Forget the casino robberies seen in the Ocean's 11 films; these masterminds pulled off amazing thefts in real life en route to becoming the biggest casino cheaters in history. Using gadgets, people on the inside or simple math, these men robbed casinos of millions of dollars. As glamourous as it appears in the movies, it was less than fun for these casino cheaters after they were caught.
These men found ways to beat the bank at one popular casino game or another. Hitting many of the world's largest casinos, they all found a way to scam the system. Some used technology to confuse manual and electronic slot machines, others managed to beat the system in roulette, craps, and even keno.
Some of the most notorious casino cheaters used the legal, but frowned-upon, method of card counting to win millions playing blackjack. As seen in the Kevin Spacey film 21, the practice is easy to learn, but can have extreme consequences.However these casino cheats operated, in the end, all were caught and many were banned from casinos for life. On the bright side, many now work with casinos to improve security, to expose potential cheats, and to make the gaming world a better place.
Tommy Glenn Carmichael
Tommy Glenn Carmichael's adventures in cheating casinos spanned more than four decades starting in the 1960s. After he was introduced to the "top-bottom joint" by a friend, Carmichael went from operating a television repair shop to scoring money on the Las Vegas Strip by scamming coins out of slot machines.
His first arrest for cheating was in 1985 when he was stopped by police and eventually sentenced to five years in prison. Using a plan devised while he was locked up, Carmichael continued his scam after his release. Carmichael developed a new tool, the monkey paw, to alter and hack into slot machines.
As slot machine technology evolved, Carmichael's tricks did as well with the invention of the light wand in 1991, which worked on newer electronic slot machines in the same manner. He went on to sell this device to other cheaters, with some banking over $10,000 per day using the tool.Carmichael continued to operate, under the radar, scamming casino boat cruises out of their money. He was again arrested in 1996 and charged with possession of and manufacturing a cheating device, however the charges were later dropped. Carmichael was lucky that time, but not so lucky in subsequent arrests in 1998 and 1999.
After failing at earning a living with legal gambling, Richard Marcus found himself homeless in Las Vegas and took a job as a blackjack and baccarat dealer. This gave Marcus a second perspective and allowed him to see both sides of how casinos operate.
That information was enough for Marcus to discover a way to scam casinos out of money, and in his case, that money became millions over his career. His scam was pretty simple using a basic slight of hand.
He'd place a simple bet, two red $5 chips on top of one $500 brown chip. However, Marcus placed the bet so that through the eyes of the dealer, it appeared to be only a $15 bet with three red chips.
If the bet won, Marcus would inform the dealer of the size of the bet and pocket over $1,000. If the bet lost, he's wait until the dealer looked away and replace the $510 in chips with $15 in chips.The simple scam worked for years, that is until Marcus was caught, prosecuted, and banned from casinos. That didn't really stop Marcus though, as to this day he continues to serve as a mentor to other cheats. Operating a website, blog and as the author of two books, Marcus, the self-proclaimed "World's #1 Casino and Poker Cheating Expert" continues to help others through "education."
Known as "The Dominator," LoRiggio was a master at the craps tables and blackjack. After years of practicing, often times for hours on end, LoRiggio learned “controlled shooting,” a technique of getting the rolls you need in craps when you need them. The method involves setting the dice a certain way, gripping them precisely, tossing them so they stay together in the air, then having them land as gently as possible against the back wall of the craps table.
To this day, many still think that being able to control one di, nevertheless two dice is impossible, but LoRiggio says he is able to do this through simple physics.
Easily the most famous to cheat casinos in roulette, Gonzalo Garcia-Pelayo cleaned out many casinos after he cracked the code behind the spinning wheel. The one-time Spanish record producer went from the simple family life to earning well over $1.5 million playing roulette in Las Vegas over his career.
His roulette career began in Madrid with the simple theory that roulette wheels were not perfectly random. He spent hours recording roulette results and with the help of a computer, analyzied the results to discover the probabilities of the game.
Learning that there were imperfections in each wheel, Garcia-Pelayo learned that certain numbers fall more often than others. He used this knowledge to earn more than 600,000 Euros in one of his first nights in Madrid.
Clearly, this discovery could not be wasted, and Garcia-Pelayo came to Las Vegas where he operated in the early 1990s. Almost $2 million later, Garcia-Pelayo was banned from casinos after his method was deemed unethical. He didn't stand down, taking his fight to the Supreme Court, which ruled that he did nothing illegal.The damage was done, however, and Garcia-Pelayo's gambling career ended there in 1992. Still, Garcia-Pelayo is known as a pioneer of roulette cheating and is the reason to this day that casinos constantly test and monitor the performance of their roulette wheels.
MIT Blackjack Team
Probably the most famous people on this list, the MIT blackjack team developed a strategy during the 1990s that used statistical tactics to take the practice of card counting to a new level. They took a team approach to counting cards and practiced it in a number of mock situations.
The result? One of the most famous casino cheaters in history, and immortalized in the film 21.
Well before the MIT team earned millions playing blackjack, this MIT professor was discovering the science of card counting that they'd later use for gain. Edward Thorp is considered the father of card counting, having used his expertise in the probability to discover how to gain an advantage in the simple card game.
Using a now-ancient IBM 704 computer, Thorp cracked the code behind blackjack by analyzing the probabilities of the game. Now that he had his theory, he had to test it and went to Reno, Vegas and Lake Tahoe to do just that.
Thorp enlisted the help of professional gambler Manny Kimmel to test the method and earned $11,000 in the first weekend of play. He was convinced that his theories were spot on and rather than bleeding the casinos dry, he published this science in a 1996 book, Beat the Dealer.
That book became wildly popular, selling over 700,000 copies and reaching The New York Times bestseller list. The income from the book allowed Thorp and his wife a comfortable life after that and even gave them plenty of cash to spend weekends counting cards in Vegas.Today, Richard Thorp sits as a member of the Blackjack Hall of Fame having invented the "Thorp count" method of counting cards.