Cheating in Baccarat
For as long as there have been games of chance, there have been people trying to beat the system and get ahead of the game. In many cases, what people do is perfectly legal – they’ll find a table with good odds or try learning one or more of the many betting systems – but sometimes, people will be a bit more creative and, shall we say, underhanded.
Because of its reputation as a game for the high rollers, Baccarat in particular is a favorite target of people trying to scam the casinos. And with tighter and increased security, people committing fraud are coming up with increasingly clever and audacious schemes to pull the wool over the eyes of the casino.
Possibly the most well-known case of cheating took place in the late 70s by a man named Richard Marcus. He was working as a Baccarat croupier (dealer) and was working with an accomplice. What Marcus did was, as he was shuffling the cards, set aside a number of cards that he referred to as the “slug.” In his words, it was difficult for the surveillance cameras to register what was going on.
The accomplice would take notes, and when the cards from the “slug” started to show up, that’s when the players knew to place large bets. Marcus said he set it up the shoe so the dealer who relieved him would deal those cards. The cheaters would only play one shoe, so they could leave with their winnings before the casino caught on to what was happening.
Marcus estimates that he cheated casinos of approx. $20 million over a 30 year period, but in a twist of fate right out of a movie, today he works as a consultant, teaching casinos how to protect themselves from being conned.
The Lone Wolf
It is more common for people to work in teams, with one person on the inside (usually the croupier), and the rest of the team as players, but people also work alone. Usually when they do, it involves ways to switch out cards during a game. This involves fastening a container to his arm to hold cards, and concealing it under long sleeves. When the player is dealt his cards, he lowers his hand, then holds the cards up again. In that short amount of time, he has swapped out one or both of his cards for a more favorable one that he had hidden up his sleeve. Although the person would act alone during the actual game, this approach would require the cooperation of someone working in the casino so the player can obtain the correct playing cards.
A combination of techniques have been employed, including using accomplices hiding under tables to help the player swap cards, or players very carefully marking cards so they will be recognized in the next turn. Players also bribe dealers to deliberately do a “false” or incomplete shuffle. That way, players can take note of and track the sequence of cards dealt. The rules of Baccarat play into this scheme because unlike Blackjack, the dealing of a third hand is dictated by the sum of the players two original cards. This makes tracking the cards very easy.
Another way Baccarat plays to cheaters is because of its status as a high-roller game. A person betting a couple of thousand dollars is indulgently allowed to get away with antics and behavior that wouldn’t be tolerated elsewhere. For example, Caesar’s Palace was recently fined $250,000 for allowing a man to actually jump up onto and dance on a Baccarat table. This kind of distraction makes it easy for players to engage in some shenanigans.
Games of chance are always going to encourage suspect behavior, but in the long run, it’s not worth risking fines and possible jail time. Enjoy your time at the games, but keep things on the level.