When Las Vegas Big Timers Get Screwed Over They Call This Man

There’s a breed of professional gambler known as advantage players. They employ perfectly legal methods — counting cards, tracking shuffles, peeking at the hole cards of sloppy dealers, etc. — to extract piles of money from casinos. And even though they’re breaking no laws, casino bosses despise them. Sometimes they treat these advantage players — also known as APs — like cheaters. Security guards handcuff them, not-so-veiled threats are made, their chips are refused. Occasionally the APs will even get thrown in jail.

And then they call Bob Nersesian.

Based in Las Vegas, operating out of a house converted to an office, situated in the shadows of shimmering Strip casinos, Nersesian, 59, is the go-to guy for advantage players who think they have been wronged. He’s taken large casino companies to court, stood up to cops and overly zealous security guards, pressed executives to cash-out winners. While he has no interest in representing cheaters, Nersesian, author of a recently published book entitled The Law for Gamblers: A Legal Guide to the Casino Environment, stands up for brainy and talented players who bring down the house and sometimes burn it to the ground.

On a sunny afternoon in September, Nersesian took time out from defending his big-betting clients to tell us what happens when gamblers win too big and casinos get out of line. Here he is, in his own words.

BACK IN 1996, about five years after my wife and I moved from Detroit to Las Vegas, I played in a friendly poker game with four other lawyers and a construction guy. We spent more time drinking beer than playing cards and the stakes were something like 25 cents to a dollar. So none of the players were major gamblers — including the construction guy who told us about being roughed up by security guards in a casino. They mistook him for an undesirable of some sort. He was handcuffed, taken into a back-room, and threatened — before they realized that they had the wrong person.

Hearing his story, debating whether or not he had a case against this particular casino, the other lawyers said, “You’ve got dick. You can’t get anything from a casino.”

I said, “Wait a minute. We’re talking talking about false imprisonment and battery here. Once you’re handcuffed, it becomes battery.”

What happened to our friend didn’t seem right and, as things turned out, it wasn’t. He and I sued the casino and we wound up with a five figure settlement. The case never even came close to going to trial. The lawyers in my game were stunned. They didn’t get it. They said they didn’t think I could get money out of a casino — especially via settlement. For most plaintiff attorneys, settlements are driven by medical expenses. My cases don’t have medical expenses.

What they do have are people employed by large corporations getting way out of line. Even before cases involving casinos came across my desk, I knew what card counting was, I knew what advantage play was, and, from what I heard, casino people were insane to think they could get away with handcuffing customers, threatening them, and dragging them into backrooms.