|Keith Taft with "George"|
Keith Taft was a real-life "Inspector Gadget" character, a true genius who spent three decades developing and perfecting electronic devices to cheat US casinos. He began working with casino computers with his son, Marty Taft, back in the late 60s. Today he is believed to be the first casino or poker cheat to develop a computer that captured digital video the way today's microcomputers are processing data filmed in false-shuffle and other baccarat and blackjack cheat scams.
While vacationing in the Bahamas in the 60s, Taft got interested in Edward O. Thorp's famous blackjack card-counting book "Beat the Dealer." In fact, he quickly became obsessed by it. However, he did not make any money counting cards at blackjack using Thorp's plus-minus count system.
Thus he turned his attention to developing computers to beat the blackjack tables. His first and now famous invention was a 5-kilo computer that he called "George." He used it to enter data while counting cards at blackjack, using his toes to enter the data to the prototype computer he had tucked underneath his baggy shirt. He later decided that George was a bit unwieldy and developed a lighter device that he called "David."
Taft had immediate success with David, beating Vegas casinos out of fifty grand in the first two weeks of operation. made $40,000 the first week he used it. After taking some heat in casinos, Taft decided he would do better by selling his minicomputers based on the David prototype for ten or fifteen grand apiece, which included his training of the buyers.
This decision Taft made after being grabbed up in a casino and taken to the back room, where he was interrogated by Nevada Gaming Control Board agents as well as the FBI. But neither law enforcement agency had the slightest idea of what the microcomputer actually was and failed to make any legal connection to casino cheating that they could use in court, therefore Taft was releaed.
Another casino.cheating computer deeloped by Taft´s sons Marty and Keith was called the "belly-telly." This was a small video camera they fitted into their belts and could film the dealer's hole-card at blackjack. The image was then transmitted to their cheating partners sitting in a van at the casino's parking lot. These cohorts would then send a signal back to the cheating blackjack players at the table, identifying the value of the hole card.
Yet another electronic gismo invented by Taft and his sons was the "Thor" computer, which could track the positions of cards in a multiple-deck shuffle. This was the first casino-cheat invention that directly led to today's high-tech video-reader devices that are used in blackjack and baccarat shuffle-tracking scams, which are currently costing casinos worldwide millions, especially in Macau.
In 1986, the Nevada Gaming Commission created a law making it illegal to use any electronic devices whatsoever in gaming casinos, which today is a felony punishable by up to ten years in prison.
A true casino-cheating pioneer, Keith Taft was also inducted into the Blackjack Hall of Fame in 2004.