Do not worry about the masks… Just watch the table play

By Bill Zender

Since the beginning of the casino reopening phase, I have heard from several game protection personnel and their concerns about people wearing protective face masks in the casino.  The primary issue is identity concealment.  “How can we spot the threats if we cannot clearly identify the card counters, advantage players, and cheaters beforehand?”  True, the different databases of known advantage players and table game cheaters have made the surveillance operator and the floor supervisor’s task somewhat easier.  Based on his picture, if we know that the person just sitting down and buying in on our high limit table is “Charlie Card Counter”, we can terminate his play before it even gets started.  However, if Charlie is wearing a mask and we cannot confirm it is Charlie, or the camera we have linked to facial recognition software does not see enough facial ID points to alert us it is Charlie, what do we do?  Unfortunately, we are relegated to do exactly what we had to do before there were online databases and recognition software.  Identify the threat through watching the person’s play and analyzing what we observe.  Remember those days!

I know I sound a bit sarcastic, but unfortunately a few casino personnel need to refocus their efforts from remembering faces to improving game protection skill sets.  I also will assume that many of you do know and still practice these skills but might need a short review of what areas you need to focus on for the different table games that are more commonly attacked.  Following, I have some game protection pointers for the different table games.  Those listed are what I believe are the most common avenues of attack that you might experience.  There are many, many more methods that have been left out because they are not a major loss threat or take a greater deal of sophistication to achieve.  Also, do not forget that the customers are not the only people wearing masks.  You also need to focus some of your game protection efforts (as always) on staff members who have access to chips and money.

Note: I found this interesting article on face masks and facial recognition software.


The most common method used for attacking a standard face-up blackjack game is counting cards.  Be sure your surveillance and floor staff are armed with the following skill knowledge:

  1. Know basic strategy inside and out.  If your staff does not know basic strategy well, be sure they have access to a basic strategy chart.  Floor supervisors and surveillance operators cannot protect the game of blackjack adequately (card counting, advantage play, cheating, etc.) if they do not know basic strategy.
  2. The necessary wagering spread a professional level card counter needs to employ to gain a long-term advantage over the casino.  In most standard six-deck blackjack games (3:2 blackjack payoff) the bet spread needs to be 12:1 to 16:1 or greater.  Anything less, the player is not going to earn enough for the effort.  A common professional level spread would be wagering a minimum of $25 (about 80% of the time) with a top wager of $400, usually spread between two hands.
  3. Watch for a correlation between top wagering amounts and the suspected player taking insurance on weak hands.  The professional counter will bet on insurance anytime the count is greater than a true +3 (Hi/Lo count system).  Watch for a customer wagering top bets and insuring “dog” hands like 12 through 16.  I refer to this game protection technique as the “million dollar indicator”.

Remember, if you deal a pitch game where the customers touch the cards, this format opens a whole host of addition threat possibilities.


There are two methods for attacking the game of craps that need to be addressed: dice sliding and pinching /pressing bets after a roll.  Both methods require the floor supervisor or the surveillance operator to be “on their toes” since these are based on sleight-of-hand movements.

Dice sliding or scooting: Usually is accomplished by control sliding one die during the throw.  Remember, randomly thrown dice have a chance of rolling a specific number 1 in 36 rolls; by controlling the outcome of one die, the chances of tossing a specific number are 1 in 6 rolls.  The likely indicators are as follows:

  1. The shooter throws the die from a spot just above or on the table surface.
  2. The controlled die will slide but also spin as it scoots down the table.  The controlled die might actually “fishtail” as it slows down near the end of the slide.
  3. The control die will not hit the back wall of the table.  It will usually halt its trajectory a few inches from the wall.  The die can also be controlled by sliding it and “glancing” it off the number puck.

My recommendation is to not immediately take action and “no roll” the player.  Watch a couple of throws to make sure the short roll was not an accident.  Once it has been determined that the customer is attempting to control the die by sliding it, instruct the player that both dice must hit the far wall of the table.  Instruct the dealer to “no roll” all short throws on that player from then on.

Note: In most jurisdictions dice sliding is not considered cheating unless the dice slider employs an assistant to block the stick position dealer’s view when controlling the die.  If the dealer is not blocked, sees the slide, but does not “no roll” the throw, it is considered an advantage play (legal but undesirable by the casino).

Pinching and Pressing bets after the dice have rolled: Probably the most common method for cheating at craps.  This move is usually done on a table location that is difficult for the box/floor person to see.  The move is also used to place or take down bets at the opposite end of the table where the dice come to rest and are called.  Be aware: Past posting cheaters will look for weak dice crews who do not adequately protect their ends of the table.  Make sure the base dealers watch their layout and not the area of the table where the dice land!

Alternative Table Games

Everybody believes the most common way to attack alternative games is through players collusion and communicating of cards in the hand.  For the most part, this is NOT true.  The rule-of-thumb in a fifty-two (or fifty-three) card game is players at the table must have knowledge of 36 or more playing cards in order to gain enough of a strategy advantage to overcome the mathematical house edge of the game.  If no possibility exists for all the players at the table to combine their hand knowledge to gain information on more than 36 cards, forget about it!

Peeking cards in the dealer’s hand or the community cards

Even though we are all aware of the possibility that the dealer can accidentally expose the value of the dealer’s cards or community cards exists, it still occurs from time to time.  Finding weak dealers who expose the dealer’s cards and community cards when removing them from the shuffler is the advantage player’s “bread and butter”.  Be sure that you spend time examining each dealer’s delivery habits to identify these weaknesses.  Once a weakness is identified, have someone take the dealer aside and instruct them on the correct methods for protecting those cards.  Be sure to continue to monitor their card delivery until you are confident that they have corrected the problem.

Switching cards

For some reason, I do not know of many casinos that have caught this move.  If cards are switched professionally, the move is all but invisible.  One of the most vulnerable table games is Three Card Poker (TCP).  By switching only one card between two players, the player wagering the most money will end up with a high pair, flush, or straight most of the time.  It is a real crusher!  Watch for two players sitting shoulder-to-shoulder with one player betting table minimum and the other bet a much higher amount.  The cards will be switched under the cover of the cheater’s arms.  Another “tell”; watch for the players taking a second peek at their hands.  All alternative card games are subject to card switching.


There are two primary techniques used by cheaters to attack roulette; Past posting a wager after the ball has dropped; and increasing the amount of the roulette color chips through subterfuge.

Past posting after the ball has dropped

Past posting generally refers to adding chips to a wager once an outcome has been determined.  In roulette, the more costly threats usually involve a team of people to distract, block, place the late wager, and claim the bet.  The primary indicators of this technique are a flurry of bets placed just as the ball drops from the rim into the crown and lands in a number. Anytime either the dealer or the floor supervisor believes they might have been “past posted”, surveillance needs to be contacted and the suspicious activity reviewed.  A review of the activity (and previous spin activities) will expose the cheating incident and individuals involved.

Increasing chip value of the color chips (color switch)

The chip value color switch is another “team” event, but unlike the past posting move, takes time to develop.  The biggest indicator is when a player cashes out minimum denomination color chips, and instantly another player wants to buy-in immediately (very urgently) for the same color, but at a much higher value.  If this occurs, it is important that the dealer stop the purchase transaction and count the incoming color chips to determine if they are all accounted for.  This scam is usually set up to gain the cheaters a few hundred dollars, however if the scam is repeated several times, usually over several shifts, the losses add up.

If you have any questions regard this material, please feel free in contacting me or 702-423-5734.