Monday, February 26, 2018

Just How Friendly Should Dealers and Floor Staffs be with their Players at the Tables?

Who's Controlling the Mini-Bac Game?
I'll bet that 99% of you know that answer about as quickly as I wrote "99%".

Obvious you're thinking, "Friendly but not too friendly, right?

And you are right. Any casino whose staff is as cold as ice is going to quickly steer their players right to the next casino. And any casino whose staff is too friendly to their players opens itself up to many game-protection risks at their tables.

But let's get into this analysis a little deeper.

Suffice it to say that you don't want your staffs to be cold, nasty, robotic or mechanical while dealing and supervising their games. We need not spend any time analyzing that.

But what are the real problems with your staff being too friendly and over-talkative with your players? Is it that they might meet up with them at a local bar and have a drink or two?

You bet that's one problem. My 25-year casino-cheating career began just like that. I was dealing my mini-baccarat game and was being chatted up and entertained by a real cool dude, who two weeks after meeting up with me in a bar became my professional casino-cheating mentor. The first result of that was my performing a mini-baccarat false shuffle scam that took my casino for $20,000.

But let's put my personal cheating career aside and let me give you two scenarios from my career as a game protection consultant/trainer, one of which risked game-protection problems while the other caused very serious game-protection problems.

Case 1)

I did a two day multi-shift undercover investigation of a major Native American casino. I cruised by every table-game in the casino several times and stopped to observe those that needed to be observed. I found some disturbing instances of dealer and supervisor over-friendliness with their players. Not only were the dealers and supervisors both encouraging their players how and how much to bet, some were jumping up for joy with them when they won and cussing out and stomping their feet on the floor when they lost.

In once instance, a blackjack dealer, after drawing out a five-card twenty-one to a table filled with splits and double-downs, actually slammed that last five-value card onto the table in disgust. It then fell off the table.

I witnessed several incidents of this type. One dealer advised a roulette player, "Don't bet on zero! It hasn't come up all night." Another roulette dealer paused in mid-sweep to have a minute-long conversation with a player at the game who appeared to be a friend.

Later on, in a meeting with upper management, I commented on these observations. They told me that it was casino policy for the dealers to be very friendly to their clientele at the tables. I quickly told them that that policy was inviting trouble. They at first demurred but then seemed to be in agreement. I have not been back to that casino since, so I don't know if they actually changed their "over-friendly" policy.


I recently completed a two-casino training engagement in Canada. As I often do, I conduct an undercover investigation and evaluation of the casino before the training begins. In the first casino I noticed a stunning procedural violation of table-game protection.

A group of high-rolling Asian baccarat players were jammed-up at the casino's number-one mini-baccarat game with hordes of family members and friends behind them. Each player had at least $1,000 bet on the layout. Checking out big action games is of course a part of my game-protection job.

I stood and watched...and listened.

There were two bets on Player, the rest of the table on Banker.

The dealer dealt the cards. Then he suddenly did the unbelievable...or at least what I considered unbelievable.

He turned over the Banker cards first!

Rules state that the Player cards must be turned over first.

I was so stunned I almost said something. Of course I never say anything during an undercover investigation no matter how flagrant the violation. I always discuss it with upper management at the appropriate time.

So I held my tongue. I guessed that maybe the dealer made a mistake, although that seemed odd. He definitely was experienced.

The players on the Player side did not seem to object to the Banker cards being exposed first.

The dealer dealt out the hand, took the losers, paid the winners.

On the very next hand it happened again. The dealer dealt the cards and turned over the Banker cards first.

It didn't take but a few more hands for me to realize what was going on.

The dealer was turning over the Banker cards first because that's what the Asian player with the biggest bet wanted!

As I stood and watched in amazement, the dealer waited before each hand for the Asian player with the largest wager to command how he wanted the dealer to deal the game.


And when the relief dealer appeared, nothing changed. The high-rolling Asian baccarat players were actually controlling the deal of the game.

And the casino had no problem with this gross violation of dealing and game-protection procedures. In order to accommodate their prized high rollers, most likely out of fear of losing these players if they refused to grant their wishes, they relinquished to them the very control of their baccarat game.

When I came back to that mini-bac table on the next shift with a completely different staff--and a different group of Asian high-rollers, the same thing was going on. When the players wanted the Banker cards turned over first, the dealer obliged and the supervisor, glued to the game, did not object.

On my way to the second casino, I thought incredulously of what I'd witnessed at the first.

And guess what?

You guessed it! The same exact practice was occurring at the second casino. It all became very clear. Several casinos in this part of Canada, each afraid to lose high-rolling baccarat players to other casinos breaking the rules, broke the rules themselves in order to prevent a mass defection of their high-rolling baccarat players.

So next came my meeting with upper management of both casinos. They explained what I thought they'd explain: That they had to bend the rules and compromise their tables because other nearby casinos were doing it.

I wondered which was the first casino to do it.

I also wondered what the Asian high rollers would do if all the casinos in that part of Canada refused to alter the deal of mini-baccarat.

Would they get on a plane just to have the game dealt their way? I don't know the answer to that, but what I do know is this: If all the casinos in Canada, and the rest of the world for that matter, didn't break the rules for these high-rolling players, the Asians would not quit playing baccarat.

I'd bet my life on that!

So, the story told, where is the REAL danger of these compromised dealing and game-protection procedures?

I explained it to upper management of both casinos: I said to them, "What happens when one of these Asian high rollers blows off lots of money and his business goes bad at the same time? What happens when he goes broke?"

I know it seems like these Asian baccarat players have endless supplies of cash, but believe me, many of them don't!

I'll tell you what could happen. That particular suddenly-broke Asian, who already is chummy with the dealer and speaks his native language, and who already has exercised some control over him as he has for a long time now dictated to that dealer how he wants him to deal the game, starts talking to that dealer about entering into a collusion partnership against the casino.

Look, I am not saying that this will happen, but I am saying for sure that the possibility of it happening is much greater when the casino shows its weakness to a desperate high roller by having let him control the game for a long period of time.

After giving several possible examples of how this compromise of game-protection procedures to keep high-rolling players high rolling at their casino can backfire, I added...

"Oh, by the way, did you hear what happened to Crockfords Casino in London and the Borgata Casino in Atlantic City when they altered their baccarat-dealing and game-protection procedures for Phil Ivey?"

They shook their heads in comprehension.


If you do you will eventually get stung.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Has Casino Game Protection Gone too Far? Or Should we just Change its Name?

Just Game Protection...ONLY!
I recently received an email from a reader of my blog criticizing me and others in the game protection industry for "just going way too far." He said that we are covering things that simply have nothing to do with casino game protection. He cited the October 1st Las Vegas massacre as a prime example.

The writer is someone who is not in the business but whom I know well for having made several worthy comments to me over the years. So I began to think about what he said and soon I found myself asking if his critique did indeed have merit.

Has casino game protection gone too far?

We all know that the number-one horror story in Las Vegas, and in the entire United States for that matter, during the year 2017 was the terrible mass-shooting committed by Stephan Paddock. Fifty-nine people died and hundreds more were wounded in this unbelievable senseless act of terror.

The shooting also seemed to be the number-one story for casino game-protection-related websites and blogs, especially those operating from Las Vegas.

We all certainly appreciate the loss of life, destruction of lives and the terrible suffering that this tragic event caused, and I certainly appreciate the roles that casino surveillance and security must play in order to better prepare for these types of events and maybe even help stop them before they happen or at least minimize the devastation.

But what I am suddenly not so sure about is that terrorism and mass-murder, whether it be internationally inspired or the work of some madman (or in Paddock's case a seemingly sane guy seeking revenge for gambling losses), should be so directly related to all the topics and practices that fall under the umbrella of what you and I call "Casino Game Protection."

I have followed just about everything online about casino game-protection since I first got involved in it after a 25-year-career cheating casinos that culminated in my writing a book and finally becoming a casino game-protection trainer myself.

For the first few years during my transition from an interested person to an active participant in game protection, "game protection" simply meant protecting casino games from cheats, thieves, crooked employees and advantage players. It was nothing more than training casinos how to protect their table games and slot machines from those looking to take advantage of weak internal controls and other flaws to take money out of the casino cages.

But it surely began to evolve after 9/11.

I first noticed it when an Israeli anti-terrorism expert gave a gruesome presentation at the 2007 World Game Protection Conference at which I was the first speaker. Although I was a bit surprised by his very presence there, I certainly understood it. Of course there was the real threat of a terrorist attack at a Las Vegas or any other American casino.

Next came the computer hackers and high-tech fraud experts. I understood that as well. Hackers and fraudsters certainly had already invaded casinos' financial and information systems, so we did no wrong including these experts under the widening umbrella of casino game protection.

But then came astronauts and people whose areas of expertise I didn't even understand So maybe then I first had some inkling of doubt about the people getting involved in giving advice how to protect casinos, if not casino games. But I just shrugged it off and said to myself..."okay."

Finally, after that terrible event in Las Vegas, game protection did indeed do a major shift to where our experts (including myself) were now speaking out daily on matters that some may consider more apropos to SWAT teams and Navy SEALS.

The writer pointed out that we should not be voicing our opinions on how the Las Vegas Sheriff's Department and FBI were conducting their investigations and giving out information to the public.

That's where he said he drew the line.

He added that casino game protection people do not need to make public statements about mass killings and killers' backgrounds, nor do we need to be "criminal news agencies" transmitting photos of armed robberies, sexual assaults and murders even if they do happen in or near casinos.

Then he wrote, "Posting and Tweeting about Steve Wynn's alleged sex abuse under the heading of game protection devalues the integrity of what you do."

These comments got to me.

Upon serious thought, I can agree that those are not game-protection issues. They are issues that concern specific functions of casinos' security and surveillance staffs that have nothing to do with gaming. So maybe the guy's right. Maybe we should leave these issues to the very capable and dedicated casino security and surveillance professionals whose reality it is to deal with them.

There is one item coming off the massacre supported by game protection forums that does bother me. This is the promotion of software programs that inventors say can track degenerate gamblers' playing patterns and behavior at the tables to identify which ones are more likely to go back to their rooms and get their guns and grenades after taking a bad loss at blackjack.

Come on, gimme break!

This is just some innovator's way of profiting off the hysteria. There ain't never (pardon this double-negative onslaught) gonna be no software to tell us which degenerate gamblers are going to go on a casino rampage, no more than there's gonna be software to tell us which high school wacko-psychotic posting his love for killing online is gonna storm into his classroom with an AR 15.

Please don't buy that crap.

Although the school shootings have been very repetitive in nature, the Las Vegas-style massacre will probably never happen again. And if it does, there is not much we would have been able to do to prevent it...except maybe if by some miracle the gun laws change. (I don't want to get political here--because doing so is CERTAINLY NOT game protection! LOL).

So maybe game protection needs to stay more focused on what it is (or was)--simply protecting casino games and gaming operations. In my eleven years training casino and surveillance staffs in game protection, never once have I uttered these words during a seminar: terrorist; tracer bullets; automatic weapons; active shooter.

And not one attendee has ever asked me why not. 

Finally, my opinion is this: We should probably continue talking about these issues but not overdo it. Unless, of course, we want to change the name of what we do to something other than "casino game protection" if we're going to be so all-encompassing.

I expect you might have some diverse comments, so keep 'em coming!

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Table Game Protection Dilema: Should Casino Floor Staffs Receive Game Protection Training Together with Surveillance Staffs?

This is a very common question.

The worry that most casino upper managers have is that if Gaming Floor People are shown all the cheat moves that Surveillance Personnel are, the result might lead to more inside dealer/floorperson/surveillance scams against the casino, or simply that casino floor people should not have as much knowledge of scams as surveillance, so that they might not be tempted on their own to cheat their tables.

I have always conducted my game protection training with the two groups together. I feel strongly about this because I believe the casino staff on the floor must be on the same page as the surveillance staff "upstairs."

True, there are potential negatives, even dangers. But let's look at a few facts first.

The first is that collusion scams performed by casino floor staffs very rarely involve surveillance people. So by that alone, you can rid yourselves of the worry of a major scam going down in your casino from the bottom all the way up. That can only happen in a casino that has disastrously poor internal controls and game-protection policy, and complete lack of adherence if there is any game-protection policy in place.

Second: There are always some dealers who turn to cheating the house. This can NEVER be avoided. But the global percentage, even in casinos with poor internal controls that are literally asking their dealers to cheat them, is extremely low, probably lower that the vast majority of worldwide industries.

With that in mind, excluding dealers and floor supervisors from knowledge of the inner-workings of table scams being taught to surveillance staffs will have a negative impact on your casinos.


Simply because your dealers are your first line of defense against ALL casino scams not involving dealers. If they are ignorant to a particular cheating scam happening on their tables, then, unless a very sharp supervisor behind them takes notice of the moves going down, surveillance immediately becomes your FIRST line of defense.

Now I have absolutely no bias against surveillance staffs, but in my 25-year casino-cheating career, not once has a cheat-move of mine been spotted on time or stopped by surveillance alerting the gaming pits.

I mean NOT ONCE!

This is not to say that surveillance operators aren't efficient. By and large they do a great job, especially if they have good training and follow internal policy. But it is much too difficult to spot the majority of professional moves when you're away from the table--no matter how good your equipment is.

Remember, good game protection must come from the floor up. Surveillance serves best when the floor staff alerts them to something suspicious. Then they can focus in on whatever it is going down on the tables, and then mobilize the entire casino to eradicate the problem.

So all that said, it is firmly my opinion that you should train your floor staffs in game protection, cheating and advantage play as you do your surveillance staffs.

However, I do suggest that if dealers are participating in game protection training, they should not be present when inside-dealer scams are being presented. They can learn these when and if they become supervisors.

All that said, this does not mean that floor personnel and surveillance staffs must be trained together in the same place at the same time. It just means that they should learn the same material, albeit perspectives unique to each department should be addressed to both.