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Cheatin' Man

A Notorious Cheater Reveals How He Beat the Casinos for a Living
Michael Konik
From the Print Edition:
George Burns, Winter 94/95

(continued from page 1)

But the cards never change place.

As taught by Mickey Swift, the greatest card manipulator in the business, the dealer executes a "zero shuffle," a blatantly false mixing action, similar to the "pull through," that, when viewed from the security cameras above, looks like the real thing.

As the dealer squares the cards back to their original, prerecorded order, the escort approaches the pit boss and asks that some complimentary Champagne be sent to her table. The boss gives her a yellow grin and happily obliges. Without letting his eyes leave the escort's alluring backside as she sashays to her table, the pit boss says, "OK, good luck, fellas."

One of the shills cuts to a "crimp," a small, signatory bend between two cards, bringing the computer-analyzed "cooler" (prearranged sequence of cards) to the top of the shoe.

At that moment, the seat stuffers decide they've had enough. They cash in their chips, sheepishly ask for a comp to the coffee shop and say good night. The big shots move in.

"How you fellas doing tonight?" the pit boss asks, flashing them a fraudulent smile.

"Hell, I'm down about 20 grand," Swift lies. "I'm leaving town in the morning and I'd love just to get even." He fishes a handful of $500 chips from his sports jacket and plunks them down on the first betting spot. "Whadda you say? Think we can get the table limit raised here? Maybe, I don't know, $5,000 a hand?"

"Let me see what I can do," the pit boss says. He calls upstairs. Security tells him these two suckers have been walking around the casino all night littering the place with money. The shift manager gives the green light--and he's thrilled to have their action. "Besides," the pit boss whispers into the phone, "they're coming in on a freshly shuffled shoe, so they're definitely not card counters. Let's fade 'em." He turns to the big shots. "OK, gentlemen. You got it."

Based on where the escort rests her hand on the big shot's shoulder, Swift and his colleague know how many spots to bet and how many hits to take. On the first round, they make five $5,000 bets and take one card. "Boy, my heart's pounding now," Swift announces. The dealer busts. Then they make three $5,000 bets and take no cards. Again, the dealer busts. They make six $5,000 bets and take two cards. Once more, the dealer busts.

In three minutes they're up more than $70,000.

"I better stop," Swift tells the pit boss, who tries vainly to maintain a facade of friendliness. "This is unbelievable luck! Unbelievable," Swift exclaims.

The pit boss, still certain he's got a couple of fish on the hook, doesn't want to lose their business, especially before they give back some of their "lucky" chips. "We'd love to have you stay," the boss says. "Is there anything I can do for you? Dinner? Are you staying here? I could get you our nicest suite."

"Nah, we better just go," Swift says.

"Are you sure?" the boss says, almost pleading.

"Well, OK. A few more hands. We'll play until we lose two hands in a row," Swift says, knowing that won't be for a while. More than 50 hands and $200,000 later, the escort signals to Swift that the crew has come to the end of their computer cooler. "Tell you what," Swift says to his big-shot buddy, "let's play until we lose a hand." They gamble three hands on the square before finding a loser.

"Thanks," Swift says to the pit boss, pushing in a mountain of chips. "That was fun."

The boss nearly chokes on his words. "Thank you, gentlemen. Remember, if you care to stay, we're very glad to have you."

"You know what?" Swift says. "We're very glad to be here."

Michael Konik is the gambling columnist for Cigar Aficionado.


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