There is Much More to Cheating Players than Dealing the Second-Card from the Top card of the Deck when Working as a 21 Mechanic, but I Will Begin with Dealing Seconds.

July 20, 2011 § Leave a comment


One can go online to the Internet or to YouTube and search using the terms “dealing seconds.”  There are various video demonstrations of people dealing the second card, from under the top card of the deck.

Most of the second-dealers on YouTube are moving their deck-hand way too much, using misdirection, and are obviously moving the top card out of the way with their thumb to get to the card below it—the second card.

There are many who can do clever things with cards when not under pressure.  Cheating for the house in a real casino against real players who will become unglued and liable to do bad things to you if you’re caught—is not for the faint of heart.

There is a seconds-dealer on YouTube, Yiannis Sampalis, who does a very good job of dealing seconds.  However, I think he’s a magician and not a 21 mechanic.  He does have excellent dexterity, and as they say, good hands.  If he was an active cheater, I doubt he would be demonstrating his acumen on YouTube.  Sampalis strikes the thumb of his deck-hand with the thumb of the hand with which is taking the second card, and deals the second card face down.  He deals with a “dead-thumb.”  He is a dead-thumb-dealer, which means he does not use his thumb to feed the cards off of the deck to the fingers of his right hand.  He pulls them off with the thumb of his right hand, his non-deck hand.

Beginning at approximately one-minute and twenty-five seconds into Sampalis’ video, he slows down, or slows the video, so the viewer can see him striking the thumb of his deck hand with the thumb from his right hand.  He deals the second-card extremely well.  Apparently he is making it easier for the viewer to see what he’s doing, as he is using cards with a border.  It would be much more difficult to see if he was using cards that did not contain a border.

Click on the below link to watch Sampalis in action:

However, Sampalis does not demonstrate—which I’m sure he can do—the method for second-dealing a hit-card.

The hit-card, given to a 21 (blackjack) player by the dealer when the player asks for another card in addition to the two cards the player has already been dealt, is not done by striking ones’ deck-hand thumb with the thumb of the other hand—it’s done with a finger from the other non-deck hand.

For those of you who have played single deck 21 in a real casino, you will recall that a hit card taken from the top of the deck and given to a player is done in an entirely different manner.  It is grasped with the fingers and thumb, and in an overhand motion placed in front of the player’s chips, face up.  A second-dealing hit-card must be done in the same manner, but striking the thumb with a “finger” first, not the thumb, and grasping the second card with a finger and then the thumb, placing it in front of the player’s chips face up.  I myself was—and I emphasize was— also a dead-thumb dealer in live action in real Las Vegas casinos.

In the demonstration videos we see on YouTube, the second-card dealer develops a rhythm, keeping the same grip, or frame on the deck.  In the real world, the second-dealing rhythm is interrupted quite frequently, as the mechanic has to actually deal the game, changing his deck grip constantly, and has to be able to regain the correct frame, or grip, to be able to deal a second card, instantly when required.

When a player goes busted, for example, the mechanic must pick up the chips and cards just like a regular square-john dealer.  This causes the mechanic to have to change his grip on the deck.  While he is picking up the cards and chips, putting the cards in the card- rack and the chips in the chip-rack, the next player is already asking for a hit-card.  There can be no stalling here to re-obtain the grip needed to deal the second-card.  The mechanic cannot take the time to carefully place the deck—with the non-deck hand—in his deck hand, moving it around until it is just right.  He has to get his grip back immediately.  This re-griping is usually done by the mechanic pushing the back of the deck against his abdomen to set the deck in his hand the way he needs it, getting his thumb and fingers into the correct position.  This is something you do not see on YouTube.

Dealing a real casino 21 game is much different from dealing in a home game.  The dealer of a professional casino game, mechanic or not, has to keep the game moving—players are impatient and want speed.  I’m slipping into present tense here, but I am writing about years past.  The boss who knows you are working as a mechanic wants the mechanic to look like he’s performing like all the regular dealers who follow a specific format for dealing the game: Cards are turned over and chips are picked up in a sequence that conforms to house rules.  A good mechanic has to deal like a regular dealer and incorporate the house rules into his moves for cheating the players.

There are various inside euphemisms for working as a 21 mechanic, such as: “going for the green” (money), “whacking out . . . “ And there was some gallows humor, back in the day, jokes like—”Dr. so and so, you’re wanted in surgery”—when the whole joint was flat.  Flat is a term that comes from crooked dice—six-ace-flats—dice that were beveled on the edges so a combination of seven would come up more often in a crap game, which is good for the house

How does the mechanic know what the second card from the top is?

Tomorrow: The Peek.

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