21 How Card Counting Works

In 21, the spotters play low-wager bets, counting the cards and waiting for the deck to become hot - the more face cards left in the deck, the hotter the deck is. Once a face card is played, the spotters score it -1. Cards 2 through 6 are +1. 7, 8, and 9 are neutral and have no value.

Once the deck is hot, the spotters cross their arms to signal the big player. He comes in, flashes his cash, and makes high-wager bets on the hot deck, leaving and bouncing to another table when the cards are shuffled. The spotters signal the big player by speaking in code to let him know what the count is:

+1 = Tree +10 = Bowling

+2 = Switch +11 = Football

+3 = Stool +12 = Eggs

+4 = Car + 13 = Witch

+5 = Glove +14 = Ring

+6 = Gun +15 = Paycheck

+7 = Craps +16 = Sweet

+8 = Pool +17 = Magazine

+9 = Cat +18 = Voting Booth

For example, if the count is +15, a spotter might give the big player a clue by pretending that he has lost money at the table, saying, "I've blown my whole paycheck. My girlfriend is going to kill me."

If a spotter needs to talk to another team member, the signal is to touch the eye. If the spotter sees that the big player has lost the count, the spotter can signal that the deck is cooling with a hand to the forehead. And if a team member sees that the dealer, or the pit boss, or security has figured out what's going on, the signal is fingers through the hair: Get. Out. Now.

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