Laziness and Ignorance - Richard Marcus

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Laziness and Ignorance - Richard Marcus

By Richard MarcusInternal and external cheating … I knowabout both. Before embarking on an infamous25-year career as a casino cheat, I spent a yearas a dealer at a Las Vegas casino, where I dealtall four conventional table games. Ironicallythe first time I ever cheated a casino was as adealer in the commission of a Baccarat scamidentical to the major one involving the TranOrganization that was recently busted in casinosacross the United States and Canada. Justas the Tran Organization spotted flagrantweaknesses in casino table-game protectionand surveillance in 2007, I was able to do thesame back in 1977 while dealing Mini-Baccarat in Las Vegas.Why do so many scams go undetected forso long by floor staffs and surveillance departments?How can groups of cheaters come intoyour casino and pioneer their ways aroundyour dealers, floor personnel, pit bosses andsurveillance workers? You might find myanswers to these questions somewhat hardhitting,but they are nevertheless true.Laziness and IgnoranceFrom the very first time I cheated a casinountil my retirement on New Year’s Eve 1999,I was always security conscious of even thetiniest detail — and I believed this was theCasino Enterprise Management September 200746reason I was never caught. I told everyone Iwas one of the few cheaters who never hadserious problems, thanks to my own internalsecurity measures.I was only partially right — something I didnot find out until 2007. Having recentlyentered the world of casino conferences andseminars, my first experience outside ofcheating and bookwriting was at the WorldGame Protection Conference (WGPC) in LasVegas. There I met several people involved indifferent capacities of casino surveillanceoperations. Most were interested in talkingwith me, as I am perhaps the first major longwww.casinoenterprisemanagement.com


time professional casino cheat who has madehimself available to the industry. In particular,people asked me questions pertaining notonly to my personal experiences and cheatingmethods, but also about various scams theyhad heard about or imagined.I was truly amazed at the level of inexperienceand ignorance many people holdingimportant surveillance positions had. I wasnearly dumbfounded upon conversing with asurveillance shift director from a majorNevada casino. This person’s commentsabout detecting and setting up casinocheaters actually made me think of MickeyMantle, who once said, “Had I known I wasgoing to live this long, I would have taken bettercare of myself.” The words streakingacross my mind at that moment were, “Had Iknown surveillance departments were thisunknowledgeable, I would have been evenmore aggressive during my cheating career.”Another thing I learned at the WGPC washow underpaid surveillance people are, andhow many people forego these careersbecause they often lead to “dead-end” situationsfor advancement and greater wages.That reality flabbergasted me. How can a pitboss earn significantly more than a surveillanceoperator? Or a casino shift boss twice asmuch as a director of surveillance? I mean,which employee is in a better position to savethe casino money — one who detects a majorscam before it walks out the door with thousandsof the casino’s bankroll or one whorates customers’ play and “generally” supervisesthe games? I am in no way demeaningthe value or job functions of casino floor staffs,but, in my opinion, key surveillance peopleare more important to casinos’ bottomlines.A good case in point is the major Mini-Baccarat scam I wrote about in last month’sissue of CEM. Someone like me would havewww.casinoenterprisemanagement.com47September 2007Casino Enterprise Management


detected that scam much earlier, but the factthat it went unchecked for so long is by nomeans the fault of surveillance operators.Why? Because we cannot expect them tocatch sophisticated cheating scams whenthey have not had the proper training to doso. In the old days, casino surveillance departmentswere staffed by people like me, excheaterswho knew the scams from firsthandexperience. In today’s surveillance system,people behind the eye-in-the-sky are taughtabout scams by other people who weretaught about the same scams in the samefashion they’re now teaching them: mainlythrough videos and demonstrations. I am notcriticizing these methods, as they are theproduct of our technological revolution, butmore needs to be done.Remember, when you put a person who isnot scam savvy in charge of a surveillancedepartment, it’s like putting a pilot with arecreational license at the helm of a commercialairbus; he’s going to be unfamiliar with alot of the inner workings.In today’s modernized casino world, wemust educate floor staff and dealers on howto recognize basic and advanced scamsbecause, in spite of improvements to videosurveillance, cheaters are not backing down.Some are even capable of using technologicaladvances to their advantage, capitalizing oncasino floors’ real-time ignorance. A majorproblem with on-floor surveillance in today’scasinos is that the entire floor staff, from dealersup to casino managers, has become fartoo dependent on surveillance upstairs to dothis job for them. They rest self-assured that,because every square inch of casino space isvideotaped 24/7, no cheater can successfullypull off a significant scam. The commonbelief is that all scams will be caught by thecamera sooner rather than later.Maybe so, but what a fair amount of casinopersonnel don’t realize is that the cameracatches many scams that are ignored by thefloor staff. Floor personnel and pit bosses oftenfail to grasp that the order of process regardingsuspicious play or possible outright cheatingmoves is supposed to work from the bottomup. Many — even if only subconsciously— havetakenthe approach that, “Why should I worry aboutbeing so observant on the games? If anythinggoes down, the camera will tape it and my surveillancecolleague upstairs will run back thetape and catch it.” But this must work theother way. The person on the floor must initiatethe process. He must call surveillance andreport his suspicions. Of course, this happenswhenever surveillance is called, but my pointis that surveillance is not called nearly enoughbecause floor personnel rely on their confidencein video surveillance. I have a proverbfor this: When on the floor, don’t rely on thecamera because the camera cannot tap you onthe shoulder and say, “Excuse me, Mr. orMadame Pit Boss, but the player on Mini-Bactable Number 3 just pulled a move.” Let’s notforget that cameras are no different than computers;they need input to give you output. Ifyou don’t tell them, they don’t tell you; thus,the cheaters’ secrets are protected.Had I known surveillancedepartments were thisunknowledgeable, I wouldhave been even moreaggressive during mycheating career.The Dealer’s ChecklistLet’s take my aviation analogy regardinginexperienced pilots flying super jumbo jets astep further. You all know that before any aircrafttakes off, there is a checklist that must beadhered to. Pilots must confirm that instrumentsare in good working order and that allpreparations for takeoff have been made.Why not initiate this process for casino dealers?What if they had a certain checklistbefore dealing cards, spinning Roulette ballsand passing dice to Craps shooters? Wouldthis effectively reduce the casino’s risk ofbeing cheated?You bet.To give you a strong example of this, let’sreturn to my infamous “Savannah” move. Forthose unfamiliar with it, the move consistedof hiding a $5,000 chip under a $5 chipon even-money and 2-to-1 bets onthe bottom of Roulette layoutsso the dealer believed only$5 chips were placed there.This was done by jutting the $5 chip slightlyoff the $5,000 one. When the bet lost, I rakedit off the layout before the dealer could sweepit. When caught, I replaced it with two $5chips I had palmed in my other hand, goinginto a drunk routine to deaden suspicion andavoid surveillance. When the bet won, I waspaid either $5,005 or $10,010, depending onwhich bet had been placed. Naturally therewere surveillance verifications each time thebet won, but because it was a legitimate bet,the casinos had to pay.Never once did a dealer, floorperson or pitboss detect the $5,000 chip before I claimedthe winning bet, which made this the “perfectmove.”But was it really so perfect? Or could a simpleprocedural dealing tactic have rendered itimpossible? After casinos saw it hundreds oftimes and suspected something was wrongdespite the video evidence, you would thinkthey would have stopped it. And they couldhave. If Roulette dealers had been instructedto follow a checklist, with one of the itemsbeing to visually verify the bottom chips of alloutside bets, making sure that no high-valuechips were set there, I never would have gottenpaid on the move — not once!But this counter measure was never implementedby suspicious surveillance departments,nor were any other proceduralchanges made to give the casino a chance ofdefending itself against what was really a verysimple cheating move. Mental checklists canbe used by dealers to combat cheating on allthe table games. They will not wipe out cheating,but they will greatly reduce both failedand successful cheating attempts. I would saythat with effective dealer checklists (whichfloor people must make sure are beingadhered to by their dealers), overall cheatingon table games would be reduced by as muchas two-thirds.Lack of CommunicationI have found an integral shortage of communicationbetween personnel on the floorand observers in the surveillance room. Asidefrom basic regulations dictating when floorpersons should call surveillance, there has tobe a more hands-on approach from both levelsof the casino. The simple performances ofverifying questionable bets and settling disputesbetween players and the casino are notenough. Both the person on the floor and inthe sky must be able to properly communicatea situation to the other, and, on top ofthat, inject some versatile thinking.Casino Enterprise Management September 200748www.casinoenterprisemanagement.com


Looking back over my cheating career, Iremember a prime example of this lack ofcommunication and “thinking on your feet”relating to game protection. I had been pastpostingdark brown “chocolate” $5,000 chipsunderneath black $100 chips on Blackjacktables up and down the Las Vegas Strip. Afterdozens of successful payoffs, word of theseaudacious moves finally reached surveillancedepartments. Eventually, a move was caughton tape, but it was long after I had left thecasino with the money. However, surveillancedepartments teamed with GriffinInvestigations put out bulletins that were distributedin gaming pits throughout Las Vegas.The warning was: “Beware of pastpostersswitching in chocolate chips underneathblack chips on Blackjack tables.” Even myname and photo were attached to the warnings.You would think that I was soon put outof business, right?Wrong.Knowing that floor staffs, surveillancedepartments, Griffin and gaming agents wereall on the lookout for chocolate chips beingpastposted under blacks, I decided to trysomething else. Well, it was really the samething, but I suspected casino staffs would notrecognize it. I went back into the same casinos,well aware of the bulletins, and made thesame exact Blackjack moves, slipping yellow$1,000 chips underneath green $25 chips. Iwas paid time and time again, as if there wereno flyers on the podiums warning the floorstaff that I was loose in the casinos. (I evensaw the flyers in the pits!)This is a classic example of streamlinedcommunication that doesn’t really communicate.Pit bosses received the warning fromsurveillance, then relayed that information tofloorpeople, who then relayed the same informationto dealers on the Blackjack tables. Sowhile everyone on the floor was waiting forme to pastpost chocolates under blacks, Iwent from casino to casino pastposting yellowsunder greens. Amazingly — or maybenot so amazingly — even when I took heat onthe yellow-under-green moves, no connectionwas made to the chocolate-under-blackmoves depicted on the flyers. Surveillancewas not notified by floor personnel that“unseen” winning yellow $1,000 chips wereshowing up on Blackjack tables.This is what I mean by a lack of lateralthought. People on the floor need to betrained so that they may be versatile enoughto recognize that the yellow-green move wasthe same as the chocolate-black move. Thistype of oversight is very prevalent in today’scasinos because people, relying way toomuch on technology, are not trained to usetheir own common sense.Remember, at the end of the day, it’s humanswho bust the cheaters, not the technology.Marcus is the author offour books: AmericanRoulette, Dirty Poker, TheWorld’s Greatest GamblingScams, and Identity Theft,Inc. He can be reached atrichard@richardmarcusbooks.com.www.casinoenterprisemanagement.com49September 2007Casino Enterprise Management

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