Exploiting Dealer Tells in Blackjack

Most people tend to associate tells with the game of poker where players might involuntarily give away their intentions through certain mannerisms and changes in their behavior. Skilled poker players are capable of picking up information from their opponents’ tells and use it to their advantage.

Yet, poker players are not the only ones to give off tells. Many people may not realize this but it is also possible to exploit the subtle cues of blackjack dealers in a similar way. Of course, not all dealers are prone to giving off unintentional tells but those who do can help smart blackjack players improve their chances of winning certain hands.

Information is power in the game of blackjack and spotting the cues of your dealer enables you to make better-informed standing, hitting, doubling or surrendering decisions. Furthermore, the implementation of this technique is no longer restricted to the blackjack tables at brick-and-mortar casinos.

Many online casinos offer live blackjack games hosted by human dealers in real-time, making it possible for players to exploit potential tells to their advantage while in the comfort of their homes.

Defining Blackjack Dealer Tells

Let’s start with a definition of what tells are in blackjack. Tells can be best defined as unconscious psychological responses that betray non-verbal information about the dealer’s hand and more specifically, about the value of their hole card, i.e. the second card of the dealer that faces down.

It follows that exploiting dealer tells is only possible in hole-card blackjack variations where the dealer starts each hand with two cards. The first card is dealt face-up while the second one, the hole card, is facing down.

Furthermore, the peeking rule should be in place where the dealers check their hole card for a blackjack when showing an ace or a ten-value card like 10, Jack, Queen, and King. The non-verbal reaction of the dealer to their hole card can sometimes give off valuable information.

This assists the player in making an informed judgment about the card’s value, i.e. whether it is high or low. Said verbal reaction may come in the form of mannerisms, facial expressions or other forms of body language.

Picking up tells is usually possible only when the peeking dealer shows a ten-value card. Depending on the specific house rules, the dealer may peek only when their face-up card is an ace. Tells are irrelevant in this case because the dealer would prompt the player to accept or decline insurance before taking the peek rather than after.

If the dealer indeed has a ten-value card in the hole, they will immediately reveal it and the player will lose unless they also have a blackjack. If not, the round would continue as usual.

Some dealers check for blackjack when showing a ten. If they have an ace in the hole, the round is again over. But if they have any other card, play will continue and the dealer’s reaction may unintentionally reveal whether their hole card is low or high.

Reading tells is impossible in variations like European Blackjack where no hole cards are in play. In such games, the dealer receives one face-up card at the beginning of the round and draws a second one only after all players have finished playing their hands. The structure of the game makes it impossible for the dealer to peek for blackjacks.

Giving off tells is inherent to human psychology, so the best skilled players can do is to try and exploit human nature to their advantage. While dealers obviously do not give off such cues on each hand, players are sometimes able to pick up enough tells to make a difference in their winning rate.

Recurrent Tells of Blackjack Dealers

The idea behind reading tells is to determine the dealer’s range of cards rather than trying to identify the exact value of their hole card. Armed with this information, you can better evaluate the chances of the dealer busting or holding a strong pat hand. The two most recurrent tells occur when the dealer peeks under their hole card for a blackjack.

Low-Card Dealer Tells
Face-Card Dealer Tells

How to Spot Blackjack Dealers Prone to Giving Off Tells

Casino operators are perfectly aware of the fact sharp players are looking to exploit tells. To deter such practices and protect their edge, they usually instruct their dealers to be careful about actions and cues that could betray the value of their hole cards.

Nevertheless, dealers are human beings and as such, are still prone to making mistakes no matter how well-trained they are. Here are several other cues that can help you spot a dealer who gives off tells.

Card Placement
Dealers Who Check Their Hole Card Frequently
Sloppy Dealers Who Aid Hole Carding
Sloppy Front-Loading Dealers
Dealers’ Facial Expressions

Dealer Tells in Live Online Blackjack

It is quite obvious that such tell-tale cues are possible only in live games where human dealers are involved. Virtual blackjack games lack the human element as the cards are dealt by a Random Number Generator.

On the bright side, most quality casinos on the web have introduced live games to their portfolios that are hosted by human dealers in real-time. The action is streamed in excellent quality straight to your computer or smartphone screen while you use the gaming interface to post bets and make playing decisions.

It may be possible for you to notice some dealer tells in such conditions. With that said, you should also keep in mind the live dealers have been expertly trained and therefore, are less prone to giving off such cues.

Of course, you will also have to scout the online casinos for blackjack tables where the live dealers peek under the hole cards on occasion to establish whether or not they have blackjacks. To efficiently exploit tells, you have to make sure the peek rule is in place at the live tables you are interested in. Look for games where the live dealer peeks for blackjack both under 10s and aces.