The Biggest Roulette Cheaters

Roulette spotlight

In roulette, as with any casino game where you are playing against the house, the player is generally at a disadvantage in the long run. It is often said that the only way to guarantee an advantage is to cheat, and there have been plenty of people who have attempted this approach with varying results, with scams including:

  • The Savannah
  • The New York Ring
  • The Cigarette Pack Scam
  • The Roselli Brothers Scam

Of course, here at we would never condone cheating. It is possible to play roulette and win in the short term, playing by the rules, and you can get plenty of enjoyment from this. Still, curiosity sometimes gets the better of everyone, and sometimes the biggest cheating scandals are interesting stories in their own right.

The Savannah

As with many famous roulette scams, the Savannah scam required a team of gamblers all working together to effectively pull it off. However unlike some other scams it was relatively straightforward, working well for the perpetrators up until the point they were sussed out.

The basics are easy enough to get your head around. Hide a large denomination chip underneath a smaller one, and swiftly take it back off the table if your bet doesn’t come in. This shouldn’t work, in theory, but if the larger chip was well hidden then the taking it back after a losing bet element makes it look like you’re only trying to take back, for example, $5 instead of $500.

Of course since this scam was noticed, casinos will always be on the lookout for it so don’t expect to get away with it these days.

The New York Roulette Ring

Albert Einstein famously said the best way to consistently make money at roulette is to take chips off the table when the dealer’s back is turned. This is one element of the New York roulette ring’s scam, but there was more to it than that, helping them make off with a very healthy amount of money.

While one player made small bets at table A, they would distract the dealer and another player in their ‘team’ would take chips away and use them at table B (which used chips of the same colour), assigning them a higher value. The team used this routine at a number of tables across the state of Ohio, helping them make an estimated four figures each time they pulled the scam, until they were caught, that is.

The Cigarette Pack Scam

Roulette cigarette scam

One of the most famous roulette scams in casino history, this dates back to 1973 and is the talk of casino floors to this day. Taking place at Casino de Deauville in France, it required the scamming group to have a man ‘on the inside’, in this case the dealer, who teamed up with his sister and his brother-in-law.

So, where does the cigarette pack come into it? Well, the group used a radio transmitter hidden inside the pack (in those days, smoking in casinos was still legal and commonplace) while hiding a transmitter in the roulette ball. This allowed the sister to dictate where the ball would land (with worrying accuracy) by holding the cigarette pack and pushing the relevant button.

The group won an estimated 5 million Francs (about $1m, a huge amount back in the 1970s) and were only uncovered when the casino owner took a romantic interest in the sister and was knocked back. This caused him to dig further, ultimately spotting a pattern which led him to suspect the radio interference of which the group was guilty, and ultimately the trio were caught.

The Roselli Brothers Scam

It is sometimes said that the most ingenious casino scams are the most simple, and the methods of the Roselli brothers are no exception. Not only that, but the pair saw their efforts help them make millions over a five year spell, up until the scam was uncovered.

The brothers, from New Jersey in the United States, went down the identity theft route with the help of a talented computer hacker, who helped them identify individuals with great credit histories. They opened multiple accounts in fake names, funded them with hundreds of thousands of their own money (playing the long game) and sure enough, were granted five figures in credit by a series of casinos in different locations.

The trick was how they kept it going. They alternated from city to city (including casinos in New Jersey, Nevada and Puerto Rico) while making it look like they were losing money, thanks to ‘offset’ betting procedures, and always paid promptly after receiving credit. This helped them extend credit limits to hundreds of thousands, and a million dollars on occasion, all cumulating in a huge blowout where millions were wagered on credit and they walked away with an estimated $37m, and it took months before a scam was even suspected!

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