Since the start, casinos have been major targets for masterminds looking to shift the odds and claim a major piece of the gambling pie. Whether with inventive gadgets, insider assistance or simple mathematics, some of the biggest casino robberies in history have happened directly on the casino floor. Let’s take a look at a few of the most famous cheaters in modern gambling history, as well as how they’ve changed the course of casino history.
Tommy Glenn Carmichael
This former television repair man devised an inventive technique for scamming coins out of slot machines. Beginning in the 1960s, Carmichael perfected his scam over four decades to keep up with changes to slot machines and casino security efforts. In 1991, he developed a light wand, which helped cheaters collect on new electronic slot machines, and he even sold the tool to other cheaters along the way.
Carmichael operated his scam on boat cruises for years before being arrested in 1996 for possession and manufacturing of a cheating device. Estimates indicate that his light wand device allowed cheaters to bank over $10,000 per day, which cost the casino industry millions over his lengthy cheating career.
Some cheaters don’t need fancy tools to succeed. Using a simple sleight of hand trick, Marcus would place two red $5 chips on top of a single $500 brown chip in a way that made the dealer think it was a humble $15 bet. If he lost, Marcus simply replaced the brown chip with another red chip, making his losses $15.
If he won, however, he alerted the dealer to the size of the bet and pocketed major winnings. While the strategy sounds simple, it was effective for years before the famous cheater was caught and banned from casinos.
This former Spanish record producer propelled himself to the big time by studying the tendencies of roulette wheels.
One would think there isn’t much you can cheat on when you talk about a roulette wheel, yet, by learning the imperfections of individual wheels, Garcia-Pelayo was able to cash in on almost $2 million in cumulative winnings. Following being banned from casinos, he challenged the ruling in the Supreme Court, which ruled that his technique was not illegal.
Despite the ruling, the damage had been done. To this day, casinos constantly monitor roulette wheels to eliminate the possibility of detectable patterns.
Known by many as the father of card counting, Thorp developed the first widely-used system for gaining a statistical advantage at blackjack.
After cracking the game’s code, Thorp enlisted professional gambler Manny Kimmel to test the method, with the pair earning over $10,000 in a single weekend.
Convinced of his theories, Thorp published his 1996 book, Beat the Dealer, which sold of 700,000 copies on its way to The New York Times bestseller list.
Using insider knowledge gained from his computer technician job with the State of Nevada, Harris duplicated the random number generator from Bally’s keno machines to predict the calculations for upcoming games.
After his partner hit on some extremely long odds to take home six figure winnings in New Jersey, the jig was up for Harris, who was promptly dismissed from his position.
As casino security gets more advanced, cheaters are in for a huge challenge in beating the house. Who is the next famous cheater to make his mark? Only time will tell!