Nightmares happen in our industry all the time. The following is a scenario that could happen in your casino. Please read through this narrative and determine how you would prevent this same situation from happening. The following story is “loosely” based on a real incident. This narrative is meant to help educate, and not to embarrass any parties who were involved.
Robert the Table Games Manager (7:45 PM)
Robert, the Table Games Manager at the Acme Casino had just learned about the big hit on its baccarat game. I mean big hit; to the tune of $500,000. James, the Casino Shift Manager, had waited until the end of the baccarat shoe before letting him know it was a big number. “Why didn’t you call me earlier?” asked the table games manager. He knew the answer, though. At the Acme Casino upper management was prone to “shooting the messenger” of bad news. “Was everything on the up and up?” he asked. The shift manager hesitated. That was a bad sign. “Well, the betting patterns were a little unusual. I’ve never seen a shoe where the players won on practically every hand”, commented the shift manager. “Oh, and the sequence of cards seemed a little strange…almost like the cards weren’t shuffled”.
Panic seized Robert. He reached for the phone to surveillance. “I need to speak to George immediately.” When George, the Director of Surveillance, came on the line, he was already working on reviewing the $500,000 losing shoe. “Sorry, this just came to my attention. We are reviewing the shoe now starting with the…with the…Oh, my God”, stammered George. “Robert, I need you to come to surveillance right away and see this. We’re in big trouble”.
Mark the Dealer (6:00 PM - Two hours earlier)
Mark was assigned to open baccarat #2 at 6:00 PM. Before he left the dealer’s room, he put a meal time order in for 6:20 PM, his next assigned break time. After sitting down on the baccarat table, the floor supervisor Charlie gave Mark sixteen decks of cards; 8 blue and 8 red. Mark then proceeded to open the blue decks, spread them across the layout in a long arch, and inspected them for sequence. Once he was done checking the blue cards and after placing them into the discard holder, he did the same with the red cards.
The casino’s procedure dictated that the dealer spread and inspect the new decks prior to shuffling. To save time, the casino instructed the dealer to place the first eight decks of inspected cards directly into the MD shuffling machine. Even though the MD shuffling machine was an old version, it shuffled the new decks of cards more than adequately for the game of baccarat. Since the cards were not pre-shuffled or washed before being placed in the shuffler, as a “fail-safe” measure, the casino required the floor supervisor (not the dealer) to activate the shuffling process by pressing the “green” button once the dealer loaded the first eight decks into the shuffling machine.
After Mark inspected the second eight deck batch, he inserted them into the shuffling machine, and called out to the floor supervisor, “Charlie, shuffle on Baccarat two!” Charlie replied that he would be right there. Mark checked his watch and saw that it was 6:21 PM. His relief was running late as usual. As Susan entered the baccarat pit area, Mark stood up, clapped out, and headed for the dealer’s lounge. Susan sat down and noted that two baccarat players had also set down and were ready to start play. Susan looked at the cards in the discard holder, and then back at the cards in the shuffling machine. Obviously, Mark was in such a rush that he hadn’t offered the cards for cutting. Susan proceeded to offer the cards for cutting, and after the cut, placed them in the dealing shoe. Next she removed the cards in the discard holder, placed them into the MD shuffler, and called out to Charlie for a shuffle. “I told you I’ll be right there”, stated Charlie. He was presently involved in issuing a marker to one of the casino’s better customers, and would get to it in a moment.
Mary the Floor supervisor (6:40 PM)
Mary was assigned to relieved Charlie at his baccarat station. He quickly briefed her on the customers he had on the three baccarat games he was assigned. It was Charlie’s opinion that three baccarat games with the player ratings and marker action were close to impossible to cover adequately, especially when servicing Asian customers. Mary concurred. Charlie also mentioned that a number of the players had jumped over to baccarat #2 from the other two games, but he was unable to spend any time observing their play. He had noted that several of the customers had bought in for $5,000 markers, and were starting to bet the $2,000 limit.
After Charlie left, Mary quickly scanned the chip float of the table games. She noted that baccarat #2 was missing $20,000 in yellow thousand dollar chips, but she reasoned that it must be from the markers and/or cash buys on the table. After completing the float review she was able to take a moment to observe the table play and adjust necessary player average bets in the player rating system.
For the next 15 minutes Mary watched as table #2 filled up with players. There seemed to be a lot of commotion and chatter among the players between hands. She also noted that the customers all wagered on either the Player or Banker side; no one wagered opposite of the group. She was also running out of $1,000 and now $5,000 chips.
What Mary hadn’t realized at this point was an unusual sequencing of the cards drawn from the shoe on baccarat #2. Unfortunately, the baccarat customer had, and the information was starting to pass around the baccarat pit like a wildfire.
After issuing a fill for more chips, Mary contacted the casino shift manager, James to inform him of the losses sustained on baccarat #2. To the best of her ability, Mary had determined that the loss on the game had just exceeded $150,000. This was quite unusual for a game with a $2,000 limit, but by now practically all the customers at the table were wagering table limit.
As the chip fill was being placed on the table, Susan, the dealer, mentioned something she thought was unusual. “Mary, maybe it’s just me, but do the cards appear to be grouped together in suits? The last hand I dealt was a zero-zero tie hand with almost all the cards clubs”. Mary reflected on this statement, and recalled that all the customers had wagered on the “Tie” bet as well. Mary reached for the pit phone. She needed to get James over here immediately.
Thomas the Surveillance operator (7:00 PM)
Thomas had received a call from the pit earlier that baccarat #2 was losing in excess of $150,000, but he had been tied up investigating a customer’s lost wallet. He finally was able to switch to the fix camera above baccarat #2 to observe the play on his monitors. He also brought up an area PTZ camera so he also had an overall view of the table and area surrounding the game. Thomas immediately noticed that the level of play on the table was at a maximum level with $2,000 being wagered on all eight betting positions. He found this quite odd. Usually with maximum play on a game there were only two or three players. What he saw on baccarat #2 resembled more of a jostling match with as many as twenty customers arguing about who would place the next wager. Thomas also noticed that the players always wager on the same bet, did not follow the shoe or any other standard betting pattern, and were consistently betting on the winning outcome.
Then Thomas noticed something really strange; the cards appeared almost in suited sequence. The last hand observed held four heart suited cards; Player hand stood with a two hearts/four hearts, and was beaten by the Banker hand of three hearts/five hearts. Thomas couldn’t believe what he was watching. Could the cards in the shoe be in sequence? On the next hand, he watched as the Player hand received six hearts/eight hearts, the Banker hand received seven hearts/nine hearts, and the third card drawn to the Player hand was…you guessed it, ten of hearts.
Thomas’s hand flew to the phone on his console. He had to contact George his director immediately. George needed to see this. Hopefully he would know what to do. At this rate, baccarat #2 was losing about $16,000 on each round.
James the Casino Shift Manger (7:15 PM)
James couldn’t believe his eyes. He’d never seen a game lose money this quickly before. Baccarat #2 was now down over $400,000. The only thing that was slowing down the hemorrhaging was the time it took for the latest fill to go on the game. Mary turned to James and wanted to know what to do. James was still in shock. How could this have happened? Did the dealer and floor supervisor who opened the game fail to shuffle the cards? How could this have happened on a machine shuffled game?
James also noted that there were two of the casino’s bigger baccarat customers on the table. He had run-ins with marketing regarding these two customers before. Marketing’s instructions were to do anything management can do to keep these players in the casino. Even the Table Games Manager told him not to do anything to upset these customers.
For the last 15 minutes James had been watching this calamity knowing full well the chance that the cards had not gone through the shuffling process was extremely high. Mary had asked him on several occasions if he should stop the game in the middle of the shoe. James knew if he did, it would anger the players, and marketing would be at his throat. He had to formulate a response that would keep him out of trouble. The best way to do this was through denial. Since he was the casino “shift manager”, he was responsible for the entire casino. Subsequently, the baccarat pit was only a small section of his area of responsibility. He could easily justify placing any blame on the floor supervisor and dealer. This angle of reasoning might not keep him totally out of trouble, but it probably wouldn’t cost him his job. James decided to place a call to the Table Games Director only after the shoe was complete.
Personally, I don’t have a problem with the management procedure for introducing new cards and their initial shuffling procedure. However, accidents and mistakes do happen. Although we all know that an un-shuffled card pattern would stick out like a sore thumb in baccarat, many line employees are not focusing on this possibility. They are more concerned about carrying on their assigned job functions. Very few people in our industry are trained to think “outside the box”. [Note: I took two decks in new deck order, cut them at a random point, and dealt out a number of hands of baccarat. My wife, a school teacher, was watching me call hands, and commented that the cards appear to be in sequence. If a novice can spot this pattern, why didn’t the experienced person catch it as well?]
My problem lies with management’s inability to take corrective measures about this situation once it was realized what had happened. Unfortunately, our industry is quick to assign blame instead of rewarding initiative. The Casino Shift Manager could have stopped this situation prior to losing the entire $500,000, but was reluctant to do so based on pressure placed by upper management and marketing to “appease the customer”. Allowing your middle level management personal some autonomy without worry of retribution will probably result in more positive outcomes. It would certainly have an effect in this situation. Comments?