Sunday, April 22, 2007

Making a hit in Asia!

I just returned from lecturing on casino surveillance in Asia and am happy to say that audiences were very impressed, and even captivated. I performed demonstrations of many different casino moves and also recounted some great stories from my career that are found in my books. When I boarded the plane in Singapore and was given a newspaper by the flight attendant, I was both shocked and thrilled to see that I was the headline!

Here's the article, which also contained my photo on the front page.

By Jasmine Yin, TODAY | Posted: 17 April 2007 1028 hrs

He amassed a whopping US$20 million ($30.3 million) from casinos all over the world, simply by deftly switching his chips right under the dealer's nose after the game had been played. And not once in 20 years was he ever caught.

Professional gambling cheat Richard Marcus played this trick time and again at casinos across the world, from Las Vegas to Europe and Macau, but he was so good that surveillance eagles never figured out what he had done. In the end, they even resorted to putting up posters of the American to warn their staff to be on the lookout for him.

"It's so simple," said Mr Marcus, who retired after New Year's Eve in 1999, speaking exclusively to TODAY on the sidelines of a three-day Asian Casinos Executive Summit 2007 that began on Monday.

He now does consultancy work for casinos and will share with industry players today how casino cheats operate even under the watchful eyes of modern-day surveillance.

"If I played Baccarat and the player hand won, after the dealer paid out the correct amount to me, I would change the bet amount by replacing the low-value chips, and tell the dealer: 'Hey, you made a mistake, I'm betting $5,000 chips instead of $15'. And I'd get paid for that."

Unseen by all, the low-value chips would deftly disappear into his jacket, leaving only the big-value chips on the table — making the dealer believe he or she had indeed made a mistake.

To increase his odds of pulling off the scam, he later incorporated into his technique a gentle tap of rebuke on the dealer's hand — contact with the dealer is a no-no — to further throw him or her off balance.

Indeed, he was "so convincing" in his act that they "very rarely" got suspicious enough to check the surveillance footage. And when the game got too easy for him, he reversed his ploy. He would bet high every time at the roulette table, changing the chips with smaller ones during a losing bet instead.

His partner in crime, who would stand next to the dealer, would watch the spinning ball intently, discerning where it fell a split second quicker than the dealer did and signalling Mr Marcus. He calls his signature "Savannah" technique — named after a topless dancer in Las Vegas — "the best cheating move of all time" that had the best brains in the casino surveillance world stumped.

"It's so stupid, that's why it worked," said Mr Marcus. For should the casino's pit boss get suspicious of his string of wins and play back the surveillance videos, the footage would show his winning bets to be precisely what they were — legitimate — since he only cheated on the losing bets.

A former Blackjack and Baccarat dealer himself, Mr Marcus laughed when asked what kept him at his cheating spree for two decades. Holding mock gaming chips to his face, he quipped: "Money, honey. And ego."

The millionaire who, as a teenager used to sleep under a highway underpass, today makes his home in France — where, he jokes, his money cannot be touched by the United States taxman, since it is stashed away in an underground vault.

"My ex-wife got a lot of it too," he quipped.

Since retiring, Mr Marcus has published four books on his exploits — he cannot be prosecuted for his past misdeeds, thanks to the US Statute of Limitations — and is waiting to hear from Hollywood about a movie to be based on his first book, American Roulette.

Incidentally, his foray into writing was inspired by the Steven Spielberg movie, Catch Me If You Can. "I thought that my story was way better than that," he said.

Just like the Leonard DiCaprio character, Mr Marcus is now being courted by the very people who used to be after him.

Without any pretence at modesty, he said: "I am the most successful cheat in the history of the world. I never had any equipment (when cheating), except my hands, my brains and my balls.

"Most people who cheat stay in one place and keep winning. My thing was, one move and I was done, and off I went to another table or casino."

So would he make a target of Singapore's upcoming casinos at the two integrated resorts?

"Even if I'm not retired, I will never do this in Singapore because I don't want to get caned. They cane people here," he said. - TODAY/fa