Robert Nersesian - Card Counting Lawyer
Robert is a devoted lawyer who has dedicated many years of his life to studying gambling related laws in order to bring justice to card counters who have been treated poorly by the casinos of Las Vegas. Although he often finds himself representing professional blackjack players, he has helped out other types of players as well.
Unlike most lawyers, he's not intimidated by the casinos, and he will do whatever it takes to make sure players' rights aren't being violated. Although he has never played blackjack a day in his life, he still was inducted into the Blackjack Hall of Fame in recognition of all of his hard work.
Obtaining a Good Education
When Robert graduated from high school, he was unsure about what he wanted to do with his life. He transferred to several different colleges in Michigan before settling down at Western Michigan University where he graduated with a Bachelor's degree in Economics and Pre-Law. Even though a double major is quite impressive, Robert still wasn't finished with his education.
Robert attended Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan to complete both his master's and doctorate's degree in law. In 1986, he passed the Nevada State Bar Exam and was ready to live out his dream of becoming a lawyer. He teamed up with a man named Thea Sankiewicz to open up their first law firm, appropriately named "Nersesian and Sankiewicz."
Being an Advocate for Blackjack Players
One reason why these men decided to open up their office in Las Vegas was because they recognized there was a steadily growing problem in the casinos. Card counters everywhere were claiming that they were being mistreated, while casinos tried claiming that they were doing everything according to law.
The State of Nevada's law clearly states that counting cards isn't illegal, but it also states that casinos have the right to ask these players to leave their facilities. The problem that casinos were running into was that they weren't just asking these players to leave, but they were also physically abusing them. Other attorneys try to stay away from cases like these, as they know how time-consuming and messy they can be. Robert and Thea were more than ready for the challenges set before them, however.
These two men also realized that whenever casinos and blackjack players were involved, there was a lot of money to be made. They opened one of the first law firms that catered specifically to clients who had been assaulted by the casinos. Robert spent months studying up on gambling relating laws, casino policies, and previous cases that involved blackjack players. His hours upon hours of studying paid off, and he's now known for the plethora of cases he has won for his clients.
Robert is proud of his high success rate, usually winning thousands of dollars for each of his clients. In an interview with Richard Munchkin, he said, "I don't want to put down hard numbers, but the patron generally walks away with $5,000 - $15,000. That is provided all the i's are dotted and t's are crossed. What I mean by that is there aren't other reasons for what happened."
Now that Robert and his partner are established, they are very particular about what clients they accept and what clients they choose not to represent. As a rule of thumb, if a client is suing a casino simply because they were barred from their facilities, Robert refuses to take them. However if the client has been escorted to a backroom, or has been physically abused in any way, he will happily accept them.
The law firm of Nersesian and Sankiewicz files a new lawsuit at least once every two weeks, averaging a total of fifty cases in progress at all times. Many of the cases are handled privately between clients and casinos, but every so often the cases will make it to a court setting.
Nersesian and Sankiewicz handled the infamous James Grosjean cases. James had been treated poorly by not one but two casinos. The first offense occurred in Caesar Palace where James was playing 3-card poker with his friend, Michael Russo. They were both using card counting techniques to gain an edge over the casinos. Although they were technically doing nothing illegal, they were escorted out of the casino, detained for five hours, and thrown into jail. Michael was imprisoned for only one day while James was imprisoned for five days.
This was one of the first major cases that Robert was a part of, and he did an excellent job in defending his clients. In the end, Russo and Grosjean were both awarded actual damages of $25,000 and the court found that Griffin Investigations and Caesars Palace would be subject to punitive damages as well.
It was Robert's second case in representing James Grosjean that he's most well known for. Before James even sat down at the blackjack tables of Imperial Casino, it was obvious that he wasn't welcomed there. He got up to leave, being followed by security as he exited the building. Once outside the casino, the guards grabbed James and whipped him into a brick wall. He was then taken into a backroom of the casino and forced to place all of his personal belongings on the table. He was detained there against his will until the end of the night.
James Grosjean hadn't done anything wrong in this situation, but his rights certainly had been violated. Thanks to the security footage Robert was able to get a hold of, he was easily able to win the case against Imperial Casino. His client was awarded $399,000, and Robert was truly able to feel like justice was served. Ever since this case was settled, Robert became most players' lawyer of choice, often being referred to as, "Counsel for the Players."
Robert doesn't win every case he's a part of, but he does try his best. In 2008, he took on Tsao as his client: a member of the MIT Blackjack Team. She wanted to file a civil rights complaint against Desert Palace because she had been falsely imprisoned when they discovered she was counting cards. This case was quickly moved from Nevada's court system to the federal court system. In the end Robert and Tsao lost the court case, because it was discovered that Tsao had refused to give the police officer any form of identification; therefore giving him probable cause to detain her.
Advice for Card Counters in Tricky Situations
As a lawyer, Robert knows what card counters should do and what they should avoid doing in almost every situation. He freely gives out this legal advice to all players in order to make his job easier in the long run. Those who follow his advice are almost guaranteed to win the case when the casinos make poor decisions.
First and foremost, players need to be honest with casino authorities when it comes to who they are and what they are doing. Using fake ids or being unwilling to give an authority figure your name will not hold up well in court. When using an invalid form of identification, players almost always will lose the case.
If a card counter is detained, they should firmly express to the casino personnel that they have no desire to follow them anywhere. If the person doesn't agree to be taken into the backroom and this is caught on video, Robert can use this information in their defense. Most video cameras outside of the casinos have no audio, so it's important that players repeat themselves once they are escorted to the backroom.
Another thing the player can do is to calmly ask the casino why they are being detained. Detaining a player on the account of card counting is illegal, but if they have any reason to believe that the player is using a counting device to get ahead, then this is perfectly acceptable. Those who can get a security guard to admit that they are being detained on suspicions of card counting will have a better chance of winning their court case.
Robert advises players to not run away from the casino authorities, as this doesn't make them look good in the court of law. Players often run away because they are fearful of being a part of a backroom experience, but casinos will twist their actions to make them look guilty of a crime they didn't commit. He also suggests that card counters avoid physical violence at all cost, even if it is in the act of self defense. Chances are if the card counter physically assaults a security guard, it is them that will be convicted of a crime, no matter who threw the first punch.
Beat the Players: Casinos, Cops and the Game Inside the Game
Beat the Players: Casinos, Cops and the Game Inside the Game was first published in 2006 by Pi Ye Press: a company founded by the Blackjack Hall of Fame member, Stanford Wong. In this book, Nersesian talks about specific cases where he has won thousands of dollars for his clients.
The chapters included in this book are as follows: Your Money or Your Liberty, Scary Cop Statements, They'll Take Your Liberty Anyway, Gaming Agents Speak, The Take of the State, Rules for Casino Patrons, Gambling at the Legal Limits, Cops Hate Card Counters, Griffin Investigations, Casinos Cheat With Impunity, A Judicial and Government Overlay, Finding a Nickel Brings Trouble, Names and Aliases, The Security Office and Surveillance Functions, and Casinos and Cops.
This book was written in a simplified language that everyone should be able to follow. He explains what both the casino's rights and responsibilities are compared to what the rights and responsibilities of the players are. He goes into detail about what the law states in conjunction to what the casinos actually do that is illegal. This book focused on the game of blackjack, but players of other casino games are mentioned too.
This book is very graphic, including detailed stories of horrible events that have occurred at the casinos. Sometimes casino employees were in the wrong, while other times it was Nevada Gaming Control Board that had been abusing their power. Some of these stories have never been released to the public before, so they may come as a surprise to many.
Blackjack Hall of Fame
In 2011, Robert Nersesian was in the running for being inducted into the Blackjack Hall of Fame, losing to Zeljko Ranogajec by just two votes. Two years later in 2013, Robert was granted his spot in the Blackjack Hall of Fame for working so hard to protect the rights of innocent card counters. He's one of the few lawyers that recognize these players as individuals with rights instead of simply criminals. The Nersesian and Sankiewicz law firm are still accepting clients today, working hard to protect player's rights.
In his honor and upon receiving the award, Richard Munchkin said, "Bob has certainly affected the lives of professional gamblers all across the United States. The way casinos have changed the way they treat us is directly attributable to Bob. We still have a long way to go, but Bob will be leading the charge." Players all over the United States appreciate Robert and the positive influence he has had in the casinos.
Thanks to Robert Nersesian, casinos everywhere have been changing the way they handle card counters, realizing that threatening them and abusing them will more than likely lead to legal issues. The Nevada Gaming Control Board has also done a better job of monitoring casinos that are known to be violent towards their players.
Robert happily offers to hold conferences with casinos to train them on how to lawfully handle a wide variety of situations that come up. He shows them what the laws clearly state and reveals practical ways to implement them. Basically he helps them avoid situations that would more than likely result in a lawsuit. Most lawyers hope places will continue to do things illegally so that they can continue to make money off of them, but Robert truly wants justice to be served.
Author: Nicole Miller
Updated: July 2016
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