During the many hours Ming Zhang spent dealing baccarat at MGM’s National Harbor casino in Maryland he dreamed of way he could beat the system and take home a huge payday. Zhang eventually found a way to “beat the system”, but in doing so he found himself becoming “part of system” – the criminal justice system that is.
Zhang was recently sentenced to 18 months in prison for his role in an elaborate baccarat cheating scheme he concocted with a person federal prosecutors identify as “co-conspirator A”, who may be a Chinese national named Chenguang Ni. Their baccarat cheating scheme, like most baccarat cheating schemes, was pretty elaborate and worked pretty well. In fact, the two cheats took pocketed more than $1 million from two different Maryland casinos. (As part of their sentences, they’ll be on the hook for paying that money back.)
According to a report from the US Department of Justice, the scheme involved Zhang exposing part of the deck during the fan after shuffling. During that moment the accomplice would surreptitiously snap a photo of the exposed cards with his phone. He’d then slip away to memorize the exposed part of the deck and return to betting. The cheaters would wager nominal amounts until the exposed part of the deck came into play and would then increase their wagers to cash in on the fix.
Like most cheaters, Zhang’s crew overplayed their hand. Their scheme was discovered with they won an astonishing 18 of 21 hands, including a statistically unlikely streak of 14 straight wins. Their “lucky streak” exposed their scheme and Zhang was taken into custody.
Zhang was sentenced to 18 months in prison for his part in the scheme and is on the hook for paying back his “winnings” to the casino.