High rollers rate casinos according to the action tolerated. Sawdust joints. Carpet joints. Most amateurs, on the other hand, are rule freaks. They see everything in terms of being able to split up to four hands, re-split aces, double after splits, double any two and surrender. (Sounds okay to me…) But the point is that after you analyze the table conditions, you’ve got to analyze the casino itself.
The rarest type of casino is one where you hardly feel the current at all. The games are just so delectable you forget you’re even in the river. You look around—good rules, deep penetration. There’s a lot of money on the felt, but nobody in the pit seems to be guzzling Maalox. It’s not a river; it’s fish heaven. All the worms you can eat, and no hooks! Or, at least, you don’t see them—provided you don’t try to take the entire can of worms back home with you on any one visit, you can nibble away at the feast indefinitely. Places like this pop up now and then, but they don’t often last long.
More commonly, when you think you’re in fish heaven, there are unseen hooks, nets, and harpoons aimed right at you. You walk in, you see these unbelievable table conditions, you notice that the dealer has dealt out almost the entire two decks, and he’s still not starting the shuffle. You decide to make small talk with the dealer, test his friendliness. “So, how long have you been offering this two-deck game with double after splits and surrender? Whoops! You ran out of cards!”
Unfortunately, if you sit down at the table, you’ll often get that ominous tap on the shoulder just after you make that first black chip bet on a high count, or maybe a few minutes later, after they’ve got a good close-up photo of your mug. By the time you hit the street, your picture is already being faxed to casinos you’ve never heard of.
Of course, it’s possible that you misjudged this casino in the first place. It only looked like fish heaven. In actuality, it was, first and foremost, a fish bowl. Some salmon may be a bit large for your average fish bowl, and big fish won’t last in a small bowl.
Many casinos in Las Vegas, even big casinos that can take table limit action, offer one or two hand-held games that really are nothing more than counter bait. These juicy tables are always under extra surveillance from the sky, and the casinos use these games simply to identify and weed out counters. So, if you see that a casino has 25 six-deck shoe games with mediocre penetration, and one hand-held two-decker with great rules and good penetration, you’re probably best off to leave that two-decker alone.
To further confuse matters, even if the conditions look great on every table, you may have to leave the casino entirely if your bet level attracts too much attention. Look around—how much are the other players in this joint betting? Many casino table-limit signs are mislabeled; the signs may say $1,000 or even $5000, but that’s just what the signs say. Nobody in the pit takes those things seriously. Ignore the signs. If all you see are tourists betting a red chip or two, and if a couple of black chip bets lead to a suit convention in the pit, then those limit signs are just for show.