Monday, February 11, 2008

Frank "Lefty" Rosenthal on Casino Cheats

Real-life Robert De Niro Movie "Casino" character takes a gamble on South Beach and discusses how Vegas casinos really caught cheaters.

"My Kind of Town, Miami is..."

Game theorist Frank "Lefty" Rosenthal is the man Sports Illustrated crowned as the greatest living expert on sports handicapping. But he's probably better known as the man actor Robert De Niro portrayed in the 1995 Martin Scorsese epic Casino, that also starred Sharon Stone and Joe Pesci. Rosenthal ran four Las Vegas casinos owned by the Chicago mob back in the 1970s -- and is one of the few men ever to survive a car bombing. Rosenthal, 78, now lives a quiet life of semi-retirement in South Beach, serving as a consultant for offshore online casinos. We asked him about Casino and the South Florida gambling scene.

Q: Actor Robert De Niro portrayed you in Casino as a character named Sam "Ace" Rothstein. Was there anything De Niro got wrong?

Bob De Niro studied the script and his character quite well. On execution, he was flawless. His director, imperfect.

Q: In one scene, there's a scene where your character orders security to crush the hand of a guy cheating at blackjack. How realistic is that?

A: Pretty much on target. The two bandits, using electronic signals, were not your ordinary thieves. They belonged to a rough and organized band of highly trained and professional pickpockets. They had raped the strip casinos over a period of time. . . . Hence, we played hardball, sending their entire crew a message.

Q: You've spent time at Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino near Hollywood, which will debut baccarat and blackjack this summer. If you ran the casino, what would you do?

A: That's simple. Loose as a goose slots, returning at least 95 percent on every buck. They could go a shade higher, which would guarantee them a terrific handle.

Q: What are your favorite things to do as a South Beach resident?

A: Study and admire the Latina lovelies, with curves galore.

People always ask me, having seen that famous scene where they break the blackjack cheater's hand, if I ever encountered anything of the kind in the back room of casinos. Well, firstly, I've only made it to the back room a half dozen times or so during my 25-year cheating career. But by the first time I did, in 1977, the Mafia era in Las Vegas was already on its way out. The movie "Casino" depicted Vegas more in the 60s and early 70s, when cheats caught by casinos really got roughed up and sometimes worse. I'd heard stories about Vegas desert burials, but I never encountered anything close. In fact, no one ever laid a glove on me, though during a back-rooming at the old Desert Inn in 1982, an angry security chief said to me in a very menacing tone, "I oughta just take your ass up to the penthouse and push you out a window onto the Strip." That was the closest I ever got to getting the "Casino" treatment you saw in the film.