For as long as casino games have existed, there have always been those who have wanted to find a way around the tedious process of playing honest. Some have also sought out guaranteed ways to win without actually breaking the rules but most approaches are, simply put, a big scam. Some of these fraudsters have gone to great lengths to devise complicated cheats.
1. Australian Danny Ocean
In 2013, an unknown man was able to steal $33 million AUD ($30 million USD) from the Crown Casino in Melbourne, Australia after hacking into the surveillance system. It was a heist straight out of Ocean’s Eleven, and the hunt still continues for the man’s identity. Although the casino has not officially revealed details about how the scheme was carried out, a Las Vegas casino consultant named Barron Stringfellow has deduced how it was accomplished. He suspects that the player was wearing an earpiece and playing at the VIP tables, while an accomplice surveyed the surveillance footage from a safe location inside or around the casino. The accomplice then relayed what bets and plays to throw down for maximum profit. The only extra detail released about the case states that the VIP staff member responsible for looking after the gambler on the night of the heist has been dismissed. It is unknown, however, whether he was involved in the scam or not. The Crown Casino is optimistic about recovering the money, but officials counter that the chances are nigh impossible.
2. Phuong Quoc Truong Gang
A man named Phuong Quoc Truong (also known as Pai Gow John) assembled a team of illegal card counters by traveling the US and convincing dealers to cheat for him. By the time he entered the grand scheme, he had 30 accomplices. To carry out the scam, the corrupt dealer would give the illusion of shuffling cards. In actuality, he would just put the corners together so the deck would make a shuffling noise while the cards remained in the same order. Meanwhile, the main player would pretend to smoke a cigarette while whispering information about the dealt cards to an outside player via a microphone hidden in his sleeve. Once given his instructions, the smoker would then place his fingers on his cigarette in a certain way. This was a code to the other players that directed them to make their bets. The group managed to make over $7 million from 25 different casinos before they were caught. The Sickwan Gaming Commission discovered Phuong and his accomplices though the security surveillance footage, and they were promptly arrested. Many pled guilty and are currently serving time in prison. Poor Phuong actually had to give up two of his homes and a Porsche in addition to other luxuries.
3. Phil Ivey Jr. Edge Sorting Scam
Allegedly, championship poker player Phil Ivey Jr. schemed his way to $9.6 million at a baccarat table in 2014. He did it at the Borgata Hotel Casino and Spa in Atlantic City using a technique called “edge sorting.” A player sorting edges does so by observing any defects or abnormalities in certain cards. They then memorize these imperfections and use them to identify the cards correctly in the future. Although it sounds like a fair tactic, “edge sorting”, is frowned upon, by most casino officials, especially the way Ivey did it. He and his partner noticed that some of the table’s cards had diamond shapes and patterns with defects on the back. Some had full diamonds while others were cut in half. Ivey and his partner would then instruct the dealer to flip the “good” and “bad” cards over in certain, prearranged directions. This allowed Ivey to more easily identify the cards and make all the right bets.
The Borgata has filed a lawsuit against Ivey over the scheme. He has denied any and all misconduct, but this is the second edge-sorting lawsuit he has been dealt over his career. If Ivey gets away with this, he’ll officially be one of the most successful scammers in the game.
4. Ritz Roulette Scam
In 2004, a trio of gamblers from Hungary and Siberia managed to take £1.3 million (or roughly $2.1 million USD) from the Ritz Casino in London by allegedly utilizing laser technology. Incredibly, they got to keep the money. It is thought that the trio used a technique based on a theory called “sector targeting,” which uses figures to determine the “decaying orbit” and devises a likely set of outcomes regarding where the ball will rest. The group supposedly used laser scanners in their phones that were connected to a computer that predicted the numbers likely to win big in roulette. The scanner could judge the roulette ball’s speed and suggest which numbers it might land on. Thus, the group was able to make calculations fast enough to place their bets before the ball made its final rotation. The gang was arrested but, since “sector targeting” isn’t technically considered cheating, they were let go with no charges.
5. Cannes Contact Lens Scam
In 2011, three Italians and a Frenchman managed to swindle nearly 64,000 Euros (roughly $84,000 USD) from the Princes Casino in Cannes using an ingenious method. While playing stud poker, the Frenchman would mark symbols on card decks with invisible ink, while the Italian players wore special contact lenses to see the markings. Suspicion was raised after the group returned with a second substantial winning streak in the same casino. Police were called to investigate, and they were able to find the symbols marked on the cards, which included a short line to represent an ace and a cross to represent a king. It took a while longer to figure out how the players were able to see the ink. After ruling out the possibility of camera usage, they finally noticed each player sported contact lenses nobody had ever seen before. The players were caught and, despite the cool and sneaky nature of their scheme, faced a long jail sentence.
6. The Cutter Gang
The “Cutter Gang” cheated their way to millions at the baccarat table in 2011. They were able to beat the system by accepting the standard offer to cut the deck after the dealer shuffled the cards. A member would then drag one particular card (the “cutting card”) along the deck while separating the cards before placing it back in the deck. What made the scheme foolproof was that the same player had a tiny camera hidden in his cufflink to see the card values. That player would then excuse himself to give the camera and information to another member of the gang. They would return with winning hands every single time. The gang was detained in Las Vegas at the Cosmopolitan casino in January of 2011 after suspiciously raking in over $1 million, but they were released after authorities found no evidence of wrongdoing. They were later arrested for cheating in the Philippines, but they escaped shortly after and have been missing ever since.
7. New York Roulette Ring
In 2012, casinos in Ohio were invaded by a New York crime ring for being involved in a roulette scam. According to the Ohio Casino Control Commission, the group consisted of roughly 50-70 people who scoured the country ripping off the United States casinos.
In this scam, the players entered the game with low bets (sometimes as low as $1 per chip). They secretly pocketed certain colored chips while another player distracted the dealer. The first player then excused himself from the table and secretly passed the chips to another member of the gang. That second member then hit another table, assigned a higher value to that chip’s color, and cashed out at the new rate.
They were discovered after pulling the scheme in four different Ohio cities. Four men were arrested and pled guilty, but it is speculated that more were involved and had fled before officials arrived. The commissioner on the case estimated that the group was able to pick up $1,000-$2,000 per scam during their Ohio rounds, but it’s impossible to tell how much they racked up as a group over the years. In addition, nobody knows for sure how many scammers are still at large or if they’re still actively hustling.