A Whenever the subject of gambling casinos comes up, someone is bound to observe that places like Las Vegas and Atlantic City don't have to cheat because they make enough money from the mathematical edge they enjoy over the player. Besides, 110 casino operator would risk forfeiting a casino license representing a multimillion-dollar investment jus: to make a few more dollars by cheating. These two bits of I-as Vegas Chamlx.T of Commerce propaganda have been repealed so often they have become part of the conventional wisdom. But let's take a closer look.
People don I cheat because they have to; they cheat because they're greedy. They cheat because, no matter how much money they make,, they want more. They want every dollar on the table and even- dollar in your pocket and they want it as fast as possible. Some o: the greediest people I have ever encountered arc to >e found among casino executives. If the operators of Nevada and Atlantic City casinos thought they could get away with it, cheating would lx: commonplace.
The one clement that prevents this from happening is government policing by the Can ing Control Hoard in Nevada and the Division of Gaming Enforcement in New Jersey. However, it is not realistic to assume that a casino operator who fostered cheating need nm a great risk of losing ins license. A cas.no owner docs not have liability tor cheating commit led by an employee without his knowledge. Ihcrefore, it would not be enough for government investigators co uncover cheating They would have to be able
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to prove the cheating was sanctioned by management. This is something that would be very difficult to establish even if il were the case. As a point of fact. Control Board agents in Nevada often arrest casino employees for cheating. Typically, one or two dealers arc indieled and peihaps a fluonnan; it never goes any further.
None of this is meant to suggest that cheating is widespread in the legal gambling centers cf this country. It is not. However, the possibility ot cheating exists wherever gambling takes place and it is naive to diink otherwise.
Contrary Lo what some innocent souls may think, Nevada nnd Atlantic (aty do not' have a monopoly on casino gambling in this country. Illegal underground gamb'.ing houses can be found in every large city and in a surprising number of smaller ones. These stores survive either by paving off government officials or by slaying one step ahead of the police. In New York City, forty or fifty such clubs are scattered throughout the five boroughs. They range from small rooms with bare walls housing one crap table under a naked light bulb to luxurious after-hours clubs in beautiful town houses located in the best arens of the city and offering complete bars, excellent food, beautiful hostesses, and sumptuous decor. Some of 'he biggest action lakes place in the most modest surroundings. The real heavyweight degenei-atc gamblers are not into interior decorating.
These New York clubs have enjoyed a windfall as a result nf legalization in New lersey. Atlantic City has created a large new market of gamblers in the New York area 'I he underground houses have been very successful in tapping this market. In some eases, they have even managed to obtain junket lists from some of the Atlantic City casinos and have solicited the gamblers by mail. Their success is understandable. They offer the same games, the same odds, and easier credit, with much less travel time.
There is, however, one major difference. These joinls arc not subject to government supervision. When you play in an underground gambling house anywhere in this country, your only protection against cheating is the club owner's conscience. Good luck.
It» recent years, more Americans have been discovering the gambling casinos of the Caribbean, Latin America, and Europe. In some of these countries, government supervision is verv diligent. As a result, the games are honest, in others, government ineprness or corruption creates an atmosphere where cheating can and does occur.
There is no need to become paranoid. Las Vegas and Atlantic City offer die player the safest gaming conditions in llis world, although even Lheie cheating docs sometimes occur. This is usually a case of a dealer going into business lot himself by feeding winning hands to an accomplice. (We will take a close look at this kind of seam in Chapter V. ) He then has to knock 01 it other players to keep the table win rate from becoming suspiciously low.
In Nevada, in the smaller casinos outside Lis Vegas, business is mure marginal, supervision by the Gaming Control Board is less rigorous and, therefore, die risk is slightly greater. Cheating is a serious problem in illegal underground gambling houses It can also sometimes be problem in casinos outside the country. Overall, the frequent casino gambler runs enough of a risk of someday being cheated ro justify learning all he can about die subject. The following are die methods thai crooked operators have found to be the most effective in beating players at die various games.
Gambling casinos run the gamut from honest houses through those that will take at} edge litre and there to bvb'tout joints dial are out to lock up every dollar that comics in the door. The various methods used to chcai at craps reflect diese approaches.
One common method is the use of six.-ace flats. These are dice which have been shaved on the six side and on the opposite side, the ace. This has the effect of reducing the surface area on the other four sides. 'These dice will have a greater tendency to land on the ace or six side just as, if you were to roll a matchbox across a table, it would probably come to rest on the top or bottom rather than on one ot the four sides.
If a die lands on the six side the ace will be up and if it lands on the ace side the six will be up This means that players will crap out on the first roll more often because of the increased frequency of 6-6 and 1-1 rolls. However, this is exactly offset by the greater frequency of naturals (6-1 and 1-6) on the come-out ifirst roll).
These dice start making money for the house only after the come-out. Since 90 peieen! of all crap players are right bettors (players who bci with the shooter), the greater number of seven-outs are a nice boost for the casino's bottom line, 'the work is usually not very strong on these dice, so the odds
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are only slightly affected. The operators u-ho use them don't even think of themselves as crooks any more than do businessmen who cheat on their income taxes o: pad their expense accounts.
liven l store that runs on the square most of the time can get a little nervous when the big-money action walks in. Some employ a dice mechanic who is used only against high rollers or to come to the rescue when the house hits a losing streak In this situation, percentage dice are too slow and uncertain. Tlie most common approach is the use of tops, these are dice which have been misspotted with certain numbers omittec. ICach die Ix-ars only three different numbers, each appearing twice on opposite sides of the die (The name, tops is short for ''tops and bottoms" because each die bears the same number on both top and bottom. I
The stickman in this ease is a mechanic adept at switching dice. He has several different pairs oftops hidden on him. One pair, for example, consists of a die bearing only the numbers 1. 3, and 5 and another die with the numbers 2, 4, and 6. These dice cannot roll the points 4. 6, 8, or 10 because all the combinations that add up to these totals have been '.eft off They can. however, roll a 7. He also has a pair oftops which cannot roll points ? or 9 (a 1-4-S die combined with a 2-3-6 die). That covers aT the possible points 3 shooter can make. Other pairs cannot roll anything but point numbers.
The mark starts shooting with honest ¿ice. Suppose he has a big bet on the pass line and he rolls a 6 on the come-out In the act of picking the dice up to to.ss them back to die shooter, the stickman switches diem for a palmed pair oftops which cannot roll a 6. Therefore, the mark has to seven-out eventually As soon as he does, die stickman switches the honest dice-back in. This sequence of events is repeated over and ovei until the suckci has been broken. A wrong xrttor (one who bets against the shooter) can betaken just as easily by using tops with different combinations of numbers which cannot seven-out.
The unsuspecting player will not spot tops since only three sides of a die aie visible al any one time, and any three adjoining .sides look :aii. In any ease, the tops are only in play for a few moments at a time and they are always in motion. It's a good idea to occasionally glance at the underside of the dice as you pick diem up to shoot lo make sure die bottom numbers are different from Ihc ones on top.
Unfortunately, even this precaution won't provide complete protection. If
60 ! Gam »try: Scam the operators arc very cautious, they may let you shoot with honest diec (or loaded percentage dice). Hul (Iicy will position several shills around the table. Fvery time one of die shills is shooting, the stickman switches in tops, lie knows the sliil isn't going to complain. Ofconrsc. crap players don't bet on their own rolls only. They bet on the other players' also. Every time you bet on a shill, you get cheated.
The actual slci^hl of hand switch of the dice is a move that requires many months of diligent practice Once mastered, it looks cxacdy as if the stiek-maii merely picked the diec up off the table and immediately tossed them out to the shooter. The stickman begins with the gaffed dice hidden in his cupped fingers. When the player rolls the dice, the stickman rakes them in toward himself with the stick which he holds in the other hand. lie then reaches down lo pick up the dice. As he does so, he pushes them into the thumb crotch and holds them palmed there, dipped between dje thumb and Ihc base of flic lust finger. In the same action, lie tosses out the other dice, keeping the hand palm down to conceal the switched out pair The move can be performed with lightning speed, and when done by an expert it is a real joy lo behold—as long as you don't have any money riding on -he game.
Although it is impossible to catch the switch itself, the tipoff to the knowledgeable player should be the fact that lie stickman picks up the dice with his hand to return them rather than pushing them over with his stick. But this breach of procedure usually goes by even smart gamblers Kor example. I ascd to know one old bv.stciut men (diec mechanic] who liked lo boas! of how lie had successfully and repeatedly switched rice on the legendary Nick the Greek on one of the gambling ships that used lo operate off the West Coast during the forties
Tops have been knowr to cause problems ever foi honest underground houses. Oncc, aftci I had just finished conducting a seminar on gambling fraud investigation for a major metropolitan police department» an old veteran of their vice squad came up and told me of a trick he used to pull on gambling raids. Before leaving for the raid, he would pocket a pair of misspotted dice. Later, as the dealers and players were being escorlcd out of the gambling joint, he would palm the dice. Looking under one of the crap tables, lie would say, "Whose arc these?" He would then bend down and pretend to pick, up the palmed dice from under the table, turning to another officer, he would show him die dice and ask innocently, "Aren't these numbers wrong?" Then he would casually toss the dice on the table. All this occurred within sight and hearing of the rounded-up players. Their rcnclion to seeing the gaffed dice did much more to close these places down permanently- than the small fines handed out by the iudge.
Finally, diere are the steer joints. These are not redly gambling houses at all, but rather eon operations whose only purpose is to clean out high rollers. Prospective marks are "qualified"—checked out as to financial resources and gambling propensities—and steered to the joint by a roper who receives a percentage of the score. When the sucker arrives, he finds a lively game in progress. He never susjjects that players, dealers, and game supervisors arc all part of the coil mob who are putting on a show solely for his benefit.
The most frequent technique in these stores is the use of tops as already explained. A refinement sometimes used is to have the tops hidden on a shrill who stands next to the stickman. At die right moment, he secretly drops the proper pair into the stiekinans hand anc later takes them back from him. This makes the whole operation a little smoother. It also means that the stickman can stand a search in case of a beef.
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