Hole Carding – What Has the Dealer Got?

In casino table games such as blackjack, three card poker, and Caribbean stud poker, the dealer plays with a face down card known as a hole card. This card is usually revealed at toward the end of the game, when hands are compared and the winner decided.

It stands to reason that a glimpse at the facedown card could be of tremendous advantage to players. The term ‘Hole carding’ refers to attempts made by players to try find out the identity of that card.

In many places, it’s not really thought of as cheating if players don’t use devices or even other people to identify the card. Rather, it’s regarded as a form of advantage gambling. That said, it’s obviously not something welcomed in casinos; not least because it’s almost impossible to prove.

Three Hole Carding Methods

Three common forms of hole carding, at least in hand-held games of blackjack, are front loading, first basing, and spooking.

Front loading is when a player discovers the identity of the dealer’s hole card as the dealer slides it under his or her face-up card.

First basing is when the player discovers the identity of the dealer’s hole card when he or she checks it for a blackjack.

Spooking is very similar to first basing, but involves the cooperation of at least one other person. The player’s partner would place themselves so as to get a better view of the dealer’s hole card when he or she checks for a blackjack, and then signal the identity of the card to the player.

Casino Attempts to Cut Out Hole Carding

In casinos all over the world, hole carding and card counting often went hand-in-hand. Not happy with this, casinos tried to combat both in various ways.

To try put an end to peeking at the dealer’s face-down cards, many casinos installed peeking devices, which make it almost impossible to see the dealer’s cards at those crucial little moments. To combat card counting, many casinos installed mechanical card shufflers.

It was also easier to attempt hole carding in the past, when many card games were still hand-held games. That was before cards were kept on the table, and hand-held decks replaced by shoes with four or six decks of cards.

In blackjack games in some casinos, dealers only receive their face-up card. They will only receive their hole card once all the players have made their move.

Hole Carding is Still Around

As much as casinos have tried to completely stamp out hole carding, the reality is that there are dealers who are still readable. There are some who still flash their face-down cards slightly to one side just before they tuck the face-down card under the face-up cards, and there are others who flash their face-down cards as they tuck them under their face-up cards.

Players who want to employ the technique would have to spend time searching for dealers who can be read at least some of the time.

Such players would also need to employ other techniques to ensure they don’t give away the fact that they are hole carding. One way of doing this would be to not actually play according to both the dealer’s cards each and every time, because that would just look suspicious.