Baccarat Scams

Published: 27/04/2012
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Because gambling has ready money at stake, someone invariably tries to obtain it by deceit rather than skill or luck. Baccarat may seem like a high-class game for well-heeled casino patrons, but it still attracts its fair share of cheats.

One persistent form of cheating at Baccarat is known as “past-posting.” It involves adding chips to a winning wager after the result of the hand has already been determined. Slipping larger denomination chips under smaller ones is the common practice, and very quick hands are required to pull it off without getting caught.

The casino’s best defense against past-posting is the “ladderman,” who sits above all the action in a tall chair. This crew member has but two functions—to resolve any disputes and to keep an eye out for cheats. In casinos where no ladderman is present, surveillance cameras may serve the latter purpose.

In Monaco and France, another approach is employed to discourage past-posting. The casino chips for various denominations come in different sizes and shapes, which makes it much harder for a player to add high-value chips to those of lower values.

In almost all card games, cheaters will attempt to “mark” the cards in order to identify values. This ploy cannot work in high stakes Baccarat, because the decks are used only once. If a player is seen bending, folding, crumpling or otherwise deforming the cards as they are turned over, it doesn’t matter. In Mini-Baccarat, where the decks are reused, only the Dealer is permitted to touch the cards. What’s more, because there are no intermediate betting rounds, foreknowledge of a third card to be drawn makes no real difference.

The most successful Baccarat scams over the years have almost all involved collusion with the Dealer. For example, in the 1970s, a Las Vegas croupier named Richard Marcus teamed up with a gang of seven cheats to pillage a Mini Baccarat table. Marcus came up with a method of shuffling the cards to deal six winning Player hands in a row. Right before his shift came to an, the croupier would rig the decks at an unused table and place them into the shoe. He would then signal his collaborators to get seated at the table.

Because Marcus was done for the day and just about to leave, another Dealer, unsuspecting, would take over for him. The cheats would then each bet the table limit, $2,000 a hand. Because they took up all of the available seats, no intruder could sit down and take advantage of the fixed shoe. The series of wins added up to $84,000 at $2,000 per win time seven seats times six hands.

Remember, participants cannot touch the cards at Mini Baccarat, so the players could not be accused of manipulating the cards. Marcus, of course, was far from the table when the dealing took place, giving him the perfect alibi. As it turned out, the gang disbanded immediately afterwards and they never performed the scam again. Marcus went on to become a professional cheater at Poker and other games, a career that lasted 20 years until he was eventually caught.

During a three year period beginning in 2003, a group of high-tech card cheats scammed some $7 million from Mini-Baccarat tables at 17 casinos throughout North America. Based in Canada, the so-called “Tran Organization” bribed casino dealers to create a false shuffle, placing groups of unshuffled cards back into the shoe in the same order already played.

One Tran operative acted as the “tracker,” identifying the order of the unshuffled cards. Using a wireless transmitter, he would relay the sequence to a computer operator, who could formulate betting strategies from the data received. By knowing the order of the cards and having calculated the optimum wagers for each hand, Tran members seated at the table could bet with precision as the unshuffled cards were dispensed from the shoe. They reportedly racked up $868,000 in winnings at one casino in just 90 minutes.

Oddly enough, the Tran group did not always win. Sometimes their trackers were wrong about the order of the cards. Other times, the players intentionally lost to avoid suspicion. However, their amazing “run of luck” eventually came to an end in June 2006. While playing at Mississippi’s Imperial Palace Casino in Biloxi, they attempted to bribe an undercover agent and were caught. The alleged leader, Han Truong Nguyen, was ordered to pay $1,896,659 in restitution and to a prison sentence of 27 months.

Published on: 27/04/2012

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