In a casino, there are three ways to cheat: change the wager, change the chances or change the prize.
Two dozen new undercover gaming agents at soon-to-open Horseshoe Casino Cincinnati were instructed to spot all three this week. They learned the angles from Jim Edwards, a retired Nevada gaming agent brought in to prepare the staff for the March 4 casino opening.
The most common cheats, he told them, are “capping” or “pinching” bets. “Capping” is when a gambler sees he has a good hand and slips more chips onto his bet pile while the dealer is distracted. “Pinching” is when a gambler removes some chips when he realizes he’s holding a loser.
Cheaters may think they’re smart, but the casino has four ways to catch them nearly every time, Edwards said – “Stop. Rewind. Play. Pause.” Every gaming table and slot machine in the Horseshoe Casino Cincinnati has its own security camera, he said. All told, more than 1,000 electronic eyes – on top of security and surveillance teams – will be watching the action.
Pro cheats - and not-so-pro cheats
A three-decade veteran of Nevada law enforcement, Edwards also showed the agents how cheaters try to alter the odds by marking cards. A cheater might press a fingernail against the back of a high card making a dimple so he can recognize it later.
Another cheater might bend an ace at the corner without quite creasing it. Both are techniques the casual observer might not notice but agents will.
“There are pro cheats and not-so-pro cheats,” Edwards said. “Some people after six Budweisers say, ‘Hey, I just invented a new way to cheat the casino.’ Cheaters sometimes attempt to change the prize by bringing in a “cooler” deck of cards. The deck is stacked so the cheat comes in second – losing the hand but winning an even richer “bad beat” jackpot.
First-time offenders might get a stern warning by a dealer or security personnel and be told to leave. Professional cheaters are harder to deal with. “A pro doesn’t stop cheating because he’s got enough money,” Edwards said. “What makes him stop is getting caught or thinking he’s been detected.”
Edwards trains agents with an eye toward prosecutions. Agents must know the games, identify cheating techniques and be able to explain to a jury in simple terms what a cheat did. A person convicted of cheating in a casino is guilty of a felony and can be banned for life from the casino by the Ohio Casino Control Commission. They also can be sent to prison for up to 18 months.
Ohio officials take cheating seriously because anyone using illegal methods is corrupting the integrity of the game for legitimate players. Ultimately, they’re also robbing Ohio taxpayers of their 33 percent of all casino revenues. “When you steal from the casino, you steal from the state,” said Karen Huey, the commission’s director of enforcement. She noted that organized rings of cheaters already have hit Ohio’s other casinos.
Cincinnati’s casino is the last to open of four authorized by Ohio voters in 2009. Casinos in Cleveland, Toledo and Columbus all opened last year; 45 people have been indicted for cheating there so far. Edwards notes that, while cheating is a concern, it is relatively rare: In Nevada, there are typically 450 to 500 casino-related convictions a year. Those offenses include cheating, but also such infractions as underage gambling.
My take: Well, I know Edwards personally and can say he's a pretty nuts and bolts guy when it comes to cheating knowledge and ability to communicate it. I wouldn't say he knows very much about the super casino cheat and poker scams out there.