The Flawed Assumptions That Lead To Bad Cover Advice


This is the latest in my series of posts about “cover plays.” A “cover play” is when you play in a way that is less than optimal in the hopes of preserving your ability to play. I generally frown on “cover plays” based on my experience as a professional gambler and team manager.

If you need some foundation on what “cover” even is, I have written about cover plays, which is the intentional mis-playing of your hand in the hope of creating longevity. I have written about betting spreads, which is the idea that you should artificially limit yourself to a certain spread in order to preserve longevity. I have written about index plays from a “cover” perspective; that is, intentionally not deviating from basic strategy when you should.

An Analogy From The Military

Let’s start with a thought experiment. You’re a military commander, and you need to capture a town. You have no intelligence about enemy forces. Do you begin by figuring out the best way to attack the town? Or do you start by assuming you will be outnumber 3 to 1, and figure out a slow, arduous method of wresting the town from enemy forces at the cost of many lives?

Of course, you start off by figuring out the easiest way to take the town! Yet, many blackjack books and forum posters start of by telling new players how to use elaborate cover methods that were devised for high-stakes, professional players.

A wise commander would create a plan to attack the enemy directly, but might create a few contingency plans:

  1. f the enemy has at least 100 men defending the town, we will call for air support to soften them up.
  2. If they have at least 200, we will use some artillery shelling for a few hours to soften up their position.
  3. And if they have at least 500, we will slowly surround the town, cut them off from supplies, and shell them for several days to soften up the position.

But you don’t start by assuming there are 500 of them!

The Flawed Assumptions

Ok guys, let’s assume we’re outnumbered 10 to 1, and hide in our base for the rest of the war

I hate the term “cover” because it makes flawed operational assumptions. For example, it assumes, without justification, that you should start out by planning to give back part of your advantage for the sake of longevity.

This assumes that:

  1. We know what the enemy is looking for
  2. We can adopt modified strategies that will not attract attention from the enemy
  3. These strategies will still accomplish our mission
  4. The cost of the strategies is less than the cost of detection

First of all, most people advocating these “cover” strategies don’t even know what their enemy is looking for. If you haven’t read extensively about casinos, how they think, and how they operate, you have no business giving any advice about cover!

Second, they devise modified strategies that are intended to fool detection methods that are not even being used! If you assume the casino is only looking for bet spreads and index plays, you might get kicked out by using a player’s card that is heated up.

Third, many people have no idea how much these strategies are costing. In many cases, it is 50-75% of expected value, when compared to optimal play! Would you take a 50% pay cut from your job based on advice from some goofball on an internet forum?

Fourthly, they assume that they are better off playing with heavy cover than taking the risk of detection. A high-stakes, professional blackjack player might want to use some maneuvers that give back a big chunk of their advantage. But that is because they make a lot of money per hour, and they need to get a lot of hours in to be able to eat. A low-stakes amateur playing in another part of the country has almost no reason to use cover at all.

The Correct Basic Assumption

Unless we run into enemy troops, we’re just going to drive down Main Street and take over the town

Some of you are already (mentally) up in arms because I would presume to tell you what is “correct,” and contradict some “expert.” Sadly, most of the blackjack authors don’t make a living playing blackjack. They may know very little about getting away with card counting.

If they do make a living playing blackjack, they may not be telling you all the moves to get away with it. They may be holding back sensitive details in this area if they are making a lot of money playing the game. After all, the basic math of card counting is published all over the place, but tactics to fool casinos are quite sensitive (that’s why we charge $2999 for our class on Getting Away With It. We don’t hold back secrets).

Now that you understand the difference between math experts and playing experts, let me tell you what the playing experts do: start off by calculating the optimal way to play the game. If, and only if, there is reason to believe this will get you removed from the game, should you deviate.

Just as the military commander plans to achieve a quick victory, and only deviates when confronted with actual enemy troops, so the real professionals create plans to get the money out at quickly as possible. Their “cover” plays are contingencies only. They do not plan to give away their advantage without a damn good reason.


Begin by deciding the quickest and easiest way to get the money. Any “cover” should be a contingency plan, based on actual knowledge of an enemy threat.

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