One Step Ahead
Sophisticated Gamblers Use Legal Techniques to Gain Small Advantages at Casino Games
From the Print Edition:
Ron Perelman, Spring 95
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Formerly one of the world's most successful gamblers, Forte is intimately familiar with every advantage play to hit the casinos in the past 10 years. He's widely credited with conceiving many of them.
Forte, 38, is the president of International Gaming Specialists, a consulting firm that works with casinos worldwide on "game protection" issues, teaching them how to defend their tables from cheaters, scam artists and, surprisingly, themselves. Because of inadequate procedures, exploitable equipment or lax supervision, many casinos leave themselves exposed to what are known in the industry as "advantage players," players who use all available information and any legitimate strategy to gain an edge. These players annually beat the casinos out of millions.
"In the last decade, advantage players have had more effect on the gambling industry than cheaters ever had," Forte says. "Casinos regularly overhaul their game procedures because advantage players discover profitable weaknesses." The emergence of card counters (Cigar Aficionado, Spring 1994), for example, forced casinos to deal only two-thirds or three-quarters of a deck, instead of the 25/26 they formerly offered. But the vast majority of people who go to casinos have no idea that these powerful advantage techniques exist. The average "Square John" (sucker gambler) and the skilled advantage player look as if they're playing the same game. The only difference is that the advantage player wins.
Some of the advantage plays Forte employed in his former career were known to only a few hundred people in the world; others were known by only a few dozen. Now Forte is willing to share some of these powerful techniques, most of which have never before been revealed in the mainstream press.
He warns that advantage plays are not merely "tricks"--infallible gimmicks that will turn losers into winners. These methods take hours of practice, require significant mental agility and often prove too difficult for the casual gambler. Applied incorrectly, some advantage techniques will cost players more money than if they had simply relied on luck.
Applied correctly, however, they can destroy the casino's edge.
BLACKJACK AND BACCARAT
The cards are shuffled again; several hands of blackjack are dealt. With seemingly extrasensory precision, Forte correctly predicts where the aces will fall, which suit will appear first and the value of my hole card.
"It's called shuffle-tracking," he says.
Initially mentioned around the turn of the century in an obscure magic book by Charles Jordan and C. O. Williams, shuffle-tracking, or sequence-tracking, is an advantage technique that Forte first employed in the mid-1980s. To create true randomness, a deck of 52 cards needs to be shuffled at least seven times. But the more casinos shuffle, the more money they "lose" because their profits are related to the number of hands they get out per hour. (The more hands they deal to sucker gamblers, the more money they win.) Virtually all the casinos in the country shuffle their deck only an average of three times. Sequence-tracking exploits this weakness.
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