Top hatting and past posting are two forms of cheating. These cheating techniques can be implemented in a variety of games but they are most commonly associated with roulette. Both cheating methods are similar in nature, but they are not identical.
Past Posting Explained
Past posting uses a sleight of hand maneuver in order to alter wagers after the croupier has closed the table for bets. The goal of past posting is to sneak additional chips onto the table after the roulette ball has come to a stop or is close to stopping.
Past posting does not guarantee every bet is a winner. It is only used to increase winning wagers after the result is certain. Cheaters can add chips to the top of a winning bet or add higher value chips to the bottom of the stack. However, dealers tend to become suspicious when high denomination chips are found at the bottom of a pile.
Past posters often work in teams to increase their likelihood of success. One person is responsible for altering the bets while one or more people are responsible for distracting the croupier, dealer and other players. It is a risky maneuver but there are stories of people (see #6 here) who have managed to win significant sums of money over a long period of time using past posting.
Past posting was more common at casinos back in the days before casinos had live cameras and extensive security measures. Casinos now have cameras, entire security teams, chip tracking and the ability to know what is on the table at all times. Small casinos and underground casinos are more susceptible to past posting than big casinos on the Strip.
Top hatting is similar to past posting in that the goal is to alter bets after betting has closed. The only difference between top hatting and past posting is that the croupier is brought into the scheme as an accomplice.
Getting help from the croupier makes it easier to avoid detection, but it does add risk. For one, the croupier may face harsher penalties than members of the general public if the cheating team is exposed. In light of those additional penalties, the croupier may be pressured to reveal his accomplices.
The way top hatting works is that the croupier takes chips from his accomplice and surreptitiously adds those chips to any winning wagers that belong to the accomplice. The accomplice keeps the winnings and later splits them with the croupier.
Past posting and top hatting are effective when they are successful. They do not turn every wager into a winner though. The people participating in the scheme must still place wagers at the beginning of the round before they know the outcome. The only time the cheating occurs is when those wagers happen to be winners.
Even so, it doesn’t take long to turn a big profit. Even money wagers such as red/black and even/odd win often enough that the cheaters can win lots of additional money in a single night. And even if the cheaters only use past posting on straight-up bets, past posting and top hatting reduce the house advantage significantly enough to ensure a profit.
And finally, be aware that cheating in casinos is risky business. In Nevada for example, past posting is a felony offense and punishable by up to six years in prison. The laws vary around the world and may be even harsher in other locations. In some parts of the world, they might just skip all the paperwork and have you killed.
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