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'Wizard of Odds' website on trial in casino cheating case

The "Wizard of Odds," a website compiled by a Las Vegas professor who has made a career of analyzing casino games, has been evoked several times this week at the trial of two New York City men accused of using marked cards to cheat Mohegan Sun out of hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Prosecutor Stephen M. Carney alleges that Hung Lit Leung, 63, and Leonard Hu, 50, gained up to a 21.53 percent advantage at mini-baccarat after convincing table games dealers to mark the 7, 8 and 9 cards. The state alleges the men increased their bets when they knew one of the favorable cards was about to be dealt.

On Monday, Mohegan Sun shift and pit manager Robert Gallagher demonstrated the game to jurors using a cloth layout, card shoe and other equipment provided by the casino and testified about the percentage advantages the defendants had allegedly gained by cheating.

Defense attorney Jeremiah Donovan, who represents Hu, asked Gallagher to turn over the notes he used to prepare for his testimony. Gallagher handed over a sheaf of papers, including printouts from the "Wizard of Odds" website detailing the mathematical advantage to mini-baccarat players who know when a 7, 8 or 9 is going to be dealt.

The "Wizard" is Michael Shackleford, a trained actuary well-known for his analysis of the math of casino games. According to his website, he is an adjunct professor of casino math at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. He could not immediately be reached to comment.

Gallagher testified that he had consulted the website, which he said is widely used and trusted in the industry, to refresh himself on the numbers. "The math is very complicated," Gallagher testified. "Ten years ago, you would have had to do some hard math. Today it's easily available on Google."

Gallagher said that knowing a 7 is coming out first gives a gambler an advantage of more than 7 percent. Knowing the top card is an 8 gives an advantage of more than 17 percent, and a 9 gives an advantage of more than 21.5 percent.

Surveillance investigation manager Mark Smith also testified that he consulted the "Wizard of Odds" while admitting he had never taken a statistics class and would not be able to calculate a mean, median or mode. Responding to questions from Donovan, Smith said he did not know who wrote the "Wizard of Odds" or whether it has been peer-reviewed.

"With the Internet, everything is readily available and the cheaters use it," Smith testified.

"So I guess it's peer-reviewed by cheaters," Donovan responded.

Donovan and attorney Conrad Seifert, who represents Leung, were trying to block Smith from testifying as an expert on advantage betting in mini-baccarat.

"To come in and say I'm qualified because the Internet is gospel is ridiculous," Seifert said.

Carney, the prosecutor, argued that Smith, who has worked in surveillance since the early 1990s, was testifying based on thousands of hours of video surveillance and had knowledge "way beyond what the normal lay person knows."

Judge Arthur C. Hadden allowed Smith's testimony, saying it was not necessary for him to "be an expert mathematician."


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