Casino Sweating and Advantage Gamblers
Casinos don’t offer gambling as a charity service. Instead, they expect to win money from their games.
While any player can get hot and earn profits on a given night, casinos maintain a house edge over every game. This advantage means that the house eventually wins against the average player.
Gambling establishments are used to seeing a big winner here or there. They become suspicious, though, when gamblers start winning on a consistent basis.
Seeing as how casinos aren’t in the business of losing, they start to “sweat” their losses. This sweating can have dire consequences for advantage players, or even regular gamblers.
What is sweating? And why is it such an important concept to advantage gamblers?
Find out as I discuss this topic along with the different actions that casinos take when they begin sweating.
What Is Sweating the Money?
The house edge isn’t very large in most casino games. This is especially true in baccarat, blackjack, craps, and French roulette, which all feature less than a 2% house advantage.
Casinos lose almost as often as they win in these cases. After all, having less than a 2% advantage doesn’t guarantee wins by any means.
Therefore, gambling venues are used to taking losses on a regular basis. But casinos also look for irregularities when they’re losing.
How casino personnel deals with these situations is referred to as “sweating the money.” Casino employees sweat losses and ponder how they can stop the bleeding.
The first step to sweating involves a floor manager, pit boss, and/or surveillance (security) watching the losing table.
These employees look for advantage players, faulty equipment, cheating, or a poor dealer. The pit boss and/or floor manager usually determine that nothing is wrong and a gambler is simply getting lucky.
But in other cases, they may find that there’s a concrete reason why they’re losing money. These reasons can include:
- A roulette wheel being damaged and favoring certain numbers.
- A dealer revealing hole card values during the dealing process.
- An advantage gambler outplaying the casino.
- A gambler cheating.
- A dealer and player colluding to beat the casino.
Few casinos will immediately fire a dealer who accidentally gives players an advantage. Instead, the croupier will likely be trained better and put back on the floor later.
Damaged or compromised equipment can be a problem for casinos from time to time. Atlantic City’s Golden Nugget lost $1.5 million to a group of 14 mini baccarat players, because a card manufacturer sold them unshuffled decks that were all arranged in the same pattern.
The Golden Nugget fought the matter in court and won. But the unshuffled decks highlight the equipment problems that casinos sometimes deal with.
Advantage players have long been a thorn in the side of casinos. Card counters, ace sequencers, hole carders, and skilled video poker players can win profits on a consistent basis.
These advantage gamblers aren’t winning money from opponents, like one does in Texas hold’em and other poker games. Instead, their earnings come directly from casinos.
This is why many gambling establishments take extraordinary measures to prevent advantage gambling (covered later).
Finally, cheating is yet another factor that can drain chips from casinos. Gambling cheaters come in all forms, including people marking cards with invisible ink, players adding chips to winning bets (a.k.a. past posting), and fast shuffling.
The latter is a cheating method that involves a dealer working with other players. The best-known fast shuffling example occurred when the Tran Organization made $7 million from 2002 to 2006.
You can see that there are plenty of ways that things can go wrong for casinos. Sweating the money is a good way for staff members to determine the root cause before their venue loses too much.
Some Casinos Sweat Money Harder Than Others
The level of tolerance for losing tables varies based on the casino and individual employees.
Some casinos have a bigger reputation for sweating action when they’re losing. Often called “sweatshops,” these venues instruct employees to pay close attention when a table is losing too much.
Sweatshops are the worst places for advantage players to operate. These casinos don’t offer much leeway when it comes to advantage gambling, making them hard to beat.
Other casinos would rather take the chance of losing money to a pro than to harass winning customers. Oftentimes, a big winner is just somebody who’s on a hot streak.
Casinos that don’t sweat much may offer big comps to winners in hopes of retaining their loyalty. This practice increases the chances that the gambler will continue playing and eventually lose their money to the house.
An individual pit boss, floor supervisor, or shift manager may have their own take on how sweating should be handled. Therefore, a manager who works at a lax casino might sweat losing tables and more than their fellow employees.
Advantage gamblers often trade information with each other online to separate the sweatshops from lax casinos. The latter makes a perfect breeding ground for advantage play, while sweatshops are best avoided for winning purposes.
These establishments don’t get big whales and are already offering low house edges. Therefore, they have no mercy when it comes to suspected advantage players.
But any casino, big or small, can be bad about sweating the action. Spend time researching gaming establishments to determine which ones offer the best environment for winning profits.
Methods That Casinos Use to Back off Suspected Advantage Gamblers
Casinos have standard policies for dealing with cheaters, poor dealers, and defective equipment. But how did they handle advantage players?
Gambling venues have a variety of methods for how they “back off” successful gamblers. These include everything from forcing advantage players into a specific betting pattern to completely banning them.
Forcing a Player to Flat Bet
One key element of advantage play is increasing your bet when you have the edge. This practice is necessary in order to increase profit margins in an advantageous situation.
Here’s an example:
- A blackjack card counter starts out by making the table’s $5 minimum bet
- The count swings in their favor and gives them an edge
- They increase their bets to $75
This is what’s known as a 1-15 “bet spread,” because the highest wager ($75) is 15x larger than the minimum bet ($5). The higher a card counter can push their max wagers during favorable counts, the more money they stand to win.
The only problem is that casinos are well aware of bet spreading. In fact, this is one of the most common ways that they catch card counters.
A good way for casinos to back off bet spreaders is by forcing them to flat bet, which refers to making the same-sized wager every time. If the table minimum wager is $10, then the pit boss might require that the player bets this amount on each hand.
Banning a Gambler from a Specific Game
Blackjack is the most appealing game from an advantage play perspective. You can use multiple techniques to win in blackjack, including card counting, ace sequencing, shuffle tracking, and hole carding.
Most blackjack pros make their money through card counting, which is why this is such a famous advantage gambling method. But skilled players can also win using the other techniques too.
In any case, a casino can quickly put a stop to a pro gambler’s winning streak just by banning them from blackjack.
This action is good from a PR standpoint, because the casino can’t be accused of completely barring winners from their property. They also cut out the root problem by keeping an advantage gambler from their primary game.
Ben Affleck is the perfect example of a player who was banned from a single game. Las Vegas’ Hard Rock casino determined that Affleck was beating them through card counting.
A staff member told the A-list actor that he was too good for their blackjack tables but was welcome to play anything else at Hard Rock.
Blackjack isn’t the only game where advantage players can win profits. Some players find ways to beat Caribbean stud (hole carding), baccarat (edge sorting), and three-card poker (hole carding).
But blackjack is usually the game that most pros beat. Therefore, it makes sense that casinos ban more successful players from blackjack than anything else.
Reducing Comps or Taking Them Away from a Player
Video poker holds the dubious distinction of being a beatable game that certain casinos willingly offer. The only catch is that you have to be playing specific variations and use near-perfect strategy to win.
Some Nevada casinos offer full-pay Deuces Wild (100.76% payback), Double Bonus (100.17%), and Double Double Bonus (100.07%).
Many players appreciate the fact that they actually have a chance to win profits from video poker without being kicked out the casino. The only problem is that video poker rarely gives gamblers a chance to make a substantial amount.
Here’s an example:
- You’re playing full-pay Deuces Wild
- You’re earning 100.6% payback (w/ limited mistakes)
- You’re playing 800 hands per hour
- The max bet is $1.25 (5 coins) per hand
- 006 (advantage) x 1.25 x 800 = $6 in winnings per hour
Making $6 an hour won’t get you by in a developed country. This rate especially isn’t worthwhile when considering the difficulties of playing near-perfect video poker.
Serious players supplement their winnings by looking for the best comp programs and promotions. Furthermore, these players take advantage of every double and triple point promotion they can find.
But casinos can look in their system to find those who are only giving action to high-paying games during promotions.
These same gamblers will no longer receive invites to double and triple point promos. A more-extreme measure involves reducing a player’s comps or even not rewarding them at all.
Video poker isn’t the only game where casinos will mess with a winning gambler’s comps. A gaming establishment may also use reduced comps to deter successful table game players.
But video poker winners are the most-common target, because it’s easy for casinos to track when these players are consistently profiting off games and rewards.
Permanently Banning a Gambler
The most extreme measure for dealing with a winning player involves banning them. Whether or not a casino bans a gambler just depends upon the specific establishments and the player in question.
Casinos across the world famously barred members of the MIT Blackjack Team in the 1980s and 90s. This card counting team won so much money that many casinos never wanted to see them set foot in their establishments again.
The more successful a player is, the more likely they are to receive a permanent ban when caught. Any barred player will also receive a trespassing warning, meaning they can be arrested if they step onto the property again.
For these reasons, many advantage gamblers disguise their appearance so that they won’t be recognized if they return to a casino and continue winning.
In some cases, casinos aren’t allowed to ban gamblers just for being successful. Atlantic City is a perfect example, because a judge ruled (Uston v. Resorts International) that New Jersey casinos don’t have the right to deny successful players.
By and large, though, casinos have the right to bar gamblers for any legitimate reason. These are private businesses, meaning they can refuse service to anybody.
Should Sweating Dissuade You from Advantage Play?
Having pit bosses and floor managers breathing down your neck is an intimidating prospect. These thoughts are enough to dissuade the average gambler from trying advantage play.
But you don’t have to let pit bosses sweating a table scare you away from advantage gambling. You just have to know some of the ways to avoid drawing attention.
One easy way to do so is by reducing your bet spread. For example, you could spread your bets from 1-5, instead of a higher margin like 1-15.
A smaller spread isn’t ideal from a winning perspective. But it’s a good idea if you’re not relying on gambling profits and just want to gain any kind of edge.
You should also keep an eye on the pit boss and be careful when they’re watching you. As long as they don’t notice a crazy bet spread, you might get away with larger wagers when they leave.
Disguising your appearance from one night to the next is another way to avoid suspicion. Casinos will have a harder time making you as an advantage player if they can’t remember how you look.
Avoiding the usage of players cards is another good way to remain anonymous. Gambling establishments can’t identify you when they don’t have your name on file.
One more way to fly under the radar is by using “cover play,” where you give the action to games with the house edge.
For example, you could play a purely luck-based game like craps before or after hitting the blackjack tables. Doing so shows the house that you’re willing to take a non-winning proposition.
Casinos fully realize that some gamblers are going to win money. But they also know that irregularities can cause losses too.
The latter is why pit bosses, floor managers, and security sweat losing tables. These employees want to make sure that nothing fishy is causing them to lose money.
Sweating doesn’t usually effect the average gambler. The last thing that a casino wants to do is bother a good customer.
Instead, sweating the money is about watching dealers, preventing cheating, impeding advantage gamblers, or making sure that the equipment is up to standards.
Advantage players especially become a target when pit bosses and floor managers begin sweating a table. Of course, skilled pros are also adept at knowing when to blend in so that their actions don’t appear out of place.
If you’re an advantage gambler, you can research which casinos are and aren’t sweatshops. The latter should be avoided at all costs if you’re trying to win long-term profits.