Cheating and dishonesty are generally frowned upon in civilized society. I know that might be a blazing hot take, but I put it out there. This is why I have always found it bizarre that a solid percentage of people – a majority, maybe? – think it’s perfectly cool to try to get one over on casinos. Someone figured out how to dupe a slot machine? Kudos! It is not often, though, that we see a casino dealer get involved in the cheating, which is exactly what happened last year at the MGM National Harbor Casino in Maryland. Ming Zhang, a baccarat dealer, has recently pleaded guilty to his crime.

Baccarat, Explained Poorly

Baccarat resembles blackjack (kind of) in that the player and dealer each get dealt two cards, can take another, and try to get as close as they can to a key number. There are significant differences, though. For one, the player doesn’t actually play against the dealer; the gambler in this case simply bets on which hand – the dealer’s or the players’ – will win. In baccarat, cards less than ten are worth their face value. Tens and paint cards are worth zero. The two cards at each spot (player and dealer) are added up and the one’s digit of the sum is the total value. Thus, a two and five are worth seven, while an eight and nine are also worth seven.

If either the player or dealer is dealt a pair of cards worth eight or nine, the game is over and winning bets are paid. If not, a set of rules dictates if either the player or dealer is given one more card. After that, whichever hand is the highest wins. Ties can be bet on, as well.

It’s a Bold Strategy, Cotton

So it would be VERY valuable to know what cards are coming, right? If you knew one hand was going to be dealt two fours, that would be some important information, correct? Yeah, well, that’s exactly what happened in this case. Zhang – the dealer, remember – allegedly showed a player accomplice a part of the deck. That player then took a picture of it, which I would assume would be in order to remember what cards were shown. The player – and possibly others – then used that information to place their bets.

In total, the dealer and his accomplice cheated the MGM National Harbor Casino out of $1,046,560 last September. This may not have been the first time he did this, either. Court filings show that he was present when someone else did this at a different casino and was later paid $1,000. He demanded more and was approached by investigators about it the next day, but denied any involvement.

Zhang has pleaded guilty one count of conspiring to transport stolen funds and faces up to five years behind bars. He is scheduled to be sentenced on January 31st.

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