The Biggest Casino Cheats in History

7 Jan

This is a guest post from Jonathan Hawkins.

Given the thousands of pounds that are lost daily in casinos, it’s hardly surprising a few sly individuals decide to manipulate the system in attempt to increase their odds of winning. Whether they used gadgets, insiders or simple maths, check out these casino masterminds who managed to cheat their way to substantial victories; with some of them managing to completely get away with their scheming.

1. Gonzalo Garcia-Pelayo

Widely recognised as the most famous roulette cheat, Gonzalo Garcia-Pelayo managed to clear out several casinos after cracking the code behind the notorious spinning wheel. Beginning his career in Madrid, Garcia-Pelayo devised a theory that roulette wheels didn’t operate completely at random; this long-shot principle inspired Garcia-Pelayo to spend hours recording roulette results, which he would analyse through a computer to determine the probabilities of the game.

These tediously time-consuming tests helped Garcia-Pelayo discover that certain numbers fall more likely than others, indicating imperfections with each wheel. He then decided to use this knowledge to earn more than 600,000 Euros in one of his first nights in Madrid.

Realising larger winnings could be made elsewhere, Garcia-Pelayo took his hidden information to Las Vegas, where he continued to operate throughout the early 1990s. After winning approximately $2 million, Garcia-Pelayo was banned from casinos after his method was deemed unethical, and although the Supreme Court ruled he did nothing illegal, the damage marked the end of his gambling career in 1992.

2. Tommy Glenn Carmichael

After television repair shop owner Tommy Glenn Charmichael was introduced to the “top-bottom joint” – a device notoriously used throughout the 70s and 80s to bilk slot machines, he decided to abandon his business and make a living through cheating his way along the Las Vagas strip. In 1985, Carmichael was arrested for using this device to scam slot machines and was eventually sentenced to five years imprisonment.

However, while serving his sentence, Charmichael devised a plan that would allow him to continue his scheming upon his release, by inventing an entirely new device called the monkey paw; which he would use to alter and hack into slot machines. He even went onto sell this device to other dealers,with some banking over $10,000 per day using Charmichael’s tool.

He managed to operate under the radar until 1996, when he was subsequently arrested and charged with possession of and manufacturing a cheating device. Fortunately, these charges were soon dropped against him, but Charmichael’s luck finally ran out following a second arrest in 1998 and a final in 1999. He pled guilty to running an illegal gambling enterprise and was sentenced to more prison time.

3. Dominic LoRiggio

Nicknamed ‘The Dominator’, was a master craps tables and blackjack player. Following years of extensive practice, LoRiggo picked up a technique entitled “controlled shooting”; which involved getting the rolls you required in craps at the appropriate time. LoRiggo claims the method is entirely based on setting the dice a certain way, gripping them precisely, tossing them so they stay together in the air and having them land as gently as possible against the back wall of the craps table.

To this day, several people consider the ability to control two dice is impossible, although LoRiggo continues to battle these claims, saying he achieves his results through simple physics.

4. Richard Marcus

After failing to earn a living with legal gambling, Richard Marcus’ extensive betting left him homeless in Las Vegas, which inspired him to take a job as a blackjack and baccarat dealer. This position gave Marcus a second perspective, allowing him to see how both sides of casinos operate.

The information Marcus gathered enabled him to conjure a way to scam casinos out of millions, by placing a simple bet of two red $5 chips on top of one $500 brown chip; which in the eyes of the dealer made it appear Marcus had only played a $15 bet with three red chips. If the bet was won, Marcus would inform the dealer of the true enormity of his bet and pocket over $1000. If the bet was lost, he’d wait until the dealer turned away and replace the $510 in chips with $15 in chips.

This simple, yet ingenious scam worked in Marcus’ favour for years, until he was finally caught, prosecuted and banned from casinos. However, this hasn’t phased Marcus, for he continues to serve as a mentor to other poker cheats. Let’s hope he doesn’t target an online casino anytime soon…

5. Edward Thorp

Considered the father of card counting, Edward Thorp used his expertise to discover how to gain an advantage when playing blackjack. Using an IBM 704 computer, Thorp, managed to crack the key to blackjack by analysing the probabilities of the game. After he produced his theory, Thorp visited Reno, Las Vegas and Lake Tahoe to test it.

After enlisting the help of professional gambler Manny Kimmel to test the method, Thorp managed to pocket a whopping $11,000 in the first weekend of play. Instead of using his science to bleed the casinos dry, Thorp decided to publish a book in 1996 entitled ‘Beat the Dealer’. Since its release, the book has sold over 700,000 copies and managed to reach The New York Time’s bestseller list. Today, Thorp is a member of the Blackjack Hall of Fame from his method ‘Thorp count’ – the method of counting cards.

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