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Crazy But True Gambling Scandals

While gambling is largely a game of luck, there have been many players over the years that have tried with varying degrees of success, to circumvent the rules. Some managed to get away with millions, but most were caught eventually. Here are some of the most outrageous scandals in history.

Tommy Glenn Carmichael

Carmichael raked in thousands a day by rigging slot machines with homemade devices such as the “monkey’s paw” and “light wand”. These devices operated by tricking the machines’ microswitch or sensor into paying out jackpots or at least a substantial number of coins. His run eventually came to an end in 2001 when he was apprehended by the FBI. He served jail time and was banned from entering casinos for life.

The MIT Blackjack Team

This infamous group was made up of current and ex-students from MIT, Harvard, and other prominent schools. Led by Bill Kaplan, they succeeded in beating the casino and making millions using organized, scientific tactics including card counting. The team changed membership over the years but was active from the 1970’s through to the 1990’s and Bill trained over 100 Blackjack players during that time. Casinos banned some players but by and large the team managed to rack up very significant ‘earnings’.

Ron Harris & Software design

While working for the Nevada Gaming Control Board in the early 1990’s, software engineer Ron Harris secretly coded machines to pay out enormous jackpots when coins were inserted in a particular sequence. His accomplices walked away with hundreds of thousands but were caught before long in Atlantic City. Harris was sentenced to 7 years in prison in 1996.

Louis ‘the Coin’ Colavecchio

Colavecchio was a counterfeiter that made a huge amount of fake slot machine coins, winning thousands of dollars without using any genuine money. He too was arrested in Atlantic City in 1997 with 750 pounds of counterfeit coins on him and sentenced to prison. More recently he was arrested again, this time for counterfeiting $100 bills.

John Kane & Video Poker

Kane exploited a glitch in video poker machines that he’d discovered purely by accident. He found that a particular line of machines allowed players to replay hands with different base wagers. This meant that he could play with a minimum bet until he hit a winning hand and then replay the hand with a maximum bet for a whopping payout. He and his friend were arrested in the end, but the charge didn’t stick since they really hadn’t done anything strictly illegal.

Richard Marcus and his ‘past posting’ technique

Marcus worked as a blackjack and baccarat dealer in Las Vegas and ran an extremely successful scam where he placed late bets with small amounts. After waiting to see whether they won, he’d use a sleight of hand to exchange the low value chips for higher denomination chips, thereby increasing his wins dramatically. He was caught but never convicted and now sells books about his adventures and works as a casino security consultant.