When you ask Richard Marcus what’s the most amazing thing he’s ever done, he does not say anything about his 25 years as the self-proclaimed “World’s Greatest Casino Cheat.”
He says instead, “After those 25 years, 10 of which I was ‘Enemy #1’ to casino surveillance, it was presenting Derk Boss with a lifetime achievement award for game protection.
“I mean, this guy, one of the most respected surveillance executives ever, probably was looking to get me locked up back in the day. How incredible that moment standing on stage next to Derk and shaking his hand was for me,” Marcus said.
When you ask Richard Marcus why he decided to live 25 years as a professional casino cheat,” he gives one simple answer.
“I’m a sore loser,” Marcus says.
As a sore loser who was swindled early in life, Marcus spent 25 years in casinos around the world, creating scams that shifted the odds in his favor.
Marcus has authored several books related to casino cheating and scams, had a History Channel documentary dedicated to his exploits in 2005, “The Ultimate Cheat,” appeared on “NBC Today,” is currently an anti-cheating trainer for casinos and the founder of the annual “Global Table Games and Game Protection Conference” in Las Vegas, where he brings together 50 top experts in those fields to speak to casino executives from all over the world.
Through all his years of cheating casinos at the highest level, Marcus claims to have never been convicted of any cheating offense.
It All Started with Baseball Cards
Marcus had the biggest collection of baseball cards in his New Jersey neighborhood. While flipping cards in a poker-style game that matched colors to teams, Marcus lost his whole collection.
“I noticed that I was constantly losing. I was watching closely. I finally figured out that two guys in the game were cheating. The tilted odds were enough that I ended up losing my collection to them.
“That was a tremendous shock. I started to think how can I get these guys back? So, I invented my own little swindles. I was naturally gifted at coming up with scams. So, I started to scam them,” Marcus recalled.
The Car Scam
“We used to bet on which cars would come around the corner in the neighborhood. A car like a Ford or Chevy would be even money or two to one, and a Mercedes or BMW would be five or ten to one, up to twenty to one during certain hours,” Marcus said.
Marcus had a friend whose brother was old enough to drive.
“We were playing on the street, waiting for the car to turn the corner and we had it perfectly timed that his brother would be in a Mercedes. Sure enough, everybody throws their money in a pot, you know, $5 and $10 and the people who banked the game had to pay twenty to one if it was a Mercedes. We had the signal and my friend’s brother came around the corner in the Mercedes,” Marcus said with a grin.
The Best Thing and the Worst Thing
At age 17, Marcus went to Roosevelt racetrack with a few hundred dollars to bet. On the third day he bet trifectas, went to the betting window, and spouted off random numbers. He had no idea what the numbers were until he read the tickets at the end of the race. It turned out he had three $7,000 winners.
“I’m 17 years old. I have three winning tickets for $20,000. Now my problem is how am I going to cash them out? For tickets that pay in excess of 300 times your bet, you have to fill out a form and show ID. So, what am I going to do?” Marcus recalled.
Marcus spotted a security guard he was friendly with and agreed that the guard would cash in the tickets for a 10% fee. Using that money, Marcus bought a Mustang convertible and drove to Las Vegas.
“I was not old enough to legally gamble. Now, at that time, the mob was still pretty heavily involved in the casinos in Las Vegas. I grew up with friends who were from mafia families. So, I use some names. I checked into the Riviera Hotel for a couple of nights. I asked for one of the names I was given, and I said I’m such and such from New Jersey and I’d like to gamble a little bit. They said how much money you got? Do you have anything to put in the cage? I said yes, I have $20,000 for the cage,” Marcus recalled.
Marcus was given a $800-a-night suite with a pool table and sunken Jacuzzi and full food and beverage comps.
“I was eating dinners by myself that cost $200 in the seventies. I ordered Baked Alaska for dessert, so special you had to call it in three hours before your reservation time. I thought I was going to live like this forever. I was going to make millions of dollars. Everything was going to be great,” Marcus smiled.
“I’m watching a Baccarat game and there’s an Arab Sheikh playing. It’s very international with foreign languages and I just fell in love with the game. So, I started to play. Within five days, I turned $20,000 into $100,000,” Marcus exclaimed.
On his 18th birthday, Marcus lost the $100,000. He later sold his Mustang for $1,500 and lost that money. After three days, Marcus was “pinned out” of his hotel room and escorted to the street.
“It’s 115 degrees outside and now I have no money; nothing. I have a little suitcase on wheels. I took toothpaste out of my suitcase and my wallet, and I dumped the suitcase in the garbage because I did not have enough money to take a bus. You can’t lug around a suitcase in 115-degree heat,” Marcus stated.
Living Under the Overpass
“That first night, I slept underneath the overpass on Tropicana Avenue with all the bums and winos. A fight broke out and I got hit with a broken bottle. I still got a scar to remind me of it. I ended up spending three weeks living underneath the overpass,” Marcus said.
Desperate for a solution, Marcus shoplifted clothes and auditioned for dealers’ school. Because of his knowledge of baccarat, Marcus was hired as a dealer at the Four Queens where he spent months trying to save enough money to return home.
Then, in walked a well-known casino cheat.
“Now here’s this guy, Joe Classon, telling me out of nowhere he’s a professional casino cheat and wants to recruit me. I asked him why. He says I like the way you deal, and I noticed you’re the only one not stealing,” Marcus recalled.
“I said okay, what do you want me to do? And he shakes his head, like no, you tell me what you’re going to do. I went back to work, and I came up with an idea to create a false shuffle in the shoe.
“A false shuffle is where you protect a bunch of cards at the top. Because the way baccarat works is once the cards are in the shoe, they come out in that particular order and the order can’t be changed by player decisions at the table. Which makes Baccarat so vulnerable to scams.
“I did a false shuffle protecting about 25 or 30 cards, which would be six baccarat hands. I would know when the shoe was ready to deal, and I would know which hands were going to win.
“I did the scam. Joe Classon came in with his team and had four people who filled up all the betting circles. I clocked out and I was replaced by a relief dealer who actually dealt the cards. I wasn’t even there when it happened. We made $30,000 and nobody had a clue.
“I joined Joe’s team, and I worked with his four guys. We worked for 12 or 13 years. And then Joe retired, and I took over the team myself and did it for another 13 years. I cheated professionally for 25 years,” Marcus said.
Marcus spent years perfecting this late-betting move with Joe Classon’s team.
The scam involved making bets a split second after the dealers waved off legitimate betting. The team would sometimes not place a bet until after the outcome of the bet was known, establishing a guaranteed win strategy.
“We would bet three $100 black chips on a hand of blackjack. Instantly after the dealer paid, I would remove that bet and replace it with two $5,000 chips and one $100 chip on top. Then I would touch the dealer’s hand and claim, ‘Hey, you paid me wrong!’
“Underneath my elbow at the table were ten hidden $5,000 chips that were unseen by the dealer. These were called backup chips that I exposed as I claimed the dealer’s “mistake.” This was a huge psychological ploy to make the dealer believe I was a legit high roller. Imagine! $50,000 in chips behind me. The idea was to make a doubting dealer think, “What would a guy with fifty grand on the table be doing betting only 300 bucks? Plus, that stack of $5,000 backup chips corresponded perfectly with the two $5,000s pastposted in the betting circle.
“And by keeping a black chip on top of the two $5,000s, you had the credibility that the dealer may have made a mistake. If you just switched in three $5,000s for the three blacks, it would never work because there’s no way a dealer would not have seen a $5,000 chip on top of the bet,” Marcus explained.
Art and Military Precision
“We did 151 of those moves in a row, switching out $300 bets for $10,000. Why do I know that? Because we documented every move we ever made for 25 years. We had a ledger just like any other business. It was a very well-run, professional military operation.
“I was being followed around Las Vegas all the time by what I assumed was enforcement from the gaming control board, but probably FBI too because we were operating interstate. There was a tremendous amount of heat on me. I realized that it was no longer about the money anymore; we made enough money at the time. It was just such a thrill. It was David against Goliath.
“You know, I’m not an idiot. I know every move we made was a major felony. But I really looked at what we did as art,” Marcus stated.
The Savannah Move
The highlight of Marcus’s career was his creating a new casino scam by hiding $5,000 casino chips under $5 chips on legitimate bets, slanting the $5 chips a bit outward just enough to hide the color of the $5,000 chips so that the dealers would think the bets were only $10. If the bet won, he would announce the hidden $5,000 chip and be paid $10,010. If the bet lost, he would switch out the bet and replace it with two $5 chips and, therefore, only lose $10.
“I thought, what if we can hide a $5,000 chip under a $5 chip on a roulette table? I’m thinking about the bottom of the table because it has the distance and the angle from where the dealer stands. Roulette is the only casino game where there is that much distance between the dealer and the player,” Marcus said.
Marcus first tested the scam at a downtown Las Vegas casino.
“I’m going to take a black $100 chip and I’m going to put a $1 casino chip right over it. I’m going to slant it a little bit. I’m going to lay it down on the layout. And we’re going to see if the dealer sees the hundred-dollar chip, or if the dealer thinks it’s another $1 chip.
“We want the dealer to think it’s $2. Now, I never thought the dealer would not see it. I would have bet any amount of money that the dealer would see the $100 chip.
“The dealer at the Fremont on Sunday night never saw the $100 chip slanted slightly and hidden under a $1 chip. Later, in the actual scams, the $100 would become $5,000 or the highest denomination available.
If the dealer noticed the switch, Marcus and his teammates would play drunk and innocent.
“At that time, I knew I had invented the best casino move of all time that would never be equaled. I knew it before we even tried it. Just the knowledge that the dealer could not see the denomination of one chip under the other on a roulette table told me that this move was going to make millions of dollars,” Marcus exclaimed.
“If you talk about how much we took from casinos, that move made $5 million. We cheated casinos with the Savannah move for more than two years all over the world.
“Now, the first thing was it was so simple. It was like KISS, keep it simple, stupid. We just kept doing it, going out every weekend around Vegas for eight months straight. We were making $40,000 every weekend.”
“Las Vegas went nuts trying to figure it out. They thought I had some kind of electrical remote-control device and I could control where the ball would land.” Marcus said.
I asked Marcus what the decision point was when he finally decided to quit as a professional casino cheat.
“I was really pushing that envelope in the United States, especially in Las Vegas. A lot of people wanted me seriously out of business and to imprison me. I was really rubbing their noses in it, and they knew it was me and we kept doing it.
“I put down a Savannah bet at the Golden Nugget in 1995, after we’d already got $2 million from this move in Las Vegas alone. About 15 minutes later a guy comes up to me and says, ‘Mr. Marcus, I’m the president here at the Golden Nugget. We’re not paying you.’ I said, ‘What do you mean you’re not paying me?’ Then the guy lays it on me. He tells me if I have a problem, take it up with the Nevada Gaming Control Board. In reality, the last thing I wanted was the Nevada Gaming Control Board involved.
“At that point, something triggered in my brain, you know what, maybe that’s enough.
“So, we quit the Savannah in Vegas and went on the road. I finally packed it all in on New Year’s Eve 1999, New Year’s Day 2000,” Marcus said.
Gaming Scam Author
Marcus then began writing about his exploits in his books: American Roulette: How I Turned the Odds Upside Down…My Wild Ride Ripping Off the World’s Casinos; The Great Casino Heist; Dirty Poker; Identity Theft Inc.” with Glenn Hastings; and the World’s Greatest Gambling Scams.
Gaming Protection Consultant
In 2007 Marcus was the lead speaker at the World Game Protection Conference. “It was the first time the casino game protection industry heard the story of a real-life professional casino cheat firsthand, and they were flabbergasted,” Marcus said.
That presentation led to Marcus acquiring consulting jobs from casinos to train staff in gaming protection. In his LinkedIn profile, Marcus describes his game protection skills: “I’m the only game protection consultant who has been both a professional casino cheat and advantage player. This experience makes me uniquely qualified to teach casinos how to protect their tables from organized professional cheats and advantage players as well as dealers and floor personnel cheating their own casinos,” Marcus writes.
Global Table Games & Gaming Protection Conference
“I’ve been a gaming protection consultant since 2008, and I have really grown to love the teaching part. During the pandemic, I was out of work like everybody else. That’s when the idea of creating a conference came about. It’s called the Global Table Games and Game Protection Conference, which started in 2022,” Marcus said.
Cool Under Pressure
Richard Marcus lived for 25 years scamming casinos. He displayed guts and cool under pressure. He was an inventive scammer and an organizer of a casino team cheating all over the world.
Now in his mid-sixties, he helps casinos learn to catch people doing what he did so well. All because he was a guy who did not like to lose and moved the odds in his favor.
Entries in the Faces of Gaming series:
- Cache Creek’s Kari Stout-Smith — Dancing backwards in high heels
- Andrew Economon — Making downtown Las Vegas cool again
- Richard Marcus — From the wrong side of the casino tables to the right (now reading)
- Willy Allison — From New Zealand bloke to world game-protection leader
- Tom Jingoli — From gaming enforcement agent to COO of Konami Gaming
- Tino Magnatta — Interviewing the interviewer, 3,000 and counting since COVID
- Deana and Brady Scott — Still talking shop with the owners of Raving Consulting
- Kevin Parker — “Putting everything into everything I do”
- Laura Penney — Putting in the Work as CEO of Coeur d’Alene Casino
- Andre Carrier — Paying it forward
- Jean Scott — The original casino influencer, still frugal gambling after all these years
- Anika Howard — From Harrah’s First Interactive Employee to CEO of Wondr Nation
- Anthony Curtis — Gambling Guru, Las Vegas Expert, Customer Advocate with Street Cred
- Mark Wayman — An executive recruiter with a brand and something to say
- Melonie Johnson — From rural Louisiana to resort-casino leadership
- Brian Christopher — From actor, Uber driver, and cater waiter to slot celebrity
- Allan Solomon — From accountant and tax lawyer to pioneering casino owner
- Kenny Epstein — A Niche from Nostalgia
Tom Osiecki is a casino consultant who writes an occasional column for CDC Gaming Reports called Faces of Gaming, about interesting and engaging people in the gaming industry.
Tom Osiecki is a marketing and management consultant for Raving Consulting and can be reached for consulting engagements at 775-329-7864.
If you know of a fascinating personality in the gaming industry you would like to see profiled, please send Tom Osiecki an email at email@example.com