FBI catches casino cheaters who pocketed over US$1m

Two men have been jailed in the US after taking part in a casino cheating scandal in the state of...
Jack Quann
Jack Quann

16.23 17 Jan 2020

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FBI catches casino cheaters wh...

FBI catches casino cheaters who pocketed over US$1m

Jack Quann
Jack Quann

16.23 17 Jan 2020

Share this article

Two men have been jailed in the US after taking part in a casino cheating scandal in the state of Maryland.

The FBI says a card dealer and a player conspired to cheat two casinos out of more than US$1m.

After just a few hours of playing baccarat in September 2017, Chenguang Ni headed home to New York with more than US$850,000 (€766,319) in winnings.


The odds of winning any given hand of baccarat stand at just under 50% - but Ni and his tablemates won an astounding 18 of 21 hands, including one run of 14 straight wins.

The next day, the casino called the FBI allegeding that Ni had cheated.

They also suspected that one of their dealers had likely helped him, but Ming Zhang denied any involvement when questioned by the casino.

"The casino knew there had been cheating," said FBI Special Agent Jason Bender. "What wasn't known was exactly how the player did it."

Baccarat games are played with eight decks of cards.

The dealer - called the banker -typically spreads the cards on the table to show the players that they are standard decks, shuffles them and then places them into a holding container for play.

casino cheaters Image: FBI

The banker then deals two cards to the player position and two cards to the bank position.

A player bets on whose hand will come closest to nine - the player or the banker - or if they will tie.

There is only a single player hand no matter how many players are at the table, and extra cards are dealt out only under certain circumstances.

A player who knew the order of the cards in the deck could predict the outcome of each game.

The casino concluded that Ni must have known the order of the cards.

By reviewing surveillance footage and conducting interviews, FBI agents confirmed that Ni had convinced the other gamblers at the table to follow his lead that night.

The unwitting accomplices were given money by Ni and told to bet along with him and then hand over their winnings at the end of the game.

Soon after, the casino dealer also confessed to his role in the scheme.

Zhang, who worked at two Maryland casinos, admitted he met with Ni over the summer of 2017.

casino cheaters Players play at a casino on the Isle of Man in November 2000 | Image: NOBLE PHIL NOBLE/PA Archive/PA Images

The two men agreed that Zhang would alert Ni of his upcoming shifts at the casinos.

He also agreed to not shuffle a section of cards in the baccarat deck, after they had been fanned in front of players.

Ni found a way to use his phone to take images of the cards as they were fanned out.

Mr Bender explained: "Then he and the other gamblers he recruited would sit there for a while, playing smaller bets just to move the cards along and keep their seats."

During this time, Ni excused himself from the table several times to go to the bathroom to review images of the deck.

Bender said that Ni did not have to memorise each card in the unshuffled section of the deck - but only needed to recognise the sequence of cards that would signal the unshuffled cards had come up.

Then he just needed to remember the either/or sequence of the bets - as in player, banker, player, player.

Investigators learned the pair had also carried out a similar plan at another casino where Zhang previously worked.

Ni pleaded guilty to conspiracy to transport stolen funds and was sentenced to 13 months in prison.

Because Ni is not a legal resident of the United States, his case will be referred to US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) after he has served his sentence.

The dealer, Zhang, was fired from the casino and sentenced to 18 months in prison in December 2019.

He was also given three years of supervised release and ordered to pay restitution equal to the full amount of the illicit winnings.

In total, investigators found the pair cheated the casinos of US$1,046,560 (€943,372).

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Arrested Baccarat Casino Cheaters Casinos Chenguang Ni Fbi Jailed Maryland Ming Zhang Scam Special Agent Jason Bender US

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