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Baccarat is revealed as a favourite of card sharks and cheats

11-Aug-2011 • Bond Style

Over the past year, casinos around the world have lost millions of dollars to baccarat cheats. Between the antics of the globe-trotting Cutters syndicate, the Chinese nationals who hacked auto-shuffler machines in Macau, and the South Korean duo who hid a card-switching device up a sleeve at the Foxwoods Resort Casino in Connecticut, baccarat has attracted some very shrewd con men and women. To understand why, it helps to know a bit more about the rules of the game.

A favorite pastime of James Bond, baccarat attracts high-rollers willing to make large bets – and it's easy to play. In the most common variant of "punto banco" baccarat, the game requires a gambler to make just one decision: whether to bet that the value of a "player" or "banker" hand of 2 or 3 cards will end up totalling closest to 9, with face cards counting as zero and aces as 1. Game outcomes are fixed by the cards dealt, and players make no decisions after the initial bet. There's no skill to it at all…unless a person cheats.

The "Cutters" syndicate preys on a tank-sized hole in the security protocols that most casinos apply to baccarat. As part of the tradition that has built up around the game, high-end players expect to participate in flamboyant, superstitious rituals. Gamblers may handle, fold, or blow on the cards. Many baccarat tables allow players to use a single card to cut the deck. The Cutters cheat by exploiting that ceremonial cut, surreptitiously riffling the deck with a finger and recording a section of the card order with a hidden camera.

At unnamed casinos in Macau, a gang of seven people repeatedly slipped doctored auto-shufflers onto the table while surveillance eyes were diverted elsewhere, until they were caught in March. At Foxwoods, the female accomplice Wookyung Kim would nuzzle close to her male partner Young Su Gy and otherwise block the view of casino personnel as he made switching cards look like he was idly shuffling his hand.

Read the complete story on popsci.com.

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