Five tips to avoid the long walk of shame
by Basil Nestor
It can happen to anyone, even film legend Ben Affleck. On April 28, he was playing blackjack at the Hard Rock Casino in Las Vegas. According to Variety, Ben was approached by a casino rep who told him, “You’re too good at this game.” That’s a nice way of saying, “You’re counting cards.” Then the casino declined his action, effectively banning Ben from the blackjack tables. They called him a car, and he left the property.
Some news sources reported that Ben was banned from the Hard Rock, but a few days later, the Las Vegas Review-Journal got a clarification from Abigail Miller, a hotel rep. She said, “Mr. Affleck, a valued guest of Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, is not banned from our property and is welcome back any time.” Nice, but is Ben still banned from playing blackjack? She didn’t say.
How did this happen? Can it happen to you? The short answer is yes. Counting cards at blackjack is just one example. Roulette, craps, poker,—all table games are potential breeding grounds for situations that can land you on the pavement, especially if you’re an advantage player. Here’s what you can do to make that less likely.
1. Don’t be so obvious.
One week prior to his adventure at the Hard Rock, Ben was playing blackjack at Wynn. A rep there told him to curb his action. Rob Olivetti, games protection manager at Wynn and Encore, was quoted by Radar Online in an internal e-mail saying, “He was being way too obvious moving his money with the count. He was spreading $100-10K on the double decks and $0-20K (2 at 10K) on the shoe games.”
That’s just crazy! Depending on your blackjack counting strategy, and your preference for cover, you might want a bet spread (low bets vs. high bets) of 1-4 up to 1-12. You might push it to 1-16 if you’re brave. But Ben was betting $100 at the low end, and $10,000 at the high end. That’s a spread of 1-100! He might as well have announced when he sat down, “I’m counting cards!” It was unwise.
Wynn let him play, apparently with a warning. But Hard Rock shut the door.
2. Don’t be tricky with black chips.
According to various sources, Ben was using black $100 chips to keep track of the count. This was wrong for a couple of reasons. Casinos track your black chips. They don’t want you ratholing (sneaking black chips off the table and then claiming you lost money when you really won money). So they’re very aware of how you handle chips. Also, playing at a high-limit table brings extra scrutiny. It’s usually easier to get away with a big spread of 1-12 and ratholing when your bets are $75 to $900 or $150 to $1,800, betting green and black chips at a table in the main casino. Is that boring small stakes for Ben? Probably. But right now his stakes at the Hard Rock are $0. A modest spread of 1-6, $500-$3,000, might have been overlooked if he hadn’t been counting with black chips.
3. Don’t think the scrutiny is only on blackjack
All table games track black chips and higher denominations. They also count greens and reds, but not so carefully. All table games have behaviors that are forbidden or in the gray area of unwanted but not illegal. Some casinos don’t want you setting dice in craps. Some of them don’t want you using visual ballistics or wheel clocking in roulette. Every game has weak points that can be legally exploited, and you shouldn’t imagine that the casino is entirely unaware. So be stealthy. Be cautious. Above all, don’t be greedy. Win a reasonable amount and then quickly go. Don’t pile it up and dare the casino to identify you as an advantage player.
4. Don’t be a jerk. By all accounts Ben was polite when he got the tap.
But many people are shown the door just because they’re jerks. I once had a guy sitting to my left who was ejected because he made an obscene gesture to me. Why was he angry? I correctly hit my hand and took his good card. The floorman went to the trouble of checking the video to confirm the gesture. Then security came and the dude was tossed. A few months ago I was in a game and one player just couldn’t stop cursing, even after a warning. He wasn’t in a bad mood, just had a foul loose mouth. The female dealer and the women at the table had the guy booted.
5. Don’t imagine you’re Jack McCoy or Perry Mason, but do know the law.
Casinos in Nevada can eject you for almost anything, or nothing. Don’t imagine that legal arguments will sway them. They can ban you from a game or ban you from the property. If you return, it’s trespassing. Elsewhere in the country, the rules are generally similar. In Atlantic City, you can’t be ejected for counting, but a casino can take countermeasures to make the game so unprofitable that it becomes pointless. Your strategic goal is to never reach this situation. And, of course, know the law and the rules of your game. Don’t cheat. Cheaters aren’t ejected; they’re arrested. If you’re detained for legal advantage play but not arrested, stay cool and be polite. Remember that casino security are not police. Don’t answer questions, and firmly repeat that you want to leave, gesturing toward the exits so cameras above can see. Walk out unless you’re physically prevented from doing so. And remember to take your chips! Of course, if it gets to this, then your strategy of stealth has gone horribly wrong. Play well. Be careful. Be gracious, and you’ll avoid getting a tap on the shoulder.
Enjoy the game!
Basil Nestor is author of The Smarter Bet Guide to Blackjack, The Smarter Bet Guide to Craps, and other comprehensive gambling guides. Got a question? Visit SmarterBet.com and drop him a line.