Simple scheme didn’t last long

32-year old ex-casino dealer Ming Zhang was sentenced to 18 months in prison last week for leading a cheating scheme that bilked Maryland’s MGM National Harbor out of more than $1 million. He was also hit with three months supervised release after he completes his prison term.

Zhang was a baccarat dealer and in September 2017, he played the role of facilitator in the plot to steal from his employer. He told a co-conspirator when he was going to work and when the accomplice arrived at the table, Zhang showed him part of the deck. How he was able to do so without anyone noticing is above my pay grade, but he did it.

The accomplice then took a picture of the cards, presumably as a way to remember them, and proceeded to make massive bets.

Baccarat is beatable when you’re clairvoyant

Even if you don’t know anything about baccarat, you might guess that knowing what cards are coming in a casino game is highly beneficial. But let’s talk about how the game works, anyway.

Both the dealer and player are dealt two cards. Tens and face cards are worth zero while everything else is worth its numerical value. The cards in each hand are added up and then the ones digit is used as the score. Whichever score is higher – dealer or player – wins. A score of eight or nine with just two cards is an automatic win. There are also rules which allow for either the player or dealer to get another card in certain situations.

The betting simply on which position will win. The player is not competing directly against the dealer. The gambler can bet on the dealer’s hand every time if she so chooses.

Back to the scam at hand, it is very apparent how having knowledge of the cards before they are dealt is a massive advantage. One can bet virtually perfectly in that case, similar to how it might work in blackjack.

Zhang also helped run the scheme at another Maryland casino, but details of where exactly that was were not disclosed. What is known is that at some point between July 2017 and September 2017, Zhang was there when a co-conspirator ran the scheme at that second casino. Zhang took a payment of $1,000 after meeting with that co-conspirator at a nearby hotel.

Zhang later asked for more money from one of his accomplices, but he never got it, as investigators questioned him the next day. He said he had nothing to do with the cheating.

Zhang has also been ordered to pay full restitution. He pleaded guilty in September 2018 to conspiring to transport stolen funds and was facing up to five years in prison.

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