Every casino game favors the house. This fact means that the average player loses money.
But advantage players can earn long-term profits. An advantage gambler has honed their skills to the point where they’re capable of winning on a consistent basis.
Players can use various techniques to gain an edge. Card counting, edge sorting, hole carding, and wheel tracking are some of the ways that pros earn profits.
Card counting, edge sorting, and hole carding are perfectly legal strategies. The only repercussion is being thrown out of the casino when you’re caught.
Wheel clocking, which involves using electronics, is a sketchier form of advantage play. In fact, it’s downright illegal in many gambling jurisdictions when electronics become involved.
Regardless of the legality of the technique being used, players perform these advantage-play methods in land-based casinos. But is it possible to also beat the house at live dealer casinos (online)?
Find out as I explain what live casinos are, cover more on the aforementioned advantage gambling techniques, and determine if you can win profits from live dealer sites.
What Are Live Dealer Casinos?
A live dealer site combines elements of both online and brick-and-mortar casinos. Common games offered include baccarat, blackjack, casino hold’em, and roulette.
Live casinos stream action from a land-based casino or studio. In either case, these operations feature a human dealer and real gambling tables.
If you’re playing blackjack, then you’re going to see a regulation blackjack table. If you’re playing roulette, then you’ll see a roulette wheel and betting table.
While the tables and atmosphere are nice, what really makes live casinos are the dealers. You can use a chat box function to communicate with the dealer.
They read your messages and can choose to respond verbally. This form of communication doesn’t completely replicate land-based casinos, but it’s close enough for online gamblers.
Another element of live dealer gaming sites is the ability to choose your table and preferred dealer. Some people pick tables based on the most-attractive dealer, while others choose the most-entertaining croupiers.
You can’t go wrong either way, because the point of live casinos is to bring a human element that’s missing from virtual (a.k.a. RNG) online table games.
Popular Advantage Play Methods
Gamblers can use a variety of legal and illegal techniques to beat casino games. Most advantage players err on the lawful side by using legal advantage gambling methods.
Wheel clocking is an exception since many gambling jurisdictions outlaw using electronic devices at roulette tables.
But live casinos can’t tell that you’re using electronics, which is why I’ve included wheel clocking in this post.
The other methods aren’t technically illegal. But since most casinos can refuse service to anyone, they kick out successful advantage gamblers upon catching them.
Card counting is easily the most-famous way to win money from casinos. Thousands of pro gamblers have made a living through counting cards, including legends like Al Francesco, Ed Thorp, Ken Uston, and the infamous MIT Blackjack Team.
The key to card counting is tracking card values so that you can determine when the deck is rich in aces and 10-value cards. This point is when you have a higher chance of getting a natural blackjack (21 on first two cards).
As you may know, natural blackjacks can either pay 3:2 or 6:5 on the original bet. Card counters much rather prefer 3:2 payouts since this gives them a far better chance to beat the casino.
Dozens of card counting systems can help you keep an accurate count. But the Hi-Lo offers a nice balance between being effective and simplistic.
The Hi-Lo calls on you to track three groups of cards and assign them values. Here are the groups along with the values:
Low cards (2-6) = +1
Neutral cards (7-9) = 0
High cards (A-10) = -1
The goal is to bet more money when there’s a favorable count, because there are more aces and 10s in the deck. In contrast, you should bet the table minimum when the count is either neutral or negative to minimize losses.
Most blackjack games feature multi-deck shoes ranging from 4-8 decks. The Hi-Lo calls on you to convert your “running” count into a “true” count when multiple decks are involved.
Here’s an example:
Your running count is +8.
The shoe has four decks remaining.
8 / 4 = +2 true count
Knowing the true count helps you accurately gauge when everything is in your favor. Hi-Lo users don’t normally begin increasing their bets until the true count is at least +2.
Speaking of which, card counters refer to increasing their wagers as “bet spreading.” This term alludes to the spread (multiple) between the table minimum and your highest wager.
Here’s an example on bet spreading:
The table’s minimum wager is $5.
The true count goes to +3.
You increase your bet to $75.
This is a 1-15 spread.
The 15 comes from dividing $75 by $5.
A higher bet spread increases the chances that you’ll be “made” by the pit boss. You won’t get away with a 1-15 spread at most blackjack tables, because it represents an obvious card counter betting pattern.
This brings us to another skill in knowing how where and when you can spread higher. After all, a larger bet spread allows you to make more money.
Blackjack forums and Facebook groups are good resources to consult regarding the best card counting casinos. Here you can find which gambling establishments are more lenient with bet spreads and card counters in general.
Edge sorting gained worldwide fame when pro gambler Phil Ivey used it to make millions. This technique involves looking for flawed edges on card backs to try and determine the value.
Here are the basics of edge sorting:
Look for specific decks that have flaws.
Study the flawed deck to spot irregularities that give away card values.
These imperfections often occur on the long-side edges.
Common examples include full-pattern edges on 0, 1, 2, 3, and 4, and half-diamond patterns on 6, 7, 8, and 9.
The problem with edge sorting is that it’s extremely difficult to spot these irregularities under normal playing conditions. The patterns on card backs are very small, thus making them impossible to see without some assistance.
Ivey and his partner, Cheung Yin “Kelly” Sun, made several requests to make this process easier. They asked for cards to be rotated 180 degrees, a Mandarin-speaking dealer, and a special purple Gemaco deck.
Having cards rotated 180 degrees makes it easier to spot irregularities. Ivey and Sun knew that thepurple Gemaco deck was flawed based on previous observations.
The Mandarin-speaking dealer allowed Sun to make special requests without the casino staff knowing what she was asking for.
Combined, these advantages allowed the duo to win $11 million at Crockfords (London) and $9.6 million at the Borgata (Atlantic City).
Both casinos fought Ivey in court for the money. He ended up losing both cases on account that his requests created an unfair advantage.
The actual process of edge sorting isn’t considered cheating. But judges in both London and New Jersey felt that Ivey’s and Sun’s requests went beyond mere edge sorting.
Some casino games see dealers receive a hole card(s), which is kept face-down until game rules call for the card to be shown. Exposing this card’s value would give players an advantage over the house.
Most croupiers are well trained and rarely give away hole card values. But certain dealers struggle with this and raise hole cards too much, thus exposing the value.
Here’s an example:
A blackjack croupier deals themselves two cards – one face-up and one face-down.
You notice that they do a poor job of protecting the hole card’s value.
You sit at first base (first seat to dealer’s immediate left) to take advantage of the dealer’s mistakes.
These croupiers are called “flashers,” and they’re hard to find due to high-quality casino training. But if you can find a flasher and consistently exploit their poor dealing skills, then you can make serious profits.
Professional gambler James Grosjean is a perfect example of hole-carding success. Grosjean uses this technique to make hundreds of thousands of dollars per year.
Wheel clocking refers to watching a roulette wheel to determine where the ball will end up. The goal is to determine where the spinning ball will land, then make wagers just before the dealer says, “No more bets.”
This advantage technique can involve either clocking the wheel visually or using electronics. Visually tracking a wheel is extremely hard and involves looking at a variety of factors.
These aspects include:
The release point (where dealer releases the ball).
The wheel’s number of revolutions.
The ball’s velocity.
If the dealer’s spins produce consistent results (a.k.a. dealer signature).
Few people try visual wheel clocking due to the sheer amount of variables involved. Instead, they use electronics and computer programs, which are much more accurate in determining the ball and wheel velocity.
I mentioned earlier how the main problem is that most gambling jurisdictions have banned using electronics on roulette.
Casinos saw an increase in people using small, concealed computers to clock wheels in the 1970s and 80s. They petitioned local gaming governing bodies to make these devices illegal for roulette and other casino games.
Of course, live dealer casinos are a different story. You’re not physically present at a live dealer site, meaning they have no way to search you for using electronics to clock wheels.
Why Does It Seem Possible to Use Advantage Play at Live Casinos?
Live casinos are like land-based venues in most ways. You have a dealer, regular tables, and all the typical elements of table games.
Considering that many of these aspects are conducive to advantage play, it’s natural to wonder if you can count cards or use another technique at live dealer sites.
Consider blackjack as an example. If you have a croupier who’s not good at keeping their hole cards down when dealing, it seems like hole carding would be in play.
Likewise, using electronics and/or computer programs from the comfort of your own home to clock roulette wheels also seems feasible.
The only thing missing from a live casino is you being present in the building. Many players don’t see this as a big deal, though, because all of the other typical aspects of table games are there.
Why Doesn’t Advantage Play Work at Live Dealer Casinos?
Live dealer operations are well aware that players can gain an advantage under the right circumstances. This is why they take precautions to make sure players can’t sit on a smartphone or PC and reap winnings.
Methods for deterring advantage play vary based on the game. But the idea remains the same in that casinos want to stop gamblers from earning long-term profits.
Live Casinos Don’t Allow Enough Deck Penetration to Count Cards
We begin with card counting, which seems like the most-legitimate advantage gambling method at a live casino. In fact, you have one key advantage in that the pit boss and other casino employees can’t sweat you like at land-based casinos.
Sure, casinos could still identify you as a card counter based on your bet spreads. But getting kicked off a gaming site isn’t as embarrassing when this happens at a brick-and-mortar casino.
You won’t ever have to worry about getting thrown out of a live casino. These sites don’t allow enough deck penetration for you to make reasonable profits.
Deck penetration refers to how far the croupier deals into the shoe before reshuffling. The further you can penetrate into the deck with an accurate count, the more likely you are to profit from larger bets.
Here’s an example:
The blackjack shoe has 6 decks.
The croupier deals 4 decks before shuffling.
4 / 6 = 66.67% deck penetration
Card counters prefer having around 70% deck penetration in order to bet with more confidence. But some players are still satisfied with 66.67% penetration.
The key problem, though, is that most live dealer casinos feature eight decks and only deal four before shuffling. This is 50% deck penetration (4 / 8), which just won’t do for serious card counting efforts.
Some live casinos even use continuous shuffling machines (CSMs), which continually shuffle cards. CSMs make it impossible to count cards with any degree of accuracy.
Live Casinos Don’t Offer a Close Enough View for Edge Sorting
The key to edge sorting is that you need a good view of the cards to properly identify irregularities. As Sun and Ivey showed, you may need additional help with cards being rotated at 180 degrees.
Live dealer tables don’t give you a close enough view of the table to spot flawed card backs. Even if they did, you can’t ask the live casino to rotate cards for you or make other special requests.
You could of course zoom in on the table with your web browser. But the zoomed-in image isn’t clear enough for you to see card flaws.
Taking everything into account, edge sorting is one of the least-likely advantage play methods to work in live casinos.
Live Dealer Table Angles Don’t Allow for Proper Hole Carding
Successful hole carding involves sitting where you can catch the card values. Bad dealers normally flash their values to the side, which means you either need to be sitting at first base or third base (seat to dealer’s immediate right).
Beyond being in the right seat, you also must be close enough to the table surface where you can see exposed cards. A skilled hole carder can sit at this angle and peak at exposed card values without making it obvious.
Live casino tables don’t give you the option to sit at first or third base. Instead, you’re presented with a head-on view of the table, dealer, and cards.
Furthermore, the table view is tilted slightly downward. This anglemakes it feel like you’re actually sitting at the table with a normal posture.
Tilting the table downward also accomplishes another goal in that you can’t see card values. The only chance you have at seeing an exposed card is if the dealer accidentally drops one during the round.
You Can’t Electronically Clock Wheels from Home
The major problem with live roulette wheel clocking is that you can’t effectively use electronics. You must be physically near a roulette wheel for a computer to measure the physics.
Here’s a scenario that demonstrates this problem:
I’m playing live roulette through my smartphone.
I use a computerized device that can accurately measure the ball’s general landing point.
But the live casino roulette wheel is only visible through a screen.
Therefore, my computer can’t measure physical elements like the wheel and ball spinning.
The only chance that you have to clock a live casino roulette wheel is by watching it. Some players claim that you can spot dealer signatures with enough time and discipline.
But the problem here is that live casinos start with a long view, only to finally zoom when the ball and wheel have already begun spinning.
Considering that visual wheel clocking is a questionable advantage play technique at best, it becomes impossible when you can barely see the wheel.
Live dealer casinos seem like a good place to use advantage play techniques. You can count cards, clock wheels, and look for hole card values without ever leaving the house.
More importantly, you never need to have face-to-face interactions with the casino staff. This aspect helps you avoid the pit boss sweating you and casino security kicking you out.
The problem, though, is that advantage play doesn’t usually work in live dealer casinos. These games are all designed to prevent professional gamblers from winning money.
Card counting doesn’t work because the dealer only allows around 50% deck penetration.
Edge sorting and wheel clocking (visually) aren’t effective due to how live casino tables don’t present a close-enough view.
Hole carding is futile when considering that you can’t sit at first or third base. The high table angles also prevent you from getting a glimpse of hole card values.
Does all of this mean that you can’t be a winning gambler?
No. But you’ll need to visit brick-and-mortar casinos in order to effectively use advantage play strategies.
Some players don’t feel comfortable doing so, given the nerves involved with trying to avoid being made. Furthermore, the thought of being hauled out of a casino by security is an unpleasant one.
It’s up to you to decide if you can deal with this pressure. If not, you can always enjoy live dealer gaming for what it is — a fun way to play table games from your mobile device or PC.
The other option is to play skill-based games like daily fantasy sports (DFS), poker, and/or sports betting. The casino has no problem with you beating these games, because the house merely takes a cut of the action.
But don’t look towards live dealer gaming sites as a way to make profits. Live gaming is set up to keep the edge with the casino.
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