Mihai Lacatos pleaded guilty to 14 counts related to fraud and four more charges of possessing false identification related to a string of frauds that he perpetrated against poker players at several casinos across the United Kingdom.
Lacatos, a Romanian national, is said to have marked and dented cards in order to gain information on what his opponents were holding in games, ultimately winning tens of thousands of pounds from players over a six-year span.
Lacatos was first spotted cheating at the Playboy Club in London. That was enough to get him on the radar of casinos throughout the UK, and on March 31, 2014, he was arrested at the Rubicon Casino in Northampton.
Police immediately seized a reported Â£1,485 ($2,250) from Lacatos under the Proceeds of Crime Act.
But even that incident wasn’t enough to stop Lacatos from continuing his schemes at other casinos. The Daily Mail reported that while on bail, Lacatos cheated players in at least three other casinos. He was expected to appear in court in May 2014 but failed to show up.
That led detectives to track him down at Luton Airport, where he was again arrested last November. At that time, officers took about Â£3,000 ($4,500) from him under the same Proceeds of Crime Act.
Lacatos targeted casinos in numerous locations over the six years in which he was operating. He was convicted of fraud specifically for incidents that took place at the Rendezvous Casino in Southend-on-Sea, Maxim’s Casino in London, and the Genting Palm Beach Casino in Mayfair. He was also said to have ripped off players at several Rank Casinos across the nation, including in Leicester, Sunderland, Birmingham, London and Portsmouth.
In order to try to stay ahead of authorities, Lacatos was using multiple fake IDs, and admitted to using false identification at casinos in Leicester, Stockport and Bournemouth.
The Playboy Club, which is operated by Caesars, appeared to be Lacatos’ primary target, however. According to reports, Lacatos made over Â£40,000 ($60,500) there, far more than authorities have so far recovered from him. It appears as though Lacatos cheated both players at true poker tables and the casinos themselves at games such as Three Card Poker, though the exact extent of his schemes isn’t entirely clear.
Lacatos, an unemployed 61-year-old, is expected to be sentenced to be sentenced on March 16 in Southwark Crown Court.
While Lacatos’ actions appear to undeniably constitute cheating, other recent cases in the UK haven’t been quite so clear. In particular, there is the infamous case of Phil Ivey’s edge sorting dispute with the Crockfords Club.
Ivey won Â£7.7 million ($11.65 million) from the casino at high stakes baccarat by using a technique known as edge sorting, in which he took advantage of imperfectly cut cards and casino personnel who were willing to turn cards for him (supposedly for reasons of superstition), allowing him to have some knowledge of face down cards and giving him an edge over the casino.
When Crockfords realized what Ivey was doing, they returned his stake but refused to pay him any winnings. Ivey then sued the casino, but lost in UK courts, which determined that the casino did not have to pay him his winnings.