Biggest Casino Cheaters of All Time
We all know that when playing at casinos we'll be up against the ever present house edge and while we can play selected games like blackjack and video poker where sound strategy can help to minimize the edge, it will still always be a factor.
Most of us accept that for what it is and enjoy playing our favourite casino games regardless but there are people throughout history that have taken a different approach and cheated in order to overcome the house edge. Here we look at the biggest casino cheaters of all time.
Many people believe that the infamous MIT Blackjack Team invented card counting thanks to the popular movie 21. The reality is however that they simply mastered the techniques invented by mathematics professor Edward Thorp in the early 60's.
Thorpe who is known as the father of card counting actually had no gambling aspirations until a friend introduced him and his wife to the game of blackjack. After playing a few times Thorp because obsessed with the game and discovering how to beat the house.
This obsession led to the development of a system whereby he could gain an advantage over the casino by counting cards so that he could accurately predict the outcomes of each hand. Thorp along with the friend that introduced him to the game frequented land based casinos each week-end, taking home thousands of dollars with each visit. At that time the casinos had no clue as to how Thorpe was able to beat the house until he released his world famous book "How to Beat the Dealer" years later.
The MIT Blackjack Team
As mentioned, the MIT Blackjack Team are probably the most famous card counters of our generation thanks to books and the movie 21 which tell their story. This blackjack card counting team originated as an extracurricular activity at the renowned Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The team used a combination of statistics, card counting systems and a variety of disguises to beat the casinos across the US, raking in hundreds of thousands of dollars each week-end.
Over time casinos began to identify the members and the team began to unravel and by the time the law was called to step in, many of the main members began to quite. New students would then replace them but over time casinos developed new methods of catching card counters and the team ultimately had to retire.
Tommy Glenn Carmichael
Tommy Glenn Carmichael is one of the notorious slot machine thieves of the last few decades. In the 80's Carmichael made use of a top-bottom joint to cheat on the Las Vegas Slot Machines. He got away with doing so for 5 years until he was caught and sentenced to 5 years in prison.
After doing his time Carmichael formed a slots cheating syndicate who milked the Las Vegas slot machines dry by using light wands, monkey paw and kick stands. The syndicate spread its activities across the US, making thousands of dollars a day at casinos in Atlantic City, Aruba, San Juan, Colorado, Connecticut and Nassau. Eventually however the casinos caught on to their tricks and Carmichael was sentenced to another year in prison and banned from all casinos.
Richard Marcus was a down and out gambler who then because a casino dealer. As he worked he began to formulate strategies to beat the house edge in roulette. He returned to gambling, placing three small chips on the roulette table along with a large chip valued at $500. The large chip was strategically placed so that the dealer wouldn't see it under the smaller value stack. If Marcus won his bet he would happily celebrate his win showing the chip to the dealer who was of course caught off guard.
If he lost his bet he would quietly remove the big chip when the dealer wasn't looking. By the time the casinos caught on to Marcus’s antics he had reportedly won more than $5 million and could retire in comfort.
Many people believe that dice control techniques in craps is simply fiction and that in reality there is no way that anyone can possibly control the way in which the dice land on the craps table. These people obviously have not heard of Dominic LoRiggio who earned a fortune by employing dice control techniques.
He was so good in fact that he was called "The Man with the Golden Arm". According to LoRiggio he spent years perfecting the art of dice control and it eventually paid off, earning him a fortune in casino cash. He even started a team called Rosebud, teaching others the techniques so that the team could win, earning him even more money.
While the skill is not illegal, casinos worldwide have become acquainted with LoRiggio and now force him to throw the dice in a different manner to offset his edge.
Although Gonzalo Garcia-Pelayo is better known for cheating at Spanish Roulette, he is very similar to Dominic LoRiggio in that they both mastered techniques that most people dismissed as fiction and spent hours mastering their skills.
Garcia-Pelayo's technique involved exploiting the roulette wheel bias or the belief that not all roulette wheels are totally random. He believed that certain wheels could be slightly off, which meant that they would favour certain numbers. Garcia-Pelayo then began to study roulette wheels at casinos in Spain, recording the spin results over thousands of spins. Finally he analyzed the results in order to pinpoint the most biased wheels. This supposedly gave him a 15% edge over some casinos and he cashed in handsomely. By the time casinos in Spain and the United States banned Garcia-Pelayo from their casinos, he had banked millions.
Ronald Dale Harris
Ronald Dale Harris is a computer programmer who was employed by the Nevada Gaming Control Board for 12 years as a gaming device evaluation specialist. This job required him to identify flaws in the software that powered casino games at the various Las Vegas Casinos and gave him access to the source code.
He used his access to illegally modify a number of slot machines to pay out large sums of cash when a certain number of coins and sequence was inputted to the machine. Then from 1993 to 1995 Ron Harris and an accomplice proceeded to steal huge sums of money from Las Vegas Casinos in what would become one of the most successful and undetected scams in the history of gambling. In the latter days of his scamming stint, Harris shifted his focus from slots to Keno. He developed a program that would predetermine which numbers a game's pseudorandom number generator would select during the game. Reid Errol McNeal(see below), Harris' accomplice at the time attempted to redeem a winning ticket for a large sum of money at Bally's Atlantic City Casino Hotel and officials became suspicious, notifying the New Jersey gaming commission investigators. The investigation led authorities to McNeal's source, Harris who was arrested, found guilty of fraud and collusion and sentenced to 7 years in jail, of which he served two.
Harris currently lives in Las Vegas but is listed in the Nevada Gambling Control Board's notorious black book which prohibits him from entering let alone gambling at any casinos in the state.
Reid Errol McNeal
Most famous cheaters walked away from the casinos very rich men, Reid Errol McNeal is the exception. In spite of beating astronomical odds at the Atlantic City based Bally's Park Place Casino, he walked away with just a $100,000 keno jackpot. Upon winning he demanded to be paid in cash and reportedly wasn't very excited at his achievement.
Later an investigation ensued that found that McNeal was in fact a Nevada state employee whose job required him to examine slot machines in order to ensure that the proper chips were being used. As the investigation intensified police discovered that McNeal had accessed the Bally's computer records as part of his casino auditing process and learned the Random Number Generator code for Keno. By using special equipment he was able to record his findings and use the information to win the keno jackpot.