Surveillance video obtained by 10News reveals the methods used by a former Sycuan Casino dealer that raked in millions of dollars in one of the most elaborate card-cheating scams in modern history.
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When a team assembled by Phuong Quoc Truong, also known as Pai Gow John, visited a blackjack table at Sycuan in 2006, the FBI -- acting on a tip -- and the casino's surveillance chief were watching. The Sycuan Gaming Commission provided 10News with the results of that surveillance.
In 2002, Truong, then a dealer for Sycuan, was fired after being caught doing false shuffles -- a technique that was about to play out again.
The false shuffle is considered an old and simple con. The dealer, who is in on the con, waits until the last shuffle and pretends to shuffle. The corners of the cards are mixed, but the deck is not. A sound can be heard, but there is no shuffle, and the discarded cards -- in the exact order -- remain grouped together.
In the surveillance video, as the shuffle was happening, Truong's team was already place, including the big bettor.
Before the money is bet, the man who appears to simply be smoking a cigarette is really speaking into a hidden microphone in his sleeve and relaying the order of the discarded cards to a man sitting in a car.
The dealer then pretends to shuffle -- but doesn't -- and preserves the order of the cards.
It is unclear how, but the order is relayed back to the big bettor, who is playing two hands.
In blackjack, the goal is to get as close to 21 without going over. In one hand, the video showed the player getting a 13 and 14. Knowing which cards are coming, he hits and ends up with a 20 and 19, winning both hands.
In another hand, with the dealer showing a 10, the player decides to stay put at 16 -- a move experts would consider unusual.
Second later, however, the dealer goes over 21.
In less than 10 hands, Truong's team would win about $25,000, but it would be costly for the dealer, who was led out in handcuffs.
In the end, the entire ring stole some $7 million in 25 casinos before they were taken down.
"They were effective because they recruited well. They went around the country and convinced dealers to cheat for them," said Sycuan Casino's surveillance chief.
It is believed one of those dealers Truong tried to recruit notified the FBI.
"If you're going to try something like that, you are going to be on camera and you're going to be caught," said the surveillance chief.
Truong and most of his 30 accomplices pleaded guilty and are serving terms ranging from probation to nearly six years in prison for Pai Gow John.
Truong, as part of his deal, had to forfeit two homes in the San Diego area, a Porsche and a Rolex watch.
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