Dealing to a Peek.

July 20, 2011 § 3 Comments

In the previous post I wrote about dealing the second card.


Why would a dealer deal the second card from the top?  Why is the dealer saving the top card, and who is it for?  How does the dealer know the value of the top card?

In this post I am including a couple of self-explanatory pictures of how a 21 mechanic peeks.  In the example of the “heel peek” there should be no doubt in the readers mind as to which of the two cards the player will receive from the mechanic for the hand she is doubling down.

A real casino with a gaming license would never let a mechanic use marked cards.  Their gaming license is too valuable to lose.  If there were casinos that let mechanics deal reading “juice” or “paper” —euphemisms for marked cards— I didn’t know about them and no mechanic I knew personally, did either.  Bear in mind that I am writing about the past.

We dealt to a “peek.”  We had to peek at the top card, or the top two cards, to know what card(s) were coming next.  It’s easy to catch a mechanic if his peek is obvious.  The most common peek is the bubble peek.  The bubble peek when the dealer (lets assume a right hand dealer, a dealer who holds the deck in their left hand) is when the dealer “bubbles” the top card at the front of the deck when paying a bet or moving chips in the rack.  This can easily be spotted by the players if the mechanic is sloppy, as the players are sitting just a couple of feet away directly in front of the dealer and able to see the front of the deck.  Not all players are suckers and this always has to be kept in mind.

I doubt if any of the demonstrators of second-dealing on YouTube actually ever worked as a 21 mechanic in a real casino.  Most of them probably cheat in games played in somebody’s home.

I’m not making disparaging remarks about the demonstrators, but “whacking out”—or “going for the money” or whatever the euphemistic terminology—is much more complicated than just dealing seconds—and it takes nerve.  One has to act calm, although inside one might be nervous.  A good mechanic will deal the game correctly “and” cheat the players.  The mechanic should deal in the same manner as the regular dealers.  A mechanic should not appear to be using dealing moves that the regular dealers do not, like implementing phony stalls that somebody who really understands how the game is dealt would wonder about and be suspicious.

It can be nerve wracking with many things to think of when going for the green.  Most likely there would be one big player the mechanic will be focused on.  The smaller players, at the time, would not be important because the mechanic is concentrating on the big bettor.  A good technique is to concentrate on setting the big bettor on a stiff, a bad hand.  I would, for example, “carry” on the first go-round, pitching cards to the players, a six or a five for the big bettor as his first card.  Then on the second go-round, I would drop a card short in front of a player before I got to the big bettor.  I made this look like I didn’t control the card correctly, didn’t pitch it far enough.  This gives a mechanic the opportunity to turn his deck-hand upside down to shove the player’s card all the way to her with his index finger and simultaneously peek at the back of the deck to ascertain the value of what the next card or cards are.  “Carrying” cards for the big bettor is taking dead aim at him or her.  If all the players are betting about the same amount, the mechanic will concentrate on his own hand, trying to show the players 20 every hand.  Nobody can beat a dealer making 20 or 21 every hand.

Dropping cards short or moving chips in the rack, allows the mechanic to move his hands in front of his eyes.  A good mechanic will never move his eyes to the deck.  It is not natural to keep glancing at the deck while waiting for somebody to ask for a hit-card.  It is natural to straighten up a players bet and simultaneously peek at the next card.   This way the mechanics moves his hands in front of his eyes.  This is not obvious and is natural.

A card purposely dropped short allows the mechanic to shove the card that was dropped short, toward the player with the index finger of his deck-hand moving his deck-hand in front of his eyes and peek at the next card or two coming.  Hopefully one of them will be a nine or ten, maybe and eight, and that card would be ‘held” as the top card, while the mechanic continues on the go-round and carrying that nine, ten, or eight for the big bettor.  The mechanic would know what the value of the big bettors hand was. If he had saved and carried a ten for him, he would know the big bettor had 16.  Next, he would search for a card with a value of six or more when the players were asking for hit-cards.  When a player busts her hand, this is the perfect time for the mechanic to move his hands in front of his eyes to peek at the cards coming.  If the big bettor asks for a card, the deck-hand should drop down to the layout—the felt table-top— and very slowly give him the top card so the high roller can see very plainly see he is getting the top card, not a second.  If the big bettor does not want a hit-card the mechanic just needs a card for his hand that would make a hand of 17 or better.

Another trick  I used to use was to announce out loud that I had 20 or some pat hand when I really did—knowing the big bettor had 16. The players would look at me when I said I had 20 and I’d tell them that I really did have 20.  After doing this a few times, they were believers when I turned over my hole card and they saw I was telling the truth, I had a pat hand, the hand I had told them.  But, you see, I was saving a bust card for the big player.  He’d hit his hand and bust.  Then I’d turn over my cards and the big player could see I was his friend, trying to help him to make a toke (tip) for myself.

When I was working as a Mechanic, a mechanic could do or say whatever he wanted, as the bosses behaved like they didn’t know anything was going on and pretty much ignored what the mechanic was doing.  If the mechanic got caught the bosses could cower and say they didn’t know what was going on.  However, there were some bosses that really had some nerve and would belly right up on the game to enjoy watching me, and talk to the players while I was working them over.

The “heel” peek was my favorite although I did use the bubble peek, too. The heel peek is when the mechanic peeks at the card at the back of the deck.  Assuming a right handed dealer again, the mechanic will turn his hand upside down many times while dealing.

Reader, yes you.  Pick up a deck of cards and hold the deck in your left hand.  Turn it upside down and notice the numbers on the card are located under the heel of your thumb.  With a lot of practice you can learn how to squeeze the deck to make the top card, by the heel of your thumb, pop out to ascertain if you want this card for yourself or to give to a player.  Usually, when dealing seconds, the second-card is always for the player, as the mechanic is saving the top card for himself.

How does the dealer know what he has in the hole?  Remember the “go-round?”  If there are five players sitting at the game the mechanic, on the go-round, will have to deal 11 second- cards and the card he was holding for himself making it his hole card.  It doesn’t matter what the dealers up card is because he/she knows what the hole card is.  This is when the dealer will begin peeking at cards.  Example, the dealer has six up and knows he/she has a ten in the hole for a total of 16.  The mechanic will be looking and, ideally, find a five, but settle for a four or a three.  The settling depends on how many players are going to be asking for cards.  If the mechanic can see that four people are going to be asking for cards, and he/she finds a card right away with the value of three, he/she will hit the player with that three, and chance it that he will find a card of a higher value.  Say subsequent to the three the dealer sees a four or a five, he will “hold” that four or five and begin to give players their hit cards.  The players will now receive the second card from the top, as the mechanic is holding the top card for himself.

When it is time for the mechanic to give himself a card, the mechanic should drop his deck-hand down low to the table top and very slowly so all the players can see, take the top card for himself.

Players’ are confused as to who gets the second card.  They don’t realize the notion of the mechanic dealing the second card is one of saving the top card for himself.  Players might watch for a second card when the dealer hits his own hand because they don’t understand that all the second-cards have already been dealt.

When I couldn’t find a card in time that would give me a strong hand and I had a ten up and low card in the hole, I’d save a face card or ten to switch my hole card with.  Switching the hole-card is a very strong move and will certainly get the money.

Between dealing seconds, switching the hole-card and running up hands the players didn’t have a chance.

A mechanic or cheater who is excellent at home or while practicing with friends, but panics when under the gun in live action is sometimes referred to as a “gymnasium fighter.”  The term gymnasium fighter is a disparaging remark about a person who is an excellent prizefighter in the gym with a sparring partner, but when it’s time for live action in the ring against a real prizefighter coming after him, he can’t cut it.

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.

Breaking in and Learning to Steal

July 5, 2011 § 9 Comments

I moved to Las Vegas when I was 22.  I wanted to be a dealer and to enjoy the nightlife of Vegas, the party life.  Vegas was small back then, a population of 50,000.  The year was 1962.

I began as a break-in-dealer and part time shill.  Back in those days there were shills for the games.  Shill is an old term and the shills in Vegas of old could have just as easily been called “game starters,” as that’s what they really were.  They were mostly old men, some women, who were retired and earned a small wage and a meal.

The young shills were people like me who were willing to work as a shill in order to learn to be a dealer.

When a game was dead, no players, a shill would sit down at a blackjack game, for example, and the dealer would hand ten one-dollar chips to the shill.  The shill would bet only one dollar at a time following specific rules and never busting a hand.  If a real player came to the game, the dealer made the decision whether or not to take the shill out of the game.  If the real player asked for the shill to stay in the game, the dealer would oblige the player.  The shill could let the real player see their hand and most players like that, as they felt they could make better decisions if they could see more cards.  If another player or two sat down the dealer would then take the shill out of the game, taking back the one-dollar chips, dismissing the shill.

In those early days one did not go to a school for dealers.  I remember there was one such school at the time, but did not know one dealer who went to a dealing school. We all learned the same way, becoming shills and break-ins first.

A young person would go to work as a shill with the agreement that the casino bosses would break in the shill to be a dealer.  The journeyman dealers would teach a young shill, such as myself, how to shuffle cards, deal craps or roulette.

After sufficient practice at home shuffling cards and pitching them and if there was a dead game on a slow night at the casino, the dealer would trade places with the shill/break-in-dealer, sitting at the game playing hands.  The shill would now be the break-in-dealer, but dealing only to the dealer who was training him.  I say “him,” as back in those days there were no female dealers in Vegas.  The dealer sitting in the shill position would play several hands, splitting hands, doubling down . . . so the break-in would have some practice.

If a player came along and sat down the dealer would quickly switch places with the break-in who was dealing.  When the break-in reached a certain level of efficiency, the dealer would remain playing the shill role, allowing the break-in to deal to the “live” action of one player.  Of course the dealer watched closely.  Many players seemed to enjoy being in on the process.  Many did not, as the break-in was too slow and would want the real dealer to deal.

My first night of being an actual dealer came as a surprise.  It was a Friday night and one of the regular 21 dealers had not shown up for his shift.  I heard a floorman tell the shift boss that this dealer was drunk again and had called in.

The shift boss beckoned to me and told me I was dealing 21 that night.

“But I’m not ready yet,” I said.

“Just get in there, you’ll be okay,” he said.

“But . . . “

“Just get in there—now.  The floorman will help you, the players will help you.”

This was a weekend night and the minimum bet was two dollars.  They put me on a back game and my hands were trembling.  I was dealing to a full game.  In my mind I was not ready.

This was a casino for locals, The El Cortez, which was located downtown.  The players had a good time coaxing me along, correcting me when I made a mistake even if it benefited them.  I was a baby faced 22 year old and they were all older, probably 40 or more.

After a few hours I had gained confidence.  At the end of the shift I wanted to deal every night, but I had to wait until somebody quit or was fired.  In another month I was promoted to a dealer position, but at a much lower wage than a full-fledged dealer.  The shift boss would give break-ins a raise every couple of months as he improved.

After a few months I applied at another casino where the tokes (tips) were better because of the better clientele.

This is when I began learning about stealing.  Other dealers who had agents broke me in to working with agents.  An “agent” is a player who sits at the game and works with the dealer, the dealer “shoving” chips off to him or her.  There are various ways to do this.  This casino did not have an eye-in-the sky so the simplest thing to do was just pay the player, win or lose.  It was referred to as “paying in the blind.”

In those days, 21 dealers didn’t leave the cards on the layout–the table top–until they were through paying winning hands and taking chips from the losing hands and then picking up the cards after everybody’s bet had been attended to.  This method was referred to as “leaving them lay” and is to this day the way it is done.

Until “leaving them lay” became mandatory, the 21 dealers did what was called “Pick and pay,” which was a method of picking up the cards as soon as the dealer paid or took the chips from the individual hands that had been dealt.  As soon as each individual bet was attended to, the dealer picked up the cards.

This method was to ensure that the dealer had a better chance of keeping control of all the cards so none would go missing.

The flaw in “pick and pay” was that a dealer could pick up the hand of an agent, not letting the other players see the hand and then pay off their agents bet if they lost.  If the agent really had a winning hand then the dealer would expose the agent’s cards for all to see.

This is how I began shoving money off to agents, “paying in the blind.”

My first agent was a very attractive young woman in her mid 20s.  She used to come into the casino and to the table I was dealing on, wearing hair curlers, a scarf over the curlers, frumpy clothes, and sunglasses, no makeup.  She dressed like this to keep the floormen from hitting on her.  If they did talk to her she would behave in an unfriendly manner, but not rude.  We had hand signals worked out that told me if the floorman was watching or looking the other way.  If the floorman was watching, naturally I took care of her hand properly.

She had a boyfriend who worked in another casino.  We made a deal.  On my day off, I would go the casino in which her boyfriend worked and be his agent.

This is how it all began.

A Night in the Life

June 29, 2011 § 2 Comments

I knew this guy.  I met him a couple of years after I landed in Vegas.  We were casino dealers.

A couple of years later we were both working as 21 dealers in the same Las Vegas Strip joint (casino) and tips were astronomical.

I hadn’t paid any attention to what Randy’s day off would be this week; He was married, I was single.  We had worked together in another joint previously, but at that time we only new each other by name and recognition.  Recently we had become quite friendly. We were a couple of rounder’s.

I was off that night — didn’t know he was.

I had money that was attempting to flip out of my pocket onto a green felt table.

I was bored sitting in my apartment and wanted to get out, get into action. I drove downtown.  I wanted to play.  $2,000 in cash is what I had, and I was going to shoot ‘em up: craps, blackjack, maybe the wheel.

This was not case money.  I had a safety deposit box with a lot of cash in it.  This was playing money, money I had stolen and earned through “tokes.”  Tokes are what casino people call “tips.”  I wanted to have an outstanding adventure firing those bets into craps after I crucified them on blackjack.

It didn’t work out that way.

I had been playing at the Golden Gate and was down to $45.  I walked down Fremont Street to the Horseshoe.  I went in the back to what was called the “Winner’s Circle.” A dark bar located in the back of the Horseshoe.

I walked in and there was Randy Stones.  “What have you been doing?” he said with his Southern twang.

“I’ve been playing and I’m stuck pretty good – almost $2,000.”

Randy laughed, “That’s nothing, I’m stuck $7,000.  You got any money left?”

“$45 in nickel chips.”

Randy gave me that big smile, “Lets go make a lay–down.”

This is when I was introduced to what making a lay–down and “playing fast” really meant.  We walked up to a 21 table.  I bet $15, caught a six, a five, a total of 11.

Randy reached over, took another $15 from in front of me and doubled down the bet.  He smiled, said, “You play the hands, I’ll bet the money.”

We won the bet.  There was now $60 in the bet box.  I wanted to drag off some chips, but Randy repeated, “You play the cards, I’ll bet the money.”  He’s laughing and we’re having a good old time.  We won the bet and now had $120 bet.  We let it ride, stacked it up. The dealer went busted and now there’s $240 in the bet box.  Randy doesn’t flinch.  We’re dealt two face cards so we’re good and we win.  $480 bet and we catch a “snapper,” a blackjack.  The payoff is $720.  We’re playing $25 green chips now.  We’ve got $1,200 out in front of us on the felt off of $45.

The cocktail waitress comes over, Randy knows her.  The waitress says, “Hi, Randy.  How’s it going?”

She takes our drink order and Randy reaches over and picks up a stack of five–dollar chips, a hundred bucks, and sprinkles them on her tray.  I had never given a cocktail waitress more than ten bucks for a drink when I was winning.  I was learning more than just playing fast.

Randy spreads to two hands $500 each.  We win both bets.

Long story short, in less than ten hands I had my $2,000 back.  We kept playing.  I wanted Randy to get back the $7,000 he was stuck.  So did he and he kept betting the money and me playing the cards.  There was very little decision making on my part, as we were dealt one great hand after another.

In less than a half hour we had another $6,000 in front of us, a total of $8,000.  I split it with Randy and left.

My car was parked across the street at the Four Queens, but before I got to my car I made a lay–down on craps in the Four Queens casino and went home broke.

There’s a saying: “You’re not a winner until you’re home and the money is on top of the dresser.”

I saw Randy at work the next night and he had blown back his end, too.

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