If you ever wondered why you do not hear about card counting very often, or why this strategy isn’t pushed on blackjack players as a must-learn strategy, it is because the casinos found ways to throw card counters off their count. It was a simple idea too and that was to shuffle the cards. The use of automatic shuffling machines or the use of a ‘Big C Cut’ would throw card counters off their game.
This is a card counter’s worst nightmare. The team gains an advantage when using a system that effectively tells them whether the shoe is high or low. If it is full of high cards, then this works in the player’s advantage as player’s are more likely to hit ‘Blackjack’ and there is a higher chance of the dealer busting out.
As casinos began to implement shuffling on their blackjack tables, the days of blackjack card counting teams were over. Yet, that does not mean that the blackjack team strategy is still not a thing. Card counting is still popular as a side strategy on some tables where the dealer rarely shuffles while blackjack teams around the world have also invented new ways to beat the house.
That said, when it comes to ethics, some of blackjack team strategy is not exactly ethical while card counting was never considered as unethical simply because it is not illegal – it is only against the rules of the casino’s regulations.
In this guide, we will cover ‘blackjack team strategy’ in use today, which is a mix of card counting, cunning ways to gain an edge over the house, and pure cheating!
Card Counting Blackjack Team Strategy
Some say that Bill Kaplan’s MIT team is the reason card counting is dead. Had the team not been so greedy, the casinos would not spot the strategy and ban it globally, and so card counting may have lasted longer.
The team’s less than inconspicuous hauls eventually drew attention from the cameras in the sky, which put an end to not only the MIT team but also all the smaller card counting teams that existed which angered many of these card counters because their hauls were under the radar.
So how did Kaplan’s blackjack team strategy become the most profitable in the 1980s?
Kaplan chose MIT students not because card counting requires geniuses, as there were dozens of teams already out there, but because his set up required smart easily influenced members that understood the importance of following a system with discipline. Discipline and following established systems are something MIT teaches and is the reason many of its students go on to run multi-million-dollar businesses.
If you want to see a blackjack card counting team strategy in action, then we suggest watching the film ‘21’ which gives you some idea of what’s involved but obviously with a lot of drama involved because after all, it is a Hollywood movie!
- There were many blackjack card counting teams in the 1980s
- The MIT team turned their operation into a multi-million dollar system
- Kaplan’s team won so much that eventually, casinos began investigating
Card Counting Team Strategies
Back in the day when card counting was still possible, i.e. the casinos did not shuffle the deck, there were numerous card counting teams from the large 35 strong MIT team of whizz kids earning mega-bucks down to small 2 person teams grinding the tables for modest returns.
Below we cover some of the card counting team strategies used:
Every Man For Himself: This stayle of blackjack team required a lot of trust amomgst team members. There is a single common bankroll and all members share the bankroll to play. It means a player in Melbourne Australia, another one in Atlantic City Jersey, and a players in Las Vegas can all share the bankroll but play during their own time zone. Therefore all players play at different times.
Two Man Teams: When one player cannot card count yet the person that can card count wants to maximise profits on a blackjack table, he/she will bring in a friend. By teaching that friend simple signals to hit, fold, double down, split, and so on the card counter can tell their non-counting partner how to act. More commonly the two man team will pretend not to know each other.
Big Player + Spotter: This is the strategy used by the MIT team which grew to around 35 at its peak. The spotter is usually a player that will play using low stakes or if possible a non-player. When the count on the table is high, the spotter will use a signal to call in the ‘Big Player’. Before the player sits at the table he or she received the current ‘count’ and start to play.
Gorilla Team Play: As card counting these days is something dealers and pit bosses can often spot due to sudden shifts in bet sizes, teams make attempt to cover up these shifts in bet sizes by having a drunk player at the table making arratic bets. This was any shift in bet amounts may look inconspicuous. Bets can shift from low to high form hand to hand leaving no pattern.
Never attempt to card count on virtual blackjack games. These tables use a constant shuffle as part of the RNG algorithm while provably fair algorithms use a new card deck for every hand which is practically the same as a constant shuffle.
Spooking the Dealer
Using this team strategy is questionable when it comes to ethics. There are teams of blackjack pros that scout casinos looking for weak dealers who somehow reveal the dealers down card through carelessness or simply a bad habit the dealer does not know about.
Finding a dealer that does this is hard work and in the larger casinos, you probably won’t because there are teams of blackjack experts hired by the casino to also walk around and spot these weak dealers. As soon as they do spot one, they inform the pit boss who then has words with the dealer. This means that the ideal place for spooking is usually smaller gambling dens.
This method requires a non-player to sit in a position where he/she can see the dealer’s down card. Then using a code, that player relays the message to the player sitting at the table. This very same tactic is also popular on multi-player poker games. Players can wipe out most of the house edge by switching their strategy when he/she knows both the dealer’s card.
- The dealer reveals the down card without being aware of a ‘spotter’
- A ‘spotter’ spooks the dealer to relay the down card to an active player
Dealer Is Part of the Team
This blackjack team strategy is one that is still extremely popular across the globe and a big problem for casinos. Without stating the obvious, it is unethical but because the money involved can involve tens and sometimes hundreds of thousands, there are plenty of dealers susceptible to the allure of a crooked blackjack team offering fast cash!
The dealer takes the lion’s share of the risk and in the end, usually gets caught in the long run. Yet, it still happens often. There are several ways the dealer can give the player or team of players at the same table an advantage.
Card Counting: When the dealer knows the true count of the shoe, he/she can use signalling for players to come and sit at the table. This only tends to work at tables where the put boss does not order a shuffle and there are no shuffle decks.
Down Card Info: Dealers are skilled card handlers and can often either reveal a card to a person he/she knows is spooking or have ways of knowing the down card to reveal this card to a team member. Some dealers go as far as using mini camera tech which reveals the down card to a player watching a live feed who them communicates this to a player sat at the table.
Card Tricks:We all know how magicians are experts at illusion and there are plenty of dealers out there that probably work on the side as magicians. Some dealers can deal a team member a series of winning hands, then the player walks off and a new one steps in the next day. This can happen once a day, once a week, or once a month making it difficult for the house to spot.
Stacked Decks: This is effectively another card trick. The dealer can use stacked decks, or a shoe designed to show the first card. The dealer can use this either to help the house chat the players or help team members win. As the dealer always acts last, being able to choose from 2 card options gives the dealer some control over the result of his/her hand.