Top 10 Casino Scams of All Time
For as long as there has been a currency system, there have been those with the cunning ingenuity to conjure a mental blueprint meant to scheme others out of it. It is this very mindset that brought about the basis of the musings you are about to read – the top 10 casino scams of all time.
The sagacious words of Gandhi come to mind: “There is a sufficiency in the world for man’s need, but not for man’s greed”. Such words couldn’t ring more true than they do in the following events of man’s avaricious nature.
Top 10 Casino Scams: #10 – The Original ‘Blackjack Switch’
In the early 1980’s, two deceptive blackjack players, John Dixon and Robert Ailse, devised a scheme to win at blackjack. They would sit side-by-side at the tables and switch one card with the other’s hand to make the strongest hand possible. There were others involved in the scheme, standing in precise locations to block the view of anyone who might detect their card-switching. When looking at their hands, one card would be cleverly removed while the chips would be placed upon the other card to look like a complete hand. It is unknown how much money was earned using this illusory casino cheating scam.
Top 10 Casino Scams: #9 – Dupe the Dealer
Richard Marcus gained fame, and an eventual prosecution, for duping dealers at Las Vegas casinos. He started out as a legitimate player, but lost everything. Finding himself homeless on the streets of Vegas, he gained employment as a dealer of blackjack and baccarat. From this perspective, Marcus attained the knowledge to cheat casinos out of countless dollars.
He returned to the player side of the tables and began placing 3-chip bets. The top two chips were red $5 chips, while the bottom was a brown $500 chip. By sliding the top two chips slightly forward, it appeared to the dealer be three red $5 chips. If he won the bet, he would subtly slip the bottom chip out and replace it with another $5 chip. If he won, when the dealer attempted to pay him $15, he would point out the bet size and purloin $1,020.
Today, Richard Marcus runs a website in which he mentors and educates others in scamming casinos, branding himself the “World’s #1 Casino and Poker Cheating Expert”.
Top 10 Casino Scams: #8 – Dominic the Dominator
Dominic “The Dominator” LoRiggio is celebrated for his impeccable dice rolling abilities at the craps tables. Though many view his “Golden Touch” as smoke and mirrors, weighted dice or some other ambiguous form of cheating, LoRiggio proclaims that his knack for landing the dice in winning combinations is 100% skill.
LoRiggio uses a technique known as ‘dice control’. By his theory and multiple public demonstrations, Dominic has been able to predict the basic outcome of the dice by turning them in a specific way to start, and handling them in such a manner as to produce a desired outcome. LoRiggio’s ability to throw a 7, or anything other than a 7, has earned him an immeasurable amount of money from casinos, as well as several dice throwing world records. Although his technique is not illegal, LoRiggio doesn’t play casinos anymore (because they won’t let him), instead making a living teaching dice control to others.
Top 10 Casino Scams: #7 – The Carmichael Slots Scam
Tommy Glenn Carmichael is one of the most infamous slot machine scammers in Las Vegas history. He used a strain of methods to attain coins from slot machines, the most notorious being the “light wand”. The light wand was about 7 inches in length, utilizing a magnet and a small battery-operated light bulb. By inserting the light wand into the machine’s coin release shoot, the mechanism was able to harvest more coins – averaging several hundred dollars’ worth – each time a standard win was instigated.
Running a TV-repair shop as his day job, Carmichael used his knowledge of electronics to create devices such as the light wand. His reign of casino scamming lasted 4 decades, beginning in the 1960’s until he was arrested in 1985 and spent 5 years behind bars for cheating casinos. Upon release, he went right back to his old tricks and was arrested again in 1996, 1998 and 1999.
Top 10 Casino Scams: #6 – MIT Blackjack Team
The most renowned of all casino scams began in 1977 when a group of savants from MIT devised a card counting scheme that stung numerous casinos for an estimated $5 million. It started out as a very small contingent of 4 players using card counting skills in Atlantic City, and eventually grew to as many as 35 cohorts throughout the 1980’s.
What makes the MIT Blackjack Team’s casino scam unique is that there was no cheating involved. These were simply a tenacious group of players with the right combination of intelligence and memorization skills. One player would take a table, playing meekly while counting the cards until mostly high cards remained in the deck. Through a series of people, another player would be signaled to come to that table and place a large wager, knowing that the cards favored the player, thus making a large bet probable to win.
Although card counting is perfectly legal, it is frowned upon by casinos and, if detected, can get a player quickly removed and banned from the premises. The MIT Blackjack Team finally dissolved in the early- to mid-1990’s due to instant recognition of its top members at casinos.
Top 10 Casino Scams: #5 – The Father of Card Counting
Edward Thorpe, known universally as the “father of card counting”, is oft overlooked as one of the best casino scammers of all time. This is due to the fact that he only earned $11,000 in a single weekend at Nevada casinos. However, it was that weekend that led to the stratagem of card counting as we know it.
Thorpe was a professor at MIT, long before the MIT Blackjack Team came along. His proficiency in probabilities led him to theorize a winning strategy for blackjack. He used an IBM 740 (prehistoric by today’s standards) to evaluate all possibilities, then procured the aid of professional gambler, Manny Kimmel, to test his hypothesis. They spent one weekend playing in Lake Tahoe, Las Vegas and Reno. During that time, Thorpe won $11,000.
Rather than outwitting casinos out of a fortune, Edward Thorpe published the book ‘Beat The Dealer’, detailing the science of card counting. His book hit the New York Times Best Seller list, sold over 700,000 copies and gave his family an exceptionally comfortable life with a legitimate source of wealth.
Top 10 Casino Scams: #4 – Nikrasch Slot Machine Scheme
Dennis Nikrasch was the instigator of the largest slot machine scam in the history of Las Vegas casinos. From the late 1970’s to early 80’s, Nikrasch masterminded a scheme that duped casinos out of approximately $16 million.
He and his associates would distract slot machine mechanics long enough to imprint a key to unlock the machine. They would later return, open the slot, set the mechanical reels for a winning jackpot combination and win the prize. He was convicted of scheming $10 million from casinos in 1986, and again in 1998 for another $6 million. According to Dennis Nikrasch, they made much more than he was convicted for, claiming about $40 million per year.
Top 10 Casino Scams: #3 – The Tran Organization
Led by Van Thu Tran, the Tran Organization used baccarat games to swindle over $15 million from North American casinos. It all started in 2002 when Van and her husband worked as dealers in a Tribal casino in San Diego, California. Realizing how easy it would be to bribe under-paid dealers, such as themselves, they took to the tables and induced numerous casino employs, including dealers and table supervisors, to go along with their plan.
An entire shoe of cards would be utilized, while a member of the team recorded each hand’s outcome on a computer. The dealer would then use a false shuffling technique and deal again, leaving the cards in the exact same order. This time, using hidden microphones and ear-plug transmitters, members of the Tran Organization knew what was coming and bet accordingly. Van Thu Tran pled guilty to conspiracy to cheat casinos in 2011 and was sentenced to 3 years in prison plus $5.7 million in restitution in September 2012 for her role in scamming 29+ casinos across the US and Canada.
Top 10 Casino Scams: #2 – Million Dollar Smokes
In 1973, the largest casino scam in French history took place thanks to the creativity of one ham radio whiz and his devoted siblings. He devised a hand-crafted roulette ball with a miniscule receiver inside, inserting a transmitter into a non-descript pack of Marlboro cigarettes. His brother-in-law played the role of the gambler, while his exceptionally beautiful sister stood by the table, cigarettes in hand.
When she touched the right spot on the cigarette pack, the roulette ball would take a dive, dropping into a span of 6-number spaces. The transmitter never once malfunctioned and operated with a 90% efficiency rate, netting the team 5-million francs before they were eventually discovered.
The sister’s slender physique and sable tresses had the owner enthralled, thus it took him quite some time to realize something was amiss. He had the table tested, the wheel dismantled, yet nothing seemed to explain the unceasing leak in the casino’s pocketbook. Eventually he grasped that the only link was this gorgeous female, who was always near the table when it got hot. When the owner finally caught on, he had the entire casino tested by a debugging crew while the wheel was running. The next time she showed up in the casino, he called the police who confiscated the cigarette pack and uncovered the plot. The roulette scam was highlighted by the film “Les Tricheurs” (The Cheaters) in 1984.
Top 10 Casino Scams: #1 – Put it on My Tab
The #1 casino scam of all time was pulled off by the Roselli brothers from the mid-1990’s to early 2000. They simply hired a computer whiz to hack into the national credit database and discover the identities of Americans with a substantial credit line and multiple accounts. They then opened new accounts in the same names and applied for a line of credit at various casino establishments. When it was determined that they were good for a large line of credit (or at least their false identities were), the casinos would give them huge sums of money upfront in the form of credit line markers.
These guys were so good they even had vacant apartments in the name of each stolen identity (to receive mail when the casinos requested payment of the markers), and fake businesses set-up (to answer phone calls from creditors). They covered every possible track and made sure that the casinos would not catch on.
For five years, the Roselli brothers alternated casinos across Las Vegas, Atlantic City and Puerto Rico. They received top of the line service – comped penthouse suites, expensive wines, gourmet dinners, the works! Their last scam occurred in January of 2000, when the brothers decided to kick off the new year Las Vegas style. They had over 50 pilfered accounts setup and waiting for them, and made their way up and down The Strip in shifts to ensure no pit-boss would identify them under a different name.
It was another 6 months before the casinos finally realized they were being scammed and notified the FBI. What makes this casino scam the best in history is that the Roselli brothers don’t even exist – that, too, was a stolen identity of two people who had met their makers before the scam even started. To this day, the FBI has absolutely no clue who they are looking for. The “Roselli brothers” are still free, probably sipping cocktails on some remote island.