We have all been wowed by the card-handling trickery and predictive skills of magicians. But can these sleights of hand transfer successfully to the casino floor? We investigate whether magicians are allowed in casinos in the first place, as well as those magic men and women who have made a study of how to get one over on the house.
Are Any Magicians Banned from Casinos?
British illusionist Derren Brown has certainly fallen foul of a casino or two in his time. In 2013 he recounted a story of being banned from a Birmingham casino when he attempted to play a few hands of blackjack. He took his rejection well though, saying: ‘Over the years I’ve has been banned from playing at most of the UK’s casinos, so I wasn’t unduly surprised.’ Perhaps the fact that one of his TV specials was entitled ‘How to Take Down a Casino’ was a red flag for some pit bosses.
Street magician Dynamo is also purportedly a persona non gratis on the casino floor; as a young teen he would be tasked to shuffle cards so that members of the local gangs would be guaranteed to win high-stake card games. Magician David Blaine is another who claims to have been banned from casinos across the globe.
Let’s now take a look at some magicians who may be less familiar, but who used their skills to get an advantage on the casino gaming tables:
John Scarne (1903-1985): this is where it all started, baby! Although he was never a gambler, this guy dedicated his life to studying cheating methods and techniques across dice and card games including Blackjack, and helping to prevent them on the casino floor. A leader ahead of his time, he was the first person that wasn’t a casino owner to really give a bother about the effects of cheating on Regular Joes like you and me. His books – which are still considered not only relevant, but some of the best – include Scarne on Cards (1949) and Scarne on Dice (1956). And if that isn’t impressive enough, he doubled for Paul Newman’s hands in the film The Sting!
Franck Garcia (1927-1993): seen as a scam specialist, Garcia provided lectures for law enforcement agencies and made television appearances to show his skill and convey his message that gambling could be laden with problems. His three-shell trick was particularly famous, and his charismatic personality meant he always left his watchers spellbound – and wanting more. His books include Marked Cards and Loaded Dice (1962), In a Nutshell (1974) and Don’t Bet On It (1978).
Richard Turner: known as being particularly impressive because of his almost non-existent eyesight, Turner is a specialist in a number of gambling techniques, and makes his money with regular live performances that demonstrate his mastery of card tricks and knowledge. There’s no need to even try and cheat the casino when you have this guy’s skill! His most famous release is the DVD called The Cheat.
Steve Forte: 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 fellow lives and breaths casino games and gambling. He’s an expert when it comes to scam detection, cheat techniques and casino surveillance – and he’s even a gambling historian (possibly the world’s best and most prolific). His publications include Casino Game Protection (2004), Poker Protection (2006) and the Gambling Protection DVD Series.
George Joseph: a regular face in all of the biggest and most glamorous Vegas casinos, Joseph is a leading authority in the cheating business and an expert in all manner of casino games. He’s even gone so far as to train law enforcement agencies – and has made his fortune by offering his protection to casinos, rather than working his skills on the other side! His book Poker Cheating (2007) is still one of the most famous tomes on the subject, and his DVDs Cheating at Blackjack, Cheating at Craps and Cheating Las Vegas are still hot sellers.
Would you help the casino with surveillance like these guys, or would you keep it yourself and hope one of the surveillance team didn’t pick up on your cheats?