There’s nothing better than a quick read about the world’s biggest casino cheats. It’s almost like jumping into the pages of a Charles Cumming novel, except that these people are real-life rogues that seem to have won – a lot!
And, because the very best cheats in history were never caught, or even raised suspicion, we’ll never know who they really are but I can let you in on the most famous con artists that were eventually exposed but whose methods and mastery go down in history for their stealth, genius, and aptitude.
1. George Devol
First, we must go far back in history to visit George Devol in Ohio in 1829. He is infamously known for being the greatest poker cheat in the history of the game and responsible for this popular card game holding the name:‘’the cheating game’’.
In his youth, he was no angel and often ran into the wrong side of the law until he eventually found excitement in the underworld of gambling.
At 14, he learned how to stack decks, and palm cards, recover a cut, and bring in a cold deck. In between his other shenanigans of ducking and diving and stealing and skiving, he became so good at the game that he managed to accumulate a staggering $3,000 by the time he was 17 – which in those days was a ton of money.
And, although his wealth was thanks to trickery and card counting, he had no conscience of his cheating because he felt that he was simply beating others at their own game.
What a legend!
2. Dennis Nikrasch
Under the fake name, Dennis Sean McAndrew, Nikrasch (and his accomplices) managed to swindle casinos in Las Vegas and Atlantic City out of $16 million before he was caught by the FBI in 1986. His favorite game of choice? Believe it or not but it was the slot machine.
He designed and built a specialized gadget that opened slot machines and got away with it by confuddling state-of-the-art CCTV security surveillance to beat the casino at their own game.
He eventually got a reduced sentence in return for cooperating with police after he was convicted in Federal Court of Interstate Transportation of Goods Obtained by Fraud, Interstate Travel with Intent to Distribute Proceeds of Unlawful Activity, Interstate Travel in Aid of Racketeering and Aiding and Abetting.
I wonder if he managed to keep his millions!
3. Ron Harris
Ronald Dale Harris had the perfect job and an even better cover-up to cheat casinos out of millions of dollars between 1993 and 1995.
He was a computer programmer that worked for the Nevada Gaming Control Board and was essentially responsible for finding glitches and flaws in computerized casino game software.
I need to agree, it must have been incredibly tempting to use his access to source code, expertise, and reputation to his advantage, which he eventually did by modifying certain slot machines to pay out large sums when a specific sequence of coins was inserted into the slot machine.
Along with his accomplice, thousands were stolen from casinos in Las Vegas, making it one of the most successful and undetected scams in casino history.
Shortly before this duo was caught, Harris shifted his focus towards Keno and developed a program that would determine which numbers the RNG would select beforehand but when his partner in crime (Reid Errol McNeal) attempted to redeem a high-value winning ticket at Bally’s Atlantic City Casino Hotel in Atlantic City, casino staff became suspicious and notified the New Jersey Gaming Investigators.
It was game over for Harris! He served two of his seven-year sentence and is currently living in Las Vegas.
4. The MIT Team
The house always wins, right? Well, unless you’re a math whiz from MIT.
During the 1990s a group of math students from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology focused their brain power on a very non-academic activity – gambling, specifically blackjack.
Somehow they realized that blackjack was the only beatable game at casinos and decided to make regular trips to Vegas to cheat casinos, making millions over the years.
“They took over $400,000 in one weekend out of the casinos in Las Vegas’’, a casino security investigator claimed.
They used the card-counting method that helps players predict if favorable or unfavorable cards will be dealt to them by knowing which cards have already been dealt and which cards still remain in the shoe.
The students used advanced computer models to their advantage by writing computer programs to divide strategies for specific situations and also updated their data with their real-life experiences.
The team members rotated regularly and were trained for weeks or months before they were sent to Vegas to start out as mules, carrying cash before they could work themselves up in the team’s hierarchy.
After living the high life for a couple of years, winning millions thanks to their considerable intelligence, casinos started puzzling their plan together and the members were banned from casinos across the country.
Well, I’m sure it was fun while it lasted!
5. Monique Laurent
Last but not least is Monique Laurent, the only woman on this list, maybe because women are more subtle and don’t usually get caught, LOL!
Monique was the mastermind of what came to be called the “French Cigarette Pack Scam” that took place in 1973 in the French casino, Casino Deauville.
While her brother was working at the casino, they devised a plan to control a roulette ball with an embedded radio receiver that was hidden in a cigarette packet. The contraption sent information to the roulette ball signaling it to drop into the required hole, which saw them win over $1 million in one week, which was a significant amount of money in those days.
And, although she was eventually caught by the casino, she never served a sentence but had to give back the majority of her ‘’wins’’ to the French Casino.
Well, there you have it! These cheaters might have caused some serious damage to many casinos across the globe but they sure did get away with millions of dollars and managed to achieve what most gamblers can only dream of!