As long as there have been casinos and ways to gamble there have been cheats. Individuals who would go beyond bending the rules to completely breaking them. Of course, as the old saying goes “it’s only cheating if you are caught.” Cheats at gambling and card playing during the Wild West and throughout the early years of the United States often saw a quick draw from the end of a pistol. While the way of the duel at high noon went the way of the dodo, cheats continued to come and continued to try their craft in new places and settings. With Las Vegas serving as the centerpiece of the gambling world starting in the 1950s as the casinos started to truly take shape, a new breed of casino gamblers and cheats made their way into the city as well. One of the most infamous casino gambler cheats of all time is Ida Summers, also known as The Vegas Vixen.
No Longer a Man’s World
For the majority of organized gambling’s history, men dominated the stage. While women could join in with the games, not many were taken seriously. Ida took this to her advantage and helped convert it into a world of countless winnings. She was a very petite individual. Standing at around five feet tall and weighing in at less than 100 pounds, she was an extremely small women, yet she still flashed a brilliant smile and would attract all the men at the table. Naturally, how could someone looking like this and possess such a petite figure ever be a cheat? Due to this, most pit bosses and dealers did not give her as much attention in terms of potentially cheating as the other men at the table. Plus, whenever she flashed her eyes, men would look at her face, not down at her hands.
How Ida Summers Would Play the Men and the Casinos
In order to cheat at cards, you not only need to be quick, you need to have incredible charm. Ida had all of these in spades. She flirted with the pit bosses and the other men at the tables. While pretending to touch the other players playfully on the arms or paying the other men at the table compliments, she was actually practicing her sleight of hand tricks.
Ida used a technique known as hand mucking and deck switching. The hand mucking technique was used while playing blackjack. This is how Ida first made her way into the world of casino trickery and cheating. It is a rather straight forward way to cheat at cards, but it is rather difficult to pull off, which is why a brilliant slight of hand is necessary. In order to perform this kind of cheat, one card is removed from the table and another card is inserted into its place without anybody noticing. At this day in age, Ida did have the benefit of not having the large throng of monitors and cameras on the tables at all times. This significantly reduced the number of eyes on her. However, attempting to remove a card and insert a different card into its place with a handful of other players at the table is rather difficult.
Beyond hand mucking, Ida used the deck switching technique. This is far more difficult to perform than hand mucking. This is where an entire deck of cards is swapped out. The cards in the deck being swapped in is already prearranged, which ensures the individual swapping out the deck would always win. Now, sometimes Summers did not do this on her own as there were other individuals at the table there to help with the play. Trying to swap out a deck right in front of the dealer is not something just anyone can do. Often times, Summers would grab the attention of all the other men at the table, again with her flirtatious nature, while someone to the side of the dealer would swap out the deck. Sometimes, she would even have the deck set so her accomplice would win. This way, the rest of the people at the table would not suspect her of tampering or cheating every time she grabbed their attention.
Ida Summers Caught
The strange thing about Ida Summers is that very little is actually know about how she ended up being caught or arrested. Nobody can say for sure how many times she managed to pull off the truck and how much money she managed to pull out of the casinos. She did not keep any sort of bookkeeping on the process, nor doe she talk about it. However, casinos around Vegas started to believe she did have some sort of a hand in cheating at the tables. While women did gamble at the casinos in Vegas during the late 60s and into the 70s, she stood out, due to both her noticeable skill playing the game and her appearance. This made it possible for pit bosses to eventually be made aware of her. Eventually, through a joint operation between the FBI and the gaming office in Las Vegas, Ida eventually was arrested. Possibly the most interesting thing about the entire case though is that for years Ida managed to use her looks, charm and personality to pull off her scams and tricks at the casinos, and yet she managed to do the same thing with the police. While charged with cheating, she did not serve a single minute in jail. Instead, she was placed on probation. This ended her major gambling days, but despite all of this, Ida Summers is always going to be known as one of the most famous casino gambling cheats in the history of Las Vegas.
A Testament to Her Time
Ida Summers managed to take advantage of the time period she lived in. These hand trucks would never play out in any sort of Las Vegas casinos during present time. With the amount of attention placed on individuals gambling, there is very little a player can actually get away with. Even when a player is able to count cards, a skill that in all accounts is legal and is not cheating at all, casinos are able to often determine and detect when someone is doing this and ask them to leave. Regardless of all of this though, Ida managed to use her skill as a beautiful woman and a flirt in her advantage and to win an unknown, yet most likely extremely large sum of money. It is known as to if she tried any of her tricks or plays ever again.