Did you know that you were living in the official year of wearable tech?
Well, you are if you are reading this in 2014, that is. And if you are reading any time after that we’re confident that wearable tech won’t have gone away in the intervening time — you might even be reading this on your smartwatch, Google Glass or other device, going about your daily business unencumbered by trailing cables or cracked screens.
Don’t worry if you feel you’re not familiar with anything mentioned above — because in a sense you almost certainly are, even if you’ve never donned a wearable computer in your life.
Cast your mind back to the great TV sci fi series of the 1960s and 70s — Star Trek, Buck Rogers, Battlestar Galactica and so on. You’ll recall how they often had futuristic gizmos attached to their clothes — to communicate with the Enterprise, to take readings on unfamiliar planets — even to simply open and close secure doors.
Or if that’s not your bag, maybe you’ve seen James Bond, 007, using his hi tech watch to pull up intelligence on his enemies or as a guidance system in an unfamiliar locale…
Well, such things are no longer the preserve of fiction; you really can locate your position via GPS, make a call to a friend or surf the net for whatever you want just by glancing at a watch face or a tiny screen on the inside of your (otherwise standard-looking) glasses. And that tech is set to grow and grow…
But, of course, with great power comes great responsibility and, just to demonstrate that some things never change, wearable tech has been used for nefarious purposes too.
We’re not talking about spying, spamming or scamming here (though that could sadly also be possible) but, more relevant to our purposes at Casino Daily News, cheating at the casino table.
‘Surely not?’ We hear you cry — but sadly it is so, there have been more than a few scoundrels out there who have done just that.
Indeed we reported on a recent case, though it was decidedly low-tech so we won’t elaborate here…
So read on and we’ll give you the run down on the top 7 all-time wearable tech casino scams!
Actually, wearable tech scams are nothing new
1) That’s right, because in first place we go way back to 1961 with Edward Thorp and Claude Shannon’s wearable computer for cheating at Roulette. An MIT Professor, Thorp revealed the machine’s existence in a book he published, stating it had a 44% return rate against the house (normally the house will have an edge on the player of a few percent). However it was only used for a short time.
Actually, not all computerized gaming cheats are aimed at making money…
2)Â As you may have noticed in 1) above, the wearable computer in question was developed by academics — a group not normally noted for their rapacity, and that is certainly true for our second choice, a group known as the Eudaemons. This was a group of graduate student physicists at the University of California, who over a period of a couple of years figured out a formula using a series of trigonometric functions (trust us on this), also for predicting where the Roulette ball would fall and also, curiously, with an edge of 44% against the house.
The team took their ingenious device to Las Vegas in 1978; it required 2 people to operate, one person tapping signals via a switch in their shoe to a second, who actually placed the bet and received the signals as to where to place the ball via a computer strapped to their body.
Unfortunately though the Eudaemons managed to amass about $10,000 before having to quit due to malfunctions in the machine — it had been administering electric shocks to its users, even burning a hole in the skin of one of them!
But they had proven their point — Roulette could be beaten…
But most cheaters do want to make money…
3)Â A similarly amateur effort from the early days of computing was Keith Taft’s ‘George’ device, which also utilized the player’s shoe (it’s still on display, replete with reams of wires stuffed in the sole) to operate switches to a computer strapped to the torso.
Taft only made limited gains with his invention and quit after losing $4,000 in one weekend — we know the feeling — but interestingly enough, what he was doing was not illegal at the time, in 1972, and place (Nevada, where else?).
Taft later teamed up with partners to develop other, smaller predictive devices but ‘George’ remains his opus magnus.
4)Â Â So far we’ve been dealing with punters who’ve not been out for massive gains, or not even been breaking any laws, so it’s time to look at a real corker of a scam, from 1973, this time in France.
In short, a group of 3 people including a casino croupier were in cahoots in a scheme where the croupier placed a rigged ball (whose direction could be influenced remotely). The second character posed as a regular player, and the third, most intriguingly, was a woman who sat on the next table, playing on a losing streak.
But that didn’t matter, since she held a packet of cigarettes — no ordinary cigarettes but a device which ensured the ball always landed (with a 90% success rate) within a range of 6 adjacent numbers.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, they were eventually caught but at least had fun in the process, which leads us to…
5)Â Getting into modern times now, the tech is way more powerful and sleek and generally doesn’t electrocute you or require you to be a smoker (which of course is banned in the majority of gaming halls today in any case).
A major case in 2004 saw another group of 3, this time from Eastern Europe (Serbia and Hungary to be precise) who were apprehended at the Ritz Casino in London — though not before having netted an estimated $1.3m!
They had been using a variant of a Roulette cheating device which was sold commercially in the UK a couple of years later when the industry was deregulated there (again, this was not illegal as such at the time, and casinos were instructed to enforce their own regulations and policing if they wanted to avoid falling foul of this type of wearable tech).
6)Â Â In 2007 a hugely sophisticated gambling ring was uncovered which had robbed around $7m from US casinos in the preceding few years.
It involved insiders in the form of corrupt dealers, who engaged in practices like false shuffling (ie. not shuffling the deck of cards, though pretending to).
They started with mini-Baccarat, which is relatively straightforward as you are allowed to write down what cards have been dealt as you go along, but also boasts lower winnings (and is not a very high-tech system).
However the group, called the ‘Tran Gang’ and led by one Phuong ‘Pai Gow John’ Truong, as so often happens, got greedy and moved up to BlackJack.
The new game required a more wearable-tech approach, where a tracker watched the cards being dealt, and whispered them into a device while smoking (or at least pretending to).
This was relayed to an accomplice with a computer outside the casino who’d then read out what order the cards would come out in after the false shuffle (in other words they were effectively ‘remembering’ the order of cards as they were dealt, an order which remained constant).
The tracker could then, using the lowest tech method possible, signal to the players what to do by the way he held the cigarette — eg. 1 finger for ‘hit’, 2 fingers for ‘double down’ etc.
Ironically, despite the massive takings the gang was enjoying (hundreds of thousands per night, sometimes) their avarice was finally their comeuppance — they started short-changing the croupiers who were in on the scam, and the latter eventually informed on the gang to the FBI — who then set up an elaborate, and no doubt satisfying sting operation to catch them red-handed.
7)Â Â Saving the best till last — in all respects, in terms of amount scammed, technology used…and the fact that they have got away with it, as of the time of writing in any case.
This gang probably only consisted of 2 men — more than that we don’t know, as regards their identification, which is part of what makes them so successful of course.
The first man was inside the casino, ‘playing’, and only had a low-tech radio earpiece of the kind that could be bought inexpensively from any electronics store.
However his partner-in-crime did the techy stuff, as he was able to hack into the casino’s surveillance video network, and so, communicate to the player which cards had come up.
And the result? $33 MILLION Australian dollars in ‘winnings’ (it was at the high-rolling Crown casino after all).
That concludes our little look at the darker side of the casino/tech world — our best advice is that you learn from the mistakes of almost everyone listed here and under no circumstances try to emulate their escapades.
On the other hand, don’t let that put you off wearable tech! On the contrary — we encourage you to embrace it — in using reputable online casinos as listed here on Casino Daily News, for instance.
Who knows, you could see some legitimate big wins literally appear before your eyes in the not-to-distant future!