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Hand-Held Games

Even in Nevada you may run into a cheating dealer. A dealer is always subject to the temptation to play Robin Hood by cheating you to aid a friend. A dealer who cheats to let a friend win must then take extra money from other customers so that the total table win is about normal. Table hopping will keep you from getting wiped out by one cheat, but the experience can still be expensive.

While cheating can be done in many ways, sleight of hand with hand-held cards is much more common than marked cards or missing cards or anything else that would be hard evidence. Most cheating dealers rely on peeking at the top card and then deciding whether to deal it or the second card. It is possible but extremely rare for a cheater to be so skillful that you can be alert, be cheated, and not spot evidence of cheating. You can spot almost all cheating if you know what to look for. Most customers do not look and do not know what to look for.

Peeking at the top card can be accomplished in various ways when the cards are hand held, but two ways are the most common. The dealer can bow the top card with a thumb and peek at a corner of the face. Watch the top of the pack. If you see the dealer's thumb move and a flash of white, the dealer has peeked. Alternatively, the dealer can make the top card swing away from the rest of the pack as if on a hinge while picking up losing bets and used cards at the end of a round. If that top card is an ace or 10, you know who is going to get it. Dealing seconds is accomplished by pulling the top card back slightly with the thumb, pulling the second card out, and pushing the top card back in place with the thumb. Do not play against a dealer who moves the thumb back and then forward while pulling a card, as this motion is useless except for dealing seconds. The most skillful cheaters use the same thumb motion when dealing from the top as when dealing seconds. There are several excellent video tapes showing cheating; one of the best is Steve Forte's Gambling Protection Series. For further discussion of cheat-ing and photographs of cheating moves, see A. D. Livingston’s dealing with Cleats.

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