Many blockbuster movies like Ocean’s Eleven and 21 have been inspired by notable casino heists; however, unlike their fictionalized versions these criminals typically don’t get away unscathed.
Below are several heists that have made headlines throughout the gambling industry due to their daring and unconventional nature, making headlines everywhere from newspapers to YouTube. Here are just a few: 1.
1. The MIT Blackjack Team
Casino cheating could not be written about without including mention of the legendary MIT Blackjack Team, composed of maths geniuses who used card counting techniques to turn blackjack play into massive profits.
Kevin Spacey and Laurence Fishburne star in a 2008 movie chronicling their team, 21. While critics were harsh in their review, it became an audience hit and grossed over $157 Million worldwide.
As the team expanded, more players joined, eventually making it a full-time operation for some members. They played at casinos in Las Vegas and Atlantic City as well as Native American casinos.
Spotters were used to alert Big players when tables became very heated, prompting them to sit down at and place large wagers until it was decided the table had calmed down. Spotters needed a thorough knowledge of card counting mathematics as well as plenty of self-control.
2. The Biker Bandit
Last December, when Bike Bandit stole $1.5 million worth of high-denomination chips from Bellagio Poker Room, it made international headlines. Security footage captured Carleo jogging through casino on his way back out wearing coveralls and motorcycle helmet before jumping on his motorcycle to flee back outside and hitchhike back home – similar to Ocean’s Eleven movie plot.
Carleo then fled the Bellagio and went directly to Suncoast Casino, where he stole $19,000 more before police caught up with him and sentencing him Tuesday to between nine and 27 years in prison for both casino heists.
Carleo had planned on turning chip stealing into a legitimate career; unfortunately, reality took the opposite turn and bite back hard. Read Rolling Stone’s account of Carleo’s criminal endeavor here; additionally it provides insight as to why Carleo’s bankruptcy trustee, an independent lawyer appointed on behalf of creditors, has begun performing discovery on him – an unusual practice which may suggest something amiss with Carleo’s claims.
3. The Crown Casino Heist
An unprecedented heist occurred at Melbourne’s Crown Casino when an overseas high roller broke through security to gain entry. They utilized hacking tools to gain entry and successfully managed an eight hand winning streak at the card tables before leaving with $32 Million!
Jose Vigoa had already committed a series of casino and armoured truck heists prior to this one, yet mishandled it by failing to wear a mask during robbery – leading security cameras to spot him as soon as it began and eventually arresting and sentencing him with a 500 year sentence for his crimes.
Bill Brennan was a long-term employee at Stardust Casino when in 1992, he orchestrated one of the greatest heists ever. On his lunch break he fled with $500,000 worth of cash and chips heist, never returning and currently listed by the FBI as “most wanted.”
4. Heather Tallchief
Heather Tallchief began working for Loomis Armored when she turned 21, driving an armored vehicle that delivered money to Las Vegas casinos. On October 1st 1993 she made an impulsive decision: to rob Circus Circus casino hotel of $3.1 million before fleeing. Both money and truck vanished without trace and Tallchief spent 12 years living as an outcast.
Popular culture made the story even more iconic by being used as the inspiration behind Ocean’s Eleven and Catwoman films. Heist is an epic documentary series which follows this real-life case and its director Derek Doneen chose to hide Tallchief’s identity by casting an actress to portray her, something which ultimately proved beneficial.
Heist provides her with several advantages, including protection from Roberto Solis (her former flame who remains at large) as well as providing evidence that Tallchief gave birth while on the run and has since reintegrated into society and works as a nurse. After 12 years had passed since her heist she surrendered and served 63 months in jail before finally surrendering in 2005 to serve out the remainder of her sentence.