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Best of Mark Pilarski

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C-A-R-D-S! TEN-SHUN! COUNT OFF!

13 June 2005

Dear Mark,
I have a couple questions regarding cards on a blackjack game. When the decks are placed on a game, do pit bosses check them beforehand to see if they are all there? I'm always afraid that some of the aces will be missing. Do they check them when they come off the game? Also, when a pit boss changes decks, why does he replace a red deck with a blue one? David A.

You betcha they check 'em before they spread 'em. The blank would really hit the fan if the Gaming Commission were to come in unannounced (as they do), randomly pull a deck off a game (which they do), and find cards missing. BIG WHOPPING NO-NO.

Before cards ever touch the green felt, a games supervisor inventories them, making darn sure he didn't make the mistake of leaving an ace or king in the box. Yep, David, it can happen, especially when a pit boss hustles a new deck on the game. Because cards come in a collated order, certain cards (generally an ace of spades and king of hearts) could be left sticking to the two jokers. Though uncommon, it does occur. It behooves all players that anytime a new deck is spread, to make sure all the cards are introduced into the game. You need those aces for your blackjacks. Of course, your question shows you knew that.

Next, the pit boss skims through the entire deck, making sure every card is there, and then checks the backs looking for manufacturing defects like discoloration and uneven borders. Upon completing that inspection, the pit boss will spread the deck on the insurance line, so the dealer can double check the amount and quality of cards introduced.

Once playing cards are removed from the table they are always counted to make sure 52 cards are coming off the game. Some casinos require that you also count down the aces separately, since a crossroader would most likely remove an ace. One casino I worked in had dealers sort the cards and reconstruct them into the order they were in when they came out of the box every time we left the game. The dealer coming in replacing me brought in his or her own cards. I got so fast at whizzing them into order that it took me less than a minute. You do it expeditiously because the routine was eating into your sacrosanct 20-minute break. Try that at home.

The final step in the inventory process involves writing some information on the inside flap of the box. The information that is usually required is: the date, the table number, dealer on the game, the time the cards were taken off of the game, and the pit boss's initials. If there ever is a dispute on the game, that documentation, along with "rolling the tape", goes a long way in resolving it and — maybe — pinning a card cheat.

When replacing decks on a live game, there generally isn't a choice of which color to use. Though not all casinos use cards that have blue and red backings, you do replace decks with the alternate color the casino uses in order to nullify any attempt by a charlatan to hold out cards from the old deck.

Gambling quote of the week: "There are people whose sole job is to design casinos, from the carpet colors to the type of lights to the slot-chair upholstery. The mission is always the same — seduce the player into leaving his previous life behind, abandoning whatever constraints his real life imposes, trick him into gladly and happily shoveling his money into casino vaults." — Barry Meadow

Recent Articles
Best of Mark Pilarski
Mark Pilarski

As a recognized authority on casino gambling, Mark Pilarski survived 18 years in the casino trenches, working for seven different casinos. Mark now writes a nationally syndicated gambling column, is a university lecturer, author, reviewer and contributing editor for numerous gaming periodicals, and is the creator of the best-selling, award-winning audiocassette series on casino gambling, Hooked on Winning.
Mark Pilarski
As a recognized authority on casino gambling, Mark Pilarski survived 18 years in the casino trenches, working for seven different casinos. Mark now writes a nationally syndicated gambling column, is a university lecturer, author, reviewer and contributing editor for numerous gaming periodicals, and is the creator of the best-selling, award-winning audiocassette series on casino gambling, Hooked on Winning.