The gambling magicians who took on the casino

We were all wowed by the card manipulation cunning and predictive skills of the magicians. But can these tricks be successfully transferred to the casino? We’re investigating whether magicians are allowed in casinos in the first place, along with those magical men and women who did a study on how to get one into the house.

Are some magicians banned from casinos?

British illusionist Derren Brown has certainly fallen in love with a casino or two in his time. In 2013 he told the story of being banned from Birmingham casino when he attempted to play a few hands of blackjack. He took his rejection well, however, saying: “Over the years I’ve been banned from playing in most UK casinos so I wasn’t too surprised.” Perhaps the fact that one of his TV specials was called “How to Tear Down a Casino” was perhaps a red flag for some booth patrons.

The street magician Dynamo is also meant to be a non-free person on the casino floor; as a young teenager, he would be responsible for shuffle the cards so local gang members are guaranteed to win high stakes card games. Magician David Blaine is another who claims to have been banned from casinos around the world.

Now let’s look at some magicians who may be less familiar, but have used their skills to gain an edge on the casino gaming tables:

John Scarne (1903-1985): that’s where it all started, baby! Although never a gambler, this guy has dedicated his life to studying the methods and techniques of cheating through dice and card games, including Blackjack, and helping to prevent them in the casino. A leader ahead of his time, he was the first person who didn’t own a casino to really care about the effects of cheating on Regular Joes like you and me. His books – which are still considered not only relevant, but among the best – include Scarne on Cards (1949) and Scarne on Dice (1956). And if that’s not impressive enough, he doubled for the hands of Paul Newman in the movie The Sting!

Franck Garcia (1927-1993): considered a scam specialist, Garcia gave lectures to law enforcement and made television appearances to show off his skills and convey his message that gambling could be fraught with trouble. His three-shell trick was particularly famous, and his charismatic personality meant he always left his observers spellbound – and begging for more. His books include Marked Cards and Loaded Dice (1962), In a Nutshell (1974) and Don’t Bet On It (1978).

Richard Turner: known to be particularly impressive due to his nearly non-existent eyesight, Turner is a specialist in several playing techniques and earns his money with regular live performances that demonstrate his mastery of card tricks and knowledge. There’s no need to even try to cheat the casino when you have such skills! His most famous release is the DVD titled The Cheat.

Steve Fort: Considered one of the best card manipulators of all time, this guy is a living legend. A professional poker and blackjack player, as well as a casino dealer and consultant, this gifted man lives and breathes casino games and gambling. He’s an expert in scam detection, cheating techniques and casino monitoring – and he’s even a gambling historian (probably the best and most prolific in the world). His publications include Casino Game Protection (2004), Poker Protection (2006) and the Gambling Protection DVD series.

George Joseph: a regular face at all of Vegas’ biggest and most glamorous casinos, Joseph is a leading authority on cheating and an expert in all manner of casino games. He even went so far as to train law enforcement – ​​and made a fortune offering protection to casinos, rather than working his skills on the other side! His book Cheating in poker (2007) is still one of the most famous tomes on the subject, and its Cheating at Blackjack, Cheating at Craps and Cheating Las Vegas DVDs are still selling very well.

Would you help the casino monitor like these guys, or keep it yourself and hope someone from the monitoring team doesn’t catch your cheaters?

Brian L. Hartfield