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BlackJack Cheating

Some people assume wrongly that counting cards is a form of blackjack cheating. Counting cards is a legitimate strategy used to give the player an edge against the house, and since card counting in BJ is a way of flexing your intellectual muscle, and requires nothing more than brain power, it is not considered cheating. In fact, in the gambling jurisdiction of Atlantic City, card counting isn’t even frowned upon, as it is in most other casino hotspots.

But cheating at blackjack does occur, card counting aside. Most of the methods for cheating at blackjack outlined below are more likely to get you booted out of a casino or arrested than actually increase your winnings. Here’s a breakdown of various ways gamblers have attempted to cheat at blackjack over the years.

Card Marking

Marking cards is a cheating tactic as old as the card games themselves. Cards can be marked with ink, dirty, or by tearing or folding a card in such a way that you can tell what card it is with a simple glance.

In blackjack, marking certain cards can give players an advantage because that way they may know what the dealer’s face down card is. If you know what your blackjack dealer is holding as his down card, you can really increase your chances of winning or hedge your losses.

These days, blackjack players interested in card marking usually scratch the card in such a way that the mark is less noticeable. Some blackjack players will also place a sticky substance on an area of the card where it is difficult for others to see (sometimes called card mucking) and high tech card marking cheats have been known to use substances only visible while wearing special glasses or contacts.

The most commonly marked cards in blackjack are cards worth ten points. That way, a player knows if the dealer is holding a blackjack and it is advantageous for him to take insurance.


Spooking is a low tech blackjack cheating method that requires two people working in tandem. One player sits at the blackjack table in such a way that he can see the spook. The spook stands behind or somewhere near the dealer so that he can spy on his hole card. The spook looks at the hole card and signals the player through a series of signals worked out before hand, giving the player an edge.

Now that casino security can be everywhere at once, spooking is a less popular method. You’re likely to get busted by casino security if you attempt to spook a dealer’s hole card.

Card Switching

Sleight-of-hand has always been a big part of card cheating. Now that casinos use video cameras and security employees perched above the casino floor to catch cheats, card switching is far more likely to be noticed.

Blackjack card switching works something like this: a blackjack player sits at a short-handed table so he can play multiple hands at once. The player may practice sleight-of-hand in such a way that he can exchange cards between his multiple hands to turn bad hands into good. The sleight-of-hand skill required to pull off card switching in this day and age takes years, and with high-tech security measures in place, card switchers will probably get caught after just a few attempts at switching cards.

Dealer Collusion

Collusion with dealers is probably the method of blackjack cheating least likely to be caught by casino security, since the dealer knows the ins and outs of casino security measures and casino security is a little less likely to watch their dealers, especially those who have been in the business a while. Still, security knows that dealers often get bribed into cheating, so casino security cameras and other tactics do keep track of dealer behavior as well. That’s why dealer cheating is still likely to get you in big trouble if you attempt it.

Dealer cheating involves a simple bribe paid to the dealer to help fix a blackjack game in the favor of the players. Players could also promise dealers a cut of their winnings should the dealer cooperate. As with any bribe scenario, there’s no guarantee that the dealer will actually play along after accepting your bribe, so in the case of casino dealer cheating, potential cheats could be getting ripped off themselves.

Casinos tend to take good care of their dealers, and dealers are well aware of the penalties of casino cheating. All that being said, dealer cheating continues to go on, even while casinos focus on dealers they suspect of cheating.

The following cheats are the most common used by blackjack dealers to either collude with players or cheat for their own benefit.

Dealer Blackjack Pegging

Pegging is a generic cheating term that refers to the practice of placing dents in blackjack cards as a way of marking certain high value cards in blackjack. Tools called peggers are used to mark ten-count cards with small dents that the dealer can feel. Dealers can feel the pegs on the ten-point value cards, and any knowledge about what cards are coming will allow anyone at a blackjack table to make smarter playing decisions. This type of cheating is very dangerous; especially since it requires the use of a tool and your likelihood of getting caught cheating is much higher when a tool like a pegger is involved.

High-Low Pickup Dealer Cheating

The High-Low Pickup is a dealer cheat where the dealer picks up the hand that was just played in a specific order so that he can do a false shuffle and place the just-played cards in an advantageous order. This false shuffle looks to the casual gambler or the casino security employee not really paying attention just like a real shuffle, though the dealer is secretly placing the fake shuffled cards in a specific order to give him an advantage in the next hand. In high-low pickup deals, the dealer hands out the cards so that the player will bust, or at least so that the player won’t have an advantage over the dealer. High-low pickups usually take place after a dealer is forced to draw until busted, since there are more card to place in the high-low order.


One of the oldest dealer tricks in the book is called bottom dealing, and it is just what it sounds like. In bottom dealing, the dealer draws from the bottom of the deck, usually in a single-deck game. It is only really effective if the dealer is able to peek at the bottom card, which is easier since the bottom card shows its face, unlike the top cards which hide their value.

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