Top 20 Greatest Casino Scams Of All Time



Top 20 Greatest Casino Scams Of All Time

VOICE OVER: Phoebe de Jeu WRITTEN BY: Callum Janes
These shocking scams will blow your mind! For this list, we'll be looking at some of the most ingenious schemes that have been used to swindle Casinos around the world. Our countdown includes Hacking Security Cameras, The Tran Organization, The Cutter Gang, Restroom Roulette Scam, The MIT Blackjack Team, and more!

Top 20 Most Clever Casino Scams Of All Time

Welcome to WatchMojo, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 20 Most Clever Casino Scams Of All Time.

For this list, we’ll be looking at some of the most ingenious schemes that have been used to swindle Casinos around the world.

Which impresses you the most? Let us know in the comments!

#20: Hacking Security Cameras

Out of the thousands of people who visit Melbourne’s Crown Casino each day, it only takes a couple to fleece $33 million. In this crafty 2013 scheme, an accomplice from overseas strolled into Australia’s biggest casino and into a private, high-stakes poker game. Little did his opposition know that he was being fed information thanks to a hacker who had infiltrated the CCTV cameras. Over eight hands, this high-roller raked in huge numbers, raising some eyebrows. The staff suspected foul play and promptly ejected the man from the casino. The VIP handler that the establishment assigned to him was also fired, but the casino couldn’t recover the money.

#19: Slot Machine Glitch Exploit

Winning on casino machines is the luck of the draw. Sure the “hot-hand fallacy” may make you think that you’re going to keep getting the winning combinations, but it’s unlikely you’ll ever get the same hand twice. Unless you're John Kane. This 50 year old pianist was addicted to the “Game King” line of gambling machines, so much so that he even got one to play at home! In 2009 he came across a software bug that allowed him to keep playing the same winning hand repeatedly. Taking this knowledge to several different casinos, he won more than half a million dollars. The casinos got wise, and the US Government sued him, but charges were eventually dropped.

#18: Chip Stealing

Usually, when you think of a “scam,” it’s all about outwitting your victim. In this case, it was a simple matter of distraction. In 2012, casinos in Ohio were beset by a New York crime ring determined to defraud the roulette table. A select few would approach the table, getting in on the game at a low bet. One player would distract the dealer while the other would pocket chips and pass them to another gang member. This new player would then hit a new table, purchase chips at higher amounts, and cash them all out together. The gang was making as much as $2,000 per scam until the authorities caught on.

#17: Marked Card Packs

Casino’s are always vigilant when it comes to their players and employees. But no one expected the cards to be at fault! In 1999, Caesars Casino in Johannesburg became suspicious when they were down by 11% over three weeks. Security observed blackjack players to no avail until they noticed the backs of the casino’s playing cards. The backs of tens, jacks, queens, and kings were subtly different, giving players the advantage of knowing what was out there and betting accordingly. The casino discovered they had received a delivery of 4,000 marked card packs, and promptly removed them from circulation - but never found out who was behind the scam.

#16: The Cutter Gang

No card game is safe from cheaters, even Baccarat. This group's method was to accept the standard offer by the dealer to “cut the deck” after shuffling. The gang would then drag a particular card along the deck, separating the cards inside just enough so their sequence would be visible to a hidden camera in the scammer's cufflink. To avoid suspicion, that scammer would then excuse himself, giving the camera and information to another gang member who would play the winning cards every time. The crew was caught at the Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas but was let go due to a lack of evidence. They were later arrested for cheating in the Philippines but escaped, never to be heard from again.

#15: Dice Controlling with Dominic the Dominator

When it comes to the secret behind this scam on our list, it's all in the wrist. Or, at least that’s what Dominic LoRiggio, aka "Dominic the Dominator" will tell you. You see, Dominic has made a killing - and a living - using a method he refers to as "dice control." With it, LoRiggio can turn a flick of the wrist into whatever winning combination he desires. Although some have countered Dominic's claims as the braggings of a seasoned con man, the fact that LoRiggio is banned from numerous casinos speaks volumes as to the success rate of his chosen method - which he teaches to others for a price.

#14: The Tran Organization

The organizers of the California-based Tran Organization had themselves been card dealers, giving them unique, behind-the-scenes insight. In the 2000s, they bribed dealers to perform false shuffles at baccarat tables, allowing them to track the order of cards. Soon, the group grew to include over 40 members. The gang used microphones to share information and computer programs to predict what cards would be drawn, taking various North American casinos for over $7 million before they were caught. Of course, that’s just the activity that authorities were able to uncover.

#13: Mumble Betting

Sometimes you just have to “sound” right to cheat casinos out of their money. The casino in question? The Bellagio. The culprits? Craps dealer Mark William Branco, fellow dealer James Cooper, and accomplices Jeffrey Martin and Anthony Granito. The group would sit at Branco’s or Cooper’s table they were dealing and place phantom “hop” bets. The players would mumble something that “sounded” like a bet, and then the dealer would payout as if they had correctly wagered on whatever fell. They tried their luck 76 times over two years to the tune of over $1 million until they were caught and sentenced.

#12: Sector Targeting

Where there’s a will - and new technology - there’s a way. Case in point? This 2004 incident involving two Siberian men and a Hungarian woman who took the Ritz Casino in London to the tune of 1.3 million pounds. Their plan of attack? A method called "sector targeting," which used a laser scanner on their smartphones to predict where the ball would land on the Ritz's roulette tables. The real kicker? Though they were arrested after the casino reviewed security footage, many charges were reportedly dropped given that sector targeting wasn’t yet technically covered by gambling laws. Clearly it pays to be on the cutting edge.

#11: Card Switching

Casinos rely on “Black Books” of names and photos, such as the famous “Griffin Book”, to identify advantage players and cheaters. Two names that reportedly appear in Nevada’s Black Book are John Dixon and Robert Aisle, who were both accused of card switching back in the 1980s. The men would allegedly sit close to each other and pass cards to each other beneath the table and under their wagers. They would also employ accomplices, usually bribed cocktail waitresses, to assist them in their scheme as either lookouts or distractions.

#10: The ATM Job: Scammed in 60 Seconds

Casino scams don’t have to take place at the betting tables. In this case, all you needed was a checking account and an ATM at a casino. Ara Keshishyan brought together a team of people to open checking accounts with Citibank and make initial deposits. They would then use a Citibank cash advance kiosk at the many casinos they hit to withdraw ten times the amount deposited using a security gap that lasted 60 seconds. They would split the profits, gamble at the establishment to avoid suspicion, and bail to hit the next casino. The casinos even comped their rooms at points! Fourteen people were charged in 2012 after stealing over $1 million.

#9: Cigarette Pack Radio Transmitters

We’ve heard of hidden cameras and microphones, but what about a remote control roulette ball? In the summer of 1973, Monique Laurent devised a cunning plan with her husband and brother, a croupier in Deauville. Her brother inserted a transmitter inside a roulette ball and a receiver in a pack of cigarettes. As her husband made bets on the table, she would press a button on the cigarette pack to activate the receiver, controlling the outcome of the ball. In one week, the trio managed to score five million francs, but you don’t win that kind of money without raising some eyebrows. After some investigation, the team was caught and arrested.

#8: Louis Colavecchio & the Counterfeit Coins

Have you ever wondered why today's slot machines give out paper vouchers, as opposed to the tokens so often seen in old school movies? Well, it's in part thanks to the criminal activities of Louis "The Coin" Colavecchio, who took casinos in Atlantic City and Connecticut for a ride for years. He did this by creating replica tokens during his day job as a jeweler. Of course, the fact that Colavecchio was also in with the mob made the reproduction of these coins all the more lucrative...that is, until he was caught in 1998 and sentenced to seven years in prison.

#7: Phil Ivey's Edge Sorting

Professional gamblers will often look to even the most minute of details in order to gain an edge. Phil Ivey was one such gambler, and he used a technique known as "edge sorting" to controversially win nearly $20 million dollars. The idea is to convince the dealer to rotate high-value cards, for example by saying you’re superstitious, then pick them out using asymmetrical irregularities on their long edges. Ivey took the Borgata Casino in New Jersey and London's Crockfords for millions, but wasn't allowed to keep any of it thanks to court decrees that deemed Ivey's edge sorting to be cheating.

#6: Richard Marcus’ Chip Stacking

Richard Marcus spent time behind the table as a Vegas blackjack and baccarat dealer, but it was his activity as a player that earned him infamy as a casino scammer. His technique was simple, but effective: Marcus took advantage of the fact that the red $5 chips looked remarkably similar to the brown $500 chips. He would place two red chips sticking out slightly from a bottom brown one. If he lost the hand, Marcus would switch out the bottom chip for another red, but if he won, then he would be sure to let the dealer know that the bottom one was brown, and keep the profit.

#5: Restroom Roulette Scam

The next scam on our list also involves chips and the ol' switcheroo, and it reportedly hit Ohio area casinos big time in 2012. Dozens of people were reportedly involved in a roulette crime ring which involved people placing really low bets, and then stealing chips from dealers who were distracted by other members of the ring. The accomplices would then meet up in places such as public restrooms to pass along the stolen chips and bring them up to the cashiers. Although some of these scammers were caught, many remain at large today, while the ring itself reportedly scammed casinos in 18 different states, nationwide.

#4: Roselli Brothers

These gangsters from New Jersey hit several casinos across the United States throughout the 1990s, to the tune of $37 million. How did they do it? The Roselli’s hired a computer hacker to open bank accounts under other people’s names who had excellent credit. After seeding $50,000 of their own money into them, they would receive credit lines from casinos in their target city. Then, using this new influx of cash, they would “lose” all of this money in baccarat and craps card games on the casino floor, where another Roselli brother was winning it. They kept repeating this process until they were betting ridiculous amounts before disappearing forever, never to be caught.

#3: Cannes Contact Lens Ruse

We mentioned earlier that smartphone technology has helped cheaters scam casinos. But what about something as seemingly harmless as a contact lens? Italian scammer Stefano Ampollini ingeniously used infrared contact lenses to get one over on Les Princes Casino in Cannes, France in 2011. With the help of an insider, Ampollini and his accomplices were able to mark a deck of cards with invisible ink. Ampollini was able to walk away with almost one hundred thousand dollars, but was arrested two months later when he returned for a second helping.

#2: Tommy Carmichael's Slots Scam

From the 1980s on, Tommy Carmichael created a myriad of cheat tools that enabled him to rig slot machines and haul in millions of dollars worldwide. He shared his tools with a small group of other cheating professionals. One of his most famous, the “Monkey Paw”, was inserted in the payout shoot to trip the micro switch, delivering about $1,000 an hour. Another, the Light Wand, shone a light up the payout shoot to blind the sensor. By 1996, Carmichael had amassed a lot of winnings, but also developed quite the reputation, and while at the Circus Circus hotel-casino, he was arrested and later charged.

#1: The MIT Blackjack Team

Who says you can’t beat the house? The MIT Blackjack Team used card counting to beat casinos worldwide in the 80s and early 90s. In its simplest form, card counting involves using a point system to track the ratio of low to high cards, by adding one point for low cards dealt, and subtracting one point for high cards. It isn’t illegal, although it might get you banned. The technique was pioneered by mathematician Edward O. Thorp in the 1960s. But the MIT Blackjack Team took it to new levels, hitting casino after casino and eventually expanding from a small group of six students to a team of 80. They later split into smaller groups, who continued to take casinos by storm.