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Cheating In Casinos

Cheating in casinos has existed since the first gaming establishment was erected. Name any casino game and some crafty person has found a way to cheat. People have used inside knowledge, mechanical know-how, sleight of hand, and accomplices to gain an advantage. Some casino cheats have been caught immediately, while others had a 20-year crime spree before being caught. No doubt, a handful have gotten away scot free. They say the best cheaters are those who never get caught.

In this guide to casino cheating, there will be a brief overview of the most common methods of scamming in the history of casino gambling, along with a list a few of the most famous cheaters throughout the decades. Each game has its own methods, so be ready for an omnibus of cheating. Please note that most of these techniques are illegal and we do not condone these tactics.

Cheating at Roulette

Roulette cheaters have used a number of different tactics: wheel gaffing, sector targeting ("wheel dipping"), top-hatting, and magnetic balls. Wheel gaffing happens when someone loosens a pocket or sprays it with adhesive to make sure it catches the ball more often.

Sector targeting happens when someone leans on the wheel or the table the wheel is on, therefore dipping the wheel to one side. Top-hatting involves one player distracting the dealer, while another player places the ball in a different pocket. While that sounds like an outlandish scheme, Italian roulette cheat Francis Farrugia got away with top-hatting for 20 years, before he was caught in 2012.

It should be noted that the croupier or dealer seems to have been involved in the plot in most of the well-known roulette scams over the years. This is common on most of the table games, because the dealer is the one charged by the casino with primary duties of oversight.

The pit boss and security personnel watching through cameras overhead also focus on suspicious gamblers, which is why croupiers and dealers often get caught. The next story is a perfect example of an inside job, and why no one can account for everything.

Monique Laurent

In 1973, Monique Laurent, her brother-in-law, and a third accomplice devised a remote-controlled roulette ball activated with a transmitter stored in a pack of cigarettes to change the path of the ball. The accomplice was the croupier, so they placed the doctored ball in play. These swindlers got away with their scam until one slightly-obsessed security staff member noticed the hottie standing nearby every time one lucky roulette player won a big prize.

Joseph Jagger

An American roulette cheat of the 19th century hit the Beaux-Arts Casino in Monte Carlo for $450,000 before the managers realized what he was doing. Jagger hired six clerks to record results on the casino's roulette games. He studied the numbers and discovered that one number came up more often, no doubt due to an unbalanced wheel. Such scams are why casinos these days check their machines so often.

Charles Wells and Charles Coburn

Charles Wells once won 23 of 30 spins on a roulette wheel in Monte Carlo. During his winning session, Mr. Wells won more than $2,000,000. This feat became so legendary that songwriter Fred Gilbert penned a song about the incident in 1892. That song, "The Man Who Broke the Bank in Monte Carlo", became a staple of English music hall singer, Charles Coburn. Mr. Coburn is reported to have sang the tune over 250,000 times throughout the course of his singing career.

The Eudaemonists

A group of inventive grad students from the University of California at Santa Cruz built a portable computing machine to help them beat roulette. This group, who called themselves "The Eudaemonists", had a 144% expected return on their spinning wheel bets. That continued until their machine overheating and started smoking on the casino floor, but the Eudaemonists collected $10,000 before that happened.

Slot Machine Cheats

Cheating the slot machines is the most common way to beating the casino. The lack of supervision makes the one-armed bandits a favorite target. Slot machines (in the old days) contained a lot of cash. Also, the accounted for about 70% of the casino's revenues, so players were more likely to be angst-ridden about their time on slots row. Below are some of the highlights of the slot machine cheats through the years.

Tommy Glenn Carmichael

Tommy Glenn Carmichael was a slot machine cheat of the 1990s. Mr. Carmichael is considered by many to be the best slots cheat ever. He certainly was the most prolific inventor of mechanical cheating devices. He built devices with colorful names like the "light wand", "the monkeys paw", "the kick stand", and the hanger.

These tools and gadgets were used to beat ever-more sophisticated slot machines. At one point, Tommy Glenn Carmichael would invent a device to beat the internal security of slot machines and go on a 6-month rampage, only to have the game designers at IGT come up with their own failsafe device to protect the gaming machine (such as the "actuator arm"). Eventually, Tommy Glenn Carmichael was caught and served time in prison, but he's still a legend in the business.

Monkey Wires

Monkey wires insert into an electronic gaming machine to confuse the laser sensor about how much the device should pay out. These were defeated when game designers created the actuator arm.

Light Wands

Light wands were early laser pointers on a long arm. These could be placed inside the machine to trip off the electric sensor on the machine. Again, devices like the actuator arm blocked the light from the direction the light wand would be directed.

Cashbox Theft of Coin Hoppers

Mechanical cheats are still used, though they have to be combined with electronic knowledge these days. People have picked the tubular lock on EGMs, using a lock decoder. EMPs or electromagnetic pulses have been used on electronic devices, too. These shut off the device's electronics, therefore thwarting its defenses.

Counterfeit Cash - Counterfeit Coins

The crudest methods of cheating the slot machines have been using counterfeit money or fake coins ("slugs") to fool the coin sensor. In the old days, people would tie a coin to their finger, trip the sensor, and then pull the coin back out of the device.

More Famous Casino Cheats

Below are an assorted number of cheats who won big money from the casinos. In some cases, they became famous. In other cases, they just went to jail. All became footnotes to gambling history.

Dennis Nikrasch

Collected $6 million from electronic slot machines with his computer hacking skills. Nikrasch opened up a slot machine, placed in a computer chip that would help the player win, and close it up (in less than a minute). An accomplice would play the slot machine. This accomplice eventually set up Nikrasch to be busted.

Richard Marcus

Used his sleight of hand skills to run a scam at the roulette table with a $5 chip. If he lost, he would pull back his $5 chip. The chip rested on top of a much bigger chip, which he would pull off the table if the bet lost.

MIT Blackjack Team

Some debate exists over whether card counting is cheating. Casinos consider it cheating, while card counters view it as information gathering. Either way, card counting is legal.

The Cutters Gang

This gang used a tiny camera hidden in his coat jacket's cufflink to record the order of the cards in a baccarat shuffle. Using this information, they would cut the deck to the player's advantage. The Cutter Gang (for "card cutting") collected $1 million from the Cosmopolitan Casino on the Las Vegas Strip, but was caught at a casino in the Philippines (and escaped).

Keith Taft

In 1972, Keith Taft devised a 15-pound personal computer he carried around Reno casinos, though he disguised the computer to look like his gut (the belt to keep this apparatus on him looked like Batman's utility belt). Also, he had electronics in his shoe, which helped him make calculations by patting his foot to transmit codes.

Ronald Harris

Ronald Harris was an inspector for the Nevada Gaming Control Board. He installed programming in the machines he inspected. When the machine lever was pulled in the right sequence, the max payout would be paid. His accomplice, Reid Errol McNeal, acted suspiciously when he won a $100,000 jackpot, so he got the two of them caught.

That is just a brief overview of the casino cheats throughout the years. Many others have tried and got caught. No doubt, a few never were discovered. Whatever the case, we offer this information for entertainment purposes only. Gamble for entertainment--not for profit. And no matter what you do, by no means cheat the casino. In all likelihood, you'll pay a high price for breaking the law.