Films have long glamorized cheating or robbing casinos, whether it was Bond in Casino Royale or Ocean’s Eleven. But it’s not just Hollywood portrayals that lead us to believe it’s possible to head to Vegas to make a killing and live a grift-fuelled life of luxury. From Tommy Glenn Carmichael’s spectacular technical mind to a card-counting group of MIT students, the number of high-profile casino swindles over the years begs many a question: how is it done? How often does it happen and on what scale? Do they always get caught? And, in today’s changing world, is it always a case of blueprints and careful planning within a physical building or have the casino crooks moved online with the rest of the world? We’ve done our best to get to the bottom of this for you, no corners cut.
One thing the films don’t exaggerate is how much money casinos make. This is especially true in the US: casinos took $62.8 billion in 2011. With figures like that, the city where you can ride gondolas down an indoor canal, see the Tour d’Eiffel, ride a roller coaster atop a 909-foot building and visit a tropical rainforest all in a day makes sense. With this much on offer against a backdrop of other people living their best (read: most lavish and expensive) lives, it’s no wonder temptation to cheat runs high.
The revenue gambling brings in is no laughing matter in the UK, either, where total gross gambling yield between October 2016 and September 2017 was £13.9 billion. But when it comes to this incredibly popular past time, you need to be very lucky to make regular wins and the exhaustion of losing time after time can somewhat increase the appeal of creating your own odds.
How to cheat?
There are a number of ways to cheat and it’s a list that keeps growing: as technology improves and the games change their ways, cheaters have to adapt. They can be broken down into some key categories, though, and here they are.
Dealer-player collaboration: This generally requires prior contact. It’s risky for both parties and requires a keen eye for detail, a measure of subtlety, a trusted ‘friend’ behind the counters and/or a mixture of all of the above. The tricks in this category are many: in the false shuffle, the dealer makes shuffling actions without changing the order of the cards, having informed the cheater in advance of the order; marking decks involves the dealer labelling certain cards with defects (a fold, a scratch, anything subtle and hardly unnoticeable) so that the cheater can spot the card they need; in some more elaborate schemes, the cheater and dealer arrange for technological devices to be planted.
Trickery and intelligence: Tricking the dealer takes slyness and good sleight of hand. Examples include Roulette Past Posting and card switching. The first usually requires a co-conspirator to distract the dealer as you slip a chip onto the winning number after the ball has dropped. The second has varying levels of complexity, but whether the cards are alone or attached to a mechanical device, they’re up your sleeves and they’re winners – as long as they match the casino’s cards.
Marking cards can also be done without the dealer’s collaboration and a clever hand can slide rather than roll the dice. For the ultra-intelligent, there’s card counting: technically this is ‘advantage play’ rather than cheating but usually, casinos are at liberty to ban guests if they’re caught doing it and the famous MIT card-counting team made vast amounts from it.
Technology: This has long been key to taking money from casinos. One of the most famous casino cheats, Tommy Glenn Carmichael, focused all his attempts around adapting technology to beat slot machines – as the casinos improved their prevention methods, he devised more strategies to overcome them. He would have loved the challenge posed by the use of RFID tracking in counterfeit chips to make another common cheating method more difficult.
Online: It’s not just that technology is coming to casinos – casinos are moving towards technology. Online casinos abound and inevitably so do methods for cheating in online casinos. Between account cloning or multi-registering for first deposit bonuses, hacking and collusion, there are so many ways to make a quick buck with a bit of internet dishonesty.
So should you cheat?
Well, it’s up to you to decide on the morality and the risks involved. But one concept is worth noting: the casino is the big dog. Whatever you’re investing in your tactics they’ve got more and, in all likelihood, they’ll find you out sooner or later! On land or online, as soon as you start to win on a disproportionately ‘lucky’ scale you’ll stick out like a sore thumb and give away the game.