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American Roulette: How I Turned the Odds Upside Down---My Wild Twenty-Five-Year Ride Ripping Off the World's Casinos (Thomas Dunne Books) Paperback – October 28, 2004
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From Publishers Weekly
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.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Today you can hardly turn on television without seeing a behind-the-scenes show on exposing gambling cheats. Here you can learn it from a real pro. Marcus was a career cheater for 20 years. His most creative invention, dubbed the Savannah (named after a stripper), involves hiding a large-denomination chip under a five-dollar chip on a roulette layout and then removing (or raking) the big chip just when you know your number didn't win. Sounds easy enough, but what about the ever-present "eye in the sky" or even the dealer? No problem, says Marcus; you just act dumb and pretend you didn't know the ball had fallen. And believe it or not, he prospered in the world's greatest casinos by employing this simple system. Although getting into the cheaters' heads is extremely entertaining, it is certainly a guilty pleasure, for it's hard to cheer for a common thief, even if he is an underdog. A fun read, but don't try these tricks on your next trip to Las Vegas. Mary Frances Wilkens
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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You can see what it's about up top, so I won't waste time explaining much, but in short, this guy travels around the globe to casinos with a small team and rips off table games in highly dangerous yet sophisticated ways. I was pretty excited just to see what would happen next. I was particularly interested in their UK trip, as simply getting in the door of a card room proved to be a hassle, let alone getting out with money.
The only reason for four stars instead of five is I just can't believe the author when he claims every story is accurate and without embellishment. These are stories that go back to the 1970s, and we're supposed to think every aspect is perfectly accurate? As you read this, you may pick up on a recurring theme of how they just barely escaped or just barely pulled it off. That, and the fact it was written by the very person who did all these things, makes me think parts of these stories must be embellished, but it still makes for super fun story telling and a book you will enjoy more than once as I did.
The group also would occasionally make money with other scams, like "railing"--stealing directly out of the chip racks of their fellow players. They also narrowly avoid getting involved in a card-marking scheme, violating their own rules of not using any specialized equipment that could be incriminating.
The book is most interesting for the characters involved and how they dealt with "steam" from the casinos when they caught on to what was happening.
The author appears to have no guilt or remorse for his actions on the grounds that casinos are regularly "stealing" from people every day (though that certainly doesn't justify the thefts directly from other gamblers, and ignores that gamblers are willing participants who know the odds are stacked against them).
I read _Bringing Down the House_ about the MIT Blackjack Team about a year and a half ago, and the comparison between the teams is interesting--the MIT team's methodology was far more sophisticated (and wasn't technically cheating), but both had to use similar psychological techniques.
It's surprising that the casinos didn't come up with better countermeasures quickly (a rule that there are no payouts for high-value chips not announced in advance, for example), but I find Marcus' overall tale quite plausible, in part because of the factors he points out in the last few pages of the book--"practically all casino jobs are monotonous" (p. 369). The boredom results in lack of attention and the jobs' high turnover results in inexperienced people up against very experienced cheaters.
AMERICAN ROULETTE is about gambling, but it is more about cheating at gambling, or more specifically, systematically cheating at casino gambling. Author Richard Marcus made a very nice living for decades by cheating casinos. He is unapologetic about it; in fact, he is quite proud of the methods he used. His justification appears to be that casinos cheat their customers, so he is merely getting his own back. This is arguably a self-serving view. Anyone entering a casino has at least a rudimentary idea of whose side the laws of chance reside; one either chooses to gamble or not. Philosophical considerations aside, however, AMERICAN ROULETTE remains a fascinating study in the hows and wherefores of casino cheating, as well as casino security. Casinos, understandably, are not in the business of losing money. While the individual scores that cheaters like Marcus might inflict may individually be relatively small, taken in the aggregate they could constitute death by a thousand cuts. Casinos accordingly are quite interested in stanching the flow and are constantly playing Tom to Marcus's larcenous Jerry.
Marcus describes in AMERICAN ROULETTE how he first became involved in casino cheating. He actually started off as a casino dealer. One night he received an interesting proposition from a man named Joe Classon. Classon offered Marcus a spot on his "team." The entire purpose of Classon's team was to cheat casinos out of money. It quickly becomes evident from reading AMERICAN ROULETTE that great casino heists are not carried out individually. A well-disciplined, well-oiled team is an absolute must for any chance of success. Classon, from this account, had one of the best. He became teacher, leader, mentor and father figure to Marcus, instructing him in the methods of casino cheating and encouraging him to devise methods of his own. Marcus for the most part does an incredible job of explaining the methodology of both the games and the methods of cheating that he utilized to beat the casinos. Notwithstanding my unfamiliarity with such games as blackjack and roulette, there was only a time or two during AMERICAN ROULETTE when I felt lost at sea.
After Classon retired, however, Marcus began leading his own team and utilized his potential as a casino thief to the fullest. Marcus is quite straightforward in explaining his techniques. However, though he does so in a step-by-step-manner, this is not a "how-to" book. If anything, one who would seek to follow in Marcus's footsteps would be dissuaded by AMERICAN ROULETTE. It is obvious from reading the book that a casino thief requires a combination of skills --- coordination, nerve, sleight of hand and patience --- that is rarely found in combination in one individual. Additionally, a successful casino thief needs at least one assistant that can be totally trusted. And then, of course, there are the casinos, which understandably frown on cheating. While the days of cheaters being dry-gulched are reportedly over (and I'm not entirely convinced of that) the legal penalties are quite severe. Penalties can only be imposed, however, if one is caught; and even then, as Marcus demonstrates in AMERICAN ROULETTE, they can be avoided.
Marcus waited until retirement to write his "tell-all" book, which serves as an interesting counterpoint to the investigative television shows one stumbles across randomly on cable television that concern casino security. While technological advances have made things more difficult for the Richard Marcuses of the gambling world, they have not made it impossible. And while Marcus is hardly a role model, his account is an interesting and often suspenseful glimpse into a world of which relatively few are aware. Recommended.
--- Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub
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