Gambling is one of the few disciplines where you’ll be less welcome to ply your craft the more successful you become. Any golf course would love to have a PGA star play there. Any ice rink would love to have a NHL hall of famer come in for a skating session. A local restaurant would be thrilled to have a world renowned chef come in and show the kitchen staff a few things. Casinos don’t have that attitude. The more successful and adept you become the more difficult they’ll make things for you. In some less evolved parts of the world they may resort to physical threats and violence to keep you out of their establishment.

For that reason, high level blackjack players have to spend as much time concealing their skill as they do developing it. At the highest levels, they work in teams. When you’re first learning the ropes that probably won’t be an option. Still, you don’t want to make it hard on yourself by coming off as a guy looking to learn how to count cards. To avoid creating suspicion many skilled players and those aspiring to become skilled develop a ‘persona’ for their gambling. The general idea is to fit in with a casino’s clientele. Better still, you want to try and look like a demographic profile that they consider desirable or ‘non threatening’.


High level blackjack teams go where the games are beatable. This might be downtown Las Vegas or halfway around the world. When you’re first learning how to play blackjack successfully you’ll not be so discerning. One way to become a successful blackjack player is to do a lot of your ‘practice’ work and ‘skill development’ online or via computer simulators. You can supplement these with trips to live casinos for more challenging ‘in game’ situations. Depending on how often you visit a specific property you might not even have to bother creating a ‘persona’. If you’re just passing through an area with a Native American tribal casino you’ll likely be fine as long as you don’t have on a t-shirt that says ‘I’m a card counter’.

That being said, you might as well start working on your persona so you’ll learn to get ‘in character’ whenever you hit the tables. If you’re not going to become a ‘regular’ at a casino all you need to do is to ‘fit in’. This isn’t always as easy as it sounds–I was traveling in the US Southwest this summer and decided to stop at a remote Native American casino in Southern Colorado near the border with New Mexico. I was literally the only person in the place that wasn’t of Mexican or Native American decent. This wasn’t a big deal and everyone was perfectly friendly–but had I been displaying some high level gambling skills it might have been a different matter.


In most US land based casinos, however, you’ll do fine just looking like a ‘regular guy’ or better still a random tourist. In places like California and Nevada it’s easy–there’s enough tourism in the area that as long as you look like you’re ‘on a trip’ you won’t stand out. In other areas–particularly in Native American tribal areas–you’ll fit in as long as you hit casinos that are close to cities or heavily traveled highways. There’s a bunch throughout Oklahoma and New Mexico, for example, that are right along I-40 and get the usual traveling types–college guys on road trips, salesmen, truck drivers,etc. If you do what I did and venture into more remote areas you might find that you ‘stand out’ a bit. I can almost guarantee that you’ll be treated well regardless of the primary demographic at the casino but at this point we’re learning how to use a persona to ‘blend in’.

A quick aside–even if you’re primarily an online player you should endeavor to play in live casino situations whenever possible. It’s just a different dynamic and the ‘cross training’ is good for you in the same way that it helps athletes. More importantly, if you’re trying to become a professional or an ‘advantage player’ at some point you’ll want to go where the games are most beatable. 99% of them are at land based casinos. It’s also good to get out of your comfort zone and learn to apply your skills in a new and challenging situation.