Poker cheat Mihai Lacatos spent hours bending cards at a Mayfair Playboy Club poker table as part of a cheating method that saw him plunder £43,400.

The unemployed Romanian, 62, who was today jailed at Southwark Crown Court for 18 months, used the "card marking" technique to cheat at three-card poker at the central London celebrity hangout.

He subtly bent specific cards at the poker table, so that he would later be able to tell what the dealer and other players had been dealt, giving him a significant advantage.

Between 8 January and 15 January 2014, Lacatos used false IDs to enter the Playboy Club in Mayfair and cheated the casino out of £43,400 using this technique.

Mihai Lacatos cheating
Mihai Lacatos used "card making" technique to cheat his way to more than £40,000

So good was he at cheating, his scam went unnoticed until detectives from the Metropolitan Police Service Gaming Unit began investigating after they were contacted by Caesars Entertainment, which owns the Playboy Club, in January 2014.

They circulated his image to casinos across the UK and he was arrested on 31 March, 2014, at the Rubicon Casino on Regent Street, Northampton after staff there recognised him and called police.

Mihai Lacatos cheating
Mihai Lacatos spent hours at the table bending cards to "win" tens of thousands of pounds

Officers seized £1,485 from him under the Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA) and he was taken into custody.

He was subsequently bailed to return to Charing Cross Police Station on 13 May 2014 but did not do so. While on bail, he continued to commit fraud in at least three more casinos.

Detectives began searching for him again and eventually managed to trace him, arresting him in the departure lounge at Luton Airport on 20 November 2014. Officers seized approximately £3,000 from him under the Proceeds of Crime Act .

Lacatos was charged on 20 November 2014 and pleaded guilty to the following offences at Southwark Crown Court on Friday, 27 February:


Count 1 - Possessing false identity documents with intent at Rank Casino in Leicester on 31 January 2008
Count 2 - Possessing false identity documents with intent at Rank Casino in Stockport on 8 March 2008
Count 3 - Fraud at Rank Casino in Salford on 28 April 2013
Count 4 - Fraud at Rank Casino on Victoria in London on 24 May 2013
Count 5 - Fraud at Rank Casino in Salford on 15 November 2013
Count 6 - Fraud at Rank Casino, Swansea on 28 November 2013
Count 7 - Fraud at Rank Casino, Portsmouth on 1 December 2013
Count 8 - Possessing false identity documents with improper intention at Rank Casino, Nottingham on 5 December 2013
Count 9 - Fraud at Rendezvous Casino, Southend-on-Sea on 7 January 2014
Count 10 - Fraud at Playboy Casino in Mayfair, London between 8 January an 15 January 2014
Count 11 - Fraud at Rank Casino, Sunderland on 21 February 2014
Count 12 - Fraud at Rank Casino, Birmingham on 4 March 2014
Count 13 - Fraud at Maxim's Casino, London on 6 March 2014
Count 14 - Fraud at Rank Casino, Walsall on 29 March 2014
Count 15 - Fraud at Rubicon Casino, Northampton between 29 March and 31 March 2014
Count 16 - Fraud at Genting Palm Beach Casino in Mayfair on 10 May 2014
Count 17 - Fraud at Rank Golden Horseshoe Casino in Bayswater, London on 15 November 2014
Count 18 - Possessing false identity documents with improper intention at Rank Casino, Bournemouth on 3 December 2013

On counts 1, 2, 8 and 18 Lacatos was sentenced to 12 months' imprisonment.

On counts 16 and 17 which were committed whilst on bail he was sentenced to 18 months to run concurrently.

On Counts 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, and 15 he was sentenced to 16 months to run concurrently.