From slick heists to intricate scams, casinos are often the target of audacious criminals. But unlike the movies, real-life casino robberies are rarely successful.
In 1992, the Stardust Casino was the victim of one such heist. A casino cashier named Bill Brennan stuffed his backpack with $500,000 worth of chips and walked out the doors.
The MIT Blackjack Team
The MIT Blackjack Team has become something of a cult after the release of the movie 21, which featured many of its members. They raked in millions of dollars in winnings by using card counting systems to identify when the deck was in their favor or the dealer’s.
One of the team’s most important players was Bill Kaplan, who delayed his Harvard entrance to make a fortune playing blackjack. His story inspired the Kevin Spacey character in the film 21.
Kaplan taught the team how to streamline their card counting systems and improve their efficiency. His methods were so effective that casinos began implementing changes to their game policies. For example, they started shuffling the cards more often, which eliminated much of a counter’s advantage. Many of the MIT members went their separate ways after they graduated from college, but some continued to play blackjack and formed new teams. Others became teachers or pursued other careers.
The Biker Bandit
Whether it is the main inspiration for Casino Royal or the Ocean’s series of movies, massive casino robberies capture the imagination of the public. But despite their massive size and impact, these heists are often not as successful as people might hope.
In 2010 Anthony Carleo, who referred to himself as the Biker Bandit, arrived at the Bellagio in Las Vegas on his motorcycle still wearing his helmet. He walked inside and stole over $1.5 million worth of chips from a high-limit craps table.
The problem was that he couldn’t get rid of the chips so he tried to sell them on an online poker forum under the screen name “OceanSpray25.” He was caught just seven weeks later. It was Carleo’s second heist so he ended up getting 9 years in prison. However, many criminologists believe that this is not enough time to deter people from committing such crimes. They argue that people should spend at least a decade in jail to truly change their ways.
The Circus Circus Heist
A heist at a casino is always something that grabs the public’s attention. Whether it be for the sheer size of the heist or the way that it is carried out, these events are always captivating and make for a great plot line for blockbuster movies. However, there are some heists that are so daring and large scale that they go down as one of the biggest casino heists in history.
One such example was when Heather Tallchief drove her armored truck away from the Circus Circus Casino in 1993, leaving behind 2.5 million dollars. At the time she was working for a company called Loomis Armored Inc and her job was to load up ATM machines around the casino with cash. On this day, she dropped off two of her co-workers at the casino and then sped away with the money that was in her vehicle. She remained on the run for 12 years until she finally surrendered in 2005.
The Edge-Sorting Scandal
When the topic of a casino heist comes up, most people think of Hollywood movies like Ocean’s Eleven or 2008. However, many real-life criminals have managed to pull off their own Vegas-style heists.
One such case involves a man named Ronaldo Luda Ramos. He worked at a casino as a surveillance technician. He knew how to operate the cameras and even turned them off before hogtying a few employees and taking a bunch of money.
Another famous heist involves poker player Phil Ivey. He used a technique called edge sorting to win more than PS7.3 million at Crockfords Casino in London. This sparked a huge legal battle over whether or not this was cheating. The court eventually ruled in favor of the casino, and Ivey was forced to return all of his winnings. Despite this, he still maintains that he was simply using an advantage to beat the house. The truth is, casinos always have an edge in gambling.