Richard Marcus became particularly famous for swindling most of the Las Vegas casinos with a technique that one would have thought foolproof. Over a period of 25 years, he managed to deceive the casinos and collect more than 5 million dollars.
What is this technique and how could it be used for so long? You will find out in this article. Of course, it is strictly forbidden to use cheating at the casino, under penalty of permanent banishment or even legal sanctions.
Richard Marcus’ background
Richard Marcus’ experience of betting and gambling goes back to his childhood. To fully understand the psychology of the character. Like serial killers, it is necessary to look back at his past to understand his motivations and the spirit of gambling that drives him.
Richard starts betting and gambling at a very early age, whether it’s on the colour of the next car on the road with his parents, or collecting and playing baseball cards with his friends and ending up playing craps at school. His passion for gambling became an addiction and led him to drop out of school at an early age.
Gambling addiction is a form of dependency that can endanger your physical and financial health.
He then decided to diversify the forms of betting and became a true horse racing, car and motorbike enthusiast. He spent his last years as a teenager betting on races, believing that his talent could help him win big. In addition, he met many people who taught him techniques and tricks to swindle money from gamblers. He managed to win $30,000 in one day and decided to go and play the jackpot in Las Vegas, the promised land of gambling.
Unfortunately for him, after winning up to $100,000, he loses all of it in one night and spends the next few months homeless on the outskirts of Las Vegas. This experience was particularly traumatic for him, as he was convinced that the casino had cheated him and stolen all his money. He develops a certain resentment towards the casinos and a strong desire for revenge.
He eventually managed to get a job as a dealer on casino table games such as blackjack and baccarat at the prestigious Four Queens Hotel and Casino. It was when he met a notorious cheat, Joe Classon, who quickly spotted young Richard’s dexterity that the 25 years of cheating and swindling began.
His casino cheating technique
Richard Marcus quickly learns the ropes, including what goes on behind the scenes of gambling. Some of his colleagues also teach him techniques for taking money from overly drunk or careless players. He ends up using these techniques to his advantage and against the casino.
Meeting Joe Classon
Joe Classon is a regular at the Four Queens Hotel and Casino, but also a crook. He immediately spots the new dealer Richard Marcus and hopes to take advantage of the novice to make easy money at his table. However, he is quickly caught by the dealer’s technique and real talent and decides to take advantage of his card skills to run an even bigger scam by integrating him into his cheater community.
The deal is simple, Richard helps him and his team win a few thousand on his table and he can join his team of professional cheaters and make 20% of the profit. To do this, Richard devises an initial ruse, he would pre-stack the card deck in a certain way, so the dealer who replaces him will lose out on the next 7 hands. This way Joe Classon and his team were sure to win the next few rounds by betting against him with confidence. In this way, no code between the players is necessary, and there is no need to thwart the host’s surveillance. With this card technique, Richard wins the team $21,000 the first time around, and he keeps his promise by joining the gang and receiving the 20% of the money.
Joe Classon’s team has also become known for a strategy known as late betting, to which Richard Marcus has made a significant contribution. This strategy consisted of making bets only when the outcome of the match seemed fairly obvious, thanks to the information gathered to guarantee victory. Bets were made a few seconds after the authorised limit. As this was completely illegal and too blatant, the duped casinos quickly realised this. In 1982, Richard was caught red-handed and almost arrested, but he got away with it, acting out and claiming he didn’t know it was illegal and wouldn’t do it again.
Today, security through casino technologies is so enhanced that such scams are no longer feasible.
Although Richard Marcus learned a lot from Joe Classon’s team, it was he who developed the now famous “Savannah” technique that allowed him to swindle all of Las Vegas for over twenty years.
The “Savannah” technique
To play and win at roulette, we all know the mathematical technique of the martingale which is now banned in most online and physical casinos. The “Savannah” technique is a trick that consists of hiding a $500 chip under a stack of three $5 chips during a game. This bluffing technique is named after his ex-girlfriend, a stripper named Savannah, who is said to have inspired this stroke of genius.
The objective of the Savannah is to deceive the dealer’s vigilance by subtly hiding a high-value chip or removing it from the stack to either minimize losses or greatly increase his winnings if he wins. Over time he perfects his technique so that he can play alone without the help of an accomplice on the table who might have attracted the attention of the dealer.
The success of this technique is based on an extremely clever trick. One method is to replace a stack of three $5 chips with another stack containing a $500 chip during the brief time the dealer is looking at the roulette wheel to verify the winning number. The second method was to hide a $100 chip in a stack of $5. If he won, he left the one at $100 and pocketed the winnings, but if he lost, then he exchanged the $100 chip for a $5 chip before the dealer retrieved the pile.
The dealers were amazed to see Richard Marcus dancing with joy over a ridiculously small bet. Marcus pointed to his stack and when the dealer raised the stack he found the $500 chip. This bluff was based on the fact that the dealer could not see the brown $500 chip below the red $5 chips.
In addition to his outstanding skill, Richard Marcus’ method was well practiced. To pull off this trick, he always placed himself in the last seat dealt and therefore the first to be paid by the dealer. As soon as the dealer paid out the winnings and checked the winning number, he swapped the chips very smoothly and quickly in a perfectly logical move: to get his chips back. In addition to this, he added a very special technique which consisted of tapping the dealer’s hand to signal his “payment error”. This little psychological shock was intended to make the dealer forget everything he had seen before.
Of course, the cheater has already been caught using this technique. This is where his acting skills came into play, either by apologising flatly and giving it back to the dealer. If that wasn’t enough, he would play the role of the drunken gambler, sometimes even faking a fainting spell.
Richard Marcus: The end of his career
Richard Marcus applied his technique in all the casino in Las Vegas until he was banned everywhere. His team of cheaters found themselves in the same situation, so they decided to go around the world to rob other casinos.
On 31 December 1999, Richard Marcus decided to enter the new millennium by calling it quits on his career as a con artist, believing that he had made enough money (around 5 million), but also because casino security had been tightened considerably. However, he could not bow out without one last master stroke and decided to extort one last casino.
Using his famous Savannah technique, while playing roulette in a Nevada casino, he was caught and arrested. His punishment? Being blacklisted from all Nevada casinos. This arrest marked the end of his career, he would never be tried for his other crimes and would never pay his debts to society.
What happens to Richard Marcus now?
A few years later, and protected by the statute of limitations, Richard Marcus wrote his autobiography and life of cheating in his book: American Roulette: How I Turned the Odds Upside Down published in 2004. Upon publication, his former victims, including casino companies, contacted him to become a consultant to help them prevent cheating attempts and improve their protocol, monitoring code and information gathering.
Ironically, Richard Marcus conducts security and surveillance seminars for some of the largest casinos in the United States and all around the world, which make up to €1 billion a year from fraud. Although security measures are becoming more and more sophisticated, with cameras and microchips, casinos are still struggling to keep up with fraud. Casinos still have difficulty just stopping all gambling fraudulent attempts with game like Poker, baccarat, roulette or blackjack.
In conclusion, one of the biggest cheats in the history of the casino is now doing his former victims a favour in order to fight against people like him.