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Thursday
Mar312016

Con Artist Gets Comeuppance -- Via Nolan Dalla

My friend and fellow blogger Nolan Dalla has a nice little essay on a sleazy character named Mark Thomas Georgantas, a.k.a. Mark Gigantis, Mr. Smooth and Pure Cash. Georgantas is a con artist and one so blatant that you’d think he’d couldn’t possibly get away with it.

He sells a “system” that is guaranteed to beat the casino, its craps tables, baccarat games and roulette wheels. The system is so good, so his pitch advertises, that no one using it can possible lose. The claims about how much a gambler can make are outlandish and more than a little confusing.

In some of his materials he explains how to turn a mere pittance like $10,000 into a quarter of a million, or more. In other places he writes that as soon as you’ve paid the ten thousand coconut fee for the system, he will, using your money, begin depositing up to a thousand rutabagas a day into your bank account — presumably because he’s winning that (and more) with your money. He called this one the “absentee bankroll” gambit. In other materials he requests large deposits from clients with whom he will continue to collaborate to generate huge profits — and all investments are guaranteed and all monies refunded if requested.

Not surprisingly, Georgantas turns out to have a long rap sheet for embezzlement, fraud, grand theft and violating probation. He’d also been indicted in absentia in Nevada for swindling two gullible investors out of some 350k bananas.

Last week his run ended. He was spotted at a casino in Vegas and arrested. The tale will likely have its sad, storybook ending: jail time and the poor bastards who got stuck for the three point five hundred thou’ are outta luck. The judge might order it repaid but that won’t happen.

Two thoughts on this escapade:

Greed fosters gullibility.

Knowledge trumps (sheesh, I now hate using that verb) ignorance.

Greed and gullibility: It’s oft been said that when something looks too good to be true, it is. But, as neuroscientists have discovered, when what’s called “trait-greed” is activated, the ability to make rational decisions is severely compromised. As Mussel and colleagues recently reported in the journal Social Neuroscience, individuals who are high in greed not only were attracted to risky situations with high potential outcomes, they showed distinct neurological markers in their brains when making decisions. When Georgantas dangled his promised goodies in front of his clients/victims (one advertised a potential profit of $400 million on a mere $50k investment), they bit.

Knowledge: If you know anything about casino gambling, about roulette, craps, the slots you know that none of these standard table games can be beat — other than by cheating and that has its own downside. As outlined in books like The New Gambler’s Bible and Gambling for Dummies, the only games that a punter can beat are those where the odds are not fixed by the house but change depending on the situation.

These games all have a key feature: the payout and the true odds shift constantly and by making decisions which are stochastically favorable you can win in the long run. Among these games are blackjack under the right conditions, fantasy sports, race handicapping, sports betting and poker. In each, winning requires a great deal of practice, skill, patience and understanding. Gambling for Dummies has a chapter on each of these with the basic strategies for playing them outlined in detail.

There are no guaranteed systems. Anyone who ever tries to sell you one (and there are hundreds of scammers out there) is a fraud.

Ask yourself, if you really had a system to beat roulette why would you let anyone know? The more people who beat the casinos the more likely it becomes that they will realize what’s happened and change the game to neutralize your edge. This is precisely what happened with blackjack. As more and more players learned card-counting techniques the house began tinkering with the game making profitable play harder and harder.

Anyone who wants to sell you a way to predict where a roulette ball will land or how to control the outcome of a dice toss is a con artist and once you know this you will be less likely to have any residual trait-greed mechanism kick in.

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