Occasionally, you’ll play a session with no scrutiny, no heat, and no suspicion coming from the dealer, the pit, or surveillance. More often, and especially as you engage in higher-stakes play, your presence will be a source of curiosity amongst casino personnel at best, and a serious source of immediate concern at worst.
You are essentially presenting the casino with a puzzle: who you are, and whether or not you’re a desirable player. Do you want your puzzle to be a children’s jumbo jigsaw, or a 2000-piece borderless jigsaw with no box image and extra pieces?
Much has been said about various tactics to keep casino staff guessing. There are lots of things you can do that make you look less like an AP—drinking alcohol, tipping, talking a lot, not paying attention to the cards, and so on. But there are just as many things you can not do that will also add a little bit of complexity to your puzzle.
1. Phones. If there’s one leak that the entire advantage play community has, it’s gratuitous cell phone usage. Don’t get me wrong—cell phones are crucial in this business; they’re one of the most powerful tools we have. But do you really need to be checking your phone under the table every two minutes?
Look at other gamblers in the casino. How many of them are glued to their phones while playing? Not many, because they’re engrossed in the game they’ve decided to play. They’re there to escape reality, not to indulge in by checking their phone compulsively.
It’s even worse if you have a partner at the table doing the same nonstop phone checking under the table. It looks extremely suspicious, and it helps surveillance put you together.
Oh, and holding your phone at an upright angle and/or covering it with your other hand to hide the screen from surveillance cameras looks stupid, and it’s a 100% guarantee that anyone doing this is an AP. Knock it off.
2. Paying attention. Most civilians aren’t attached to their phones while playing because they’re wrapped up in playing! I know it’s boring as a non-civilian to sit at a table all day and play cards, but you need to at least pretend to care about what’s going on.
Sitting in the same spot for eight hours and spending nearly all of that time staring at the TV and checking your phone tells casino staff that you’re not really there to gamble for fun, and you’re not there to satisfy your craving for action, either. So why are you there? Is that a question you want the pit crew and surveillance to ask themselves?
3. Handling cash. Watch gamblers at the table, especially high rollers. If they’re not playing with a credit line (i.e., using markers), how do they handle buy-ins?
Here’s a hint: they definitely don’t sneakily pull a money belt out of their pants and count money by touch under the table. Counting money under the table is an AP thing. Having money neatly separated into set amounts across several pockets is an AP thing. Using a money belt in view of the cameras is a really ridiculous AP thing.
Pulling out a wad of cash in a rubber band is more “normal.” Pulling it out of your wallet is even more so. Be normal.
4. Blatant dealer-play correlation. We’ve all done it, and many of you are doing it now. You like playing against a particular dealer but not so much against their relief. So when the relief shows up, you immediately take a 15-minute long bathroom break. Or, you drop your bet to 1/10 the size of your standard wager.
Is it really worth the savings here? Could you time your breaks a little more strategically—perhaps leaving a little earlier and sometimes not leaving at all? Could you afford to fade the 0.7% house edge on your standard wager size for 20 minutes so that you can keep it steady with a 5% edge for the next hour? Can you employ some game slowing techniques instead of dropping bets to a comically low level or appearing as if you have a serious drug and/or constipation problem?
If you want to look like a civilian, do things that civilians do. And better yet, don’t do things that APs do. By thinking about this from both perspectives, you create a much more difficult puzzle for the casino to solve, and that’s money.
Blake Phillips is a professional advantage player and contributing editor to AP Street. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org