On This Page

Richard Marcus: The Master of Cheating the Casinos

Richard Marcus spent over two decades visiting the casinos of Las Vegas and finding ways to cheat them out of millions of dollars. He came up with several creative strategies that worked successfully for years in helping him cheat at blackjack, baccarat, poker, and roulette.

Even though he was eventually caught and convicted for his crimes, Richard shows no remorse concerning his actions and actually explains the details of his adventures in his book, American Roulette: How I Turned the Odds Upside Down.

Richard said this in response to being asked if he would ever set foot in a casino again,

“If something extraordinary happened in the gambling world, such as the opening of casinos in Miami Beach, I might get the chips that I hung up at the turn of the century and put them back on. As far as the agony of defeat goes, I never thought about it then and surely wouldn’t if I got back into the fun, which sometimes rivaled the money.”

Early Years

Richard spent the majority of his childhood in Bergen County, New Jersey. His love of gambling can be traced back to his early years when he would bet his parents that he could guess the color of the next car they would see on long car trips.

He would also collect and flip baseball cards with his friends, but they were always jealous of how often he won. Some of his friends decided to strategically switch their cards every time Richard flipped one over that would have beat theirs.

Before he could catch on to what they were doing, he lost his entire baseball card collection.

When Richard was a little older, he started playing craps during his free time at school with anyone who was willing to take him on.

It wasn’t long before Richard was spending too much time gambling and hustling and not enough time on his school work. Richard dropped out of school and started to experience other forms of gambling.

He spent his later teen years at the racetrack to try his luck out there. Early on, he won $30,000 in one afternoon. He took that money and headed to Las Vegas for the first time, but his good luck unfortunately didn’t follow him.

By the end of his first night there, his entire bankroll was gone. He spent the next several months homeless and living underneath a small bridge overpass on the outskirts of Las Vegas.

Richard had plenty of time to think and plot his revenge against the casinos, believing they must have been cheating for him to lose that much money so quickly. He soon became a blackjack and baccarat dealer at the Four Queens Hotel and Casino, so he could get an insider’s look into how dealers impact a game.

He also got tips and tricks from the other dealers that knew how to swindle money out of players. He would later use this knowledge to gain an edge over the casinos and to cheat them out of their money.

Teaming up with Joe Classon

Joe Classon, a regular at the Four Queens casino, decided to visit Richard’s table in hopes that he would be able to make some money off of this new dealer. Immediately, he saw Richard’s raw talent as a dealer and asked him to be his partner in a cheating scandal that he was working on.

Richard was instantly interested in the partnership because he not only would be able to get revenge on one of the casinos that had ripped him off, but he would also earn twenty percent of their total profits.

Richard was actually the one who developed the plan that they would use.

The plan was simple really, Richard would pre-stack the deck in such a way that Joe Classon and his accomplices were guaranteed to win.

He would then falsely shuffle to make his pit bosses think he was doing everything he was supposed to be doing. The first time they used this strategy, they earned a little over $21,000 and Richard became a permanent member of their team.

Richard also partook in another cheating scandal that Joe Classon’s team had perfected known as the late-betting approach team. This team would make bets just seconds after they technically weren’t allowed to.

Sometimes they wouldn’t actually place a bet until it was obvious what the outcome would be, guaranteeing them a substantial win.

This was highly illegal and it didn’t take long for casinos to catch on. In the fall of 1982, Richard was caught in the act of late-betting and was almost arrested for his crimes.

He simply claimed that he had no idea that what he was doing was wrong and he promised to never do it again; let’s just say he used this same excuse several times and always got away with it.

Although Richard did learn a lot from being a part of Joe Classon’s team, he also taught his team a few tricks of his own. The most successful strategy that he helped them execute was the “Mix-Up Roulette Strategy,” which involved slipping in a few extra high value chips after his bet had won.

Other team members would stand close by to distract the dealer and the pit bosses from seeing him. This brought in hundreds of thousands of dollars over the years and they continued to use this technique even after Richard left.

He parted ways with Classon’s team after twelve long years with them in hopes of creating his own team in the future.

Another Team: More Cheating Techniques

Richard would spend day and night at the casinos of Las Vegas, honing his skills and trying to figure out new ways to cheat the casinos out of their money.

One evening he came across an old friend from high school named Andy “Balls” and after catching up, they decided to go into business together. They recruited a mutual friend of theirs, Pat Mallery, to join in their mission to get as much money from the casinos as possible.

During his time alone, Richard managed to develop a new cheating method that he could use on almost any table game you could think of.

He would place a $5,000 casino chips under a stack of $5 casino chips in such a way that the dealer had no idea that the $5,000 chip was there.

If he won the bet, he would reveal the hidden $5,000 chip and reap the benefits of his hefty wager.

However, if he lost his bet, then he would swiftly switch the chip back to a $5 one, so that he could keep his losses to a minimum. Andy, a man of larger stature would stand nearby to block the pit bosses view of the table while Pat would sit close by to Richard, to make excuses for him in case they ever got caught.

Some dealers were sticklers when it came to this method, often pulling in their pit bosses to help take these players down.

Richard knew it was crucial to stay away from these types of dealers, so he would often observe a casino for several days before trying out any of his cheating techniques on them. Richard went to extreme measures to make sure they never got caught.

The team of three seldom got caught but when it happened, Richard and Pat would pretend they were just too drunk to understand what they were doing.

They would slur their words and would sometimes even pretend to pass out, in order to avoid getting arrested or being heavily fined. Richard later named this technique the “Savanna Strategy,” after his current girlfriend at the time.

The last time Richard ever scammed a casino out of their money was on December 31st, 1999. The name of the casino was never released by the Gaming Control Board but we do know that Richard was playing Roulette at the time and had tried to accomplish some version of the Savanna Strategy when he was caught and arrested for his crimes.

Richard Marcus has since been blacklisted from all casinos in the state of Nevada, and he will never set foot in them again.

Writing about His Experiences

Richard wrote more about his cheating experiences in his book, American Roulette: How I Turned the Odds Upside Down, which was officially published in 2004. In an interview, Richard wrote this concerning his book and how difficult it was to get it published,

“In order to get the book published I had to go through some intense credibility checks, many from long-established casino surveillance personnel. And when you read stories such as mine, ask yourself, ’Could anyone create such good stuff?’ Remember, non-fiction is always better and more entertaining than fiction, simply because the fact that it actually happened bleeds through.”

In addition to that book, Richard Marcus has also contributed to several other books including, Identity Theft Inc., which was released in 2006.

He collaborated with Glen Hastings to write this book that gives their readers tips on what to avoid doing in order to keep your identity safe from the perspective of a professional identity thief. Both books have become very popular and are available to purchase both online and in most bookstores.

Back to top