Learn how to legally defeat a casino game – whether through the relatively harmless process of card counting or with a play as brazen as Kelly Sun's multi-million-dollar edge sorting maneuver – and you'll learn that being asked to leave casinos is an occupational danger.
Back-offs and 86s are expected by advantage players as a result of ruthlessly taking down the house.
“If they're not throwing you out, you're doing something wrong,” world-class horse handicapper Bill Benter once told.
However, being included in the so-called Black Book, a list of persons who are legally forbidden from visiting the premises of any gaming establishment in the state of Nevada, is something quite else. For starters, entry into the Book is often associated with a heinous crime.
It's a particular circle of casino hell, according to Anthony Curtis, founder of Las Vegas Advisor and a former advantage gamer himself. “It elevates undesirables to the Nth level,” Curtis adds. “There are many degrees of backing off. This is the pinnacle. You are not being denied by a casino. You are being pushed out of an industry.“
The Nevada Gaming Control Board Excluded Person List, often known as the Black Book, was established in 1960. The Black Book, formerly an actual book bound in black covers – though different colors have been used throughout the years – is a list of criminals, casino cheats, scam artists, and other unsavoury characters who, it is claimed, cause damage to casinos just by being present. Mobster Sam Giancana, who allegedly had links to the CIA, obtained control of casinos such as Sands and Desert Inn, and demonstrated himself to be a prolific skimmer of earnings, was one of the first criminals included in the Book.
According to history, the Black Book was established to help the gambling business persuade the American Congress that it could adequately regulate itself and keep criminal elements off of gaming floors.
A copy of an early Black Book, which started with a list of only 11 undesirables, is on display at the Mob Museum in Las Vegas, open to the page of small but ultra-violent mobster Tony “The Ant” Spilotro. The most recent additions to the Book, which now has 35 entrants, are Anthony Grant Granito and James Russell Cooper. Both convicted of scamming the Bellagio out of some $1.2 million, they made it last November.
After the dice landed, the two guys put their bets with the help of a croupier. Of course, this makes craps a simple game to master. So simple, in fact, that they overcame 452-billion to 1 odds in odder to harvest their seven-figure winnings. A grand jury found them guilty of stealing and cheating and sentenced the two men to at least four years in jail. However, the Nevada Gaming Control Board went a step further by including them in the Black Book, which is now available online and includes pictures, last known homes, and, of course, the crimes.
For some cheats, getting into the Black Book is such a burden that they would rather go to jail if it means they can defeat the Book. One gaming expert recalls a recent con man who was well-known for marking cards at the blackjack table. “He was detained at home, and the man had a mini-factory for making daubs (the dye used to mark cards), cheating equipment, and disguises,” one source explains. “He make a livelihood robbing casinos and didn't want to be barred from entering them.”
He apparently agreed to spend jail time in exchange for being kept out of the Black Book. “He would have preferred that,” the insider said. “But he didn't receive it, and now he can't enter a Nevada casino.” He pled guilty to felony burglary and earned probation, as well as his place in the Book.
While getting into the Black Book is difficult - entering the rogue's gallery requires doing something that genuinely offends the powers that be at the Nevada Gaming Control Board – getting out is much more difficult. The majority of individuals who escape the Book do so by dying. Giving up gambling would also not help. According to the “Las Vegas Review Journal,” the only living OG of the Black Book was Los Angeles-based crime leader Louis Thomas Dragna. He died in 2012, at the age of 92, and with his death, he broke free from the Book.
But what's it's like to be in the Black Book? Surprisingly, it appears that most members of the deceitful cult — with the exception of the above-mentioned cheater – don't hate being there all that much.
For starters, by the time you do anything infamous enough to make it into the Book, you're probably already a persona not grata in most casinos. In certain circles, inclusion in the Black Book is effectively an advertising for one's shady skills. According to professional card-marker William Gene Land, "being in the Book was a badge of pride." When I carried my cup, it opened up a lot of doors for me - if you know what I mean.”
He implies that he was able to collaborate with very profitable card-marking teams that were operating outside of the Book's sphere of influence. Despite professing to be out of the cheating business – “I'm retired; I sit home and play with my grandchildren” - Land gained millions through organizing plays. He says, "I couldn't go inside a Nevada casino." “However, there were plenty of games available outside of the United States.”