After all, they don’t call Las Vegas – the world’s casino gambling mecca – “Sin City” for no reason. So long as you’re 21 years of age, the casino offers endless opportunity for risqué entertainment – with drinking, dancing, flirting, and of course, gambling ranked high on most visitors’ wish list.
But the carefree attitude cultivated by most casinos can have an odd impact on many individuals. Between the endorphin rush that comes with winning a wager, and the air of risk and wonder waiting around every corner, the casino can turn typically reasonable folks into rulebreakers.
And when you throw in the many forms of accidental faux pas that can affect any casino goer, a night spent gambling presents several social pitfalls to be dodged along the way.
Whether its breaching casino etiquette, or breaking the law, casino gamblers need to be cognizant of how to conduct themselves properly.
First of all, it’s just basic common sense to behave accordingly, because nothing ruins a casino trip quicker than a confrontation with security. Secondly, casino rookies can easily make mistakes that can conspire to ruin what should be a good time.
To avoid any trouble that might come your way, be sure to remember the following 7 things you should never do while gambling at the casino:
1 – Steal Chips from Players or the House
The oldest trick in the book is, unfortunately, outright theft.
Desperate times call for desperate measures, at least in the eyes of a down on their luck gambler. When somebody’s left with nothing to lose, the thought of thievery can easily be seen as the last resort.
That’s what happened to Las Vegas resident and gambler Stephen Gao back in 2011. Faced with mounting personal debts incurred while borrowing money from fellow players, Gao decided to make the ultimate gamble – robbing the casino.
Donning a fedora and a fake mustache for a disguise, the then 45-year old Gao brandished a handgun while scooping $33,000 in chips from Pai Gow Poker table. The heist ended, as these things always do, with Gao and his conspirators in cuffs The trio was charged with a litany of felonies, including burglary and robbery, both with a deadly weapon.
While robberies are an extreme event, broke players grab chips – either from fellow patrons or the dealer’s tray – with alarming regularity.
Last year a table games player in Australia lost the whole lot, then proceeded to snatch $125,000 in $5,000 chips from the dealer. He escaped the scene on foot, but was later arrested after CCTV footage linked him to the crime.
And in 2011, one of the most high-profile cases involving a casino loser striking back at the house went down on the Las Vegas Strip. After successfully robbing the Suncoast casino poker room for $18,000 in chips, local gambler Anthony Carleo decided to go for the gusto. After walking into the Bellagio casino wearing a motorcycle helmet, Carleo wielded a gun while scooping piles of high-denomination chips into his backpack.
Later on, Carleo realized he had $1.5 million in stolen chips, including $1 million worth of the $25,000 “cranberry” colored variety. He proceeded to live lavishly, at the Bellagio in fact, playing high-stakes games and spending with reckless abandon.
In an interview conducted from Nevada’s Lovelock Correctional Center – the same prison which once housed O.J. Simpson –Carleo, serving between three and 11 years for the robbery, told Rolling Stone magazine how a gambling addiction led to his downfall:
“At the table, Carleo fixated on a tall, skinny European kid in flip-flops and shorts who pulled $5,000 chips from a purple Crown Royal bag. Carleo knew he could take the kid, and he knew that if he could get his hands on that bag, the relentless pain that had overtaken him would stop.
The idea, Carleo says, ‘became like an infection in my brain.’”
The reporter who wrote Carleo’s prison profile, Keith Romer, then went on to explain the all too common temptation that casino chips offer losing players:
“There was, of course, another way for Carleo to get his hands on casino chips in a hurry. On every blackjack and paigow and craps table were hundreds of thousands of dollars, just sitting there.
It was a fantasy that has come to every gambler deep in the hole: What if I just reach across the table and grab them?”
As it turns out though, stealing chips when inside a casino is a fruitless and futile endeavor. This gamble offers a house edge of 100 percent thanks to the all-seeing “eye in the sky.” With hundreds of cameras trained on every table in the house, trying to palm another player’s bet, or lighten the cocktail server’s tip jar when she’s not looking, is essentially impossible.
Sure, a few lucky pickpockets may get away with their dirty deed here and there, but for every escapee, hundreds of thieves are caught, jailed, and banned from gambling there forever after.
And on a final note, even if you get away with stealing chips, you’ll have a tough time cashing them in without putting yourself on the casino’s radar.
Just ask Carleo, who found himself with 40 of the coveted Bellagio cranberry chips, each worth $25,000 – but with no way to cash them in without getting caught:
“More than a million dollars of what Carleo had stolen were cranberry-colored $25,000 chips, which were only easily convertible for the highest of high rollers.
Somewhere deep in the Bellagio’s computer system was a list of all the men and women who had ever gambled high enough stakes to have legitimately won so many big chips, but Carleo’s name was nowhere on that list.
He was smart enough to know that trying to cash a single cranberry chip would raise suspicions.”
Carleo’s caper came to an end when he foolishly discussed trading his cranberries for a lesser amount of smaller denomination chips. The Bellagio robbery was the talk of the town at that point, and poker players on the 2+2 forum engaged in a thread wondering how the bandit could ever cash in his big chips. Using the name “CranberryKid,” Carleo confessed to the robbery while trying to convince a poker pro to make the trade.
2 – Try to Cheat the Game
In a bygone era, cheating was to gamblers like swimming was to fish – they had to do it to survive.
But today, with advanced surveillance technology and an army of security staff protecting every casino, cheating the game is essentially impossible.
Don’t take the risk, or you’ll wind up like Archie Karas, a once legendary gambler and poker pro who at one point held every chip in the Binion’s Horseshoe casino. Today, however, Karas is just a disgraced cheat who has been added to Nevada’s infamous “Black Book” of gamblers banned for life.
3 – Enter the Pit or Any Restricted Areas
If you’re new to the casino floor, it can be difficult to get a grasp on where the “no-go” zones are located.
Obviously, doors marked “PRIVATE” or “STAFF ONLY” should be avoided out of hand, but when it comes to the floor itself, you’ll need to pay closer attention.
For table game players, the “pit” is the place at the center of a ring of tables, where staff members like dealers, pit bosses, and managers congregate. You’ll usually see a velvet rope or similar soft barrier to mark the boundary, but when it doubt, consider the dealer to be the last line of defense.
If you can see the dealer smiling your way, you’ll likely be in the clear. But go past the dealer and see their back turned, and you’re probably in the restricted pit area.
4 – Pull Chips Back, Add Them On, or Alter Your Bet
If stealing chips is the oldest trick in the casino gambler’s criminal repertoire, manipulating bets after the outcome is known must be a close second.
In gambling parlance, the act of “past posting” occurs when a player posts their wager after betting has concluded. The term has origins in horse racing, as unscrupulous punters in the 1930s would use telegraph cables to learn the result of recent races before betting big on the sure winner.
Would be when a roulette player drops a chip down on red or black after the croupier has waved and announced “no more bets.” In this case, the outcome hasn’t been revealed, but with the rules clearly calling for an end to betting upon the dealer’s wave, any wager placed afterward shouldn’t count.
A more egregious form of past posting can occur in many table games, including craps, baccarat, and blackjack. A player might bet two $25 chips on their blackjack hand, receive a blackjack, and then add another $25 chip on top before the dealer finishes passing out cards. When the dealer’s attention returns to paying out the blackjack, one who isn’t careful can be fooled into paying back on the $75 they see.
This positive form of past posting doesn’t have to take place when the result is known either, as players can increase the bet when the situation is merely favorable. A common instance would be a blackjack player adding to their bet after catching a 9 to the dealer’s 3. They haven’t won the hand quite yet, but they are big favorites, so past posting in this spot gives them a chance to win more than they deserve.
In the reverse, a practice known as “pinching” sees players try to reduce their wager when they’ve already lost. Using the same examples as above, you might slide a chip back from your bet when the dealer’s scanner alerts for blackjack, or cut your wager in half after catching a 3 to the dealer’s 9.
Bet manipulation is one of the most common casino crimes committed by gamblers of every caliber. Casual and recreational players usually do so out of drunken recklessness, while high-rollers might mistakenly believe they’re entitled to get over on the game.
In July of this year, former NBA basketball player Charles Oakley was caught past posting by Cosmopolitan casino staff. According to a police report filed after Oakley’s arrest, the former New York Knick legend pulled back a single $100 chip after losing a hand of blackjack. He was also caught on camera adding chips to a pair of winning bets, according to the Nevada Gaming Control Board (NGCB).
In a report written by Michael Lawton – a senior research analyst for the NGCB – the regulator confirmed that Oakley had been charged with “committing or attempting to commit a fraudulent act in a gaming establishment.
In his report, Lawton clarified the nature of Oakley’s misconduct vis a vis bet manipulation:
“Mr. Oakley was suspected of adding to or reducing his wager on a gambling game after the outcome was known.”
The snafu was no laughing matter, even for player of high-roller and celebrity status like Oakley. The basketball big man was booked into Clark County Detention and charged with a felony count, one which called for a prison sentence ranging from one to six years, along with a $10,000 fine.
After his arrest, Oakley told the press that the chip stealing ordeal was much ado about nothing:
“The truth always comes out, right?
The truth always comes out, and that’s all I’ve really got to say.”
Despite the denial, Oakley wound up pleading no contest to a lesser charge, effectively putting the matter to bed.
“Mr. Oakley has pled no contest to the simple misdemeanor charge of disorderly conduct which fully resolves this situation.”
5 – Harass Players, Dealers, Servers, or Staff
Casino gambling can get the adrenaline going, and unfortunately for many men, the testosterone too.
With scantily clad women dispensing free cocktails, and liquid “courage” flowing, incidents of harassment are far too common on the gaming floor. And it’s not just men either, as bachelorette parties that get out of hand can spill over in much the same way.
In any event, do the right thing and treat fellow gamblers and casino staff the same way you’d want your sibling or significant other to be treated.
6 – Expose Yourself in Any Way, Shape, or Form
You’d think this word of warning wouldn’t be needed, and anywhere else but the casino, it probably wouldn’t.
But when complimentary cocktails and the Carnival-like atmosphere of the casino floor are combined, even the most milquetoast among us can be persuaded to let loose. Just run a quick Google search for “casino + indecent exposure” and you’ll pull up countless stories of drunken debauchery gone awry.
People who go streaking, or skinny dipping in the hot tub, or maybe even flashing their unmentionables. Like they say, what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas…
Well, unless you’re caught doing the dirty during a ride on the High Roller observation wheel. This Ferris wheel attraction located near Bally’s and The Linq along the Las Vegas Strip sends riders on a circular trip while housed in glass bubbles. But while the views of the city skyline are supposed to be the draw, one amorous couple took things to the next level in February of 2016 – baring their bodies to the world, among other acts.
You can read more about the star-crossed lovers’ aerial adventure here, but sufficed to say, exposing yourself anywhere on casino property other than your room is grounds for immediate arrest. Casinos may be carefree when it comes to couples and courting, but the basic rules of society still apply, so you should always keep your private parts exactly that.
And this rule shouldn’t be limited to sexual acts either. After drinking your third yardstick-length margarita of the day, a long walk from one casino to the next might confront you with nature’s call. That’s to be expected, but when you need to use the restroom, make sure to find an actual restroom.
Urinating outside, or in any place other than a toilet, might seem like a convenient fix – but it’s not worth the trouble.
Just ask famous poker pro and WSOP bracelet winner Antonio Esfandiari, better known as “The Magician” to fans of TV shows like High Stakes Poker and the World Poker Tour (WPT).
In January of 2016, while competing at the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure (PCA) tournament series in the Bahamas, Esfandiari found himself engaged in an interesting prop bet. Billionaire and high-stakes poker enthusiast Bill Perkins, a longtime friend of Esfandiari, challenged him to “lunge” everywhere he went for the next 48 hours.
If he could survive the physical toll, Esfandiari would win $50,000, all without putting up a penny in return. He lunged all over the massive Atlantis Resort property, all while playing the PCA Main Event – until he needed to go #1, that is. While still playing in the tournament, and with his legs in agony due to all the lunging, Esfandiari decided to do the unthinkable. Using a water bottle held under the table, he relieved himself right then and there, to the shock and horror of his tablemates.
PokerStars immediately disqualified the well-known pro from the event, as communications specialist Eric Hollreiser later confirmed in a statement:
“Following a violation of our tournament rules for players participating in the PCA, Antonio Esfandiari was disqualified from the main event.
We do not expect to provide any further details on this issue.”
As for Esfandiari, he did win that $50,000 from Perkins – the sum was later donated to charity in an attempt to make amends – but his reputation took a bit hit after the indecent incident. He wound up posting a public apology to the poker world:
“I can sit here and try to explain and justify but at the end of the day my actions were completely unacceptable.
What’s done is done. All I can do is learn from my mistakes and grow from them. I have apologized to anyone and everyone who may have been affected and will continue to do so.
I cannot explain the pain I felt in my legs. I did what I thought was the best play at the time. Looking back now I realize it was a terrible judgment call on my behalf.
I am embarrassed of the actions I took to win that bet.”
Nobody wants to be “that guy” or “that girl” – the sloppy mess who can’t even keep their pants on during a trip to the casino – so keep your composure by avoiding any inkling of indecent exposure.
7 – Play Keno, the Big Wheel, or Any Other Sucker Game
With the first six entries devoted to protecting casinos from a player’s potential shenanigans, it’s only right to offer a word of advice to help gamblers gain an edge on the house.
It doesn’t matter if you’ve never gambled before, or you’re just there to have fun – avoid games like keno, the “Big Six” wheel, and other carnival games like the plague. These games are designed to favor the house so heavily that they’re practically stealing from players.
To with, the average house edge on the Big Six wheel stands at 18-22 percent, while a keno bet comes to 25-29 percent. That’s on par with most lottery games like Powerball, you know… the ones with 1 in a zillion odds to win.
On the other hand, a hand of blackjack can be played at only 0.50 percent house edge – less than 1 percent mind you – just by using basic strategy. And even double-zero roulette wheels, known as a “bad” game to most gamblers, offers a 5.26 percent rate.
All things considered, by removing these two games from your casino experience, you’ll immediately give yourself a legitimate chance to break even or win over the short term. Blackjack, video poker, roulette, and even the slots can be beaten with a little luck, but keno and the wheel game are nothing but money pits.
Some things people do in a casino are illegal, and some are just wrong. Avoid doing these seven things in a casino and you can avoid getting arrested or asked to leave.