Popularly known as the ‘Vegas Vixen’, Ida Summers was a petite, attractive woman and, as such, was hardly an archetypal cheat, and particularly not in Las Vegas in the Mafia-dominated days of the Sixties and Seventies. However, a bold, skilful and, ultimately, notorious cheat she was, employing distraction and sleight-of-hand techniques to swindle casino blackjack tables out of tens of thousands of dollars.
Reputedly from Newport, Kentucky, Summers moved to Las Vegas in 1961, by which time she had already mastered the technique of ‘hand mucking’, which involves concealing a favourable card, such as an ace, in the palm of the hand and surreptitiously substituting it for a less favourable card as an when required. This type of deception provided Summers with easy pickings but, later, she took her cheating activity to another level, by recruiting male accomplices to help her substitute not just a single card, but the whole blackjack shoe.
At an opportune moment, when the dealer was distracted, Summers would lift the original shoe off the blackjack table and conceal it in her lap, while a pre-stacked shoe, known as a ‘cooler’, was slipped onto the table in its place. She would offload the original shoe to a standing accomplice and make herself scarce at the earliest opportunity, leaving her remaining seated accomplices to take advantage of a series of guaranteed winning hands, albeit with a few losing hands thrown in, for good effect. Eventually, Summers became the subject of a surveillance operation conducted, jointly, by the Nevada Gaming Control Board and the FBI; although ultimately betrayed by a former accomplice, was sentenced to just twelve months’ probation.