1. Memorize basic strategy from one of those silly plastic cards available in most casino gift shops. Follow it exactly when making playing decisions (hit, stand, split, double).
2. Stand and watch from behind the table, only sitting down when you’ve seen enough cards to feel comfortable wagering big money. Starting small and placing progressively larger bets is a clear card-counting tell.
3. As each card comes out, assign a value of plus-1 to each low card (2, 3, 4, 5, 6); minus-1 to each high card (10, face, or ace) and 0 to the middle cards (7, 8, 9) to establish a “running count.”
4. Raise your bets while the count is high. When your running count is bigger than the number of decks still sitting in the shoe—smile; you have gained an advantage.
5. Don’t get a player’s card. Casinos typically offer a kind of ID that rewards frequent gamblers. Sure, the comped food and drink is nice, but once they have your info, the casinos can track you more easily.
6. Play like a drunk at the table. Ask for playing advice, even if you don’t use it. Order beers, only to pour them out in the bathroom and refill them with water.
7. Change up your appearance on each visit and from casino to casino: hats, jackets, fake eyeglasses. Nothing intense, just enough to throw security off your trail. A few of my favorites—the Golfer, the Long-Haul Trucker, and My Dad.
8. Be aware of “heat.” Things like phones ringing in the pit, pit bosses staring daggers at you. Seasoned pros know when to stay and when to split.
9. When you do get caught, take it in stride. You have done nothing illegal. The casino has decided that you are a winning player and doesn’t like it.