Baccarat Cat & Mouse: How casinos use technology to catch high-tech cheaters

Being a member of a casino security team is about more than wearing a fancy suit and watching an entire casino floor from a security booth. It’s about being part of a surreal game of cat and mouse, where the tiny, scurrying little creature happens to be Baccarat cheaters.

But make no mistake. This is no Mickey Mouse operation. Not for the casinos. And definitely not for the Baccarat cheaters. The whole Baccarat cheating industry has evolved to become one unbelievable technologically advanced chess game. Here are the moves both parties are making every day as Baccarat cheaters try to scam the system and security attempts to squash them.

Baccarat Cheater’s Move: Holding out for a better hand

Even the best magician probably couldn’t think of this method to make a hand change from one card to another. A group of smart South Korean gamblers won more than $1 million at Foxwoods Resort Casino in Connecticut with the old card-up-the-sleeve trick. The cheaters developed a wire system with an extended arm that hid a better card under their sleeve. The cheating system involved one player using her body to block the cheating player’s hand in an effort to distract security while the other player swapped the cards using the lever system.
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Casino’s Move: RFID chips

Some Baccarat cheaters (the really bad ones) don’t bother swapping cards or betting extra chips after a winning bet. Instead, they simply rely on playing with counterfeit chips. But the casinos have developed a system to counteract this. One chip manufacturer, Gaming Protection International, employs RFID sensors and electronic tags in each chip.

This allows the guys watching on the security camera to know exactly how much money is on the table at one time. That’s right, the chips send radio frequencies to the security booth, so security knows if that stack of $1,000 chips is actually worth $1,000 or if a cheater has added $900 in counterfeit chips to a legitimate $100 chip.

Baccarat Cheater’s Move: Videotaping the deck

Who says the casino security team is the only one who can successfully use cameras to their benefit? In Baccarat, a player is invited to cut the deck after a shuffle, right before a deal. Savvy cheaters have taken advantage of this by using the opportunity to learn the order of the cards in the deck. Using the cut card, the would-be cheater blocks his index finger from the view of the dealer and any cameras while he slowly brushes the edge of the deck.
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It seems harmless enough, except that as he did this, a camera hidden in his sleeve recorded every hand. The camera is then passed to someone else near the table (or transmitted electronically) to an another cheater (situated elsewhere). This person slows down the video, captures the order of the card, and sends the information back to the table via signals.

Casino’s Move: Watching Cards

The whole eye in the sky concept was innovative when it was first launched. Casino security teams could watch action at the tables as it unfolded and attempt to catch cheaters in the act. But for the eye in the sky to work, a human being had to see the cheating happen firsthand. Of course, the cheating could be caught after the fact by rewinding a video, but by then it could be too late.

But card recognition technology changes that, big time. The software uses character recognition to monitor cards on the Baccarat tables as they hit the felt. If a card is switched out for any reason, the software notices it right away and alerts the security team.

Casino’s Move: The Smart Shoe

To prevent dealers from cheating and to prevent players from swapping cards, some casinos employ what’s called a Smart Shoe. It’s basically like a regular shoe, except there’s a scanner hidden inside that scans unique codes on every single card. The dealers are required to scan when they deal out the cards and then re-scan upon the conclusion of a hand. If a player were to toss in a card that’s not the one he or she was dealt, the shoe knows about it. And so does the security team.

Cheater’s Move: Auto-Shuffler

Casinos use auto-shufflers to speed up the rate of play at the Baccarat tables. But a team of Chinese nationals cheated a few casinos in Macau out of millions of dollars by installing tiny cameras and reflective mirrors in these auto-shufflers. The cameras then wirelessly sent the card order to a member of the cheating team.
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So how did they get these cameras installed in the machines without anyone noticing? Apparently, they switched the scam machines with the real ones before a game using simple distraction. It’s not quite clear whether dealers were a part of the scam.

Casino’s Move: Facial recognition software advancement

The movie 21 was about a team of card counting Blackjack players, not Baccarat players. But like cheating Baccarat players, the MIT students wore disguises to the various Las Vegas casinos they were intent on taking down. The reason? They were well-known in security circles and the guys behind the eyes in the sky were determined to catch them.

Today, casinos don’t have to rely exclusively on the human eye. Now, casinos employ facial recognition software. The cameras watch the floor, zoom in on faces, and match images of people with a database of cheaters.

For the facial recognition software to work, the cheater has to be in the database, so the software isn’t designed to spot cheating in action—it’s simply designed to spot known cheaters. But the software is effective, so much so that 175 different casinos use the software. One of the leading providers, Biometrica, recently introduced a system that takes 9 different photos of a gambler’s face from various angles, compiling them together for a clearer picture. Coupled with the human eye, the software works great at spotting something suspicious.

Your Move: Play Baccarat Legally
Don’t scam the system by cheating casinos. Play legally. If you’re concerned about big losses, don’t be. At online casinos, it’s easy to win at Baccarat. And it’s easy to play for whatever denomination you like. Play for $1 per hand or even for free. It’s your call.

Jeff D. Wilhoite

Jeff Wilhoite is a California based writer, but most of all, he is a dedicated casino player. With years of experience, he is the man to go when looking for spot on advice when it comes to casino games.

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