Not to toot my own horn or anything, but I somehow managed to graduate summa cum laude from UNLV way back when. That’s a fancy Latin phrase for “high grade point average,” but all these years later, the honorific doesn’t mean much. Instead, when I find myself pondering late nights spent cramming for exams, I harken back to the deceptively difficult degree I earned in casino dealer’s school.
As a bridge from the boardroom to retirement, I decided to take my passion for gambling games to the next level when I hit my mid-40s. And sure enough, I learned enough to secure steady gigs behind the box in Strip resorts like the Flamingo and Bally’s during the last decade.
My dealing days are done, but given this forum, I’d love to pass on a bit of the knowledge I absorbed pitching cards and paying off winners to aspiring dealers. If you’ve ever wondered why casino dealers are such sticklers about cutting the deck, you’ll find out three of the biggest reasons below.
1 – Dealers NEVER Show the “Wide” Side of the Deck to Players
Whether I was dealing blackjack, baccarat, or any card game which utilized a multiple-deck shoe, offering players an opportunity to cut giant stack was the first step in beginning a new down.
And soon enough, once the stack was played through to a stub, I’d be forced to reshuffle 312 (six decks) or 416 (eight deck) cards and repeat the process.
One of the first pearls of wisdom my dealer school instructor passed on concerned my preparation for the player cut. Once the cards were reshuffled, restacked, and ready to roll, I was told to follow a precise procedure when inviting a player to cut.
Basically, my goal was to display the stack of decks to the player with the back of the top card facing directly their way. In other words, the player next to cut should be staring at the Bicycle or Aviator logo.
Students in Dealer School Would Mess This up by Presenting the Side of the Deck to the Player
By “side” of the deck, picture a big stack of decks turned so that the player sees only a white rectangle. Whereas they should be looking at the red or blue back of the top card, orienting it the wrong way lets the player scan the top edge of every single card.
That’s quite a mouthful, so if you’re more of a visual learner, feel free to whip out your own deck(s) and see for yourself. With a stack in hand, stand in front of the mirror and position the deck so you see the colored back and logo of the top card. Then, rotate the deck 90 degrees so that you only see that telltale white rectangle.
This white rectangle should never be exposed to players ahead of the crucial cut – and for a number of reasons.
First and foremost, showing the side of your deck to the player leaves you vulnerable to a technique known as “shuffle tracking.” This form of advantage play subterfuge would require a full page of its own to explain, but I’ll sum it up for you as briefly as I can.
Given six or eight decks to shuffle by hand, dealers tend to break the whole stack of cards into smaller, more manageable chunks. Rather than truly randomize the combined decks card by card, dealers essentially shuffle these smaller chunks together one by one.
A skilled shuffle tracker scans the last batch of exposed cards shown during the last hand before a new shuffle is needed. Then, by carefully watching the chunk which contains those cards, they can gauge how far through the shoe it’ll be before the same cards show up. By timing and sizing their bets accordingly, a proficient shuffle tracker can tip the scales and earn an edge over the house.
By showing players the side of the deck before they cut, you’ll give any shuffle trackers lying in the weeds a perfect chance to strike. Now, they can quickly spot the chunk of cards they’ve tracked, place the cut card just so, and guarantee themselves an advantage on the subsequent deal.
On the other hand, when faced with the logo side of a face down card only, the shuffle tracker’s illicit knowledge is effectively nullified.
Another reason why the side of the deck is a no-no is the possibility that certain valuable cards have been surreptitiously marked. If a cheater has bent or indented the top of important cards like the Aces or 10-values, showing them the side of the deck gives them inroads to cutting precisely to that compromised card.
All in all, just remember that the player should be looking at a logo before they take the cut card in hand. If
2 – Dealers NEVER Let Players Slide the Cut Card Down the Edge of the Deck
As a dealer, I encountered my fair share of superstitious gamblers who believed in all sorts of silly little rituals.
One of the most common rituals shared by most card players involves slowly sliding the cut card along the deck. The player might slight from left to right, and back again, only stopping to cut when some internal instinct kicks in to tell them that the “lucky” cut point has been found.
I’d love to indulge these paying customers in their harmless customs, especially when I know that 99 percent of them really don’t mean any harm. Unfortunately, a few bad apples out there managed to ruin this fun pre-deal ceremony for the rest of you.
Dealers are taught to stop players from doing the cut card slide at all costs. A polite request at first, followed by a stern warning, and in the case of repeat offenders, a call to the nearest pit boss.
So why do we care so much about something as pointless as sliding to find the cut point?
Well, it all stems from an admittedly ingenious method of cheating pioneered by a few tech-savvy gamblers.
I can’t reveal which Vegas venue this scam occurred in, but let’s just say the offending gambler had quite the Hangover when he woke up the next afternoon. To accomplish the con, a would-be tourist hung around betting light until his turn to cut came around. Then, he casually performed his slide superstition, ever so slowly brushing the cut card along the edge of the deck.
From there, he played a few more hands and quietly left the table, only to be replaced by a high roller ready to fire off major money.
And what do you know? This new player seemed to clean up like clockwork, always hitting when the right card is on the way, while standing when the dealer was about to go bust.
Little did the dealer in this tainted game suspect, but the two players were actually working as a team. The supposed tourist actually had a tiny camera installed in his class ring. While he slid the cut card along the deck, he slightly exposed one card after another, and all in the sequence they’d eventually be dealt.
This footage was instantly converted into data which uploaded into a proprietary app. And with that app loaded on his phone, the second player to arrive could simply pretend like they were checking a text – all the while peering down at the exact order of the cards to come.
Admittedly, complex scams like this one are few and far between thanks to the “eye in the sky” surveillance system. Even so, just one case was enough to convince casinos that training dealers to stifle cut card sliding was a worthy investment.
3 – Dealers NEVER Pass the Cut Card, Or Anything Else to Players by Hand
Last up, you’ve probably wondered why the dealer only presents the cut card to players, rather than handing it to them directly.
This casino custom originates from the old-school days of palming. Simply put, the house doesn’t want its frontline dealers to ever make hand-to-hand contact with players. When this occurs, it could potentially be a case of passing stolen chips hidden deftly within a cupped palm.
If you pay close attention, you’ll notice that cut cards are far from the only thing dealers won’t give you by hand. Chips, napkins, a pencil for keno cards… the dealer will always place items on the felt for the player to retrieve.
In doing so, dealers protect themselves from any inkling of suspicion over palming or similar secret exchanges.
Most gamblers think dealers live the good life, hanging around the casino and continually earning money instead of losing it at the tables. And sure enough, I wouldn’t trade my years behind the box for any other profession.
I learned a ton about my favorite games, and the industry at large, but it wasn’t always as easy as players want to believe. Learning the ropes of game integrity, and protecting the deck from prying eyes at all costs, involves long hours practicing and improving my craft.
If you ever questioned the why behind dealer procedures and deck protection, I hope this primer cleared the most pressing questions up.
Michael Stevens has been researching and writing topics involving the gambling industry for well over a decade now and is considered an expert on all things casino and sports betting. Michael has been writing for GamblingSites.org since early 2016. ...
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