If Hollywood movies have taught us anything, it is that casino scams and schemes are usually portrayed as an incredible team effort. It is usually performed by a group of charming men planning on taking down a casino, with weeks of preparation, accurate timing and a beautiful lady as a distraction and rising tension by the second. Well, this is not that kind of story. This is the tale of a woman who did that all on her own, without even breaking a sweat.
Ida Summers is known in the industry as one of the most successful casino cheaters of all time, who managed to scam Vegas’ most prestigious gambling houses for two decades.
Nobody really knows where Ida Summers came from or what her origin story was. To this day the early life of the notorious Vegas vixen remains an enigma, which even adds charm to her entire bio. But what is certain is that she didn’t start as a hustler or gambler back as a child, but instead, her story begins in the late 50s when she was a dealer at a blackjack table in a small casino.
So, sitting at the table almost every night she would first just do her job and earn some money out it plus get some tips every now and then. Most would call it a living, but not she. You see, Ida decided to spend the time practicing a very particular slide of hand that is known as “hand mucking”.
This is quite a tough trick to pick up. It involves concealing a card and with one natural hand gesture swapping it with the card on the table. Obviously, such action is considered to be illegal and is a big NO-NO in the eyes of the law. And it was even a bigger NO-NO back then when most casinos were run by the mafia.
There are many legends of how Ida Summers started out with hand mucking. Of course, there is one that involves an attractive-looking gentleman whom she noticed performing the trick but decided to do nothing. Others say it was an old “mentor” dealer at the casino who showed her this.
The only next certain thing in her entire bio is that one day she arrived in Vegas.
Playing Cold with Fire
Apparently, by the time Ida got to Vegas, she was already very good at pulling off a hand mucking in a crowded casino. But having a slide of hand is not nearly enough to cheat the casino out of supposedly millions of dollars. For her, it took just a little addition of charm and flirtation in order to fool everybody. And she didn’t look like an ordinary casino cheater. In fact, up until her, there is no story of a woman who just plainly went out and cheated the entire Vegas.
As she went from casino to casino enchanting men around her and swapping cards again and again, without even drawing suspicion on herself, somewhere along the line Ida Summers decided that this is not enough, and she would step up her game. Yes, as if just simply robbing mafia-owned casinos wasn’t enough. This is the time when she started using coolers or cold decks.
The idea behind a cooler is to swap an entire deck of playing cards from casino-issued to your own personally stacked deck. So basically, in case such cooler would be placed, you can beat the house flawlessly without even breaking a sweat since you get to know all the cards in advance.
Here is where it gets a little bit complicated, it’s one thing to swap one or two cards unnoticed, while drawing the eyes away, but getting the entire shoe changed, without being seen by pit-bosses and others is different.
Let’s consider the prep-work here. First of all (in theory), you would need a shoe that would perfectly match the casino’s, and back then there was no eBay, so even finding one would be a problem. Ida Summers is known to have been cheating in dozens if not hundreds of casinos, most of them would have a unique shoe. That’s a 1. Secondly, somehow you need to draw attention of everyone to a single spot so that the package can be even delivered. Then, while you are drawing attention, you need to take out the shoe (that, by the way, needs to be concealed), swap it with the real-deal, and now conceal the extra, all unnoticed. Question, how would one go about such task? That is the task for a team, yeah like in the movies.
So despite the odds being clearly against Ida, she managed to turn them to her favor, quite literally. Miss Summers decided to drop the lone wolf or in her case the lone vixen, game and play big with some team effort.
Her Winning Days
Ida Summers hired some trustworthy men, who apparently were just as tenacious as she was to pull one of the biggest casino cheating streaks of all time. And it worked, again and again, the entire shoe would be lifted and swapped unnoticed by anyone, while all the eyes were magnetized to the heroine of our story. Afterward, the game would carry on as usual.
At first, the technique had a simple flaw − Ida would win too often, which is very suspicious as it is. So the next move was to stack the deck in a way that would allow other players to win, in order to make it seem more realistic. Then, maybe just out of sheer boredom or progressing paranoia, Ida would quit the game shortly after swapping the shoe, leaving her accomplices to earn all the money and then splitting it up. My guess would be boredom – because she would go to another blackjack table and would start hand mucking again. Old habits die hard.
This entire game would carry on until the mid-70s.
The End of the Career
I remind all of you that it was the time before CCTV, so in order to catch a cheater, you would have to actually catch him or her doing it.
It is widely speculated that one of her accomplices ratted her out after a short love affair and a broken heart. But fact remains that FBI caught Ida Summers and supposedly her entire team after several months of constant surveillance.
For most people that would be a fast ticket to jail, but yet again her charm, which now seems like a Jedi mind trick, got her out of this situation with just a simple probation. Two decades of continuous cheating and casinos didn’t exact revenge on her. So at this point, I’m convinced that she can control people’s minds by simply flirting with them, there is no other explanation. Because all other accomplices got jail time and one of them was found murdered.
So she was given a nickname Vegas Vixen, and upon receiving it, Ida retired, leaving behind only the fame of being one of the most notorious cheaters in the history of the casino industry, male or female.