Famous Casino Cheaters
For as long as casinos have been around there have been people trying to cheat them. Casinos dedicate a lot of resources to catching cheaters, and they are usually pretty good at doing so.
However, throughout history there have been a few cases of people who have won fortunes by cheating.
Many of these have been caught eventually, but some of them have gotten away with it completely. Of course, the most successful cheaters are those that we have never heard of and never will.
On this page we will look at some of the famous cheaters and the methods they used to cheat, scam, or hustle casinos out of substantial sums of money.
Tommy Glenn Carmichael
Carmichael is one of the most successful slot machine cheats, although he has spent time in prison for his crimes. He began cheating slot machines in 1980 when he used a metal device that was inserted into the coin slot and then triggered a payout.
When the big casinos started updating their slots with newer machines, Carmichael found his device no longer worked with them.
As a result he moved to the smaller gambling establishments in Las Vegas that still used older machines. He was eventually caught and sentenced to five years in prison.
This sentence failed to act as a deterrent though, and Carmichael resumed his cheating upon his release in 1987. Slot machine technology had advanced during his spell in prison and therefore he had to change his methods.
Carmichael bought one of the new machines and set about designing a new device that he could use to cheat. He came up with something that has since been called the monkey paw, or slider.
The principle was the same as his original device; it was inserted into the coin slot and caused the release of coins from the machines. He used it successfully until technology advanced again and he once more had to refine his methods.
He bought one of the new electronic slot games and again developed a way to beat them.
It worked so well that Carmichael made money from selling it to other cheaters, as well as using it himself.
Perhaps inevitably, Carmichael was eventually arrested for using the wand in 1996. Charges were dropped on that occasion, but he was arrested again in 1998 and once more in 1999. He pled guilty to running an illegal gambling enterprise and was sentenced to more prison time.
He is now banned from playing in casinos, but he does work with them producing anti-cheating devices.
Richard Marcus has been labeled as one of the greatest cheaters in the history of gambling. That isn’t unreasonable, given that he made a lot of money and never got caught. The only reason anyone knows about his cheating exploits is because he chose to write a book about his life after he had made enough money and stopped cheating.
Marcus named his method of cheating the “Savannah,” and it was in theory quite simple. It took an awful lot of courage and a fair amount of skill.
It was very similar to the past-posting cheating techniques that had been used, but with one key difference. Traditional past-posters would add chips to a winning bet using sleight of hand, but Marcus did it the other way round. He would remove chips from a losing bet.
He would go up to the roulette table and place a couple of chips down as his bet. The top chip would be a $5 chip, or some other small denomination, but underneath would be a higher value chip.
He placed the top chip in a way that the bottom chip could not be seen. If his bet lost, he would grab his chips (which you are not actually allowed to do, hence the drunken act) and fling them at the dealer. During this move he would swap the higher value chip for another $5 chip.
If, however, his bet won then he would make a big deal of celebrating. Invariably the dealer would be a little confused, assuming he had just staked two $5 chips. At this point Marcus would point out the fact that the chip underneath was more valuable.
Because he had legitimately placed the bet, even if surveillance was checked by casino security they would find nothing wrong. He was effectively cheating on his losing bets rather than his winning ones, and it’s winning bets that tend to be scrutinized.
Using this method he was able to win thousands on his winning bets and lose only a few dollars on his losing bets. Because of the way it worked, he managed to avoid being caught. He now works against the cheaters, consulting for casinos, and teaching them how to avoid being cheated.
Ron Harris & Reid McNeal
In 1995, Reid McNeal hit a Keno jackpot at Bally’s Park Place Casino Resort in Atlantic City, for $100,000. Suspicions were immediately raised when McNeal showed very little emotion following the win and asked to be paid in cash.
As jackpot wins of a certain size have to be verified by state gaming officials under New Jersey law, an investigation occurred as a result.
The investigation led back to Ron Harris, a computer programmer working for the Nevada Gaming Control Board. Harris was responsible for finding bugs and flaws in the software of electronic gaming machines.
It transpired that Harris had been using his position to access and modify software in slot machines to pay out substantial wins if a precise sequence of coins were inserted. With his accomplice he had successfully cheated thousands of dollars and gone undetected.
Using his predictions his accomplice, McNeal, could be guaranteed a jackpot win.
McNeal duly won the jackpot at Atlantic City but, as we have described above, that was the beginning of the end for the two cheats. Harris was sentenced to seven years in prison, and released after serving two.
Throughout the history of gambling scams, women have typically been used to cause diversions while their male accomplices carry out the actual scandal.
Ida Summers was different; she certainly used her beauty and charm to distract pit bosses and dealers, but she also did the cheating herself.
Back in the 1960s she became known as the Vegas Vixen for her ability to cheat Las Vegas casinos.
This involved using sleight of hand to remove and add cards to the table when required. She then progressed to adding whole decks of cards that were prearranged to ensure the house lost. These decks were known as cold decks, or coolers.
Although successful for a while, Summers was eventually caught and arrested. Gaming officials in Vegas had become suspicious here, and together with the FBI, launched an investigation.
Seeing as she only received probation rather than a custodial sentence, it seems her looks and charm may have had an effect in court too.
French woman Monique Laurent, along with her crew consisting of family and friends, managed to win over $1 million from the roulette tables at Deauville Casino. Their winning had nothing to do with luck.
But rather thanks to some sophisticated equipment and the help of a rogue roulette dealer. Considering the scam took place in 1973, it was somewhat advanced for the time.
Laurent had her crew use a roulette ball that had been tampered with to insert a radio receiver.
With 90% accuracy she could make the ball land in a group of six numbers. Other members of the crew would place the necessary bets and collect the winnings.
The casino sensed something was wrong, but they couldn’t work out what the problem was. They had the roulette wheel checked and monitored the table and the dealer, but they found nothing wrong. Laurent and her crew therefore continued to rack up the winnings.
They were only caught eventually as a direct result of Laurent’s beauty.
The owner of the casino took something of a shine to Laurent and made romantic overtures. She rebuffed him and he didn’t take it well. He began to suspect her of wrongdoing when he noticed that she was always at the roulette table costing the casino money.
She was always seemingly alone and only appeared to be placing occasional bets. Working out that the cigarette packet might be involved he asked Laurent for a cigarette and the game was up.
Louis Colavecchio is a counterfeiter who used his skills to manufacture incredibly accurate reproductions of slot machine coins. He then used these coins in many American casinos with initially great success.
His operation was on a grand scale and he was producing thousands upon thousands of coins.
When he was eventually arrested in 1998, following an investigation after casinos had started to notice sizable surpluses of the coins in their inventories.
Law enforcement seized his stash of coins and the tools used to make them. Such was the volume of this equipment they had to rent storage facilities just to house it all.
When Colavecchio was released in 2006 he resumed his activities, but was arrested again after just a few months. He brokered a deal to reveal the secrets of his operation so that casinos could avoid being stung in this way again.
Nikrasch, also known as Dennis McAndrew, is another slot machine cheater. In fact, he is arguably the biggest known slot machine cheater in history. It has been said that he posed a serious risk to the integrity of the whole slot machine industry.
Together with his crew, it’s believed that Nikrasch made over $15 million using his sophisticated methods.
There has been a lot written about Nikrasch, particularly about his downfall, and much of it’s speculation. It’s widely believed that he was set up by someone who knew about his operation, but he himself has admitted that he does not know who or why.
He was arrested in 1998 while trying to cheat his way to a huge jackpot in a Las Vegas casino. Subsequently, he agreed to exchange some of his secrets in return for a reduced sentence.
Nickrasch had served time in prison before, having been convicted in the 1980s for his role in cheating the mechanical slot machines of the time. As a master locksmith with mechanical expertise, he had developed a method for forcing payouts from these machines.
Following his time in prison he returned to Las Vegas and soon began planning a return to his cheating ways.
By this time, though, slot machines were very different. The technology was now computerized rather than mechanical and the machines were vastly more difficult to manipulate.
This didn’t stop Nikrasch however, and he began to work on developing new methods for beating them. He did indeed come up with an advanced system for doing so.
His new system required a crew of people, which Nikrasch recruited using his contacts. He would visit a casino and, with members of his crew covering him from video surveillance and security personnel, he would break into a machine using an untraceable method.
After he left, another member of his crew would then come and win the jackpot: seeming legitimate. It’s not known for sure how many times Nikrasch pulled this off before he was caught. Equally, no-one knows how long he might have been able to get away with it if had he not been set up.
Although Brennan is a thief rather than a cheater, he deserves to be mentioned here for the simplicity and apparent success of his heist. Brennan was a cashier at Stardust Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas.
In 1992 as he was leaving work, Brennan decided to fill a bag with half a million dollars in cash and chips. He calmly walked out of the casino and has never been seen since.
There have been rumors that he was killed by an accomplice who didn’t want to split the proceeds, but there has never been any evidence to back this up.
The common belief is that he is still alive, somewhere in the world, enjoying his ill-gotten gains.