So you’re thinking of trying blackjack spooking. As you well know, if you’re an advantage player at the casino, then there’s no better game than blackjack. By playing basic strategy and with a little luck, you can beat the house in the long term. And come away from a night at the tables with a healthy profit thanks to your jackpot winning strategies. You can also use slightly underhand methods to help win. These include card counting, ace sequencing, shuffle tracking, and hole carding.
Introduction: Blackjack Spooking
If you do use any of these techniques, then prepare yourself to be unceremoniously thrown out if you’re caught. On the other hand, non of these practices are illegal, so though you might be leaving the casino early, you will not end up spending a night in jail. There’s another technique for winning at blackjack that’s slightly more questionable, and that’s called spooking.
What Is Blackjack Spooking?
As you well know, in real money blackjack, the dealer gets 2 cards at the start of each round. One up the card and the other face down. Now, imagine the advantage you’d have if you knew what the face-down card was? Of course, you’re not supposed to know the value of the face-down card (known as the “hole” card). So you’re dealing with an incomplete picture. It’s harder for you to make a meaningful decision. Spooking is a means of finding out exactly what the face-down card is. You’ll be needing a friend. The general idea is that you sit at the table and play. But your friend positions himself somewhere near the dealer. As the dealer deals himself, your mate will use a series of hand signals to tell you what the face-down card is.
When we say “friend”, blackjack spooking can also involve a dealer who colludes with you. Whenever the dealer has an ace or 10 up-card, then they have to take a peek at the face-down one. At this point, they can signal to you. But this is illegal, for both the player and the dealer.
How Does Blackjack Spooking Differ From Hole Carding?
Spooking and hole-carding are very similar. But there are some key differences. Namely, that hole-carding is for just the player who tries to spot the face-down card himself. So there’s no second person standing off to the side trying to get a glance of the dealers’ cards. Essentially, the hole-carder is always sitting at the blackjack table and playing. They are looking for the hole-card themselves.
This Technique Requires Great Skill
So, if your friend can stand in the right spot, then you’re both going to make some serious bank? Not so fast, buddy! Though spooking may look as easy as it sounds, it’s actually incredibly difficult to both spot the face-down card, and then somehow transmit this information to the player, your accomplice. To this end, you’ll need to be extremely discreet. Remember that in the casino, there are eyes and cameras everywhere. You and your mate will need to of perfected an infallible technique as the casino surveillance is very adept at catching even skilled gamblers who are cheating. So any obvious hand signals and attempts to see the cards will be flagged almost immediately.
Now, the friend you have given the job of monitoring the dealer as he deals needs to be on top of their game. They should be able to accurately identify a card’s value from a distance, and then have a means of relaying that information to you without attracting unwanted attention.
What’s the Legality of Blackjack Spooking?
So, card-holing is legal. But blackjack spooking is not. If you get caught, then expect to be prosecuted by the casino. Thus arises the question, how come hole-carding is legal but spooking is not? Well, the answer is to be found in the actual location of the participants. As card-holing takes place at the table, then it’s seen as a perfectly legit way of helping yourself. In some ways you could call it part and parcel of advantage play. A gambler is relying on his own skills to get the best advantage and make a profit. But spooking relies on a second party, whose not playing at the table. His only purpose is to try and undermine the system.
The person who is only watching the dealer is a cheat. Though we don’t envision years spent doing hard labor if you’re caught, we do expect you to face some sort of legal repercussions.
Why Do People Still Use This Method?
If you have the possibility of facing a criminal record, a banning from casinos, and being sued by the casino, then why on earth do it? Especially when there are perfectly legal means by which you can help gain an advantage at the blackjack table. The answer lies in the fact, that if performed correctly, blackjack spooking will certainly increase your jackpot winning chances. Though you’ll be needing some skills in order to pull off spooking, it’s not on the same level as card-holing or shuffle tracking. Also, only the watcher needs to be skilled. The player just needs to know how to react to the information being relayed to him. You don’t have to find a dealer who’s tired and therefore unconsciously flashing their cards.
The watcher only has to note the card being checked or drawn from the shoe. Yes, it’s risky, but the rewards are abundant, and the actual watching of the cards is inherently less risky than other methods.
Legal Ways to Beat Blackjack
If we decide against blackjack spooking, then what other questionable methods might be open to us? Let’s have a look…
This is by far the most popular method to try and beat the casino. In fact this strategy is decades old and is still in use today. Essentially it involves watching every card that comes out of the shoe and giving a point value to it. You just have to keep a running count going. Here is the normal set of values in the system known as “hi-lo”:
A through 10 (high cards) = +1
9 through 7 (neutral cards) = 0
6 through 2 (low cards) = -1
The idea is to determine if there is a positive or negative count. If the count is positive, you should increase your bets. The more positive later on with an emptying shoe, the greater your chances of success. Essentially, the greater the deck penetration, the more confidence you should have in your wagers. There are many different card counting systems, but we would strongly recommend that you stick with this simple, hi-lo system to begin with. We have another article to see if you’re cut out to be a card counter.
Now shuffle tracking starts with card counting. You’re going to cont the cards until the dealer stops the game to shuffle them. You want to know which part of the shoe features a positive count. Here’s an example:
You’re playing at a table with an eight-deck shoe.
The dealer goes through six decks (75% penetration) before shuffling.
Your count is -3 when the dealer shuffles.
Therefore, the un-dealt two decks feature a +3 count and are favorable.
You track these two decks as the dealer breaks them into piles and begins shuffling.
So you’re trying to track a pile of cards that contain favorable cards. When these “slugs” of cards appear, then you bet more. This strategy is much harder to detect and so has a big advantage over traditional card counting.
As with blackjack spooking, here we’re also trying to see the dealer’s hole-card. It’s super helpful if we can stroll around all the gaming tables, looking for a dealer with a sloppy technique. Maybe he flashes the cards without realizing it. On the whole, croupiers and dealers are very well trained, so you might have quite a search on your hands. But it should be mentioned that dealers work shifts. They get tired towards the end of a long day, or after pulling a double shift. This is when they are at their most vulnerable to making mistakes. Once you spot one, then grab a seat at his table. You’ll need to sit so that you can glance at the face card as they are dealt. Here are the seats you would take in a blackjack game:
First base (seat to dealer’s immediate left) – Sit here if the dealer is right-handed.
A right-handed croupier usually peels the card up and towards the first-base side.
Third base (seat to dealer’s immediate right) – Sit here if the croupier is left-handed.
A left-handed croupier usually peels the card up and towards the third-base side.
You’ll need to find the spot whereby you get the best view of the dealer’s hands as he deals. For example, they’re more likely to show a card to third base if they’re left-handed. We don’t know how you’ll do it, but it’s essential that you look discreet when trying to see the dealer’s hole-card. If you could somehow move around with a pretend bad posture, as that would then look more natural at the games tables as you slouch forwards.
Conclusion: Blackjack Spooking
Just keep in mind, that unlike the other methods used in advantage play, spooking isn’t legal. It’s regarded as cheating as you’re not playing the game, only trying to play the system. But we feel, because of the ease of doing so, blackjack spooking will always be a popular practice as it’s so easy to do and has a pretty good success rate. But, you’ll be needing a totally foolproof system of communication to get the results to the player sat at the games table. On the whole, we always like the idea of getting one over the casino. But, we can’t really recommend any practice that’s illegal and could have serious consequences for these involved. So, just stick to legal methods. You can find all the best casinos to win the jackpot with our online casino guides.