In this article, we’re bringing a list of biggest roulette cheaters, and we’re ranking them by the amount of money they’ve made, and we’re also explaining in detail how did each of them cheat the game.
All the cheaters, without fail, were cheating on the physical game as any electronic version that determines the outcome of the spin using a random number generator can’t be cheated as it’s the equivalent of, say, a blackjack deck that would be shuffled after every hand. It’s totally random. On a physical game, however, there are exploits to be found. Let’s go through the list of biggest cheaters, ranked by the money they made.
Of course, this list is most certainly inconclusive as the biggest cheater is the one who never got caught, especially if even the casino he was cheating didn’t detect him as a cheater. Here is the list with the biggest roulette cheaters known nowadays.
The New York Crime Ring, Ohio and other states, an unknown amount.
This was, in fact, a ring of Dominican people who were based in New York, some 50 to 70 of them, and they operated in Ohio and at least 18 other US states. The amount of money they stole was not revealed, or perhaps isn’t known, and what we do know is that they would win between $1,000 and $2,000 per job.
The scam would involve purchasing some low-value chips such as $1, then removing the chips from the table when the dealer isn’t looking. Then the cheater would head to an area of the casino without CCTV, usually a bathroom, where the chips would be passed to another player. That player would buy extras at higher amounts, eventually including the $1 chips but cashing them out at a much higher rate.
Four men and two women were arrested on June 1, 2012, at Hollywood Casino in Toledo that had opened only three days earlier. The scam surfaced again three months later in Columbus, in another freshly opened casino, revealing a larger ring with many more people involved.
Serbian team, London – $1.7 million.
Two tech-savvy Serbian guys (38, 33) and a Hungarian woman (32) devised a cunning plan that used mobile phones to predict where the ball will land. This was in 2004, and they chose to play at Ritz Casino in London.
The exact technology that was used was not revealed for obvious reasons, but we do know that they used their phones and that they hid microcomputers in them, paired with software that would calculate where the ball is likely to land and then report back to its holder. Some suspect they were also using lasers to track the ball velocity, deceleration rate and location, as well as the pockets with numbers.
On the first night, the trio won over 100,000 pounds, but that didn’t alert the security as they weren’t acting suspiciously. The Hungarian woman was already on the blacklist of several casinos, but this piece of info was missed. On the second night, the trio won 1,200,000 pounds more, and that would be the last night they played at the casino as they were caught later at their hotel.
Their earnings were first seized – so were the cheaters – but eventually, the charges were dropped, and they got to keep the money. Reason for this is the judicial system and inadequate gambling laws that were outdated and didn’t include anything about technology. The case was said to be very complicated, and no charges stuck. This incident prompted both the Ritz Casino to upgrade their security protocols and the UK to improve their laws on cheating on gambling.
Other roulette cheaters were probably linked to the Ritz trio. They operated in Mayfair, London as well as other classy casinos in Europe, but none were ever caught in action or prosecuted.
Gonzalo Garcia-Pelayo, Madrid / Las Vegas, $2.7 million.
Gonzalo Garcia-Pelayo, born in Madrid in 1947, is a mysterious character who studied at the Film School and is one of the founders of Andalusian rock movement, having produced albums for many local artists.
However, he didn’t manage to make enough money to support his family. He turned to gambling, especially when he noticed the roulette wheels have minute imperfections that would allow him to make an educated guess on where the ball will land.
Garcia-Pelayo frequented Casino Gran Madrid and recorded hundreds and thousands of spins over several months without placing a bet. He used his computer to find anomalies in the results, and in 1991 he and his son Ivan and daughter Vanessa started playing roulette.
Less than a year later, the family had accumulated $700,000 in winnings. They were banned from an increasing number of Madrid casinos, and one even attempted legal action against them, but the Supreme Court ruled there’s no cheating involved. The court said it was wise to make a bet based on the imperfection of roulette’s gears. In short, it’s casino’s own fault the wheel is not perfect, and the players are allowed to exploit that fact.
Garcia-Pelayo decided to stop playing in Madrid and went to Las Vegas instead, where he and his family won $2,000,000 more. Eventually, they started to get recognized in casinos, and more and more casinos banned them, upon which they decided to retire.
Garcia-Pelayo wrote the book The Fabulous Story of The Pelayos in 2003, and the book describes this story in detail. History Channel made a documentary Breaking Vegas: The Roulette Assault, inspired by the exploits of the Pelayo family.
“The Cigarette Pack Scam”, France, $7 million.
This scam took place in the still existing Casino de Deauville in France in 1973. The group won over 5 million francs, which was $1 million back then and is the equivalent of roughly $7 million today.
The dealer in the casino involved his sister and her husband in the scheme that involved a cigarette pack with a radio transmitter while the roulette ball – planted by the dealer – had a radio receiver. The sister would thereby assume control of the roulette ball, and she would be able to dictate where the ball would land with a high degree of accuracy.
The trio was caught when the casino owner took a romantic interest in the sister, and little by little, spotted some unusual behaviour patterns, eventually uncovering the entire scheme.
Richard Marcus, Las Vegas, $12 million.
The most well-known case of casino cheating, successful too, is one of Richard Marcus. He was using past posting (adding more chips to his bet) for 20+ years that ended in 2000, when he retired, never having been arrested, claiming to have made over $12,000,000 with his sleight of hand technique.
Marcus operated during the old days with little technology and is probably the main reason why CCTV started to get installed in casinos. However, not even that was enough to stop Marcus and his colleagues who were operating together because Marcus changed his ways and created an undetectable method.
Doing the complete opposite of his early technique that used past posting, Marcus came up with a better plan and started using pinching instead – which is the removal of chips. He would make a bet of three chips, two $5 chips on top and a large $500 one at the bottom. This would appear to the dealer to be a $15 bet, but if the bet was won then Marcus would alert the dealer that there was, in fact, another chip under the two $5 chips, and would enjoy his winnings. If the bet was a losing one, Marcus would quickly replace his stack with three $5 chips and would lose $15. He named the move Savannah.
In 2003, Marcus wrote a book American Roulette: How I Turned the Odds Upside Down that details his 25 years of cheating casinos. He continues to serve as a mentor to other cheaters and has also expanded to other games such as poker and craps.
The Roselli brothers, Las Vegas / Atlantic City / Puerto Rico, $37 million.
There is no doubt that the Roselli brothers are the most significant known casino cheaters of all time, though their true identity remains unknown. The method used is universal and not roulette-specific, though they did play roulette a lot as the tables have high limits.
The brothers used simple identity theft, and with the help of a computer hacker, they found people who had excellent credit histories with casinos. The brothers would assume control of the account, fund it with $50,000 of their own money, and then proceed to play casino games generally for six months as that’s how long it takes to reach the point of where a casino wants to credit you.
The brothers were playing the long game and would appear to be wealthy gamblers who sometimes win, sometimes lose, nothing out of the ordinary except that they are playing with big chips. The brothers would also frequent lots of casinos in the Las Vegas, Atlantic City and Puerto Rico. This phase took five years.
Some of the casinos eventually raised the brothers’ credit to whopping $1 million, which means they didn’t have actually to have it. Still, the casino would trust them they’re suitable for it, and one day – at the right time – the Roselli brothers disappeared with every last cent. They gambled on credit, walking away with the winnings when they did win, ignoring the losses as the casino deemed them “good for it”. It took months before the casinos realized the Roselli brothers aren’t coming back.
The brothers were never prosecuted, and this scheme remains shrouded in mystery. The authorities don’t even know how many people were involved in this operation. What they do know is that in the year 2000 a lot of money went missing and that it can all be traced back to 1995. Brilliant.