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The Baccarat Cut Card Scam

Updated: Jun 19

The scam that cheated casinos for over $100 million in 2010-2011 is back!

Mark Twain once said history doesn’t repeat itself but it often rhymes. Such is the case with the hottest baccarat cheating scam to hit table games in the past year. 

In truth it’s not really a hot scam, it’s just an old scam reignited. The baccarat cut card scam burst onto the scene in 2010. Asian cheating gangs had a huge amount of success with the move. It’s estimated that around $100 million was cheated from casinos in that region with very few arrests. Asian casinos reacted by introducing counter measures but the lack of legal consequences and information sharing with casinos outside the Asian region provided the “wind beneath the wings” for the cutter gangs to take the scam international. 

The cheaters had some success overseas before they were caught at the Cosmopolitan Las Vegas in 2011. The publicity surrounding that case raised awareness with casinos…at least those who stay up to date with the latest industry news outside of their own jurisdiction. It seemed like the industry had nipped it in the bud. Apparently, not everyone got the memo.

Cut card scammers have reemerged. In recent months there have been news reports of arrests being made at two Pennsylvania casinos. Those are the ones that have been publicized (well done Pennsylvania). Industry insiders claim cut card cheating gangs have been operating around the world over the past year and have hit casinos on the West Coast of the US, Missouri, the UK and Europe. The baccarat cut card scam is back.

In this “BOLOrticle” I’m going to explain how the scam works, why it works and what casinos can do to prevent being hit by baccarat cut card scammers.

How the Scam Works

Before a game of baccarat starts, 8 decks of cards are shuffled, cut and loaded into a shoe for the upcoming rounds of play. This process sounds relatively easy but history shows it is the most vulnerable and critical process in all of table games. It should not be taken lightly.

In the cut card scam, the cheat controls the cut card. After the 8 decks of cards are laid on their side with backs facing the players they’re squared up against the shoe and then offered to a player (the cutter) for the cut.

The cutter persuades the dealer (more on that later) to offer the cards for the cut so that the backs of the 8 decks point in the direction of the right side of the table, from the players perspective. The cutter then glides the cut card horizontally over the top of the cards in a slow and unorthodox manner. The deliberate positioning of the cut card effectively obstructs eye and camera sight from the edge of the cards that are closest to the cutter. 

As the cheat is performing the highly unusual cut he uses a concealed pin, small sharp object or his own finger nail to slowly riffle the top corners of the cards. This reveals the indexes of each card located on the top left of the face of the cards. Using a miniature concealed camera hidden up his sleeve the cutter video records the indexes of a sequence of cards. The move is hidden from staff and surveillance sight lines under the cover of the cut card he is controlling.  

After the cutter has recorded a sequence, usually a half deck to two decks, he leaves the table and finds a secluded area where he can review the video in slow motion and relay the sequence  of cards via text to associates at the table. The associates wait until the sequence appears during the game then one of them calculates future results. On that players cue all the associates bet big on the sure thing. Usually all the players at the table are involved so profit from the scam can be maximized. 

A key element of the scam in order to “catch the wave” is for the cutter to ensure the final cut positions the identified sequence to appear in the middle or end of the game. This is important so he can have the time to leave, accurately analyze and relay the information to associates at the table. Another essential element of the scam is the deliberate distraction of the floor supervisor, usually carried out by other members of the team.

The Latest Version 

The 2020s version is more brazen, bold and shameless. The cutter has ditched the concealed camera up the sleeve and simply uses his cell phone. He places it on top of the baccarat table, positioning the camera so it is pointing in the direction of the cards. The activated video recorder is hidden from public view by dimming the screen of the phone.

In some cases the dealer uses physical intimidation to get the dealer to turn the cards to the right. By physical I mean grabbing the dealers arm and pulling it during the offering of the cards for the cut. Since when has that been allowed? The cutter gang will scout the floor for “weak” dealers who they may be able to intimidate and manipulate. Left alone on the table because of the absence or distraction of a supervisor, the gangs are feasting on chosen dealers.

Even more unbelievable, there have been reports of cutters actually using the right hand to cut the cards and the left hand to hold their cell phone close to the cards to record the card sequence in plain view of everyone. This is mind boggling from a game protection perspective.  

So Why Are The Cutters Back?

Given the history of the cut card scam and the documented threat of cheating during the shuffle-cut-load process, a number of questions needs to be asked as to why the scam has made a comeback in a big way. Let’s start with the lack of awareness and game protection training of our frontline dealers and supervisors. 

It appears that lessons learned are not being passed on to this generation’s table game staff and history is indeed repeating itself. There are a few reasons for this:

Many table games managers don’t pass on cheating information to frontline staff because of an old school casino philosophy known as “security by obscurity.” Simply put, they feel the best way not to get hit with a scam is to not let other people know about it including those responsible for dealing the game. 

The problem is in today’s digital information age curious minds with larceny in their heart have access to so much more cheating information online. This mindset also doesn’t take into account that organized cheating gangs are highly paid professionals, they can work it out for themselves, that’s what they do. 

My view is that it is better to explain to all dealers and supervisors the cheating move and how to detect it. This way frontline staff know supervisors and other staff have been trained to detect it. This is more of a deterrent than knowing no one around you has ever received training on it.

Then there’s the fact that supervisor levels are at their all time lowest. Casinos are not finding the time to train them in game protection because schedules and workload don’t allow it. Even if they could provide the expert training they need there’s still not enough of them to vigilantly watch the games. 

Customer service and accounting duties are taking priority over game protection and supervising critical processes on the table. Dealers are being left to their own devices on high limit tables. This is allowing a huge opportunity for organized cheating gangs to exploit the game either through intimidation and distraction techniques or collusion.

Another factor is that some casino managers are getting soft. The world has changed a lot in the last decade but fundamental game protection principles have not. Although it seems the evolution of the human species is contingent on the cell phone being an an additional appendage on one’s person, there is no place for it on the baccarat table during the shuffle-cut-load process. Not laying on the table. Not held in a player’s hand while they’re cutting the cards.

In this world of “shoot, post, look at me” the risk of players having cameras on the game is greater than the reward. Despite some marketing department’s Keeping up with the Kardashians’ strategy of view counts count, my advice is for casinos to request that their players put the phones back in the holster during the shuffle-cut-load process. Table Games have to take back control of the floor. 

What about collusion? If you’re a seasoned game protection professional who’s seen a few rodeos, your slightly cynical side is probably thinking the dealer has to be in on it, right? That’s hard to prove and that’s why in my opinion the odds are they are. 

Dealers in the past were trained to offer the cards to the player pointing the 8 stacks towards the dealer. In a quick google search online I found a number of casino’s dealing procedures however I could not find any mention on how cards should be offered for the cut. Maybe dealers haven’t been trained on how to protect the cards during this process.

Regardless of whether they have been trained or are required under standard operating procedures to offer the cards correctly, I can’t see how dealers can not be suspicious of this unorthodox cut technique. At the very least they should be alerting their supervisors under the universal game protection principle of JDLR - just doesn’t look right!

Finally, changing priorities and business competition has also seen the ushering in of a more subservient attitude from some casino managers towards potential valuable players (players that bet big). In some cases management is allowing a certain amount of exclusive tolerance and flexibility when it comes to how the game should be conducted for customers that wager a lot of money. This is detrimental to game protection. 

Often the flexibility offered to high end players gives dealers a built-in defense in case they get caught colluding with players. Whether it can be proved the dealer is colluding with the players or not, that dealer is a liability to the organization. 

Casino manager Ace Rothstein said it best to one of his employees in the the movie Casino: “Listen if you didn’t know you we’re being scammed you’re too f***in dumb to keep this job, if you did know, you were in on it. Either way, YOU’RE OUT!”

How to Prevent the Cut Card Scam

So let’s cut to the chase. How do casinos minimize the risk of being attacked by the cutters?

Here are 3 ways:

1. Traditional: Train dealers to offer the cards for the cut so that they line-up, fronts directly facing the dealer and the backs facing the player cutting the cards. Make it a documented standard operating procedure. Also, teach the dealers and supervisors not for any reason to turn the cards in a direction that could expose the indexes through the cutter manipulating the cards. Explain the the technique and consequences of the cut card scam. Finally, make it mandatory for supervisors to be called to the table to observe and supervise the cut.

2. Offer Cards with Right Hand: Have the dealer offer the 8 decks for the cut with their right hand. This will ensure that the indexes on the corners of the cards will end up at the bottom, making it impossible to use this cheating technique. There is a challenge. Traditionally dealers offer the cards to the player on the left side (shoe side) of the table with the left hand. The players on the right side (discard rack side) with the right hand. This was so the dealers back is never turned away from the chip float. Protection of the float can still be maintained if the cards are placed in the middle of the table and the supervisor is observing the process.

3. Cut Card Holder: Visit a lot of casinos in Asia and you will see baccarat dealers offer the cut using a cut card holder. These were introduced as a counter measure against the cutter gangs in 2010/2011. Arguably you could say this is the reason you don’t hear of this scam going down in Asia anymore. The cut card holder is a transparent case that fits snugly over 8 decks of cards. The case is designed to allow a player to insert a cut card vertically straight up and down without being able to expose the cards. To see an example of a cut card holder see link below.

Wild Card Countermeasure: Food for thought, and one that’s bound to have gaming equipment manufacturers cringing at the thought that the current gaming equipment ecosystem of card manufacturing and intelligent shoes may be disrupted, is to get rid of the corner index. The fact is that corner indexes have been the best friend of baccarat cheaters since video was invented. Eliminating them has been talked about amongst casino game protection professionals in the past. Some may say that dealers or players won’t be able to recognize the cards just by their pips or the images on the face cards. So instead of getting rid of the indexes completely, what about moving them to the center short edge of the cards?

It’s All About Insider Information

As mentioned earlier, the baccarat cut card scam is not new. The cheating technique comes from the category of baccarat cheating scams known as sequence identification or simply put, players finding out what cards are going to be dealt in the future with the assistance of the dealer. Sequence identification scams have costs casinos hundreds of millions of dollars around the world over the last twenty-five years.

With a little practice any budding cheat can perfect the cutter technique. However, other factors must come into play. The absence of a supervisor’s eyes. A dealer who is easily manipulated. The breach of a traditional procedure that has stood the test of time. A casino floor that is not controlled or managed with game protection as a priority. 

As a predeterminate for results for up to 80 rounds of play, the shuffle-cut-load process is very significant. The impact of not being mindful of this process in the game of baccarat has the potential to be disastrous. If players can identify a 2-deck sequence of cards before it is dealt, they could potentially win millions of dollars in only 30 minutes. 

The cut card scam is not effective because it’s high-tech and sophisticated. It’s effective because some casinos are weak. If you don’t want to be a soft target for the cutters, I urge you to cut the nonsense.

Stay sharp

Willy Allison



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