Before getting into the article, I think it’s important to make one thing clear – the vast majority of people who cheat the casino get caught. Please don’t let this be your inspiration for a crazy idea that’s going to land you in jail.
Moving on. Since the first casino opened there have always been gamblers using creative, ingenious, and sometimes downright strange methods to get an advantage. Regardless of whether you’re talking about blackjack, slots, or something in between, some players just can’t accept the natural house edge.
In this article, I’ll go some of the most peculiar ways people have tried to cheat casinos over the years.
1 – Working Remote
Sometimes people who cheat are really just lazy and unintelligent. Other times, they’re hyper-motivated and extremely intelligent. This case falls in the latter category.
What sounds like something out of a James Bond movie actually took place in real life. To pull of the scam, three individuals were involved.
The most important of the three was the roulette croupier (the inside man). The other two were his brother in-law (playing the role of the actual gambler) and his sister, who would play at the next table down the line.
If this plan sounds both relatively easy to execute, and also easy to be caught, keep in mind that it was 1973, and this type of technology was not found in many places.
Here’s how the plan worked: The croupier would go about his business like normal, and the brother in-law would place bets at the table. Next, the croupier would subtly swap out the normal ball for the robot ball. After that, his sister playing at the next table would activate the ball via a remote which was discreetly hidden in a pack of cigarettes.
But, how did the actual system work to their advantage once the ball was inserted into the game? I’m glad you asked.
The ball was designed to perform a controlled entry into the wheel that would have it always end up within a group of six numbers, nine times out of ten.
The system worked to perfection, and the trio was able to win five million Francs in just a week. Unfortunately, as usually happens with these plans, it all came crashing down not long after the initial winning.
Casino security understandably launched their investigation to see how the brother in-law was able to have so much success. Throughout their time watching the videos, they began to notice his sister always at a table close by – clutching what appeared to be the luckiest pack of cigarettes ever made.
They eventually asked to see her pack of cigarettes, which ended up revealing the secret.
This particular cheating system seems like one where both parties, the cheaters who won the money and the house that put an end to it, deserve credit for their efforts.
2 – The Hacker
In terms of mastermind hackers, Dennis Nikrasch was a rather unassuming. With more of a blue collar aesthetic than that of a computer genius, he shocked the world with his skills in manipulating real money slots.
It all started with an idea, and then a purchase. Nikrasch thought the best way to learn how to break the code was to practice in the comfort of his own home. He bought a slot machine for himself and began to learn.
He discovered that you could purchase the computer chips that were used in slot machines to regulate them, and bought some of his own. Next, he learned how to edit those particular chips in such a way that would set off a win whenever he wanted.
At this point, he could win on his home slot machine on command. The next step was to see if his discoveries could translate into winning someone else’s quarters.
While he didn’t possess the key that was necessary to get into the machines at the casino, he was able to procure one through black market channels. After that, he put a team together in order to form a human blocker that would shield him from surveillance cameras. All it would take was a minute or two for him to open up the machine, swap out the chip, and start playing.
To avoid any suspicion, another member of the team would play, and win, the machine that Nikrasch had rigged. Everyone wins, right?
Unfortunately the team he had assembled let him down. The first problem was that the person he hired was an employee of a Nevada gaming regulation organization and couldn’t collect winnings from the slot machines. This employee, Ronald Harris, utilized another player, Reid McNeal to do the winning.
McNeal won $100,000. That’s where the problems started. Not only did he act suspicious and forget to bring the necessary ID, but he went back to a bugged room filled with blueprints of how to manipulate keno machines. In short, it was the easiest bust ever.
It’s impossible to say whether or not the initial mastermind Nikrasch would have got away with it if he had better help, but it seems like he couldn’t have done any worse with a different team.
3 – World’s Smallest Camera
It’s been said that if you can see the other player’s cards, then playing cards really isn’t much fun. That might be true if you’re just playing for fun. When huge sums of money are involved, however, things become a little bit different.
When playing baccarat, it’s custom to have someone at the table cut the deck following the dealer shuffling. To be honest, there isn’t a real reason behind it – it’s just the way things are done. This story is a reminder that when players are allowed to touch the dealer’s cards, things can happen.
The “cutters” group (the name was inspired by the deck-cutting ritual described above) decided to take advantage of an opportunity to see which cards were coming up next. Their method? A tiny camera placed inside a player’s cufflink.
You might be thinking that the information gained by the camera isn’t of much value without someone to watch the video. Enter step two of the plan. The player with the camera would go to the bathroom and the photos were given to an analyst who would compile a cheat sheet – quickly.
The player who had the camera would then ditch the camera and take the cheat sheet back to the table. In the end, the group was able to win more than $1 million from the Cosmopolitan Casino in Las Vegas.
This story ends a bit differently as the group escaped punishment, even though their scheme was exposed by regulators not long after the winning had concluded.
4 – Quick Hand
Richard Marcus believed the sleight-of-hand skill that so many card magicians employ could be useful when applied to poker chips. He took this thought to a real money roulette wheel and put on a show.
He would wander up to the table, acting a bit intoxicated, and put his chips down. He placed a modest $5 chip at the top, but was careful to hide the one underneath which was worth much more.
If he lost the hand, he would slip the high-dollar chip back into his pile, undetected by the croupier. If he won, he would make a scene and reveal that he had, unbeknownst to the dealer, much more on the table than the $5 chips that were visible at the start.
Unlike all of the previous stories above, Marcus was never found out. In fact, the only reason anyone knows about the scheme today is because he wrote about it years later. Congrats Marcus, you did it.
It’s a near-certainty that as long as there are casinos, there will be people out there who think they can get an edge through some nefarious means. Again it’s important to reiterate, the success rate of these individuals, or groups, is very low.
The data would suggest your best bet for hitting it big is still the old fashioned way. In the end, the risk just isn’t worth it.