You thought Ocean’s Eleven was just a fictional movie? As long as casinos have been a bank vault of money, casino scams have been right there, too.
Security in casinos is top-notch these days and repercussions for trying to steal from them can range from jail and prosecution, to a good old-fashion in-house beating (depending where you are).
With that in mind, we’re taking a trip down memory lane of three of the most memorable casino scams that come to mind.
The Roselli Brothers
The Roselli Brothers had quite a run. By the end of it, they scammed casinos out of $40 million in the United States — and never gave a cent back.
It was a smart setup, as the brothers had two sharp minds and were ahead of their times where identity theft is concerned. They’d forge documents and identities, and then go to casinos to build up gaming credit.
There was a bit of a CSI-element to this cheat too, as they actually worked with a computer hacker, who sifted through various credit-score databases to find out who has perfect credit. From there, the Roselli brothers would use those names and identities to open up accounts at casinos from 1995 to 2000.
They put $50,000 in each account, so the casinos then felt comfortable that there was enough collateral to give them credit. The Roselli’s would play, use some of the money to pay down debts, which made the casino feel comfortable to give them more credit.
By the end of their scam, they had some credit lines worth millions and were able to bet six figures each time they wanted to get down.
If you’re running a con, you need a good exit strategy and the Roselli Brothers were prepared — actually, it was pretty easy. They collecting their winnings and simply disappeared. They left behind the casinos to pursue various innocent individuals who were – at some point – hit with the news that they had accrued huge gambling debts in casinos.
By the time everyone connected the dots, the Roselli Brothers were long gone. To this day, nobody is exactly sure who or where they are.
In the end, casinos were hit hard by the financial loss and customers were wrecked as their credit scores and identities were thrashed. Meanwhile, the Roselli Brothers completely skated off with the money.
Mission Impossible: Contact Lenses
The Mission Impossible series of movies are known for their high-tech gadgets from novel cars to innovative identity-changing techniques. This next scam sounds like it’s ripped from the same story.
A diverse foursome that included three Frenchmen and one Italian came up with a very sly, yet simple trick that led them to scamming $84,000 from the casino. What was this simple scam? They marked cards with invisible ink while playing stud poker.
The first three players at the table did this, and they surreptitiously marked the cards based on their corresponding value. Then it was up for the last guy – the Italian on the team – to do his damage.
Fitted with special contact lenses, the Italian player was able to see the invisible ink on the cards. That allowed him to get a clear idea of what’s coming up and how to play his hands.
Needless to say, it was like shooting fish in a barrel for awhile. The team ran up the numbers, piling up 10’s of thousands before anything was flagged as suspicious. But they made one critical mistake that all scammers tend to do: they didn’t have an exit plan (unlike the Roselli’s).
They played and continued to pile up their winnings, and the team kept ramping up, instead of having a plan to escape with their profits. One time, they had hit the same casino a couple of times, and yet again, had a conveniently lucky winning streak. The pit boss recognized them and realized that something was fishy about their luck — who gets that lucky two times in a row in such a short time frame?
The authorities were called in and from there, it was pretty easy to figure out that something was up. Using some of their investigative techniques, they discovered the cards were marked.
It took them a while to figure out the contact lenses but eventually, they caught on. From there, it was case closed on this group of bandits, who were put in jail for a long time.
Pai Gow Payday
Some of the ‘best’ con jobs have help from an inside man, and that’s exactly what this story is about. A scammer, now known as Pai Gai John tried to get help from an inside man — while the plan was solid, the exit plan wasn’t.
Pai Gai John scoured the country to find dealers who were open to bending the rules. Eventually, he banded together 30 dealers, who became his little network of helpers. The key for them was to shuffle the cards poorly or at least give the impression they’re shuffling, but in reality, they kept card’s order set.
Meanwhile, while that was happening, a separate player at a separate table would fire up a cigarette — a decoy for whispering instructions into their sleeve. The audio message would go to the first player with instructions on how and what to bet. There would also be visual cues as the first player would bet based on how the cigarette was being held or various other poses that were made.
Pai Gow John’s plan worked to perfection as they managed to hit 20 different casinos for over $7 million in winnings. Their problem? They didn’t get out while they were ahead. Instead, the casinos finally caught on. After combing through hours of video footage, it became clear what was happening and everything was thrown in jail.
May that be a lessen for you: take a profit when you have one, and don’t get too greedy. Or, even better — don’t scam the casino, and just try your luck.