Marina Bay Sands Cheaters May Have Cracked Baccarat Card Counting

Posted on: March 19, 2024, 07:41h. 

Last updated on: March 20, 2024, 12:20h.

A Malaysian man has pleaded guilty to being part of a gang that cheated the Marina Bay Sands out of S$433,730 (US$315k) at baccarat using a “secret formula” and hidden recording devices.

Kelvin, 7UP baccarat, Marina Bay Sands, cheating, Chai Hee Keong, Wang Yu and Hung Yu-Wen
The Marina Bay Sands in Singapore is the only casino in the world to offer 7Up baccarat. A gang of cheaters is accused of developing a card-counting system to exploit the game. (Image: Dezeen)

Chai Hee Keong, 46, is the third member of the gang to be convicted. He was sentenced Monday to 22 months in prison, The Straits Times reports.

The gang’s MO involved a female syndicate member, codenamed “the Sorcerer,” who sat in the casino playing 7Up baccarat. The Sorcerer wore a concealed earphone attached to her mobile device, according to court documents seen by the Times. 

The Sorceror would relay information about cards to “the Marksman,” who would advise her on how to bet after consulting an Excel spreadsheet, according to prosecutors.

The spreadsheet contained a “formula” that reportedly allowed players to overcome the house edge. The nature of the formula hasn’t been revealed in court documents.

Chai’s codename was “the Tank.” His job was to “follow instructions relayed through the Sorcerer and place bets accordingly,” according to Deputy Public Prosecutor Tay Zhi Jie, as paraphrased by The Straits Times.

Can You Card-Count in Baccarat?

While it’s difficult to understand exactly what’s going on from the Times report, it appears that Chai may have been receiving subtle signals from the Sorcerer, or perhaps from other team members.

“The Tank” usually bet high, according to prosecutors, which highly suggests he was the player with the edge.

Chai was involved in baccarat sessions between December 16 and Dec. 22, 2022, and won $118,500 for the syndicate in 30 hours of play. Others took up the “Tank” role in his absence.

Generally speaking, baccarat isn’t a game that’s vulnerable to card counting. However, 7Up baccarat is unique to the Marina Bay Sands, and it’s possible that the gang formulated a specific system that would work only at this very casino.

Some gambling strategy experts have written that 7Up baccarat is theoretically exploitable by card counters. It’s also possible that a brilliant mathematician might be able to detect subtle biases in the automatic card shufflers at the Sands, although this is highly speculative.

On the Lam

The gang’s behavior was eventually picked up by the eye in the sky. One of its members, Taiwanese national Hung Jung-Hao, was detained at the casino on Dec. 24, 2022.

His associates caught wind of his arrest and fled, leaving behind $790K in casino chips in their hotel rooms at the Sands. All were later detained in Malaysia and were returned to Singapore.

One of the group, Tan Kian Yi, who was sentenced to 40 months last November, told authorities he was recruited by a couple he met in the Philippines, Wang Yu and Hung Yu-Wen (the Sorceror), both of whom await trial.

The couple told Tan they had a system to beat baccarat that had been developed by a mysterious figure known only as “Kelvin,” according to court documents.