are identical to the casinos’ cards. You’ll then either give the deck of cards to the dealer (an insider), hide the cards in your sleeve using a mechanical or electronic tool, or hide them somewhere else such as your lap or coat pocket.
Another way to switch cards is to take the cards that you’re dealt and hide those. This method is known as mucking. Once you take the card and hide it up your sleeve or in your lap, you’ll tell the dealer he forgot to give you your second card.
And yet another way to switch cards is to play two hands at once. Then switch cards between the two hands to make the best blackjack hands possible.
The problem, though, is that the theory is simple enough to understand. Actually switching cards is another story altogether.
The biggest problem with switching cards nowadays is that there are so many ways to get caught. Between thousands of cameras in each casino, trained dealers and mindful tablemates, you’d damn near need to become a magician to pull this cheat off.
That’s not an exaggeration either, nor is it bad advice. If you want to become a skilled card sharp, you’ll need to be able to manipulate the cards and move them quickly and seamlessly. In other words, you can’t try to pick up a card and shove it into your sleeve or pull a card out of your sleeve, only then to drop it. You can’t be nervous and shaking, all the while trying to pull an ace of hearts out of your pants pocket. That fumbling, shaky, nervousness is one of the reasons why novice cheaters get busted, according to Las Vegas casino security experts.
So you got to be good at this stuff. Fortunately, all sleight of hand takes is time and practice. Sleight of hand experts recommend practicing at home. One of the best ways to practice is in front of a mirror. You could also practice in front of friends and family.
Just don’t practice at the casino.
How Do Casinos Detect Card Switching?
There are a number of ways for casinos to detect card switching or mucking. It’s going to be near impossible for players to do it in a large, regulated and well-funded casino. Here are the different methods for how casinos catch card sharps.
Eye in the Sky – Even if the dealers or pit bosses miss the cheat, the cameras will pick up everything.
Casino Decks – The casinos use their own cards, so you’ll have a difficult time slipping in your own unless you can get the exact same ones. And even then it’s not guaranteed to work. Many casinos mark their own decks in such a way that the dealer can quickly tell if there has been new cards integrated into the existing deck.
Old Decks – Casinos often give away their old cards. However, before they sell/give them to customers they usually mark them in some way — usually using a punch. That way customers can’t take the cards home, mark them and then bring them back to switch them into the games.
Dealer Training – Dealers know to look for different card markings, players with long sleeves and players that might be trying to drop cards below the table.
Other Players – If you’re not smooth and paying attention to everyone else, they’ll catch you.
Famous Card Switchers
Roland "Rico" Chapa was convicted of cheating in 2008. He was arrested at a church event after a dealer noticed that Rico was making blackjack after blackjack using the same two cards. One of the witnesses questioned mentioned that they saw a 2 of spades fall out of Rico’s slacks.
Rico faced up to two years in prison, which is surprisingly low, given that authorities have been after Rico for apparently 10-30 years for crimes ranging from gangster activities to bookmaking. He only served five days after making a $5,000 restitution offer to the church.
Rico died in 2012, after leading an eventful life of appearing in a few movies, running organized crime groups, furniture businesses and being friends with guys like John Gotti and Martin Sheen.