Gaming Consultant Says Casinos Make a Mistake Focusing on Card Counters

Eliot Jacobson says casinos make a mistake when they spend so many resources stopping lone card counters. Instead, Jacobson says casinos should train their staff to locate “lucky idiots”, because their behavior masks a bigger danger for their business.

A good card counter gains an advantage over the casino. But the margins are small enough for a card counter that they are thought to make perhaps $22 an hour from the casino, while incurring risks wagering on a proposition which is still nearly 50/50. Other so-called cheats use other techniques, which might earn them thousands of dollars an hour.

Training Casino Staff to Spot Trouble

Jacobson, the owner and president of Jacobson Gaming, gives training seminars for casino employees. He teaches them how to spot cheating techniques like edge sorting and hole carding.

In either case, the gambler who sits at the table and makes the bets is part of a team. It is a group of cheats working in tandem who present the biggest threat to the casino’s bottom line, says Eliot Jacobson. The other members of the team are often spotters, trying to gather information.

High Profile Edge Sorting Case

At the moment, two broad categories are cheating are being used: edge sorting and hole carding. Edge sorting became better known in the past couple of years, because of a high profile set of lawsuits involving professional poker player, Phil Ivey.

A London casino sued Phil Ivey, claiming he used edge sorting to beat the casino out of millions of pounds. In testimony, Phil Ivey admitted he used edge sorting to gain an advantage. The court ruled the casino did not have to pay. Now Borgata in Atlantic City is suing Phil Ivey to retrieve $9.6 million he took from them. Borgata believes he used the same techniques in their casino.

How Edge Sorting Works

Edge sorting used the patterns on the back of playing cards to gain an advantage. If a card manufacturer is not careful, it can produce cards with irregularities on its back. If the edge of the card is not the same on both sides, a game in which players touch the cards gives them an advantage.

In baccarat or Three Card Poker, a player can sort the cards where the aces and 10-rank cards are turned in a different direction than the remainder of cards. If the players in such games know the aces and tens, it gives them a 21% advantage, says Jacobson.

“The Lucky Idiot”

What makes such a technique so hard to spot is the large number of bad players at the table games. Also, the casino staff expects to have a house edge, so a sort of arrogance sets in, especially when the “lucky idiot” steps to the table.

When a player appears at the table who makes huge bets and seems good-natured and befuddled, it can make an impression on the staff. Jacobson said a lot of bad decisions are made at the casino, and those decisions are getting word. The expert added, “A lot of people make crazy bets and play in crazy ways. Players seem to be getting even worse at the game over time.”

Hole Carding

Hole carding is even harder to spot, especially if the team of spotters is good. In this scenario, players seek to gain an advantage by spotting the dealer’s hole card. The other members of the team might be sitting at the table, at a table in the line of vision of the bettor, or elsewhere near the gaming table.

When they see useful information, the spotter signals the gambler. Perhaps they stand in a different way, or sip from their drink, or shuffle their chips. The lucky idiot is signaled how to bet, then makes a preposterous bet for seemingly no good reason. In doing so, they gain a big advantage on the bet, without tipping off the dealers or the pit boss.

Up to $2000 an Hour in Revenue

The plays work, producing wins between $200 and $2000 an hour, when the gambler is making $100 bets. As you can see, hole carding takes a team effort and deep pockets, because luck still plays a factor.

In a way, the continuing luck factor works in the hole carding team’s favor, so long as their pockets are deep enough. As Eliot Jacobson says, “These advance plays are — very hard to detect even if you see the person doing it right in front of you.”

Of course, it’s hard for dealers and pit bosses to spot edge sorters and hole carders, when their bosses don’t seem to notice the threat.

About Cliff Spiller

Cliff Spiller has been an online writer for 14 years. He worked for Small World Marketing for a decade, where he covered topics like gaming, sports, movies, and how-to guides. Since 2014, he has blogged about US and international gambling news on,, and

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