The $1m Craps Cheat



An astonishing saga has recently come to an end with four of the most audacious casino crooks in history finally facing justice with each of them receiving a jail sentence of eight years. Over the course of their crime spree they amassed over a million dollars and, as with nearly all casino crime capers, they only got rumbled when their greed got the better of them.


Craps Cheat: How did they do it?

Mark Branco was a craps dealer at the world famous Bellagio casino on the Vegas Strip. When the tables got really busy and the pit bosses were unable to keep their eyes on every single move at the table, Mr Branco’s accomplices would wait for the right moment and then quickly make bets after the dice had already been rolled. Mr Branco would turn a blind eye to these late bets and on occasion would even make the bets himself and slide the winnings over to his accomplices, James Cooper, Anthony Granito, and Jeffrey Martin.

The key to the major part of the scam was that the craps table has no spot for what is known as hop bets. These are an oral agreement between the player and the dealer as to precisely which combination of numbers is going to be rolled. As there is no recording of the bets they depend on the dealer’s memory and, crucially, on his honesty. The four crooks took advantage of this by making vague oral bets that would then be paid out, vague enough that the pit bosses and other players were unable to distinguish what had been said. In the end, they were raking in as much money as they wanted each day.


Craps cheat: How were they caught?

One of the dealers on another table eventually became suspicious and alerted the casino managers. When they looked into the table history that particular day they realised that in order to win what the accomplices creamed off the casino that day they would have had to beat odds of over 450 billion to one. They won the hop bet nineteen times in two hundred and thirty games and this was greedy enough to set the alarm bells ringing.

Why do they do it? Why do these cheats get greedy? If they had simply stuck to winning just a fraction above the expected odds then come back a few weeks later no one would ever notice! But the fact is that these guys had kept the scam going for two years before they were caught, so what perhaps started out carefully and methodically clearly snowballed under the lure of the greenback. Maybe two years was the threshold and their inner greed couldn’t be contained anymore? Perhaps there were squabbles within the group over how to split the cash? One thing’s for sure, they will have a long time in jail to think about what they’ve done, either to improve their technique for when they come out, to curtail their greed, or as is to be hoped, to repent from their deceitful ways and turn into wholesome members of society!