From the Publisher
Praise for American Roulette:
"In this memoir, a grafter with a predator's understanding of human frailty recounts his true adventures swindling casinos the world over. Marcus's prose is so detail-rich it's as if you're fattening your pockets and running from the "steam" [i.e., angry casino muscle] right alongside him." - Details magazine (October 2003)
"American Roulette provides the titillating thrill of being welcomed inside a forbidden world. As fun as it is revealing."Michael Konik, author of Telling Lies and Getting Paid and The Man with the $100,000 Breasts and other Gambling Stories
"Richard Marcus is that rarest of tour guides: a real insider who offers an unvarnished account of how he cheated casinos out of tidy little piles of money....a rare tell-all."Timothy L. O'Brien, author of Bad Bet: The Inside Story of the Glamour, Glitz, and Danger of America's Gambling Industry
"So much fun to read that this book deserves to be in two sections of every bookstore - Crime and Magic. One of the most original books on gambling and Las Vegas that I've ever read."Bert Randolph Sugar, author of The Caesars Palace Sports Book of Betting
In the 1970s, a young Marcus was introduced to the art of "pastposting," a form of casino cheating that involves switching bets at roulette, craps or blackjack after the outcome has been determined. For the next 25 years, he and his team-a "mechanic," a "claimer" and a "frontman" (who cases the place for security)-traveled the casino world, cheating their way to millions in profits. Considering that this account is often a rodomontade to Marcus's felony theft, it is entertaining- assuming, that is, that readers are comfortable with his depiction of casino cheating as a war between the amoral gambling industry and the noble albeit equally amoral author and his team. Even allowing for hyperbole and dramatic license, the serendipitous escapes, harrowing backroom interrogations and a Billy the Kid/Pat Garrett-like rivalry with a relentless security chief feel like plot devices. Marcus (never caught and now retired) is likable and creates suspense as he takes on casino after casino. His habit of vilifying casino personnel who challenge him (suspicious women dealers are "bitchy," and male dealers who thwart him are "paranoid") is amusing if unintentionally so. Readers who find vicarious thrills sharing the rush of risking thousands of dollars against years in a Nevada prison will appreciate this title. (Sept. 19) Forecast: Given the popularity of Bringing Down the House, about six MIT students who conned the casinos, Marcus could add to his lifetime winnings with this. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
It's a shame that Hollywood's Rat Pack is no more, because Marcus's account of his career cheating casinos (he is now retired-and not in a jail cell) would be the perfect vehicle for Old Blue Eyes, Dino, and the gang. It features high rollers, exotic locales, beautiful women, a detective obsessed with busting the protagonist, and tension in every move. At times, nongamblers will get lost in the details of the games and scams, and some readers may find it ironic when Marcus speaks of pep talks and team spirit or makes statements such as "I felt a great pleasure to be working with people who weren't dominated by greed." And while he sells himself as Robin Hood stealing from the rich casinos that make money robbing gamblers, this image is less convincing when he talks of lifting chips from drunks or other inattentive players. Despite these drawbacks, the book is an engaging and, in the end, a likable book. Recommended for most public libraries, especially those near casinos.-Jim Burns, Jacksonville P.L., FL Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Self-professed "professional casino cheater" lets us in on the secrets of his lengthy and successful career. It all started innocently enough when Marcus, an avid but legit gambler, celebrated his 21st birthday with a massive Vegas spree. Then Lady Luck turned on him, and Marcus found himself sleeping under a bridge. Though he was saved from destitution by a job as a mini-baccarat dealer, the straight and narrow held no appeal, and our man jumped at the chance to join veteran scam artist Joe Classon and his merry band of grifters. After proving his mettle with a scam of his own invention, Marcus went on to learn at the side of the master. The next couple of decades were spent with Classon on an extended tour that looped repeatedly through Vegas, Reno, assorted Indian reservations, riverboats, and much of Europe. (For those who might wonder, the author assures us that although he felt an immediate bond with Classon, he could tell his mentor "wasn't gay or weird.") Much of the narrative focuses on the specifics of how the team worked its moves, most of which boil down to lightning-quick sleight-of-hand coupled with specific phrases that cause dealers to doubt their own eyes. Sometimes Marcus would slip high-value chips in winning slots; other times he'd pull off high-value bets before a dealer had time to sweep his chips away. If the author is to be believed, he never got caught, despite some very near misses at the hands of casino detectives. The closest shaves seem to have come at the hands of women, who rarely enter the story unless it is to ultimately betray one of the boys. More workmanlike than thrilling. Agent: Stephen Ruwe/Literary and Creative Artists
Read an Excerpt
The last time you walked through a crowded gambling casino in full swing, I'm sure you noticed hordes of men gathered around the craps tables, cheering and hollering as the dice tumbled across the layout. You must have seen all those well-behaved women with painted fingernails at the blackjack tables, playing their hands with religious adherence to every system, every strategy, every hunch that numbers and fate twist the brain into believing. You couldn't have missed all those couples, perhaps a bit unruly, feverishly spreading their chips over their favorite numbers on the roulette tables, counting only on pure luck. And of course the temporary mindlessness of the masses glued to their stools in front of the blipping, clinking, and clanking slot machines. Have you ever asked yourself if any of these gamblers actually win? In the long run?
Of course they don't. You don't need me to tell you that Las Vegas and Atlantic City were not built on winners. They were built on dreamers. But is this to say there doesn't exist a select breed of very talented individuals who "always" make money in casinos? Notice I did not say "win" money in casinos. We already know that's impossible.
Yes, there are people who always make money in casinos. In fact, lots of money. These people are very few in number, and they all have one thing in common: they cheat. I know this firsthand because I am a professional casino cheater, have been all my adult life. And I'm very good at what I do. Or I should say "did," because now I'm retired. Not because I got busted and put out of business, then copped a plea and decided to write a book like so many convicted scam artists or criminals having nothing to do but tell all. In this sense I am unique. I retired in my prime, clean as a whistle, not the slightest blemish on my record, not forced to stop cheating casinos for any reason. So why did I stop? Simply because I could no longer resist telling you my story. It really is incredible, and I never would have believed that everything you're about to read happened to me.
In this book I will tell you how I so successfully cheated casinos for so long, as well as why I cheated them. I will reveal everything, all my secrets and methods that I'd guarded with my life for twenty-five years. I will give you all the splendid details. I will tell you about the magic involved, but even more impressive than that, the psychology and the manipulation of people's minds. I will show you how I controlled casino personnel like puppets on a string, and did so without the slightest bit of ego. I will show you how I used casinos' omnipresent surveillance cameras above as my number-one ally, how improvements in casino surveillance only aided and abetted me. I will develop all my cheating "moves" in your presence, and you'll surely appreciate their simplicity as well as their sophistication.
And then I'll take you on an exciting twenty-five-year journey through the world's casinos, cheating their pants off. From Vegas to Monte Carlo. From Atlantic City, island-hopping through the Caribbean, all the way to Sun City, South Africa. We'll even take a detour, stop off farther back in time where you'll meet the inventors of my clever little tricks. It was not I who opened the gates to casino cheating; I only improved on it. It was my mentor who introduced me to the founding fathers of casino cheating through colorful anecdotes he recounted to me over the years while he trained me. And without corrupting any I will relate them all to you.
Along the way we'll meet other groups of organized casino cheaters, contemporary ones, from all over the world, each with its little bag of tricks, some nickel-and-diming it on a rough road, others nearly as crafty as my own teams, but certainly none better. You'll see how we divided up the international casino turf when necessary; there was always enough to go around, no need to be greedy. And we'll also take a peek into the future, at the next direction of the ongoing wars between casino cheaters and casino surveillance personnel. There will be no winner, just never-ending battles and many more stories for someone else to tell you after I'm gone.
But remember one thing: I'm not telling you all this so that you go out and become a casino cheater. I'm simply recounting my story to entertain you, just as I've done so many times with captivated audiences gathered around me at parties, in bars, someone always saying with an appreciative smile and glistening eyes, "Richard, you've really lived an unbelievable life. You ought to write a book about all your casino experiences."
Well, here it is, and I hope you enjoy reading about my experiences as much as I did writing them. So climb aboard my ace-of-spades carpet and let's go for a little ride. I promise when we get back you'll never think the same about casinos, and if you've never before been inside one, don't worry, you'll be just as amused and entertained as any seasoned gambler.
When it first hit me that I had probably discovered the best cheating move in the history of casino gambling, one that appeared absolutely flawless, with minimal riskeven when getting caught red-handedI experienced a feeling of euphoria that would have been complete had it not been for the sliver of doubt that naturally crept into my brain. During two decades of cheating the world's legally operating casinos at their own games, using a variety of sleight-of-hand moves, some rank, others good, still others "really" good, that so-called dream move had eluded me until that hot August night in 1995.
I was sitting at the bottom of a shabby roulette table inside the dingy Silver Spur at the intersection of Main and Fremont in downtown Las Vegas. Diagonally across the worn, coffee-stained layout sat my partner in crime, Pat, who'd been working the casinos with me for the past sixteen months. We were both casual in jeans and cotton shirts. Also at the table was the usual downtown assortment of multiracial degenerates, some wagering with two-dollar-gets-you-three-dollar paper coupons that dripped beeror God knows what elseothers with the remnants of their social security checks, which by the looks of what they were wearing could have certainly been put to better use. The occasional tourist dropping a bet on that table didn't even hang around for a second spin when it won. If it wasn't the bowling-alley smell or clanging slot-machine noise that chased them out, it was the horrific click-clack cocktail-waitress call emanating from the device being squeezed in one of the oily-looking pit boss's hands. I would have been chased out of there myself, had it not been true that the Silver Spur was probably the only casino left in Vegas where I wouldn't run into anyone I knew or, better yet, run into someone who knew me.
Pat and I often went downtown to test new cheating moves before going for the real money on the Las Vegas Strip. The trick here was to place a red five-dollar chip atop a green twenty-five-dollar chip on the roulette layout in such a way that the dealer would not see the bottom chip's greenness and therefore assume both chips were red. Knowing that dealers in the bust-out joints downtown were required to announce green chips on the layout, we'd know right away if the little Korean girl named Sun saw the one I was trying to hide underneath the red. We hoped she didn't, but as I delicately placed the two round chips in the first of the three 2-to-1 column boxes at the bottom of the layout, carefully measuring the angle and distance that I let the top red chip protrude off the green, I had serious doubts about the whole d amned scheme. I even thought about saying good night to Pat so that I could rush home to catch a rerun of "Law & Order."
But Sun never called out, "Green action on the layout," and I was absolutely sure she'd looked at my betat least three times. Seeing it from the back, the green chip stuck out like a sore thumb.
Pat and I shot each other surprised looks. I furrowed my brows at him as if to say, "Maybe she actually didn't see it." But I was thinking she "had" to see it, that perhaps she was just too lazy to call it out to the supervising floorman, or she had indeed called it out but had one of those ultra-soft Oriental voices that didn't carry well amid the din in the casino. As an ex-casino dealer myself, I knew a lot of dealers didn't give a s hit and wouldn't bother straining their voices to alert superiors about the presence of a lousy green chip.
Sun spun the ball and we waited. If the bet lost, we'd place it again; if it won, we'd have our answer. Would she correctly pay me twice the $30 in chips sitting in the betting box, or mistakenly pay $202 to 1 for the two red chips we hoped she "thought" were there?
The ball dropped into the black number-10 slot on the spinning wheel, a first-column number that made my bet a winner. I tensed and watched the dealer.
Copyright (c) 2003 by Richard Marcus