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American Roulette


American Roulette

First of all, I must confess that I know next to nothing about
gambling. I don't know the rules of any card games, and the
intricacies of games such as roulette and keno are lost upon me. My
experience in casinos is limited to dropping a quarter into a slot
machine and pulling a lever, and that is just for grins and
giggles. Accordingly, AMERICAN ROULETTE qualifies for me as a great
book, given that it deals with a topic that I know very little
about and makes it the subject of fascinating and compelling

AMERICAN ROULETTE is about gambling, but it is more about cheating
at gambling, or more specifically, systematically cheating at
casino gambling. Author Richard Marcus made a very nice living for
decades by cheating casinos. He is unapologetic about it; in fact,
he is quite proud of the methods he used. His justification appears
to be that casinos cheat their customers, so he is merely getting
his own back. This is arguably a self-serving view. Anyone entering
a casino has at least a rudimentary idea of whose side the laws of
chance reside; one either chooses to gamble or not. Philosophical
considerations aside, however, AMERICAN ROULETTE remains a
fascinating study in the hows and wherefores of casino cheating, as
well as casino security. Casinos, understandably, are not in the
business of losing money. While the individual scores that cheaters
like Marcus might inflict may individually be relatively small,
taken in the aggregate they could constitute death by a thousand
cuts. Casinos accordingly are quite interested in stanching the
flow and are constantly playing Tom to Marcus's larcenous

Marcus describes in AMERICAN ROULETTE how he first became involved
in casino cheating. He actually started off as a casino dealer. One
night he received an interesting proposition from a man named Joe
Classon. Classon offered Marcus a spot on his "team." The entire
purpose of Classon's team was to cheat casinos out of money. It
quickly becomes evident from reading AMERICAN ROULETTE that great
casino heists are not carried out individually. A well-disciplined,
well-oiled team is an absolute must for any chance of success.
Classon, from this account, had one of the best. He became teacher,
leader, mentor and father figure to Marcus, instructing him in the
methods of casino cheating and encouraging him to devise methods of
his own. Marcus for the most part does an incredible job of
explaining the methodology of both the games and the methods of
cheating that he utilized to beat the casinos. Notwithstanding my
unfamiliarity with such games as blackjack and roulette, there was
only a time or two during AMERICAN ROULETTE when I felt lost at

After Classon retired, however, Marcus began leading his own team
and utilized his potential as a casino thief to the fullest. Marcus
is quite straightforward in explaining his techniques. However,
though he does so in a step-by-step-manner, this is not a "how-to"
book. If anything, one who would seek to follow in Marcus's
footsteps would be dissuaded by AMERICAN ROULETTE. It is obvious
from reading the book that a casino thief requires a combination of
skills --- coordination, nerve, sleight of hand and patience ---
that is rarely found in combination in one individual.
Additionally, a successful casino thief needs at least one
assistant that can be totally trusted. And then, of course, there
are the casinos, which understandably frown on cheating. While the
days of cheaters being dry-gulched are reportedly over (and I'm not
entirely convinced of that) the legal penalties are quite severe.
Penalties can only be imposed, however, if one is caught; and even
then, as Marcus demonstrates in AMERICAN ROULETTE, they can be

Marcus waited until retirement to write his "tell-all" book, which
serves as an interesting counterpoint to the investigative
television shows one stumbles across randomly on cable television
that concern casino security. While technological advances have
made things more difficult for the Richard Marcuses of the gambling
world, they have not made it impossible. And while Marcus is hardly
a role model, his account is an interesting and often suspenseful
glimpse into a world of which relatively few are aware.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on January 20, 2011

American Roulette
by Richard Marcus

  • Publication Date: September 1, 2003
  • Genres: Nonfiction
  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books
  • ISBN-10: 0312291396
  • ISBN-13: 9780312291396