Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Casino Cheatingfest in Scotland!

A big brand new casino is opening in Scotland today, and it is owned by the gaming company that owns Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. When I heard that, the first thing I thought of was that hordes of cheaters would descend on the beautiful Scottish countryside but not to take in the sights of the lush green fields but rather the smooth green felts on the tables in that casino. Those of you who know my history or have read my book "American Roulette" know as well how much I love Caesars Palace and how much cash I have taken out of its casino. In fact, in the book, I made the statement that I wanted to be buried on the grounds of Caesars Palace. But there's more to my claims that the cheaters will hit this new Scottish casino hard than my nostalgia for Caesars Palace. There is rampant inexperience there. To see what I mean, read this article in today's Scottish Daily Record.

Welcome To Fabulous Glas Vegas Glasgaw

Feb 6 2008 By Brian Mciver

Scotland's New £25m Las Vegas-Style Gambling Complex Opens Today Record Man Brian Mciver Gets Training At A Top Casino As The Company Behind Caesar's Palace Arrive In Glasgow

THE lights are bright, the girls are hot, the chips are piled high and I am feeling lucky.

The expensive carpets and wallpaper have been hand-crafted by interior designers, while the bar is stocked and ready for the punters and high rollers who are trying to find a seat at the tables of Scotland's newest casino.

Everything is in place but the only thing wrong with this picture of a mini Las Vegas is the nervous, clumsy and not very suave guy hiding behind the roulette wheel trying to juggle a tiny white marble.

At the tenth attempt, I finally manage to spin the little ball and my life as a croupier began.

Ihave just signed up for a crash course in dealer school at Alea, Scotland's biggest casino, which opens in Glasgow today.

The £25million venue, owned by the same leisure giants who run the worldfamous Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas, is the latest gambling and entertainment complex to arrive in Scotland.

There is no black-tie dress code, although football colours are banned, and Venue Director Paul Rety is planning to have live bands playing in the entertainment hall, while hoping to attract the European leg of the World Series of Poker in the near future.

Asmall army of professional dealers and croupiers have been recruited and trained to deal with the influx of customers they are expecting through the doors of the complex, which has a capacity of more than 1100.

With smart outfits and big smiles, it seemed to me the dealers must enjoy one of the most glamorous jobs in the gaming industry.

If the movies are anything to go by, they also get to mix with the rich and famous and score awesome tips from big winners and high rollers. And when you think of movies such as Ocean's 11 or Croupier, it seems like a pretty exciting way of life.

All in all it sounded like an attractive proposition, so when management offered me a spot at their croupier school, I decided to volunteer.

My teachers for the day were Gaming Manager Johanna Johnston and croupier Ann-Marie Welsh, from Glasgow, who has just started at lea after years in other city casinos and aboard cruise ships.

The 23-year-old insisted it is a lot harder than it looks but I was eager to show I had what it took and started off with the roulette wheel.

Ann-Marie flicked the ball with ease and it sailed around first time.

It was my turn next, which is when I found out Ann-Marie was right, as the ball bounced like a golf ball across the wheel. The next time, I got it a good few inches around the rim before it tumbled down pathetically.

Ten attempts and several frustrated moans from my teachers ;later, finally got it to stick to the wall of the wheel with success lying in the flicking of the fingers technique.

Once it lands, it's a time to calculate the wins and losses. Ann-Marie spouts out figures and calculations like a short-skirted calculator and has the kind of internal arithmetic that would put a NASA scientist to shame.

I, on the other hand, would have to rely on fingers and thumbs to help me keep up with the scores.

But the most amazing thing about watching a skilled croupier is the way they handle the gaming tools.

They can stack the chips up and down, stroke the roulette ball, cards and dolly (the wee glass object which sits on the winning number) around with a speed that means you hardly notice their movements. My hand movements were about as smooth and subtle as a drunken kung fu fighter.

Having spent many a caravan holiday playing pontoon as a child, I figured a card game would be easier. How wrong I was.

One thing I always thought would be abig part of the job would be having eagle eyes to spot cheats, like Rain Man style card counters or organised crooks on the make in Las Vegas. The reality is alot less exciting.

Ann-Marie said: "People talk about card counting and cheating but it's not something you see much of. There is so much security with hi-tech cameras everywhere.

"You do keep an eye out for people who look agitated, who are playing with their chips a lot, or look very nervous but it doesn't happen often.

"Most people are here just to have a good time and we make sure they do so. We are always friendly and you need a bit of personality to get on with people."

I was even worse at handling cards than I was the roulette ball and, if I was ever in charge of a table with any cheats, they would be too busy dodging the cards I was throwing like tiny plastic-coated missiles to keep up any scams.

I decided to practise shuffling and hoped I could pick up some tips to flick adeck from hand to hand like the experts.

Unfortunately, I showed as much composure here as with the roulette wheel and ended up having to nerdily file them one by one, while Ann-Marie sifted and sorted them with quick hands.

After my day at croupier school, manager Johanna Johnston gave me her verdict and she was very kind, considering.

"You need to have a bit more confidence and composure about what you're doing and it just takes practice, because it is not as easy as you might think," she said.

"A few more weeks, or maybe months and you might, eventually, get it. We have learn-to-play sessions and leaflets to help, so maybe you should start there."

With my lesson over and my croupier diploma apparently lost in the post, I decided to hang up my cards, chips and roulette ball and venture back to the other side of the gambling table, which is a much easier, if more expensive, place to sit.

I had failed pretty miserably at roulette and cards - so it's maybe just as well they don't shoot craps, as they do in the movies.

'People talk about card counting and cheating but it's not something you see much of - there's too much security'