Richard Marcus, Casino Table Game Protection Consultant and Trainer, chats to Peter White
Set a thief to catch a thief,” runs the old adage and casinos looking to protect the integrity of their table games turn to former casino cheat Richard Marcus, now a thoroughly respectable game-security specialist. Marcus got his start as a dealer, performing false baccarat shuffles in Las Vegas over 40 years ago, back when game protection was far removed from its current sophistication, although he is skeptical of some of the purported technical improvements, such as biometric recognition.
This experience enables Marcus to put his casino clients inside the mind of a cheater. Unlike many casinos, Marcus makes clear-cut distinctions between cheats, card counters and edge sorters. His views make interesting reading and, indeed, he has put them into a book: American Roulette. Marcus may be reformed but he is unrepentant, having gone on record as saying, “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 was almost as great as the money.”
Marcus started as a suburban New Jersey kid who fought the boredom of long car trips by making bets with his parents what color of car they would pass next. After losing his entire baseball card collection in amateur gambling with his pals, Marcus moved on to playing craps during downtime in school. Gambling was more of a draw than schoolwork, so he dropped out and started playing the ponies. He took a $3,000 score and parlayed into relocation to Las Vegas—and life was never the same after that.
Image: Richard Marcus Casino Table Game Protection Consultant and Trainer
Could we commence this interview with a brief history of you and how your journey has taken you to becoming a highly regarded International Casino Table Game Protection Consultant and Trainer?
Being a game protection trainer was an even bigger surprise to me than becoming a professional casino cheat! It started with the publication of my book “American Roulette” (“The Great Casino Heist” in the UK), which chronicled my 25-year career cheating casinos all over the world. Then I was asked by Willy Allison to be the lead speaker at the 2007 World Game Protection Conference, which I did. It was the first time a large game protection oriented audience was addressed by a real professional casino cheat, and while I was there, casino executives were keen to chat with me as they had never heard about cheating first-hand and wanted to know more. One of them asked if I would come to his property and train his table games and surveillance staffs, and soon others followed. So that very first speaking engagement led to a career teaching casino staffs all about cheating and how to defend against it.
What makes you, as an ex-professional casino cheat, different from other game protection training consultants?
The biggest difference is just that: my having been a highly skilled international casino cheat. I am the only current trainer in the world who actually was a professional cheat. I was also once a casino dealer, so I know the game protection procedures and how to thwart them. As a dealer in Las Vegas back in 1977, I actually performed the infamous baccarat false-shuffle scam which made international headlines thirty years later when the Tran Organization pulled off a mega-version of the same scam.
I have an extensive knowledge base that other consultants do not. I can teach the nuances of it all. I can teach the psychology of cheating, how and why it works. I can teach how casino cheats communicate amongst themselves while engaged in their cheating operation. Most importantly, I can show the tells of high-level professional casino cheats that if known by the floor staffs and surveillance departments, would afford a much higher chance of catching on to these sophisticated cheats before it’s too late. Virtually all professional scams are discovered after the fact, after the money has been lost to the cheats.
The other training consultants do not have this knowledge and experience because they’ve never done it. They generally learned what they know about serious casino-cheat moves by reading and seeing surveillance video. It’s not the same as doing it. When you have done thousands of casino-cheating moves, you see and hear how the floor staffs react. You see what they do wrong and often it’s everything. I like to say that when you learn game protection from the others, it’s the equivalent of learning how to fly a plane in a simulator. When you learn it from me, it’s learning from the Captain of a 747!
Is card counting cheating if it’s done with just the players intellectual ability?
Absolutely it’s not cheating. By definition, cheating is when the player alters the deal or the outcome of a game or a bet. Card-counting is just using intellectual skill to gain a legitimate advantage. On the other hand, what Phil Ivey and Kelly Sun did to win tens of millions in London and US casinos, which is called edge-sorting, is indeed cheating. Not because practicing edge-sorting by itself is cheating, but rather Ivey and Sun conned the casinos into altering the deal of the game for them to be able to do the edge-sorting. That is what makes it cheating in my opinion.
How come you have chosen this life of a trainer and speaker as opposed to safe regular pay checks from employment at a major Resort Casino where your skills can be employed in surveillance?
LOL! Are you kidding me! There’s not a casino in the world that would hire me as a full-time employee with constant access to sensitive areas such as the surveillance rooms. Despite my long service as a trainer and consultant as well as the educational books I have written for casino staffs, casinos still would fear letting me into a key position. And I do understand that. Besides, I love what I’m doing anyway.
Alternatively, you could also still put your skills and knowledge into action in a casino, or has facial recognition and player tracking made it too difficult to maintain any kind of income with the obvious very real repercussions of jail time?
Actually, I do not believe facial recognition is that effective for identifying known casino cheats entering or moving about inside casinos, especially if these cheats take measures to avoid detection. There are just too many people inside crowded casinos, moving in all different directions. But this has nothing to do with why I no longer cheat casinos. Doing just that, I have to admit, was the greatest part of my life. The sheer fun and adrenalin rushes of getting it over on the casinos was incredible, and I have no regrets about it. However, that was just a part of my life, and once I decided enough was enough, I quit doing it. And as great as it was, I do not miss it for a second. That’s because I’m very happy teaching casino personnel my knowledge on the subject.
What are the qualities of a professional cheat?
This is a question I am frequently asked, and the answer is straightforward, although finding a person with all the qualities is very difficult. There are three: balls; brains; lack of greed. (If you can’t print “balls”, maybe “lack of fear” instead). Many people have two of the three but not all three. Of course there was immense pressure in doing what I did all those years, not only having to worry about getting caught and the consequences of that but as well making sure of the precision of the operation and that each member of the cheat-team was performing his or her role perfectly.
Then comes the requisite of being able to plan and design moves and be able to carry them out. You have to be imaginative and you have to be able to think outside of logic because the best casino-cheat moves I’ve ever done completely defied logic and at times appeared stupid. That’s why they worked!
And equally important as having the balls and the brains is not having the greed. You gotta know when to stop! So many illicit operations, casino-cheating or not, that have been so carefully planned and carried out to perfection only come apart because the perpetrators get greedy and don’t know when to stop.
The term is ‘cheat’ for those that have a system, is that fair? Just look at traders in the financial markets that involve multimillion-dollar highspeed predictive systems to provide them an edge.
Cheating, whether it be in casinos or on Wall Street, is better described as those who have a system or method that is against the rules or illegal. So within that classification it is fair. But those who have a system or method such as card counting in casinos or high analytical skills and systems for predicting profitable investments on Wall Street are not cheating in any circumstance.
June sees your Game Protection Training Seminar in London. Can you tell us what you have planned for your event at Grosvenor Victoria Casino 27th June?
I will present all the top cheating and advantage-play methods currently in vogue in UK casinos. The most cheated games in the UK are roulette (by far) and punto banco, so I will concentrate highly on them. I will also speak in depth of the psychology used by top professional cheats to get cheat moves IMPOSSIBLE to get paid GET paid. Casinos all over the world are generally ignorant to that and have little idea how it works. People protecting the games often don’t realize that it’s not just about the cheating move and how it’s done. It’s more about how it’s sold. Just like packaging consumer products with designs appealing to the eye, professional casino cheats know how to make their moves look much better than they actually are.
Equally important to the UK casinos is the advent of visual ballistics cheating that targets electronic table games (ETGs). I will do a segment on that as well as another on high-tech card-marking and card-marking detection, featuring a video demonstration by Terry Roses, the world’s o-to-guy when it comes to detecting marked cards.
What are the key benefits they will gain from attending?
My goal is to make attendees think like a cheat for a day. Not like a surveillance person. I do this by having the attendees participate actively in the seminar. There’s no sitting and watching videos of cheat moves, no PowerPoint presentations. Everything is hands-on at the tables where we actually form cheat teams and do all the moves together, with all the set-ups and psychology used in the process. This technique really makes the attendees understand how it all works and they leave with much more insight than they had before, which will increase their chances of catching on to casino scams BEFORE the cheats get out the door with the cash. And, to boot, the active audience participation can be a lot of fun as well and keeps the attendees interested, which is conducive to retaining what is taught.
And of course to lighten things up a bit, I will tell a funny story or two about my experiences in London’s casinos.
Justification is always a challenge for any employee with their bosses. What advice would you provide to those that want to attend but need to persuade their boss?
Get those bosses to go online, read my game protection page at http://richardmarcusbooks.com/protection.php, then have a look at the recommendations on my Linkedin page, and most important, read the articles I have posted on Linkedin. If the bosses do this and still don’t think the price of my training seminar is worth it, I give my tongue to the cat. That is a French expression for giving up.
This is not your first interview hence the reason we are sure that some of these questions you will not have been asked before in print, but more likely face to face. We would appreciate your advice for those of our wider readership that enjoy travel and the facilities of Resort Casinos and who like to try their luck on the tables and at the slots as the best mind set to have when in the chair?
Well, the best mind set to have sitting at the tables or machines depends on what your goals are. For those who are not visiting casinos as any kind of profit-making enterprise such as advantage play or cheating, I would simply say the best state of mind is to be relaxed and have fun, and make sure the casino you are visiting has the amenities that can help put you in that state of mind.
Please can you provide readers how they can Register for your events and also find out more about you and your Training Events?
People can both register and see the training program at https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/program-registration-london-open-casino-game-seminar-june-marcus/
If they are interested in reading about me or in following my training events, both my website and Linked page have lots of information. And of course, there are the three books I have written on gambling and cheating in casinos: “The Great Casino Heist” (“American Roulette” in the US), which is the story of my 25-year professional casino-cheating career; “The World’s Greatest Gambling Scams,” which was the inspiration for the 2006 UK Challenge TV series of the same name; and “Dirty Poker,” all about cheating in both brick and mortar and online casinos.