In order to stay in business, casinos always maintain a slight house edge over their players. As such, if you are told that a slot machine has a 97% payout rate, it means that 97% is paid out to players in winnings but 3% goes to the casino as ‘profit’.
This is an accepted practice and means that casinos can continue to offer their games and enhance their products. It is the same principle as a shop owner buying his goods at one price and selling them for a profit.
Over the years, however, some casino players have considered it a challenge to try and beat the casino and shift the odds in their favor. They weren’t content with accepting that the odds were not in their favor and that there was a good chance they could lose their bankroll. Instead, they wanted to prove that they were smarter than the casino, be it through blatant cheating, intelligence, finding loopholes in the casino’s infrastructure or other means.
We take a look at the six most famous people who cheated the casino, and examine how they did it.
Caveat Emptor: We absolutely do not endorse this type of activity, and believe that trying to beat the casino is a futile attempt.
Cheats get caught, and even if the activity is considered borderline-legal, casinos have every right to blacklist you and keep you off their premises forever – and they won’t hesitate doing so.
While we primarily cover online casino information for India, we thought these beats of live casinos were too interesting not to share.
Casino Cheat #1: Edward Thorp 1960 ´s
Favored Game: Blackjack
Modus Operandi: Card counting
Edward Thorp had very little exposure to anything gambling related in this early adult years.
He was a professor of mathematics with a very sharp mind which saw him earn a master’s degree in physics and a doctorate in mathematics.
So how did this very square – albeit highly intelligent – academic go from that to be considered the father of card-counting, and finally earning himself induction into the Blackjack Hall of Fame .
It all began when Thorp paid a visit to a Las Vegas casino in the 60s with his long-time friend Claude Shannon. It was a family outing, with Thorpe’s wife also present, but it was a true eye-opener for the relatively sheltered professor. Thorp’s interest was piqued by the blackjack tables and his mathematical mind immediately started thinking of ways that he could beat the odds through a scientific formula.
Finding an Edge Over the Casino
Thorp became obsessed with finding the mathematical formula that would give blackjack players an edge over the casinos. He studied the game from every dimension, putting in hour after hour to make observations and conclusions.
Thorp found a new use for the massive, room-sized computer that sat at the university where he was employed – he simulated billions of blackjack hands to try and crack the code.
Thorpe finally developed a method, based on his observations, which would give players a 1 – 5% advantage over the casino.
Putting the Theory to Test
The next step was to put the theory to the test, and Thorp and his friend Shannon began visiting casinos and applying the new method. The results were staggering – with the pair netting tens of thousands of dollars over a weekend of play at the blackjack table.
Thorp’s ongoing successes troubled casino bosses, who could simply find no sign of cheating, despite watching hours of videotapes of his play at the tables. Thorp took to wearing disguises such as wigs and sunglasses to avoid being identified by casino bosses. Finally admitting defeat, but nevertheless keen to protect their profits, casino bosses firmly asked Thorp to stay away from their premises – he was winning too much!
Making Money out of a Card Counting System
Edward Thorp had developed the first official form of what became known as ‘card counting’.
Now, unable to use his method at the blackjack tables, he found another way of making money out of his ideas and put pen to paper and wrote his first book ‘Beat the Dealer’ (1962) , which became hugely popular among blackjack fans. A second edition was published in 1966.
Thorp’s card counting system became a major hit, although very few could actually make it work in their favor. The Father of Card Counting had lived, breathed and applied the system for so long that the method became almost instinctive to him.
However, few players did manage to base their own casino-cheating journeys on this method (more about that later). Card counting eventually became illegal at casinos across the world. It can be said that Thorp was successful because he pioneered an idea that casinos simply hadn’t yet come across yet – he was ahead of his times.
Thorp applied his talents to the stock market and became rich by acquiring securities and other such investments.
However, he was honored for his intuitive and ground-breaking ideas around the game of blackjack and became one of the seven original men to be inducted into the Blackjack Hall of Fame in 2003, along with Al Francesco, Peter Griffin (author of The Theory of Blackjack) , Arnold Snyder, Ken Uston, Standford Wong and Tommy Hyland.
Name: Keith and Marty Taft – 1970 ´s
Favored Game: Blackjack
Modus Operandi: Edward Thorp Counting Method Plus Custom Made Computer
It would be a mistake not to include Keith Taft in this group of clever troublemakers. Keith read card counting books, practiced at home, but found he had a difficult time of keeping count of the cards without giving away the fact that he was cheating. Keith, an engineer, had an idea to create a custom wearable computer to help him keep track of the count.
Keith vs the Casino
He recruited his son Marty Taft to design and create the computer. Their first version consisted of four communication switches that were housed in their shoes. They used their toes to tap in codes that indicated the cards being dealt. This information was transmitted to the main processor that made calculations that would determine and communicate the proper play via custom designed glasses with LED signals.
The original computer had too many flaws. It was bulky, and the batteries were unstable and even leaked. They later revised the design into a far more compact version called “David”. The revised version was perfected and used by the Tafts to create an advantage for themselves over standard counting methods.
Their machine was able to increase their advantage to the player from 1% with standard counting methods to 3%. They first used their device in a Vegas casino April of 1977. They made $40,000 in profit the first week they used it, but they had other plans to profit from the device. They mass produced it and sold it to the masses for $10,000 each.
Vegas Changes the Rules
The machine was so widely used and made such an impact on casino profits, the casinos made fast and direct efforts to find out what was causing their sudden losses.
May 11, 1977, roughly one month after Marty and Keith first used their device in a live casino, Marty entered a casino and was greeted by security personnel who took him to a back room and strip searched him. They found the device, but Marty refused to talk. However, the casinos suspected the machine must have been used for counting even though they couldn’t prove it.
They eventually lobbied the state government to pass NRS 465.075 Law  that made it illegal to use these devices, punishable with up to 10 years in prison. The passage of this law put an abrupt end to the widespread use of these devices.
Keith Tafts success in beating the house earned him a place in the Blackjack Hall of Fame along side Edward Thorp.
Name: Richard Marcus
Favored Game: Roulette
Modus Operandi: ‘Optical illusion’ using chips on the roulette table
Richard Marcus is probably the most famous casino cheat in history, and has been caught and prosecuted for his actions at the roulette table. Nevertheless, he is begrudgingly admired in casino circles due to the pure genius of his methods. Marcus’ cheating methods were not new per-se (for example, switching chips on the roulette table), but he simply pulled them off in a way that went against the expected methods, meaning that casino security personnel were simply caught off-guard and didn’t know what to look out – allowing him to pull off his method time and time again.
In fact, rumor has it that Richard Marcus managed to hoodwink land casinos around the world to the tune of $5 million!
Optical Illusion Using Roulette Chips
One of the tricks used by Marcus was as follows: He would bet a low denomination at the roulette tables using several chips, for example 3 x $5 chips. If his bet was successful, he would become excited and start yelling about his wonderful win.
The dealer would question why Marcus was so excited about such a relatively low win, after which time Marcus would draw the dealer’s attention to the fact that he had actually wagered with an additional chip worth $500, which was hidden under the three smaller chips. If Marcus lost the wager, however, he would remove the $500 chip from the stack when the dealer had his back turned, thus only losing the $15.
This type of ‘optical illusion’ trick – where the dealer only sees the chips the cheater wants him to see – allowed Marcus to get away with winning many times. However he was, as we stated finally caught and prosecuted.
Like Marcus if this is your favorite casino game there are some Roulette basics every player from India should know… without having to cheat that is.
Name: The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Blackjack Team
Favored Game: Blackjack
Modus Operandi: Card Counting
The MIT Blackjack Team was a different kettle of fish to others in history who tried and succeeded to beat casinos, they relied on teamwork plus mathemathics to scam casinos all over the world, until technology got the best of them.
The team was made up of a group of bright and ambitious students and faculty members of the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) – as well as several others from Harvard University and Harvard Business School – who made no secret of their plans to learn the method known as card-counting (developed by Edward Thorp) and apply it to their casino gaming system.
The story began unfolding in 1979 when six MIT students decided to teach themselves card counting and went on to apply the system to casinos at Atlantic City during their school breaks. Several of the six remained in the Massachusetts area after they graduated and in 1980 decided to offer a blackjack course to students.
Beginning of the MIT Team
Meanwhile, in the late 1970’s, the New Jersey Casino Control Commission passed a law making it illegal for local casinos to block card counters from their premises .
At around that time, JP Massar, who was a professional blackjack player, contacted one of the original MIT Team members and proposed that he accompany the students to Atlantic City casinos and apply card counting methods in a methodical way. They also contacted an investor who put up around $5K in capital.
This was the beginning of what later became known as the MIT Team.
Team members were accepted based on their proficiency in card counting and spent hours practicing the system, passing tests and proving their worth. Live play was first practiced at underground card rooms, before enough financial backing was raised to form a corporation – Strategic Investments – and to hit casinos in Las Vegas.
The results were astonishing, and the team managed to earn over $400,000 in one weekend of play.
Forced to Move to Europe
Casinos around the country soon picked up on the MIT Team’s activities, and they were forced to move from one state to the next in order to continue their card counting methods.
Finally, they landed up in Europe where they were successful for a while; however, their reputation finally got the better of them and the team members quit. While efforts were made to get fresh blood to join and to continue the card counting methods at casinos around the world, new technology allowed casinos to keep better watch out for members (such as shared databases) and the team was eventually forced to admit defeat.
MIT Team in Popular Literature
The MIT Team’s tale became something of a legend, and not only because they managed to outwit the casinos and pocket $5 million over a relatively short space of time. Author Ben Mezrich wrote the New York Times bestselling book “Bringing Down the House” , which loosely told the story of the MIT Team (sprinkled liberally with artistic license), with a sequel follow-up “Busting Vegas” . A number of original team members, including Jeffrey Ma and Nathaniel Tilton also authored books about their experience.
Perhaps the best known piece of modern work based on the MIT Team’s adventures was the 2008 movie, “21”, directed by Robert Lucketic and starring Jim Sturgess and Kevin Spacey. The film was inspired by Mezrich’s Bringing Down the House and was the number one film in the United States and Canada in its first and second weekends following its release.
Name: Tommy Glenn Carmichael – 1980 ´s and 90 ´s
Favored Game: Slots
Modus Operandi: Creating devices to gain an edge on slot machines
Tommy Glenn Carmichael’s mission was to create devices that could alter the odds of a slot machine, which would result in a payout.
Carmichael’s devices were cleverly built and well thought out, however he paid a heavy price for his cheating and eventually went to jail.
He was only able to cheat the system because the industry at the time had devices that were not cheat-proof. However, because of his antics, the industry adapted and it is now impossible to use the devices used by Carmichael in the 80s and 90s.
Ironically, Tommy Glenn Carmichael learned that in the end, cheating doesn’t pay, and landed up serving as a consultant to casinos for their security systems, and makes a living by producing anti-cheating devices.
Carmichael’s Slots Cheating Devices
Carmichael became a casino cheat at the age of 30 by using a device he created called the top bottom joint. This metal device, although simple to make, was cleverly designed and allowed Carmichael to slip it into the coin slot.
The result: Big payouts.
Due to the abundance of cheating at the time (the 1980s), larger casinos started moving towards the introduction of newer slot machines which worked with random number generators. Carmichael was thus forced to move onto other pastures and sought out gambling halls that were smaller in size and still carried the older models of slots machines.
A stint in jail after being caught cheating initially didn’t do anything to deter Carmichael. In fact, he spent the time thinking up cleverer and more sophisticated devices.
The Light Wand
Perhaps one of Carmichael’s most famous inventions was the ‘light wand’.
This little gadget was comprised of a camera battery and miniature light which had the ability to blind the sensor inside a slot machine, resulting in a big payout. Carmichael was able to create the light wand after visiting the factory of a slots manufacturer and pretending he was an interested customer. After asking to view the inside of the now computer-based slot machines, Carmichael was able to see exactly how the insides worked and the idea of the light wand was born.
Carmichael not only got away with using the light wand himself at dozens of casinos and getting away undetected because of its very small size, but he also sold his wand to other cheats, making himself a tidy profit. Carmichael was caught once for using his light wand at a casino, but never faced trial.
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FBI Becomes Involved
By 2001, casinos across the country were fed up with Carmichael who always seemed to remain one step ahead of them with his tricks and devices. The FBI was finally called in and Carmichael was swiftly brought to trial and served jail time. He decided that life as a casino cheat was becoming too trying and risky, and therefore turned over a new leaf.
Name: Louis Colavecchio
Favored Game: Slots
Modus Operandi: Slot token counterfeits
There is perhaps no other man in casino history who managed to dupe casinos with counterfeit slots tokens the way Louis “The Coin” Colavecchio did.
While the counterfeiting of slots tokens is not a new problem for casinos, these crimes are usually discovered very quickly because of the poor quality of the tokens.
However, in the case of Colavecchio, his counterfeiting was so good that the industry’s biggest experts had a hard time telling the fakes from the originals. Colavecchio proofed there is more than one method to cheat the casinos, and it is always at the table.
The Ultimate Counterfeiting Workshop
Louis Colavecchio decided that if he was going to make a profession out of cheating casinos, he would do the best job possible – and that meant using the best tools possible. As such, he invested in precious metals such as nickel, copper and zinc, as well as laser-cutting tools to make the tokens as close in image, weight and size to the originals.
What perhaps impressed law enforcement officers the most however (yes, he finally did get caught!), was the 150 ton press which was ordered from Italy to complete the job.
Colavecchio Gets Caught
Colavecchio was so good that it was weeks before casinos even began to notice that something was amiss. He was finally caught when he cashed out a sum of coins that was suspiciously large, and at the same time, casinos were discovering large surpluses of their coins in other parts of the country.
Authorities could not charge Colavecchio for stealing a specific sum of money for the simple reason that the casinos didn’t want to be a part of any investigation. They were, in fact, too embarrassed to admit that they had been duped. It is believed, however, that Colavecchio’s efforts reaped in around $500,000.
Because it was impossible to put a number to the crime, the FBI and Secret Service finally reached a plea bargain with the cheat, in return for insider’s knowledge on how he had actually managed to set up such a professional and sophisticated cheating workshop.
Name: Dominic LoRiggio
Favored Game: Craps
Modus Operandi: Special dice throwing technique
Dominic LoRiggio’s method of obtaining an edge over the casino may not be deemed as a method of cheating, but it has attracted enough attention by casino bosses to change policies and force controlled shooters to using different mechanics when throwing the dice in games of craps.
Craps Control Shooting
LoRiggio believed that by throwing the dice in a very specific way, based on simple physics and practically years of practice, one was able to land the desired numbers and thereby beat the casino’s edge.
The method involved placing the dice down in a certain way, gripping them in an exact way and throwing them together in the air. The final call was for the dice to land gently on the craps table against the back wall.
LoRiggio and Rosebud
Dominic LoRiggio wasn’t alone in his quest to develop the perfect strategy of dice control which would lead to bettering the casino’s edge. He and several other craps players formed a team called “Rosebud” and hit Vegas casinos with their methods.
LoRiggio eventually split from the group because he felt that they were holding him back in his mission to make big money. While they wanted to bet smaller amounts, LoRiggio was so confident in his controlled shooting system that he was ready to move onto highroller wagers.
He eventually teamed up with Frank Scoblete, a renowned gambler and author, and the two claimed to have made a small fortune using the method.
Controlled Shooting and Casinos
When you examine the case of Dominic LoRiggio, you understand that he didn’t actually go around claiming to cheat the casino (as in the case of Louis Colavecchio – see above – for example). His control of the dice is based, as he says, on simply physics but it was good enough, however, for casinos to request that “The Dominator” and his other control aficionados use different mechanics to shoot dice at their casinos.
It is not all lost for Dominic LoRiggio, who continues to teach other gamblers about the art of control shooting, and he is not known as “the Man with the Golden Arm” for nothing.
It should be noted that LoRiggio’s claim to fame is slightly controversial, with many still convinced that it is simply impossible to manipulate the dice for the roll you want. However, it cannot be argued that LoRiggio may have a point, especially when one sees his track record – he constantly finishes in the top 20% of tournaments that he enters.
*You might not be interested in developing a cheating method, but these 6 betting systems will give an edge against the house.
Information Referenced in this Article
 wikipedia.org, Black Jack Hall of Fame, 2015
 amazon.in, Beat the Dealer Book by Edward Thorp, 1966
 amazon.in, The Theory of Blackjack: The Compleat Card Counter’s Guide to the Casino Game of 21, 1999
 law.justia.com, NRS 465.075 Use of Device for Calculating Probabilities, 2010
 wikipedia.org, Gambling in New Jersey, 2015
 amazon.in, Bringing Down The House Book by Ben Mezrich, 2008
 amazon.in, Busting Vegas Book by Ben Mezrich, 2006