gambling and casino scams

Casinos and gambling games in general have had to deal with cheaters, fraudsters and scammers since day one.

History has shown us that there is always someone willing to cheat, socially engineer, exploit loopholes or scam their way to guaranteed casino profits using illegal methods – sometimes with help from “the inside”.

In no part due to the variety of and number of variants of casino games and rule-sets, casino scams come in many shapes and sizes.

We look at some of the most common and most notable casino scams in the history of gambling.

1. Roulette “Clocking” : Cheating at Roulette with a Computer for a ~40% Edge

Casino Roulette

In this roulette scam a player wears a concealed computer device on their person which is programmed to predict on which section of the wheel the ball will land. The input device is a switch inside the players shoe or may instead be a laser.

The technique known as ‘clocking’ involves the player inputting both the speed of the ball & the roulette wheel by ‘clocking’ specific reference points on the wheel head after the dealer spins the ball.

In one case it was alleged that three Eastern Europeans who managed to win £1.3 million while playing roulette at the Ritz Club in London were cheating using clocking.

How The Scam Works

  • After the user inputs the information, a hidden computer performs calculations and relays prediction information to the player’s hidden Bluetooth earpiece.
  • The player’s bet or bets are placed before the cut-off point of 3 turns of the roulette wheel.

The whole operation takes two or three seconds.

Cheating at roulette via clocking gives players around a ~40% edge over the casino – and can cause devastating losses.


2. Blackjack Advantage Play: Card Counting

Casino Blackjack

Card counting is a tactic employed in blackjack to assess which party, either the player or the dealer, holds the upper hand in the upcoming hand. Advantage players known as card counters aim to overcome the casino’s inherent advantage by maintaining a continuous tally of high and low-value cards that have been dealt.

The basic premise behind blackjack card counting is that specific cards are beneficial for the player (particularly high-value face cards like tens and aces), while low-value cards like deuces and trays are more favorable for the dealer.

It’s important to note that card counting is not illegal, however casinos frown upon its use, and many employ countermeasures such as shuffling the deck more frequently, playing with more than 2 decks, and asking suspected card counters to leave.

Card counting requires significant skill – including knowledge of basic strategy, concentration, and practice to be effective, as well as a thorough understanding of the specific counting system being used.

How To Count Cards at Blackjack

The most commonly used card counting system is the “Hi-Lo” method. In this system, each card is assigned a value: low cards (2-6) are assigned a value of +1, neutral cards (7-9) have a value of 0, and high cards (10-Ace) are given a value of -1. The card counter mentally keeps a running count of these values as the cards are being dealt.

The card counter starts with a running count of 0 at the beginning of the shoe (the deck or decks being used in the game). As each card is revealed, they adjust the running count based on the assigned values. For example, if a 3 and a 10 are dealt, the running count becomes -1 (subtracting 1 for the 10 and adding 1 for the 3).

The running count provides an estimation of the remaining high and low-value cards in the deck. A positive running count indicates a higher proportion of high-value cards remaining, which is advantageous for the player. Conversely, a negative running count suggests more low-value cards are left, which benefits the dealer. The card counter can then adjust their betting and playing decisions accordingly.

To account for the varying number of decks in play, card counters often use a “true count” calculation. The true count is obtained by dividing the running count by the estimated number of decks remaining to be dealt. This adjustment allows for a more accurate assessment of the advantage.


3. Baccarat: The “False Shuffle”

baccarat

Criminals get crooked dealers placed into jobs at casinos, or will convince existing casino employees to become complicit in a Baccarat scam which can cost casinos dearly if undetected.

How the scam works:

  • During a shoe of baccarat a player notes the order of the cards as they are discarded.
  • At the end of the shoe the dealer appears to shuffle all 8 decks, but deliberately retains a clump of up to 100 cards un-shuffled in the same order recorded by the player.
  • The player inserts the unshuffled clump in the shuffled cards in preparation of the next deal.
  • In the next shoe the player wait until the “slug” of start of the memorized sequence appears – enabling them to calculate future events in the game and bet accordingly resulting in huge casino losses.

4. Cheating at Poker with Infra Red Contact Lenses

infra red contact-lenses

Italian Stefano Ampollini won more than $120,000 from Les Princes casino in Cannes by cheating at poker with the assistance of infrared contact lenses in October 2011 before being caught, charged and jailed by French authorities.

Two dishonest employees of the casino provided the team of cheaters with decks of cards, which were subsequently marked with invisible ink, sealed again, and placed back in storage until the players sat at a stud-poker table.

Ampollini had a partner aiding him at the stud poker table, using audible cues like sniffs, coughs and snorts to guide him as to which cards to select.

after winning €70,000 in one night, suspicions were raised and analysis by the casino of the players hole-cards showed some unlikely plays (big folds with very strong holdings which suggested knowledge of the croupier’s hand).

5. Impersonation – Deception to Convince Employees to Hand Over Cash

impostor

Impersonating a casino or sportsbook owner in order to deceive an employee into handing over cash is not unheard of.

In June 2023 a man claiming to be the co-owner and CEO of Circa Sportsbook in Las Vegas convinced a casino-cage employee to send several payments that totaled $1.17 million allegedly for fire-safety equipment. The case led to the arrest of a 23-year-old on theft charges.

6. Casino Chip Forgery

counterfeit casino chips scam

Chips are cash in casinos, similar to dollar bills. Forging casino chips is not unheard of.

In fact two devious cheats created fake casino chips that were so realistic that casinos could not detect them.

in 2005 in Henderson, Nevada – agents from the Nevada Gaming Board busted the first casino chip forgery operation in the US.

The scammers (construction workers Erik Morikawa and Jeremy Lewis) were converting low-denomination chips to appear as if they were high denomination chips (e.g making $1 chips look like $100 chips) using a variety of tools & techniques – like chip-inlay swapping.

The counterfeit casino chips looked so real they fooled the experts, and the scammers took Las Vegas and Atlantic casinos for millions before the scam unraveled.

Today Radio Frequency ID (RFID) chips inside casino chips make this scam difficult – as the fake denomination or a fake chip is detected at the cage.

In 2015 a poker player was charged with bringing counterfeit chips to an Atlantic City, New Jersey poker tournament in a scheme discovered after he flushed $2.7 million of the chips down a toilet in his hotel room.