During several decades spent working in the casino industry, I’ve met my fair share of gamblers who didn’t show any hesitation when a chance to cheat presented itself. Naturally, these perpetual losers were given the old “86” and booted from the premises, so I never got to see what happened to them afterward.
That all changed a few years ago though, when a lifelong friend finally confronted his compulsive gambling issues. With his permission, I’ve decided to share four of his worst stories from the bad old days.
These tales of casino foolery aren’t meant to glorify cheating in any way, shape, or form. Instead, I hope readers out there who might be considering trying to con the casino learn about the toll that lifestyle takes on all involved.
*The following was written by the author’s friend, a reformed gambling cheat who shall remain anonymous.
1. Adding Chips to My Winning Bets at the Blackjack Table
Nobody believes an admitted cheat, but I really did try to play it straight when I first started out. I read all the best blackjack strategy books, memorized the charts for proper play, and even enjoyed playing blackjack online for free to test my skills.
But when I’d get to the casino, with a beautiful dealer looking my way and strangers chit-chatting away, I just couldn’t put all of that together at the tables. Over and over again, I’d arrive with my paycheck in tow, dreaming about going on a hot run and cashing out for a massive stack.
It never happened though, and I steadily continued to lose until I had the worst good idea of my life. I’d heard about past-posting—or adding chips to your winning bets when the dealer isn’t watching—from a few old-timers. I just figured that con was a relic of the old days when casinos didn’t have the benefit of an all-seeing “eye in the sky” surveillance system.
Then, one day at the Gold Coast casino near the Strip, I decided to take the plunge. Sitting in the first base seat, I was directly to the left of the dealer. This particular dealer was an elderly man, one wearing thick glasses that he clearly needed to see. His best days were behind him in terms of protecting the game, and with a packed table, he had six players and their individual wagers to keep track of.
I was betting green $25 chips—between two and four at a time depending on the deck count—and the fact that they matched the felt’s color convinced me that they would blend in just a little better than $5 redbirds.
After going with a $50 wager and landing a 20, my eyes stayed glued to the unsuspecting dealer. As his head swiveled around the table to follow each player’s actions, I waited until he turned his neck slightly to his right to address the third base seat’s hand.
In that split second, while he was looking in the opposite direction, I decided to make my move. I tossed two more $25 chips on top of my original bet, doubling it to $100. As I had previously made a few $100 bets, I figured the dealer wouldn’t notice such a slight discrepancy.
And dear reader, let me tell you… He did not.
I used this trick a few more times until his down ended, then headed across the street to the Palms to try and find similarly aged and bespectacled dealers.
I was surprised at how easy past-posting was when the targeted dealer fit the bill. The older ones with worsening eyesight just can’t keep up with a full table betting at a fast pace.
And by dipping in and out of different casinos with weeks in between return sessions, the camera security staff never seemed to put my face on their radar.
Eventually, I returned to the Gold Coast to pick on the dealer who got things going, but I couldn’t find him anywhere. As it turns out, those cameras are used to spot errors by the staff too, and after he gave away $275 in a 30-minute session, he was summarily terminated.
I’d like to say I felt bad about that at the time, but I’d be lying to you… And I do my best not to lie anymore.
2. Marking Cards in a Big-Time Poker Tournament
Poker was never really my game of choice, but when that whole “boom” thing went down, I lined up like everyone else to play a handful of WSOP tournaments.
After getting a tip from a pal in the poker media industry, I discovered that these major WSOP events were effectively camera-free zones. Because they were held in the Rio Casino’s massive convention halls, and not on the gaming floor, the hangar-like rooms lacked state-of-the-art security systems. They had some surveillance of course, but the cameras were 50 feet overhead and weren’t designed for zooming in on the backs of playing cards.
Armed with this insider knowledge, I spent a solid week researching invisible inks which were only detectable by wearing special sunglasses. As most poker players back then were wearing shades to conceal their eye’s reactions, bringing my new pair of spy glasses to the tournament didn’t arouse any suspicion at all.
With the invisible ink daubed all over my card protector, I easily applied tiny spots to the back of key cards like the aces and faces. And wouldn’t you know it? The glasses performed as advertised and allowed me to spot those all-important “paint” cards when opponents held them.
I had envisioned a long run to the final table defined by my miraculous ability to dodge danger and sniff out my opponents’ bluffs. And indeed, I was able to make a few folds I wouldn’t have otherwise having divined the other player’s holding.
In the end though, this gambit proved to be more trouble than it was worth. Along with the $299 I spent on the spy kit, I also lost every single one of the $1,000 “donkaments” I entered at the WSOP without ever making the money.
You know what they say about karma and all…
3. Counterfeiting Casino Chips and Cashing Them In
Speaking of poker, I once heard about an ambitious cheat who tried to win a World Poker Tour (WPT) event by smuggling in counterfeit chips. Christian Lusardi was eventually caught when the end-of-day chip counts didn’t correspond with the starting count, and he now resides in federal prison.
I was long since over poker by then. But after researching his methodology for counterfeiting, I figured trying to do it with medium-denomination chips in the pit would work splendidly. After contracting with a company out of India, and sending them an example of a genuine $500 chip from the Golden Nugget in Downtown Vegas, my plan was off and running.
It only cost me an extra $500 for the order. But sure enough, a small box stuffed with seemingly real chips arrived in the mail.
The dealer did what they’ve done thousands of times before, sliding my chip into their tray and doling out 10 shiny black $100 chips in return.
After playing a few hands, a sudden “phone call” from my “wife” was enough to get out of dodge with the real chips in tow. Minutes later, those chips were converted into cash which went straight into my savings account (read: slot machine).
The casinos must have read the same story about Lusardi as I did though, because this scheme was soon shut down by dealers directed to carefully inspect cashed in chips. With the right kind of flashlight in hand, they could use embedded holograms, which my counterfeits not so conveniently lacked, to weed out the fakes.
4. Stealing Money From the Drunk at the Craps Table
This one’s not really cheating per se, but I still feel like a piece of garbage about it all these years later.
When I would play craps, I’d look for players who were clearly enjoying one too many complimentary cocktails. After sidling up next to them, I’d play a few hands and offer to “buy” the next round.
Within an hour or so, some of these players would start to drift off on the feet. They’d still be going through the motions, but their vision blurred in between rolls—and that’s when I struck.
As soon as the dealers began their laborious process of paying out all those bets, I’d lean over and palm a chip or two from the drunk’s tray on the armrest. You’d have to leave their biggest chips or they’d notice something was up, but I was typically able to siphon off $50 or so in greens.
I left this story for last because it was my last cheating story to tell. An eagle-eyed stickman saw my wandering hands and alerted security, who then checked the cameras and confirmed my theft.
After getting booted out of my favorite casino, in handcuffs no less, I hit rock bottom as a compulsive gambler in a LVMPD jail cell. It took a ton of hard work, reflection, and working the 12 steps of Gamblers Anonymous to get myself right. But I’ve left that whole world behind once and for all. I sincerely hope that anybody out there reading who has been tempted to cheat the casino heeds this word of warning: It’s just not worth it in the end.
I’m not proud of my friend’s actions back during his darkest days, but I’m definitely proud of how he’s turned his life around. Today, he speaks at problem gambling seminars to share stories like the ones here, while providing firsthand advice about the damage cheaters can leave in their wake.
I think every gambler has had passing thoughts about trying to get over on the house, but hopefully this honest admission gives you second thoughts.