Ida Summers: Legendary Las Vegas Con Artist
Ida Summers, also referred to as the "Vegas Vixen," was one of the most successful casino cheats Las Vegas has ever seen. She was able to use her bold cheating techniques and devastating good looks to steal tens of thousands of dollars from casinos all over the Las Vegas Strip.
To learn more about Ida Summers, her background, her cheating adventures, and how she finally got caught, please continue reading this thorough biography. Here you'll learn everything you need to know about Summers and more.
Where Did She Come From?
There are several theories as to where Ida Summers came from, but the truth is that no one knows for sure. Many of these theories are based on stories Summers told to the various dealers she encountered in Las Vegas. There's a good chance many of these theories could be entirely made up, but we like to believe they all contain a tidbit of truth and can give us insight into her real backstory.
The first theory is that Ida Summers was born and raised in a small town in southern Florida by her grandparents. Her grandparents were very strict, making her work on the family farm and not allowing her to hang out with her friends on the weekends. When she finally turned 18, she fled from their home and never turned back. She headed to Las Vegas in hopes of becoming a cocktail waitress. When she couldn't find any job openings in that career, she decided to cheat at the casinos to make ends meet instead.
Another popular theory is that Ida Summers was born and raised in Las Vegas, Nevada. She grew up just a 10-minute drive from the Strip and would spend her weekends walking the Strip with her friends. They would often flirt with security guards to get let into the casinos, despite being underage. She saw how much money there was to be made there and would try her luck out at the tables often. Realizing she could cheat her way to victory without getting caught, she resorted to doing that as her primary source of revenue.
The last well-known theory we'll share with you is that Ida Summers was born in Kansas but would travel to Las Vegas often, as her father had to go there for business. Her father supposedly taught her the skill of hand mucking and encouraged her to cheat at the casinos once she was old enough to do so. Not wanting to let her father down and after discovering how much money she could make, Summers happily made scamming the casinos her life's work.
How Did She Do It?
We could argue for hours about which one of Summer's possible backstories is most plausible, but for now, let's move onto some of the solid facts about her "career" as a con artist. Summers started showing up at various casinos in Las Vegas during the early 1960s, with her stunning beauty captivating the attention of most men she encountered. She was petite in stature, had wavy brown hair, and was blessed with a flawless complexion.
Her game of choice was usually blackjack, but she would occasionally play poker as well. It wasn't uncommon for her to rake in thousands of dollars on a daily basis. So, how did she do it? Summers would use a cheating technique called "hand mucking." She would remove a card from play, usually hiding it in her sleeve, and then bring that card back into play when it would most benefit her.
She was able to this without being caught by striking up a conversation with the dealer so that his attention would be focused on what she was saying instead of what she was doing. Once she got a little braver, she started bringing her own cards that she would swap out when she was dealt a bad hand at poker. She could only do this at casinos that used the same brand of cards that she had; otherwise, casino officials would have noticed that she switched the cards out for her own.
She eventually moved on to switching out entire decks of cards for "coolers" or decks that were pre-arranged to guarantee a win for her. It wasn't long before pit bosses started to get suspicious of this woman whose luck never seemed to run out. In order to avoid heat from the casinos, Summers would lose on purpose. Every time she lost, she would make a big scene about it, so that the memory of her loss would stick in their minds.
Summers recruited some men she could trust to help her bring in more revenue without having to spend as much time in the casinos herself. She trained them on the process of hand mucking and gave them tips on how to swap cards out without getting caught. They would be able to keep the majority of money that they won, as she would only take a small percentage of their winnings as a payment for their training. Her team of casino cheaters nicknamed her the "Vegas Vixen," which is what she is still known as today.
How Did She Spend Her Money?
At her peak, Summers was overseeing 10 individuals who were successfully winning at the blackjack and poker tables thanks to her lucrative cheating techniques. Taking a percentage of each one of their winnings quickly accumulated to quite the fortune, probably on the upwards of $100,000 a year.
So, what did Summers do with all her money? She used it to feed her shopping addiction. When she wasn't at a casino, she would often be found at a mall. She would buy luxury shoes, purses, jewelry, and anything else that was in style. Staying up to date with all the latest trends was very important to her.
Surprisingly enough, what wasn't important to her was the condition of her home. She lived in a rundown apartment in a bad neighborhood. Despite having enough money to afford a better living situation, she never looked into getting an upgrade. It's possible this is because she was a private person who had no desire to invite anyone over anyways.
How Did She Finally Get Caught?
Gaming officials in Las Vegas would meet on a regular basis to discuss potential threats to their business. During one meeting in particular, several officials from several different casinos mentioned a beautiful woman they met who had won a significant amount of money at the tables. When they described to each other what the woman looked like, they quickly realized they were all talking about the same person. Realizing she must be cheating in some way, they started developing a plan to take her down.
They contacted the FBI and asked for their help. Summers was so clever that although they knew she had to be cheating, they didn't have any evidence to back up their claims. They put up surveillance cameras and started setting traps to take her down. Summers was completely unaware that the casinos were on to her, so she continued cheating like normal.
Summers eventually slipped up and was caught on film swapping out a casino's deck for her own. The footage was very clear, and there would be no way for her to deny her actions. Now that the gaming commission and the FBI had the evidence they needed, they arrested Summers and took her into custody.
Despite being charged for cheating, Summers never had to serve any jail time for her actions. Instead, she was just charged with one-year probation. People speculate that she was able to use her charming personality and beautiful outward appearance to entice the judge to be easy on her.
Once Summer's year of probation was over, casino officials started to be on the lookout for her. They thought for sure that she would once again enter the casinos and try to cheat her way into thousands of dollars. This is not what happened, though. Instead, Summers disappeared, never to be seen in Las Vegas again. Some people claim she moved to Canada in hope of a fresh start, while others say she actually was murdered by several members of the mafia who were furious at her because of all the money she stole. Both scenarios are possible.
Ida Summers made ListVerse's Top 10 List of Casino Cheats, and they had this to say about her: "With striking good looks, Ida Summers was not a woman who would seem to be the epitome of a casino cheater, but in the 60s and 70s she reeled in tens of thousands of dollars in the casinos using guile and shiftiness." What we find most impressive is that Summers was the only female to make that list.
Summers will always be known as the Vegas Vixen: the only woman of the time period who was brave enough to cheat the casinos. Her story was told in 2005 on an episode of Breaking Vegas. This episode aired on The History Channel, and established actress Natalie Nardone portrayed her character flawlessly.