This series of posts is dedicated to killing sacred cows about “cover” (I use quotes because I think even the basic mental assumptions of cover advice are bad). The purpose of these posts is to challenge the conventional wisdom on cover, and shamelessly sell our class “Getting Away With It.”
A Flawed Paradigm
Nearly every new card counter that comes to one of our classes, or stumbles across an internet forum has bad ideas about making cover plays. First of all, none of these people have even developed their skills enough to play a winning game; almost no one that thinks they can count at a competent level is actually ready for casino play.
Even though most are not playing a winning game, many are convinced the casino is after them, and they need to make drastic “cover plays” in order to avoid being kicked out for counting cards! You or I might sit and play with them for an hour and not even think they were an AP (because they can’t play), but they’re so worried about backoffs, they’re giving up more of their (nonexistent) advantage!
The Source Of The Flawed Paradigm
There are many books that have given similar advice on cover plays, but I’m going to focus on one. Don Schlesinger’s book Blackjack Attack is a great book if you want to gain a deep understanding of the theory and math involved in card counting. Buy his book, because the math really is that good. But Schlesinger’s advice on cover, comportment, and other practical aspects is based on a flawed paradigm.
Intentionally Misplaying a Hand?
Schlesinger spends a great deal of time discussing the impact of intentionally misplaying hands. He argues that he is not advocating that you misplay a hand for cover purposes, but I have seen countless posts online from new players that got this impression from his book.
(On the other hand, he also said he never splits tens… which is intentionally misplaying a hand…for cover purposes. And the book has full charts on the cost of misplaying your hand. Wonder how people got such a wrong impression?)
Don gives one potential scenario: someone is watching you play, so you make an “on-the-spot, unplanned decision to make a “dumb” play in an attempt to shake a bothersome boss who can’t make up his mind about you.” Now, I’ll be the first to admit, there are times to forego hitting a hard 19, or even splitting tens. But not hitting 16 v. 7 is a horrible decision on multiple levels.
The Flawed Paradigm
I’ve personally attempted the “shake the boss with a dumb play” maneuver, and it doesn’t work. Why?
Let’s begin with the flawed thinking behind the “intentional error” discussion.
- There are people trying to stop me from counting
- These people are experts on the game
- If I make a real boneheaded move, they will assume I am a bonehead
- I will then be free to play with impunity
Let’s go step by step. First, is anyone trying to stop the player from counting? That is debatable. Some casinos do not even bother protecting their games most of the time.
Second, who is trying to stop the player? 99% of the time, it ain’t George from the El Cortez. Does the person we are trying to fool even know how to play?
Third, assuming someone is even watching, and knows how to play basic strategy, they will be thrown off by a single move. But why do we assume this? What if they just assume you made a mistake? Or what if they’re not even watching how you play the hands? Or…gasp… what if they don’t know their index plays, and think standing on 16 v. 7 is correct?
Finally, it seems to assume that skill evaluation is a once-off event. It seems like people think Laurence Fishburne’s character from 21 is sitting in his Bat Cave, and if he throws the guy off one time, he will suddenly call of the hounds!
“Well, I thought that guy was counting, but he stood on a 16 v. 7 below the index. Guess I don’t get to beat him into a pulp in the dungeon, because he’s a total moron!”
Projecting Ourselves Onto Our Enemy
“It is said that if you know your enemies and know yourself, you will not be imperiled in a hundred battles; if you do not know your enemies but do know yourself, you will win one and lose one; if you do not know your enemies nor yourself, you will be imperiled in every single battle.” (Sun Tzu, The Art of War)
There is a failure to understand our enemy. The fundamental mistake is the assumption that game protection is just like us. This faulty assumption underlies almost all of the bad advice out there on how to get away with counting.
I once walked into a casino and spotted a counter just by his appearance; I talked to him later, and he told me he knew I was sharp at about the same time.Why were we both so good at spotting other sharps? Because we do this for a living!
Casino employees don’t do this for a living! They sit around trying to make sure dealers aren’t stealing from the tray. They are worried about homeless people harassing the elderly slot players. Most know almost nothing about advantage play, so cover plays that would throw you off are worthless. Before you can understand how to use cover, you have to understand what your enemy is even looking for!
Why You Should Take The Class
Our class Getting Away With It is an in-depth seminar on how to gamble with an advantage without getting caught. We chose not to even use the term “cover play” for the class, because the whole mentality is so mistaken.
We don’t start by teaching “top-secret” tricks that will magically throw them off your scent. That’s not how we got the money. Most of the class is understanding how casinos protect their games, and discussions to change your mentality. Only after this foundation is laid do we discuss a few specific, effective cover plays for specific situations, and then run through drills.
Right now, do you know how most card counters get caught? Do you know what play is responsible for about 90% of the entries in OSN? Can you tell me every single job title in a casino that could have game protection responsibility? If not, you need to learn.