Perhaps in the distant future, perhaps in the year 3225 or so, when historians are studying Western society (or what Western society will be at that time), they will marvel at the human enterprise perhaps more than anything else: the efficient “money-sucking” capability of casinos.
The way casinos have turned the act of taking our money into such a marvel of precision and ingenuity is as awe-inspiring as the pyramids of Egypt.
“I could give you a guaranteed method where you go to a casino and walk out of there with a small fortune: enter it with a big one,”
Who counts is Sal Piacente, a retired casino dealer and security officer who now runs UniverSal Game Protection Develpment, a company that trains casino workers.
He and other casino members know that casinos exist not only to keep our money, but also to keep theirs as much as possible – both by offering games that are leaning in favor of the casino and also by taking very tight security measures with the objective to catch thieves and scammers.
We interviewed Sal and other casino experts with decades of industry experience to get some dirty little casino secrets.
These secrets aren’t just good – knowing about them can help you keep a little more of your money during your next trip or when playing at online casinos.
Some games are much worse than others – even by casino standards
It’s just common sense that every game you find in a casino is going to lean in favor of the casino. But Sal says some games are worse than others. “A lot of these games are designed so that the player can’t win,” says Sal. “That’s why players have to realize that they need to stay away from certain games.”
At the top of this list: the so-called “carnival games” which are table games other than traditional casino games like blackjack , craps and Baccarat .
“Three-card poker, Let it Ride, Caribbean Stud – all these games have a big advantage for the casino,” says Sal. “People like these games because of the big payouts: They pay 9-to-1, 8- to-1, 250-to-1. But you’re going to lose a lot more than you’re going to be able to win in these games.”
Sal harbors a particular disdain for Double Exposure Blackjack, which he considers a total theft, thanks to the strict rules that when you tie the dealer without a blackjack, the dealer wins. “That’s a 9 percent plus for the casino,” says Sal. “The dealer should wear a (thief) mask while playing this game!”
Some games are “good” games – or at least better.
“There are games that tourists can play with a better chance of winning,” says Derk Boss, a Nevada-licensed private investigator and expert in security surveillance. For example, he points to traditional blackjack.
“You can reduce the casino’s advantage by being a skilled player or studying the game,” he says. He also likes video poker .
“This is a game where there are strategies you can study,” he says. “It doesn’t guarantee you’ll win, but it gives you a lot more chances. It will reduce the casino’s advantage and put things a little more in your favor.”
Everything you see is designed to keep you in the casino.
Anyone who has spent time at a physical casino or online casino site knows that they are designed to make sure you lose track of time (and the money you are likely to be losing). This means that there are no windows or clocks.
“Two in the morning is exactly the same thing as two in the afternoon,” says Sal. Some casinos have taken desperate, and sexy, steps to keep you there playing.
“They have strip pole dances, they have ballrooms,” says Sal. “You go to Vegas right now, it feels like a men’s club. You see women dancing. Keeps the men at the table.”
And don’t be fooled by the “free” food and drink you can be offered. These have the same purpose. “I love it when people say, ‘Sal, they gave me a $20 buffet for free!’ says Sal, laughing. “You sat at the blackjack table, lost $200 and they gave you a $20 buffet.” That’s a good return on investment.
Security is probably keeping an eye on you…all the time.
If you’re in a casino, you can assume you’re being watched. “The casinos are pretty well covered with surveillance cameras,” says Derk. “
Once someone arrives at the casino, if we needed to watch their movements the entire time you were there, we could easily do that. It would be possible for us to follow their movements on the property wherever they went – excerpt for example in the bathroom and in their hotel rooms”.
Casinos often use surveillance to find criminals looking for tourists and scammers.
And, yes, Derk says they can actually zoom in and see their cards if they wanted. So in the casino, in a closed, high-tech room, a vigilante you’ll never see might be telling you to “take a risk.”
And if you make a lot of money, they are definitely watching you.
Rest assured: if you win a big prize, or enter a streak of many wins, security has its eyes on you. “When someone is making a lot of money, they will always be watched by us,” says Derk.
“They won’t know, of course. Let’s say a person wins $100,000 in a game of blackjack. I just want to make sure it’s cool, that he didn’t hit, that he didn’t count cards or anything like that.”
Derk says that in that case, security will do a player assessment: They will review your play on video looking for evidence of hit or card counts. Then go check on the player. “We have a database of bad people or criminals out there and what kind of scams they use, so let’s look at that,” says Derk.
Winners in Slot Machines have the same scrutiny. “Let’s say someone wins $500,000 on a slot machine jackpot,” says Derk. “We’ll review how it happened but just to make sure everything is OK – that they didn’t open the machine or do something.”
But don’t worry: security isn’t there to harm the winners. “As long as it’s legit, it’s okay and we move on,” says Derk. “We want people to make money, otherwise they won’t play.”
If you’re hitting, security can tell – they know all the signs.
Poker Players know all about “signs”, behaviors that betray certain actions or intentions. Card counters and scammers also have small behaviors and security has an eye on all of them. “We’re looking for evidence of a coup,” says Derk.
“These are just behaviors that, when you’re trained to detect them, they stand out a little bit.” Although Derk didn’t want to give very specific details of these behaviors, he ended up saying a few:
“ Two men sitting next to each other. ” Derk says that two men playing blackjack at the same table rarely sit next to each other, especially when there are empty chairs. “Most men just don’t feel that way,” he says.
“Women do, most men don’t.” Derk says that when you see this, it’s a potential sign that the pair may be secretly trading cards.
“They are trying to make a strong hand – which, believe me, happens,” he says. “They sit together with their arms crossed after they receive the letters. We suspect that [this indicates] they are exchanging cards, so this will get our attention.”
— Intravenous or extreme money management – Let’s say someone is betting $100 for three or four hands, then out of nowhere, they bet $10,000. “That to us is an indicator that maybe they are getting information,” says Derk.
“Maybe they can be looking at the cards, maybe they’re counting cards, maybe they’re following a bunch of cards. They’re waiting for a certain combination to come into play, so they’re going to play minimally until that change happens and as soon as that happens they’re going to bet big.” Derk says this is a big red flag.
— “Rubber-necking” – A sign of a slot machine saboteur. “If someone is hitting a slot machine, invariably they’re going to sit down and they don’t really have to look at the machine because they know what they’re going to do to them,” says Derk.
“So they usually go around looking around looking for the bouncer. This is what we call “rubber-necking”. That’s a big sign for us because [normal] slot players don’t do that – they play on their machine and don’t want to be bothered. So if you walk around looking at it that way, it’s going to get our attention and we’re going to stop to find out why.
One place the casino probably isn’t watching you that closely: the poker rooms.
“Believe it or not, we don’t really spend a lot of time in poker,” says Derk. For one thing, since poker players are playing against each other, not the casino, the casino doesn’t have a lot of money at risk. Poker players themselves have their money at risk and that’s the second reason why casino security doesn’t need to monitor poker rooms so closely.
“The players actually police themselves,” says Derk. “When you have people who play poker every day, they know when someone is doing something or trying to take advantage of something and they’re going to say something. They pay more attention to it than anyone else.”
Dealers prefer you to bet rather than tip them.
It’s a bit of basic etiquette, but tip the dealers. “Dealers earn the minimum wage, at most places earn a little more than that,” says Sal. “A dealer’s wages are tips.”
Sal’s wife and business partner Dee – herself a former casino dealer – agrees. But she says that despite common casino policy, most dealers would prefer that instead of tipping them a chip or two, players use the tip to gamble.
“If a player asks you if you want to bet or just keep a tip, you should just be tipped,” says Dee. “But most of us want to bet because there’s a chance to double your money.”
Dealers feel bad when you lose
When someone loses their shirt, you can expect silent pity, but no more. “I can feel sorry for the man, but I can’t say, ‘Lord, you’ve lost enough, you’d better go,’” says Sal. “It’s not my job. There’s nothing you can do.”
However, Sal admits that dealers really do sense their players’ success, or lack thereof. “If a gentleman is tipping, you don’t want him to lose,” he says. “If a gentleman doesn’t tip, you’re rooting for him to lose”!
Yes, dealers sometimes steal.
What is the most common case of casino malfeasance Sal has ever dealt with? Tip: There are 11 expert tech scammers led by George Clooney. “This isn’t as Hollywood as you might think, but honestly, it’s just the dealers coming in, taking a chip and putting it in their pockets,” says Sal.
“Nothing sophisticated”. That’s the weird reason behind all those weird rituals dealers do.
“Everything the dealers do has been put into place for a reason,” says Sal. For example, when a dealer leaves the table, they have to “clear their hands” . “They clap their hands and turn their hands palms up and palms down to show the camera, ‘I’m not stealing anything,’” says Sal.
If a dealer is stealing, Sal says there are many different ways for security to handle the matter, depending on where the casino is. “In Vegas, they’re going to pin him to the table right away,” he says. “They’re actually going to handcuff him and escort him out for all to see.
They call it ‘The Walk of Shame’. In some places, they don’t want negative publicity. They prefer to do this outside of the game. Then they will maybe call him to the manager’s office and arrest him there.”
Of course, it’s no secret that in a casino, the game is manipulated, numerically at least. “The longer you’re there, the more the numbers will start to dominate and the casino will make money,” says Dee.
“Let’s be realistic; they’re in it to make money.” But despite our knowledge, this doesn’t take away the fun present in casinos. “People come here to have a good time,” says Dee. “So if you’re having fun along the way and earn a few pennies or lose a few pennies, great.”