Monday, December 31, 2007
The contest will start on Tuesday, January 22nd, and will last 30 days, with one question every day. Then a new contest will begin on February 22, and then each successive month. After each five days, I will post the user names of the top scorers in the running for the cash prizes, which shall be paid via Pay Pal or bank check. You will then be able to equate your scores and see if you are in the running. You must send your answers NO LATER THAN 9 P.M. US EST the day the question is posted, which will be at 7 A.M. EST. There will be a contest question seven days per week including holidays.
For the first month the prizes are as follows:
1st place US $300 plus entry into One-Day Super Contest to be held at a later date
2nd place US $150 plus entry into Super Contest
3rd place US $100 plus entry into Super Contest
4th place US $ 75 plus entry into Super Contest
5th place entry into Super Contest
6th place entry into Super Contest
7th place entry into Super Contest
8th place entry into Super Contest
9th place entry into Super Contest
10th place entry into Super Contest
In the event of ties, prize money for each place will be divided equally by those with the same scores, the aggregate prize money distributed not exceeding the specified amounts listed above.
The prize money in the Super Contest will be determined by the amount of people who sign up for the monthly contests.
TO SIGN UP, SIMPLY SEND ME AN E-MAIL AND SPECIFY A USER NAME THAT YOU WANT ME TO USE FOR THE POSTINGS. DO NOT TRY SIGNING UP THROUGH THE BLOG COMMENTS. YOU MUST GO TO THE CONTACT PAGE OF MY WEBSITE IN ORDER TO SIGN UP.
Sunday, December 30, 2007
Here are a few that make my list:
1) Serge Ravitch: The New York lawyer and avid poker player who ignited the talk on the 2+2 Poker forums about suspicious online poker players at Absolute Poker's tables. His suspicions led to the exposure of the biggest online gambling scandal in history that was surely the number one story in the entire poker world in 2007, both online and brick and mortar.
2) The Ontario Provincial Police: Canada's second largest police force and largest in the province of Ontario spearheaded the investigation of the Tran Organization that was behind the largest international casino scam in the annals of legalized gambling. Tran and his 40 or so cohorts, including casino dealers, floormen, pit bosses, recruiters and even the mayor of Seattle's son, were responsible for an insider-rigged baccarat scam that crisscrossed three-dozen casinos in both the US and Canada, swindling perhaps as much as $20 million in the four years it ran. The OPP was finally able to infiltrate the scam and turn some of the recruited dealers against the Tran Organization.
3) The FBI: Our well-known and beloved crime-fighting agency was responsible for corralling the American arm of the Tran Organization, and turning the mayor of Seattle's son, Greg Nickels, against it.
4) Danny X: The undercover informant who played in the rigged Atlantic City Borgata private high stakes poker game and set up casino anti-cheating expert Steve Forte and three others for the New Jersey Attorney General's Office. Forte was coaxing high rollers up to a private suite in the hotel that was rigged with hidden cameras in the wall to peek at the players' hole cards.
5) The Surveillance Team at the Mohegan Sun Casino: Some good old fashioned surveillance work at this Connecticut casino busted renowned card-marker Sholem Weisner.
Let's give a little credit to the year's top CheatBusters!
BREAKING VEGAS AIRS TUESDAY NIGHT AT 9 p.m. EST!
Don't forget to watch my story on the Biography Channel
Saturday, December 29, 2007
For two years, a man named “Hassan” had been tearing up the no-limit hold’em tables at a casino in the village of Bad Zwischenahn, Germany. How? He cheated.
It turns out that Hassan was a master of sleight of hand. Always seated in Seat 1 because it was next to the dealer (although he claimed it was just his lucky seat), Hassan would secretly take cards off the table, hiding one or two up his sleeve at any given time. He would then switch them with his hole cards at opportune moments to give himself a great hand. By sitting next to the dealer, Hassan was able to use the muck pile to help conceal his trickery.
He was able to get away with it not just because of his skill with his hands, but because of poor game management by the casino. The casino would only count the deck twice a night at scheduled times, making it easy for Hassan to get the pilfered cards back into the deck before anyone noticed.
When the casino made an unannounced deck count, Hassan panicked and players caught him trying to get the cards from his sleeve to the deck. Security cameras caught the mistake, as well.
Word is that he has been banned from all German, Austrian, and Swiss casinos.
The reason I ask if anyone out there knows this guy is because in 1992 I briefly worked with a German guy named Hans who also had several aliases. I was introduced to him by another guy who briefly worked with me during my transition from the Classon Pastposting Team to my own team that I formed in 1994 with Pat Mallery and Balls, who you will see along with me on the upcoming Breaking Vegas show Tuesday night (see previous posts for details). This German guy Hans was as cool as could be, sharp looking with a real charmer's way with the lady dealers. Well, after he'd put in a dozen blackjack moves and got paid every time, I thought I had my next great blackjack mechanic and claimer. That is until he finally had a miss and didn't get paid. When this happened, I gave him the nose signal (finger rubbing the tip of my nose) to abandon the claim, but he kept arguing with the dealer. When the pit boss came over and threatened to call security and have him grabbed up, Hans kept on arguing like a real dummkoff. Then I gave him the verbal command (Chester!) to get up and leave; he finally shut up but sat there frozen like a snowman. Finally, I had to come right up to him and say, "Bitte, Hans, get your German ass outta here!!"
That was the end of his working with me. But I am curious if this is the same guy. Hans had blond hair and blue eyes and would be about 45 years old now. Anyone know if this Hassan (obviously a false name) fits the description?
Friday, December 28, 2007
Beating The Heat
Author: Richard Marcus
He'd received the signal. The big Player walked across the crowded casino floor to a blackjack table in the middle of the pit. In his hand was a fistful of purple and black chips that he'd gotten off a crap table- the first step in camouflaging his skills as a professional card counter behind the guise of a BP.
There was an open seat in centerfield, next to the $10 bettor who'd just signaled him in. The true count was a healthy +3 and nearly three of the 6 decks remained in the shoe, two of which would be played before the shuffle. The team's bankroll dictated that the BP make a $900 bet, but since only one spot was available - not the two or three that would have been ideal - he opted to bet one purple chip, $500.
As the dealer dealt the face-up round out of the shoe, the Big Player reached inside his sports jacket, removed his Marlboros and his Dunhill lighter, and lit up. While doing so, he made conversation with a sexy cocktail waitress passing behind him, never once glancing at the layout until the dealer had to urge action on his hand. He looked down at his cards, and was both unsurprised and pleased to see the paint: two red kings. The dealer's card was a 5.
The players on first and second base both stood pat, while the third player doubled down. Their combined actions didn't change the true count. The BP knew that advanced-count strategy dictated that he split his kings. Despite this, in order to enhance his camouflage, he waved his hand across his cards to indicate he would stand with the 20, flashing the diamond rings on his fingers and the gold Rolex wrapping his wrist. His counting partner stood with 14. The last two players, also with stiffs, did the same. The dealer proceeded to turn over a 9 and bust his hand with a 10.
The Big Player won $500, and his team picked up a bonus when the player to the right suddenly got up and left the table. Without hesitation, the BP laid purple chips in both his own betting circle and the abandoned one. Now he had the full $1,000 bet.
His first hand was a snapper- Bam! A $750 payoff for the blackjack. His second was a hard 20. The dealer had a 4 showing and busted. The team raked in $1,250 on the round. The true count held strong, reaching +5 before the red cut-card popped out of the shoe.
CUT AND RUN
This one good shoe had put the team ahead by $6,000. The Big Player's action seemed to draw no heat. The floorman had introduced himself, routinely rated the BP's play, and offered to remain at hand in case the "high roller" needed anything. All in all, it was a nice session.
But just an hour later, this professional and smooth operation hit a sudden bump. At his fifth table of the night, the Big Player placed two bets of $1,000. It was a $10 minimum table with a $5,000 maximum bet, and there were only two players. Conditions seemed ideal, as the two were betting $1,000 chips, and winning steadily, making the table a hot attraction that would naturally draw more high rollers to its felt.
The BP took a seat between the high rollers. A few onlookers gathered behind them. Playing the role of the carefree whale, the BP nodded at the lady dealer and said to his fellow bettors, "Looks like she's treating you guys all right!" The first one replied with a chuckle, "She hasn't made a hand all night." The other added, "Yeah, she's dumping out the entire rack!" The BP laughed easily and quipped, "Looks like I chose the right table!"
But before the put-upon dealer could get the first card out of the shoe, her pit boss appeared. He looked the Big Player in the eye, and in a steely voice said to the dealer, "Shuffle up those cards!"
The BP knew well enough that this was no time for play-acting. He'd been made and there was no doubt that surveillance upstairs had been filming him from every angle before the pit boss lowered the boom. They'd have close-ups on his face.
This was a major team disaster. They'd been playing together since before the MIT blackjack team gained notoriety, but had never been accosted in this fashion. Now it was time to invoke damage control, which simply meant getting out of the casino and preventing being exposed. No one on the team had ever been back-roomed or ID'd before, and they weren't about to start now.
The team laid low for several weeks. When they went back to work two months later, in Atlantic City, they substituted one of the counters in the role of Big Player. Yet they encountered another casino counter-measure during their second playing session. This one differed from what had happened in Vegas. A pit boss came to the table after spying their new Big Player's purple chips in the betting circle. He said to him curtly, "Sir we'd appreciate you taking your action elsewhere. I think you might [appreciate it], too."
A week later in Connecticut, they met with similar obstacles. Mississippi extended them less-than-red-carpet treatment as well. They realized it was over. The revered concept of team play, conceptualized and made famous by Ken Uston, was in danger of becoming extinct.
The five members of the disbanded counting team returned to lives far from blackjack tables. They stayed away a year. But "Carl," the founder of the team, was aching to get back in business. He came up with an idea he fancied would once again make team play viable.
A BRIGHT IDEA
Carl contacted his four ex-partners. "I think I've found the new way to card-counting riches," he told one of them excitedly. One of them misunderstood and responded, "The new wave to card-counting riches?" Carl liked the way that sounded and would later name the second coming of his team, "The New Wave Card Counters."
Carl explained that they had to completely revolutionize the concept of team play, starting with doing away with the old method of counters signalling BPs at the table. Casinos were hip to that, especially after all the publicity surrounding the MIT team. According to his new idea, the BPs would no longer be signaled in. Instead, three or four members of the team would play together at the same table. They would all count down the shoe, then bet and play accordingly.
None of his teammates grasped the concept at first, so Carl painted a simple scenario. With multiple players from the group sitting at the same table, the goal would be to get a collective bet spread of 1-16 units. If the group as a whole could bet $100 to $1,600, they could still play with a significant edge, even while playing the shoe starting from the first hand (as opposed to swooping in on rich situations).
"Say it's a $25 minimum and four of us are at the table," Carl explained. "We each bet $25 to start, and stick with the minimum until the true count hits +2. Now say we want to get a total bet of $200 on the layout. Instead of us all going up to $50 bets, one of us can bet $100, another $50, and the last two stay at the minimum $25."
Aggregately, the team would be making a $200 bet- but with only two increasing their wagers, it wouldn't be obvious to surveillance that each of them knew that it was the right thing to do.
If the true count went up to +3 two rounds later, the quartet would want to increase its bet to $400. Now the player who earlier had bet $100 could drop to $50, while the player who'd previously bet $50 increased to $150, and the two players who'd been betting $25 went up to $100 each. In this manner, the team could effectively increase its bet to four units, but in a non-uniform- even haphazard - way from individual standpoint. Who in the eye could possibly follow what was going on?
If the count stayed at +3 and the group wanted to maintain the four-unit bet at $400 (and further dispel the appearance of card counting) the second player could cut that bet in half while the first player stepped it back up to $125. Players three and four remained at $100. Again, the team would be wagering perfectly in the aggregate but, one by one, each player would be dismissed as a potential card counter. This could be done in innumerable permutations, throwing off surveillance regardless how long they wanted to count down shoes along with them.
GOING INTO ACTION
Carl realized that in order to catch on, the casino guys would have to combine all four bets for each hand and compare them with the true count. That would be hard to figure out, as they first had to identify the players as a team. If they played at a $25-minimum table and everyone played above the minimum in green or black chips, the team wouldn't stand out, as long as it avoided the purples. It could, however, use purple chips on $100-minimum tables or on $25 tables with black and purple action. Whenever the count skyrocketed, team members could increase their betting accordingly, hopefully under the cover of a hot table where the other players would be winning, too. In that case, the group's increased bets would look like normal hot-streak play.
It all sounded great to the once-and-future team. But what about the negative-betting progression when the count turned downward? "We just do the same thing," Carl said. "We vary the decreases between the four players. So, what do you guys think?"
They were back in business a week later. The New Wave card-counting team hit Vegas with a hard right hand at the blackjack tables. They alternated between seating three, four and five of their members at the tables, depending on playing conditions. They were able to maintain the 1-to-16 unit bet spread most of the time. When they couldn't, they still spread enough to maintain an edge while staying below the casino's radar.
The new method continues to be used by both the New Wave team and others. Surely casinos will develop counter-measures, but detection will never be as easy for them as it was during the days of the old team play concept.
About the Author --- Richard Marcus is the author of four books: American Roulette; Dirty Poker; The World's Greatest Gambling Scams; and Identity Theft, Inc. He is now a casino game-protection consultant.
Thursday, December 27, 2007
If you can't get there at 9 p.m, it repeats four hours later at 1 a.m EST (12 a.m. Central, 10 p.m Pacific) and then again on Sunday, January 6th at 5 p.m. EST (4 p.m. Central, 2 p.m. Pacific). So don't miss it!
COMING SOON CHEATERS HALL OF FAME!
The board here at Richard Marcus Books, which consists of...well...me, is in the process of electing the first inductees to the Richard Marcus Books Poker and Casino Cheaters Hall of Fame. All inductees will be first-ballot inductees, meaning everyone nominated gets in. There are no time requirements for eligibility. Only Balls! And of course wits. Ten to fifteen cheaters will be elected and you will be able to see and read about them in my upcoming "Cheaters Hall of Fame" page. Their stories should both amaze and amuse you.
YOUR SUGGESTIONS ABOUT MY BLOG
I have been blogging this blog for three years now, most intently during the past six months. I've covered many topics including worldwide news about cheaters and cheating, both online and in the real brick and mortar world. I've expressed my opinions on such and recounted various stories about many of the colorful characters involved in these incidents both today and in the lore of poker and casino scams.
However, perhaps I have not been covering some of the topics that interest you. Please let me know what you would like to see in my daily blogging that I may have been omitting. I try to keep this blog as diverse and interesting as possible, so any ideas, suggestions and comments would be greatly appreciated.
Thanks for reading,
Wednesday, December 26, 2007
Should we believe him?...anymore than we believe Vick and Jones, who apologized only after several denials and only after they got charged with crimes and threatened with prison time, and found themselves in a situation where apologizing to the world might get them a lighter sentence. Personally, I believed Jones more than I did Vick, as she seemed influenced by her steroid-taking boyfriend/trainer and the steroid-taking crowd around her.
So what about Field? Couldn't he at least pull a Roger Clemens and apologize to the online world through a self-humbling video on YouTube? If he'd done that, millions of people would surely view it, and not only would we get to see his face and judge his sincerity, he would also have the chance to launch a singing and dancing career like Tay Zonday of "Chocolate Rain" fame, surely so if his apology was nothing more than a song and dance.
Here's what he had to say...or I should say "post."
"It’s hard to pick out where to start. The past few years, I have been forced to go underground and stay mysterious. It’s not something I really chose, but it was something forced upon me. I was fourteen turning fifteen, and I was much too immature to handle the situation (ABlackCar incident, and the underage violations that followed). I am almost embarrassed reading my posts about the situation, but I realize that I was still very young at the time. I don’t mean to use this as an excuse, but I was clueless. Ever since that day, I have been forced to stay under the surface.
After all that happened, I was banned from PokerStars and PartyPoker, and all my accounts were closed for being underage. My immaturity again was working against me. I didn’t think what I was doing was wrong. After that, it was a downward spiral. I was a fugitive in the online poker world. I used the reasoning “if I’m already a wanted man, I might as well maximize my value.” It was terrible logic, but it made sense to me then.
I continued to back players and continued meeting more people. This wasn’t easy for me, since I knew I had to watch who I trusted. I couldn’t leave the game, there was just no way. I had to be playing, I had to be involved. I don’t think you could call it an obsession, as much as a passion. I loved the game so deeply that I would play it at any cost. I’d use screen names of people I hardly knew, which ended up in me getting screwed over multiple times. For some reason, I never cared. The money never mattered to me; I was just in love with the game.
Throughout this period, I could really see myself growing up. Well, during the time I didn’t, but now I can see it. I started getting more conscious about playing on sites that I had already been shut away from. It had begun to tear me apart inside. It was a conflict between my own growing maturity and my childish passion for the game, and my childish passion was winning. Accounts were getting closed, people were trying to take money from me, but I kept playing full force. I regret it, but I understand my position. I still don’t fully understand myself, but I didn’t care about the money, the drama, anything really. I just wanted to keep playing the game. I was stubborn and ignorant to what I was doing.
Transition to present time. I do believe I have matured and developed a sense of morals and personal ethics. I was always too scared to apologize to the community, mostly due to the fact I didn’t think what I was doing was wrong. I finally realize now that I was cheating completely. I neglected my fellow poker players and cheated a wonderful thing we have with online poker. I betrayed a community I cared so much about all for selfish reasons. It shames me to think about it. I did it for so long, and I never had the courage to quit and admit what I was doing was wrong.
So, I write this to officially apologize to the community. I apologize to the people that have been close to me and have been given a negative name due to my actions. I apologize to all the players I played with under unknown names and gave myself an unfair advantage. I give my word that I will never multi-account again, and I will not play online until I am 18. I apologize to the sites that I unfairly took advantage of. I don’t expect to be forgiven right away, but I hope I can earn the forgiveness of the community, the sites, and even my friends."
Josh Field, better known to the online poker world as “JJProdigy”, posted an apology of sorts on several major online poker forums this weekend, just days before he is set to make his live poker debut at the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure.
“JJProdigy” is one of the more controversial figures in online poker, associated directly with several multi-accounting scandals and indirectly with dozens more. His name has become somewhat synonymous with cheating in online poker tournaments, and his retreat into the background following the loss of his accounts on every major poker site did little but fuel speculation of his involvement in major online poker tournaments.
What makes the story all the more interesting is that Field is just now turning 18 - meaning that the majority of his reputed hundreds of thousands of dollars in tournament wins came when he was 14 to 17 years old.
Tuesday, December 25, 2007
"The Commission hopes to complete its review and render a decision in this matter within the next two weeks," said the organization in a release on its Web site.
Absolute Poker came under investigation in October after allegations of cheating started showing up in poker forums online. A player who won a tournament was accused of using some sort of god mode or super-user account to be able to see everyone's hole cards during games.
The accusations gained some weight when sleuths on the 2+2 forum analyzed the hand histories from that particular tournament and were able to track the IP trail of the player and determine it was a high-level employee at the poker site.
When Absolute Poker conducted an internal investigation, it found that an employee had breached the security system to play unfairly on the site for a period of 40 days.
That employee has since been terminated. Players who were involved in hands with that employee during the 40-day period also had their money returned to them.
The poker site also emphasized that this was an internal security breach and not something someone outside the company would be able to do.
Absolute Poker has turned over all hand histories in question to the Kahnawake Gaming Commission as well for its investigation.
Well, I don't know what we can expect as far as a decision by this Kahnawake Gaming Commission, but I think the whole real purpose of this investigation is to ensure the online public that no hackers from the outside would ever be able to hack into Absolute's, or anyone else's, system to see players' hole cards.
My opinion on that?...Never say Ever
I wish you all a very Merry Christmas
Monday, December 24, 2007
ROME (AP) -- The ATP suspended Italians Potito Starace and Daniele Bracciali on Saturday for making bets - some as little as $7 - on tennis matches involving other players.
The Italian tennis federation denounced the penalties by the governing body as an "injustice," and the players said they have been made scapegoats.
Starace, ranked 31st, was suspended for six weeks and fined $30,000, the Italian federation said. Bracciali, ranked 258th, was banned for three months and fined $20,000. Both suspensions take effect Jan. 1.
The federation said Starace made five bets for a total of $130 two years ago, and Bracciali made about 50 bets of $7 each from 2004-05.
"Injustice is done," the statement said. "These penalties are absolutely, excessively severe compared to the magnitude of the violations carried out by the two players."
The federation said the two were not aware of the ATP's betting regulations, and they stopped placing bets as soon as they learned it was against the rules.
"It's disgusting," Starace said. "The ATP doesn't know where to turn. It's all a joke."
Bracciali said the two had been "sacrificed."
"That's why they came after us," he said. "We are not champions and we don't count in the upper echelons."
Another Italian, Alessio Di Mauro, became the first player sanctioned under the ATP's new anti-corruption rules when he received a nine-month ban in November, also for betting on matches.
ATP officials could not be reached for comment Saturday.
Concerns about match-fixing have risen since August, when an online betting company reported unusual betting patterns during a match between fourth-ranked Nikolay Davydenko of Russia and Martin Vassallo Arguello of Argentina. The company, Betfair, voided all bets and the ATP has been investigating. Davydenko, who quit while trailing in the third set, denies wrongdoing.
Since then, several players have said they were approached with offers to fix matches for money.
MY BIGGEST CASINO CHEATING MOVE EVER!
Yesterday, I told you that the second biggest move my cheating team ever attempted was to pastpost (make the bet after the number already won) a $1,000 chip straight-up on a winning number at roulette. Today I will actually take you with me as my team attempted its biggest move ever. It was also a roulette move, and believe it or not, it was way back in 1986, in the summer casino on the 7th floor of the Carlton Hotel in Caanes, France. At the time I was working with Joe Classon, Duke and Jerry, my original teammates. So come on inside the casino with us and get involved!
What I saw inside the Carlton Casino was dazzling, perhaps the real La palme d'or prize-winning film in Cannes that year. Never before—and I mean never—had I seen action like that! If the roulette tables in London had been flooded with big action, the downpour of chips over the dozen layouts inside the Carlton's casino was a veritable deluge. Seated around one of the English-style tables (same as American without the 00) were three Arab sheiks in their customary white robes and headdress. They were spreading large diamond-studded ten-thousand-franc chips straight up on the numbers. I had never been in a casino that accepted that much money on a straight-up bet. At the same table was a threesome of identically dressed Japanese men matching the sheiks bet for bet, blanketing the layout with their version of diamond-studded ten-thousand-franc chips. They all wore dark blue suits, badly tailored by Western standards, and the contrast to the sheiks in pure white made you believe they really were filming a French comedy.
My mind raced a mile a minute watching that phenomenal action. 10,000 francs was at the time the equivalent of $2,000, which meant that each of the Arab and Japanese straight-up winning bets was being paid off at seventy grand! The largest straight-up move we had ever done to that point earned us $7,000. This French Riviera casino would pay ten times that! The move I envisioned was feasible but extremely difficult. Like in London, each roulette table had an inspector sitting high above the table. He would have to be taken out by distraction in order for Duke to move underneath the marker. I figured that the table with the sheiks and Japanese offered the best opportunity for a move because our ten-thousand-franc bet would blend right in on the layout. The casino wouldn't want to appear unclassy in front of their super-rich clientele by squabbling over one "measly" winning chip that nobody had seen.
But the problem was that these diamond-studded ten-thousand-franc chips were larger than roulette chips. We could not put the move-chip underneath the claimer’s roulette chips as we’d been accustomed to doing. It would stick out and raise questions even if the move went in cleanly. The only solution was having Duke lay in a naked capper, just like Mumbles and Wheels did in the old days. Simply lay our oversized ten-thousand-franc chip underneath the winning oversized ten-thousand-franc chip or chips already on the number. The problem with the naked capper was that the total number of chips on the winning number would be increased by one. A seasoned dealer might notice that difference even if there had originally been as many as six or seven winning chips. If there had been less, the one-chip increase would be that much more noticeable. At what minimum number of chips on the winning number would we deem sufficient to try it?
There was yet another worry. Since Duke and I (Joe and Jerry weren’t needed to check-bet) would be the only players at the table not belonging to either clan, the Arabs and/or the Japanese might feel uncomfortable with our presence there. Assuming we managed to get the move in, would one of them rat on us? You never knew who your rats could be, as I’d learned in Lake Tahoe with the Veronica experience. Asians tended to almost never rat as that was part of their culture, but I knew nothing about Muslims. The stonings and hand-choppings I’d heard about were punishments meted out for crimes committed against Arabs, usually by Arabs. But were their morals as supreme concerning French casinos ripped off by Americans?
There are certain times when even the most sophisticated casino-cheating teams cannot rely on intricate sign languages to communicate inside a casino. Normally, when we entered a casino we had a basic game plan—two or three different moves with which to attack. Then once inside we "called our play" based on prevailing conditions. If we decided to change the original plan, the new play was communicated by flashing each other signs, much like a football team calling its original play in the huddle then changing it with an audible at the line of scrimmage. But when the situation presenting itself was too complex—rendering our quarterback indecisive—a time out was called to discuss it.
The multitudinous possibilities and their inherent complexities inside the Carlton casino forced us to take a time out. Joe signalled me to leave the casino. I took the elevator down to the lobby and walked outside onto the Croisette. Ten minutes later Jerry appeared, then Duke and finally Joe.
We all had individual impressions and ideas about what we'd witnessed inside the casino. After exchanging them excitedly, Joe made the decision.
"We go with the naked capper." He turned his attention specifically on Duke. "Even if there's only one winning chip on the number, you pop in ours underneath."
Duke exhaled the smoke from his cigarette. "What do I do if there’re no winning chips straight up on the number?...Do you want me to go on a split?"
"Absolutely not," Joe said firmly. "We wait for the straight-up. As long as you're confident about getting in there under the piece, we go for the jugular."
"No problem," Duke said, stomping out the butt. "I need the guy on the chair taken out for a full second."
"You got it," Jerry said.
Now Joe turned his attention to me. "This is what it's all about," he said. "New challenges. How long have we been together now, ten years? You have a lot of experience; you're a monster claimer. You never chilled-up once on me. You never committed the cardinal sin of leaving a move on a layout unclaimed. I have enormous respect for you...as I do for both Duke and Jerry. You're a warrior, and your reward is the opportunity to claim the biggest move of all time." He paused a moment, then said triumphantly to us all, "Now let's go back in there and get these French motherfuckers!"
Jerry handed Duke the ten-thousand-franc chip he’d gotten off a blackjack table. Duke gave it an admiring glance, commented that it didn’t have the diamond studding like the Arabs’ and Japanese chips did, then shrugged and put it in his pocket. We filed one by one back to the lobby elevators.
I stood two roulette tables away from the target table and watched Duke on the bottom of the layout, wedged in between two Arab sheiks. That sheer sight was laughable. The fact that Duke was wearing an expensive Armani suit did not make him look any less ridiculous between the two sheiks. The presence of the Japanese only heightened the hilarity. I couldn't help but laugh softly to myself. Surprisingly, I was not the least bit nervous. In fact, I was perhaps the most relaxed I'd ever been when preparing myself to claim an important move. I was comfortable with the feeling that I had earned the right to claim this record-setting move. A lot of hard work, sweat and discipline had gone into my career as a pastposter—not to mention the sheer balls of stone. My feeling was that I didn't want anybody else claiming that move but me.
When number 30 came in on the third spin with four winning diamond-studded chips on the number, Jerry stepped right in front of the inspector on the high chair and said loudly, almost obnoxiously, "Monsieur...Monsieur...S'il vous plaît...Je ne parle pas le Français...Can you explain..."
That was all the greatest roulette mechanic in the history of the world needed. With nerves of steel and unshakable will that made me proud to be a part of this pastposting team, Duke shot out to the layout from between the two sheiks, lifted off and held the marker with his left hand while his right slid our big ten-thousand-franc chip underneath the four already there, replaced the marker, leaned back in his chair and took a deep breath, all before the two stunned sheiks witnessing the feat could praise Allah. The work Duke had done with his right hand—picking up four oversized chips and sliding a fifth underneath with his pinkie, then centering the marker, all in a single second—was truly incredible.
I appeared at the front of the layout between two of the Japanese, just as Jerry was leaving to follow Duke out the door. "Merci beaucoup," I said loudly but without hysterics. “It's about time I won a large bet in France!” There was no need to carry on too much with the claim; the value of my chip exceeded none of the others lying on the winning number.
What happened next was the biggest disappointment of my entire pastposting career. It was hard to believe, and when the French gaming inspector on the high chair told me almost nonchalantly in broken English that my bet couldn't be paid because I had violated a French gaming regulation by betting a blackjack chip on a roulette table, I thought he was either joking because I was an American, or that his English was incapable of expressing what he really wanted to say. When it hit me that he was serious, that in French casinos (where rules differed from Monte Carlo) you simply were not allowed to bet chips bought at blackjack tables straight up on roulette numbers, I went into a silent shock. I could not fathom this disappointment. The inspector explained that casino chips were permitted only on the outside even-money and 2 to 1 bets.
There was no steam, no stirring—nothing. The inspector didn't tell anyone else in the casino. The dealer went about his business of paying the Arab sheiks and the Japanese, each of whom had two winning chips on number 30. I watched numbly as the dealer pushed $140,000 in chips, first to the two sheiks at the bottom of the table where Duke had been, and then to two of the Japanese. Finally, I managed to raise my head and look across the pit behind the inspector to where Joe was standing. He was staring at me with a ghastly grimace. He had understood what happened, the minute reason why our giant move was not being paid. I held Joe's stunned gaze with my own frozen version for a full minute, before finally turning away and cashing out the useless ten-thousand-franc chip at the cashier.
Well, there it was. Only thing I didn't tell you yesterday is that this, the biggest move we ever attempted, didn't get paid.
Sunday, December 23, 2007
New Year's Eve, though--that's another story! December 31, no matter what the time zone, no matter what the weather, be it on the warm beaches of the Caribbean or the chilly mountainous casino resorts in Korea, and of course the throng-filled reveler-partying streets of Las Vegas, it's the grandest, most festive occasion in the casino business when 100% of the world's poker and casino cheaters, unless they're sick or stuck in an airport, are out there doing their thing. I spent 25 consecutive New Year's Eves cheating casinos, 16 of them in Las Vegas. The other 9...5 in Atlantic City, 2 in the Bahamas 1 in Australia and 1 in Monte Carlo. Why not Vegas every time? Well, it was a variety of reasons: Once my partner Pat met up with a girl in the Bahamas while vacationing there during Christmas (he did not go inside any casinos during Christmas Eve and Day, unless walking through them to get to the lobby counts) and he wanted to spend some more time with her, so instead of jetting to Vegas, we all met up in Nassau and worked the casinos both there and Paradise Island that New Year's Eve. Other times we chose Atlantic City because it was close to where we were based at the time, but got an unpleasant shock the first year there when the clock struck midnight and they actually shut down the tables to count down the seconds to "Happy New Year!" We were sitting at a roulette table ready to pop in the move when the floorman came over and fitted a cover right over the wheel. You should have seen the looks on our faces when that happened! But fortunately, they abandoned that practice because the five or so minutes that the tables stayed down cost them lots of money.
Did we always make more money cheating casinos on New Year's Eve than any other day or night of the year? I'd say perhaps 22 of the 25 times. Sometimes the crowds were so huge that we just couldn't get our spots at the tables, but when we did, boy did we hit them hard with our biggest moves! So was our biggest single move/payoff done on a New Year's Eve? No, but our second biggest was: a $1,000 chip pastposted straight-up on a number for $35,000. Care to guess the number that came in?... You bet...31! But it actually went down at 12:05 so it was already January 1st. So then, what was the biggest move we ever tried? Now that you ask, I think I will write about that in tomorrow's blog, so stay tuned!
I spoke this morning with my two main ex-partners, Pat and Balls, and believe it or not, they're going back to work this New Year's Eve! They haven't been working the casinos much anymore and haven't worked a New Year's Eve since 2004, but they both took some bad beats betting football this season and need some serious cash. Of course they asked me if I wanted to join them--and they weren't kidding--but even though my heart surely wanted to, my brain wouldn't allow it...I mean retired is retired, isn't it?...Where are they going to be working and which moves will they do? Well, I can't say where for obvious reasons (casino surveillance people all over the world read this blog), but you can bet they will be laying Savannah moves all over the roulette layouts and even on blackjack tables! Those of you who don't know Savannah, you can go to the video page on my website and see her in action. I gotta tell you frankly that it is unbelievable a cheating move can be so good that I can speak about it openly like this and casinos still can't stop it! In any event, I will let you know how they did when I get their report. I'm thinking they'll make a big score to bring in the New Year!
Have a nice day and see you tomorrow.
Saturday, December 22, 2007
Full Tilt Poker Makes Another Major Bots Bust! / Greektown Surveillance or is it "Geektown" Surveillance
Here's what's going on at Full Tilt:
Every once in a while I come across an article that makes me lol! Well, here's one with the surveillance director of the Greektown casino in Detroit is being interviewed and after hearing what he had to say, I think I'm about ready to jump
off this keyboard and fly to Detroit and slip in a few big moves!
Check this out and see if you'd be scared of some sword-swinging sleuth like this watching your moves in a casino!
Five questions with Greektown Casino surveillance supervisor Tom Jones
December 20, 2007
Tom Jones (no relation to the singer) is a surveillance shift supervisor for Greektown Casino, where he has worked for 8 years. Before that, he served in the U.S. Army Military Police Corps. He sees the worst elements that come into the casino, and it's not people out to cheat the business, he says. It's people out to steal from other patrons. He's got some good tips for ways players can avoid problems, and he's also got the steel to back them up -- literally. Jones, 40, paints miniature metal figurines and does live sword fighting in his off hours. He lives in Ann Arbor.
QUESTION: What do surveillance employees do? What types of things do you see on the floor?
ANSWER: We watch the casino and keep an eye on its assets. We look for the cheats, the thieves, the people who are trying to commit criminal acts against the casino and the other patrons. Most often, it's patron-on-patron theft at the slot machines. Someone leans forward and they're really intent on the slot machine. Someone comes by and picks up their jacket. You get that all the time.
Q: What can players do to reduce their odds of being a victim?
A: Sit on your jacket. Ladies, keep your purse on your lap. Keep it closed. Make sure when you get your ticket (from the slot machine), you fold it up and put it in your pocket.
Q: How did you get started sword fighting?
A: I have to blame my brother, Brian. He got me interested way back in junior high in "Dungeons & Dragons." Now I'm in Ring of Steel. It's a theatrical combat group out of Ann Arbor. Every once in a while, I get together with my friends and practice sword fighting. It's actually very aerobic and very good for your arm strength. We wear safety equipment; it's a very well-choreographed dance with swords. It's a lot of fun.
Q: When do you use your skills?
A: I do it for charity. At the American Cancer Society fund-raising relays, we set up an arena. April will be our first race next year. I'm covered with balloons. Kids pay to attack me with wooden swords and they try to knock the balloons off. I always let the little ones win. They get to chase me around the ring. After a day of that, you're like, "Get me out of this armor!" I had a kid who could not understand the rules and kept beating on my leg. I had a welt the size of a grapefruit. My fastest bout was 7 seconds; it was an adult, a 22-year-old. She got mouthy with me.
Q: How did you get started painting figurines?
A: My first wife taught me in 1990. I've done 350-400 so far. I do fantasy and medieval -- 12th Century to 10th Century. I also paint dragons and unicorns. Those are more challenging -- you have to use your imagination. For the re-creations, you have books. It lets me focus on one thing and tune out the rest of the world. It also steadies my hands; try painting an eyeball on a figurine that's 1 inch tall.
A few months ago Full Tilt Poker busted a number of "bots" operating in their mid limit Heads Up Limit games. A substantial amount of money was confiscated from the "bot" accounts and redistributed to the victims, and the bots were banned from the site.
Now Full Tilt Poker has banned a number of other "bot" accounts. Actually, they banned these accounts about a month and a half ago, but just started distributing the seized funds yesterday.
"Bot" accounts seem to either prefer the really low limit No Limit Hold'em ring games or the mid limit Limit Hold'em games (heads up). The rationale for operating bots in both games is easy to see: in the case of the low limit No Limit Hold'em games, you could employ a fairly basic strategy of simply pushing all-in if you held a certain range of hands. Due to the weak play at these levels, you are going to get called by extremely weak hands. Heads Up Limit Hold'em is another obvious choice for people employing "bot" technology because the artificial intelligence needed to play a heads-up game is presumably much easier to program than in a short-handed or full ring game.
A few months ago, a number of "bot" accounts were banned from Full Tilt Poker, including "japinthesack" and "beatme1." Hundreds of thousands of dollars were confiscated and returned to the victims of the "bots."
Now, Full Tilt has banned another batch of bots operating in the heads up mid limit Limit Hold'em games. One of these accounts is "pokergirl z", who has apparently had about $47k confiscated from her account. There were a number of other alleged "bot" accounts banned as well.
The owner of the "pokergirl z" account has been posting on 2+2, proclaiming her innocence. As I said earlier, her account was actually banned about a month and a half ago, but Full Tilt Poker just recently started distributing her seized funds.
Her account was initially frozen on October 12th. After a number of weeks of investigation, Full Tilt banned her account permanently, saying that they had assessed her hand histories and "playing patterns" and had determined that she was using an artificial intelligence program. As per their usual policy, Full Tilt is being tight-lipped about exactly how they determined that she was "allegedly" a bot, but one can assume that they use statistical analysis, timing tells and maybe even screenshots of her desktop to come to their conclusion.
"pokergirl z" is obviously not pleased, but there is no way for her to really do anything as Full Tilt has the final say.
It makes you wonder how many alleged "bot" accounts are operating on Full Tilt or any other site at this exact moment.
Friday, December 21, 2007
Yesterday I spoke about the drug provigil, marketed as Modafinil. Today I am adding another brand drug, Adderall, to the mix. Adderall is a pharmaceutical psychostimulant comprising mixed amphetamine salts. The drug is used primarily to treat attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder and narcolepsy. Adderall has also been used successfully to manage severe cases of treatment-resistant depression. It is a Schedule II controlled substance, meaning that it has been deemed to have a high potential for abuse and addiction despite genuine medical uses.
I have been made aware of poker players using this drug by way of a disturbing e-mail I received from the mother of teenage boy playing online in Scandinavia (which, by the way, has depression rates amongst the highest in the world, and that is not good in conjunction with online gambling addiction). She wrote that her son was staying up all hours in the night playing online, missing sleep, missing school, missing out on just about everything. Did I know anything about this? she wanted to know.
Well, one thing I knew even without knowing was why these kinds of drugs appeal to sleepless online poker players who want to be just as sharp while playing as they are sleepless.
Where Modafinil and Adderall can even be more effective in the realm of poker is certainly online. Because there, players can play in multiple games at once and need to retain more data and play more hands in a much less shorter period of time, and this taxes the brain and requires a keen alertness unadulterated by "sleepiness" in order to accomplish all that effectively.
For example, if one normally plays a maximum of 3 tables simultaneously and wants to increase that because he is a winning player, meaning that more hands in action translates in the long-run to more profits, but is limited because he knows that with the added amounts of opponents with each new table, he will not be able to keep track of all the variables at once, and thus will miss opportunities where variance plays would be more effective in given situations, he may search for the added "fuel" needed to make this jump upwards possible.
When one plays more tables at once than he is used to, he is often forced to "default" actions because the players change so frequently online, and also because it is difficult to keep track of who might be in which emotional state. Short-handed games alter this decreased tracking effect even more, as one tends to devote more focus on the short game than the other tables. Everyone is different of course, but for most players, their natural comfort level where they don’t feel like they're giving up anything due to distractions is 3 tables, or 27 simultaneous opponents.
But with Modafinil and Adderall, players are able to extend their effective gamesmanship to 6 tables with relative ease. Once on the drugs, those players usually add one table at a time, lingering on the newly added variables until they feel they have a good read on the players and the games. Their new altered ability to increase attention to detail allows them to reliably track player movements on all tables, most importantly when new players come into any game. They feel the ability to track the movements of more than 50 simultaneous players, with perhaps the capacity for even more as they experience growing confidence in their "poker's little helpers."
For these players it is vital that none of their active tables overlap with any others, in order not to block the information as it streams in. Personal set-ups vary with many using a video card with dual monitor outputs, two 21-inch monitors set to 1600x1200 resolution on each, and placing the monitors side-by-side and sitting between the two, as opposed to having one directly in front of them and one to the side. Basically the idea is to have all the action visible without needing to shift one’s eyes or head around, and relying on the increased awareness of Modafinil and Adderall to keep track of where each player was sitting and sits now, which is normally difficult since their names/avatars are shrunken at 1600x1200 resolution and multiple actions are taking place simultaneously.
Back to live poker now to mention long, multi-day tournaments with the brutal, extended hours of play per day. One of the obvious main differences between tournament and ring play is the inability to dictate your playing hours in the former. If the tournament director is determined to play down to a set number of remaining players for the day, there is a very good chance that an extremely long session is in order, with a participant stuck at his table until the goals of the TD are met. Besides the designated breaks and meals, a tournament player has little choice about choosing whether to play on, even if he knows he has long lost his peak mental performance. If the day requires sixteen hours of play, those players who can sustain their best play for the greatest amount of time within that sixteen have a significant advantage over those that peak and crash after 8, 10, or 12 hours.
Extending this thought, if we look at a super tournament like the Championship WSOP event which will take 5 or more stress filled days to complete, and has an abnormally large chance of causing sleeplessness and exhaustion as the days progress, a player that requires less sleep in order to feel completely rested, and benefiting from a state of heightened awareness in his waking hours even with this shortened rest, will again have a tremendous advantage. The cumulative weariness of those long days would affect anyone, chipping away at one’s ability to sustain his or her best. Since lots of no-limit Hold’em play is so deadly towards a single, thoughtless or missed-cue mistake, the ability to side-step this type of mistake would be huge. Some people will turn to drugs to provide what they feel is a very practical and effective solution to this problem, more effective than any other training they might undertake to improve the quality of their sleepless time.
I want to stress that in spite of the great detail I have given here, explaining exactly how online players create their edge and set-up their equipment, doing drugs to enhance your poker skills will ultimately hurt both you and the game, just like it's done to baseball players and baseball.
Wednesday, December 19, 2007
Physically, it's rather obvious that the muscle-bound effects of either steroids or human growth hormone will do absolutely nothing to help poker players win at the tables. But when speaking of "physically," I'm talking about sheer size and power, not stamina or the ability to stave off sleep and headaches. Which brings us toward the other, more integral argument about steroids in poker: the mental side.
It turns out that the conclusion there is rather straightforward as well. Anabolic steroids are not going to do anything much to give a cheating poker player and edge in the games--unless, of course, he plans on strong-arming his money back from a fellow player who beat him out of a big pot. But, as much as we might not like to admit this, there are certain "poker steroids" out there. I am not talking about steroids in the anabolic sense; I'm talking about other kinds of performance enhancement drugs. There are several but the one at the forefront is called provigil (generic name Modafinil). Provigil is a drug that keeps you awake. It has legitimate medical uses and has also been used by the military to increase the performance of its pilots and soldiers in combat situations. Provigil enhances short-term memory and lets users stay awake for extended periods. In short, it keeps you awake, alert and sharp, three necessities in the world of winning poker.
What is poker about and what does provigil have to do with it? Maybe nothing, maybe something, maybe soon to be something more, although I hope not. Poker itself is about gaining and exploiting edges against your opponents. Usually study, observation, analysis, and experience, which are all naturally occurring processes that everyone has the capacity to practice, coupled with the ability to mentally sustain our applied knowledge in these areas, are what achieves these advantages, and thus, even though some players will always be better than others, poker is thought of as a "fair" game. Modafinil is the first artificial stimulant I've heard about that alters this landscape by giving a player the ability to perform longer mentally and at a more concentrated level than what he can achieve normally. Modafinil not only helps in gathering knowledge with a sharp, observational outlook, but also in applying intellect without normal taxation. If a player already has analytical skills, the drug can help him to contain the emotional destructiveness of tilting, as he can focus beyond the immediate result and concentrate on the overall plan, essentially wiping out an inherent weakness of many good players.
You know, I hesitated before writing on this subject. Do I really want to open up a can of worms, such as the one pried open by George Mitchell in naming Roger Clemens as a massive longtime steroid user? In fact, do I have any knowledge of specific poker players taking Modafinil? Is there a "Marcus Report" that names names like Mitchell's report did with baseball's steroid-takers?
Sorry, but no. I haven't even heard of a single player who has taken Modafinil or any other drug to enhance their poker skills. But the problem is that I heard several players talking about it on several different occasions. This is why I am writing about it now. I think Modafinil and other drugs capable of altering the landscape of thought and alertness may threaten poker in the very near future. Especially in light of the megabucks surrounding the pro circuits, let alone the driven desires to succeed in competition and be champions at all the major events.
So let's learn a lesson from baseball and the Mitchell Report and stop talking about drug-induced breakthroughs for mental competition. As baseball once went through a time period where players talked about steroids before actually taking them, poker might be in that similar time period right now for mental-performance enhancers, and that is why any of you out there who might be influenced to take drugs to better your poker play need to think twice. It is not worth it, and with all the regular forms of cheating we see both online and in brick and mortar cardrooms, this kind of very dangerous cheating is the last thing we need.
TOMORROW: Modafinil and online poker, is that a real problem now?
So choose any one of them freely and good luck while playing!
What's this? If you guessed yet another form of online poker cheating, you're right, although it's not of the most nefarious kind, falling somewhere in the same sinister barrel as account-selling. If you've ever heard of the term "ghostwriters" used for behind-the-scenes authors writing books for celebrities who may not be capable of fashioning their own letters, you will see the connection to the word "onlineghosters" denoting those who...well, those who occupy a shadowy realm in online poker rooms. Here's a short description:
Ghosting occurs all the time in multi-table tournaments. An increasing problem with online poker is how many people are playing one hand? The ghosting cheating method uses another person to offer their opinion. First, the other person (the ghost) is watching the player in the tournament, and the player is telling the ghost what cards he has via telephone, instant messenger, or in person and offers advice as to what course of action the player should take during the hand.
Ghosting is nearly impossible to regulate or stop, and thus it is actively happening in nearly every tournament. Officially, the card room policies state that more then one player to a hand is ok because they have no way of knowing how to stop it from occurring. Ghosting is simply another way cheating and is not the way the game is intended to be played. You can imagine that ghosting can get out of hand very quickly, as players probably are already charging other players for their services to ghost them.
Ghosting is unethical and goes against the one player to a hand rule which was a founding principle of poker. As it is impossible to detect players being ghosted and using the expert ghost for analysis and decision-making it becomes tougher to win tournaments.
Well, at least these ghosts wear white.
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
Well, here's a story of how one crooked poker player stole another's identity to launch, of all things, a benefits scam. And the poor victim is already dead. Talk about muddying someone's grave! Well, you know what they say: If you can't screw 'em while they're livin', screw 'em after they're dyin'!
GAMBLER STOLE DEAD FRIEND'S IDENTITY TO PAY DEBTS
11:40 - 18 December 2007
Poker player Norman Kay took a drastic gamble by trying to steal a dead friend's identity in a benefits scam, Exeter Crown Court heard.
Kay, 63, of Courtenay Terrace, Starcross, used the man's details on a UK passport, birth certificate, NI certificate and NHS medical card.
The court heard Kay was trying to claim benefits, using the false details, to pay off £50,000 in gambling debts.
Judge Jeremy Griggs said: "Instead of using a canoe, he thought he'd use Day of the Jackal."
The judge was referring to the case of former teacher and prison officer John Darwin who came back from dead after apparently drowning in a canoeing accident. The Day of the Jackal is a spy novel and film in which a criminal sets up false identities for himself.
Kay had pleaded guilty to an offence of improperly obtaining a passport, an offence of false representation and a charge of attempted deception.
Prosecutor Emily Pitts said Kay tried to claim Pension Credit using false documents in the name of Christopher John Francis, a man who was born in 1944 and died in 1974.
Mr Francis, who the court was told died in a work-related accident, knew the defendant.
If Kay's claim had been successful, Pension Credit would have enabled him to also claim housing benefit, council tax benefit and free prescriptions. But staff at the Benefits Agency realised the national insurance number belonged to a dead man and an investigation was launched.
Police surveillance linked Kay to his two properties, in Sheffield and Starcross.
Documents linking him to the identity theft were found at his Starcross home.
The court heard his wife had been unaware of the scam and was standing by him despite her shock.
Defence counsel Piers Norsworthy said: "Sheer despair drove him into ending Norman Kay's legal status, to disappear, and for Mr Francis to begin."
He said the defendant had not intended to flee the country but needed the passport as part of the benefits scam, which he hoped would pay off his poker debts.
Mr. Norsworthy added: "He'd hoped, perhaps as many gamblers do, that the end would be a happy one. But the ruse was rumbled."
The court heard Kay did not have any recent criminal convictions.
Judge Griggs adjourned sentencing for Kay to have an operation, as the defendant is in poor health.
But he warned him: "I make it absolutely clear this is offending which merits custody and that is likely to be the outcome."
Kay will be sentenced on Friday, February 1.
Monday, December 17, 2007
Poker Magazine Fires Editor Following Online Poker Room Cheating
The managing editor of a popular poker magazine has been fired for his role in the latest cheating scandal to rock the online poker world. Bluff Magazine, which has both print and online editions, announced Monday that it had canned its 24-year-old managing editor, Chris Vaughn. Vaughn, according to news reports, had cheated in an online poker tournament and then, when confronted about it, lied.
In a statement posted on its website, www.bluffmagazine.com, the poker mag announced: “Bluff Media, publisher of Bluff Magazine, has made the decision to terminate Chris Vaughn as managing editor. In light of Chris’ involvement, recently admitted facts and the feedback obtained from industry professionals, it became apparent that the credibility required to perform the job functions of managing editor of Bluff Magazine at our company’s level of standards have become severely diminished. While we regret having to make this decision, we believe that it is the best alternative for all parties involved, including Chris, Bluff Media and the poker playing community at large. We wish Chris the best of luck.”
According to news reports, Vaughn recently won an online poker tournament at the Full Tilt poker room. However, it was soon revealed on a poker posting forum that midway through the tourney, which Vaughn had entered legally, he had sold his account-–that is, his position in the tournament to another, better player, who went on to win the tournament, news reports said. Later, in an interview on Internet radio, Vaughn lied about his role in the scam, the reports said.
As is so often the case, the cover-up became worse than the crime and Bluff had to fire Vaughn.
Vaughn's win was a case of account-selling, the practice of turning over an account late in a major online tournament to a potent, star online player. The practice has come to light only in recent months, after several account-selling incidents were discussed on major poker forums. It was quickly recognized that a star player taking over one of these accounts was gaining a significant edge over his remaining players, who would have no idea that a new tough player, perhaps with a radically different style, had suddenly assumed a seat at the table. Account-selling is considered dishonest and therefore cheating, and is against the rules at online poker rooms.
In an interview, Vaughn was asked about his role in the cheating scandal and denied it. But then in a follow-up interview, Vaughn said, “When they asked me the question (about cheating) on the show, I panicked and I lied.”
Well, hopefully this online scam will at least get us to the end of the year, meaning that I hope there won't be yet another before we all toast one another Happy New Year!
A RUNAWAY IN VEGAS!
I heard that over the weekend, a guy walked into a Strip Casino in Vegas, laid a stack of 20 black $100 chips on a blackjack table, was dealt a hard twenty, lost the hand to the dealer's drawing out a five to a sixteen, then swiped his 20 black chips off the table before the dealer could get to them, and ran out the door, down the casino's entranceway with security agents in pursuit, and finally disappeared in the throng on Las Vegas Boulevard (the Strip).
At that I had to laugh! (lol) I don't know if he did it out of frustration or if he'd actually planned beforehand on bolting if he lost.
You see, I had done the exact same thing with my cheating team several times 25 years ago! We called the move "the runaway," which was a modified version of the old "walkaways" that old-timers in downtown Vegas did in the '50s and '60s when the casinos were all open like arcades to Fremont Street.
Back in the summer of '82, we had a lot of heat in Vegas on our pastposting moves, and we were sitting around the hotel room telling war stories, when my partner Duke told me about those old-timers doing walkways, which was betting a few $25 chips on "red" on roulette tables, then whenever "black" came in, scooping up their chips and walking out the open casino onto Fremont Street, which was literally a few steps outside the casinos.
I got a good chuckle out of it and said to Duke and the rest of my team, "Hey, Fuck the walkaways, let's do some runaways!" They all looked at me like I was nuts, but that very same night, I laid 20 black chips on a blackjack table at the Tropicana, lost the hand and ran out the door! My partner Jerry was waiting with his motorcycle outside the front entrance (in those days Vegas was not so congested and these escapes were possible, no longer the case today). I jumped on the back and we burned rubber and sped away!
We actually did three more of those runaways that night, and boy did that heat up Vegas! And then we did it a few more weekends during the following year, whenever we had too much heat on our regular cheating moves. I can tell you that the runaways were the most fun part of my entire cheating career; I was always laughing like a hyena when running out the door with the chips.
In the original manuscript of my book American Roulette (Great Casino Heist in Europe), I had written a chapter about the runaways, but unfortunately it was edited out by the picayune publisher to save space. However, there is a chapter about the same scam pulled off by others in my last book, The World's Greatest Gambling Scams. Go to my book page if interested in reading it.
Sunday, December 16, 2007
So check out my cheating-rank system every day.
Saturday, December 15, 2007
But most of these elegant cheaters were just part-time opportunists who took advantage of spur-of-the-moment whims. However, one infamous French casino cheat took Old World casino cheating to another level, and this certain Marcel Calvert, who would become know as Marcel "Le Pic-Vert", "the woodpecker" in English, is one of my greatest idols in the colorful history of professional casino-cheating.
Le Pic Vert was a carpenter by trade and he had toiled on numerous occasions inside France's grand casinos--where he got both his grand idea and his nickname. Being an inveterate roulette player and loser, who, much to his wife's dismay, snuck out to the casinos while she was asleep, Marcel endlessly dreamed of a way he could finally beat the spinning wheel. One night while watching the ball land on zero and the dealer rake his chips, Le Pic Vert was struck by his coup de foudre (lightening bolt). The next night he hid inside Monaco's Grand Casino with a tool box from his atelier when it closed in the early morning. Alone in the darkness, he lit his torch and went to work filing down the grooves on the inner disk of certain roulette wheel cylinders, which he knew would result in biased roulette balls preferring to land with odds-defying frequency on a dozen select numbers. He came back the next night and played the tables with the wheels he'd tampered with. And the night after that. And the night after that. When the casino became suspicious, Le Pic Vert changed casinos. He found another elegant one along the French Riviera. Soon he found himself hiding in the toilet stalls of a dozen ritzy casinos after they closed. Naturally he was sweating bullets (or more aptly for his surroundings "shitting bricks") but he had an amazing run of luck managing not to get caught hiding in the john.
Naturally it couldn't last forever.
Marcel Le Pic Vert got wealthy, busted, broke, divorced, wealthy again and remarried, before finally dying broke and divorced in a wooden cell inside a French Riviera prison, ten years after having been caught a second time with his torch and tool box inside the Grand Casino.
Friday, December 14, 2007
How much collusion goes on in big-action ring games? Well, I can’t tell you exactly how much, but I can tell you this: the bigger the stakes the more of it you’ll see. And in Vegas’s biggest venues, you will more likely than not find some sort of collusion going on, especially where established pros lie in wait for high-rolling tourists and poker wannabees coming to challenge them at their own game. At these tables, I am not talking about the “soft collusion” that Jamie Gold admitted to en route to last year’s WSOP championship. I’m talking about cutthroat play, “whipsawing,” where old-timers and young Turks join forces to siphon cash from well-heeled amateur players who don’t seem to mind getting raised, re-raised and finally chopped up in these big cash games, perhaps just to boast that they got into the ring with the best of ’em.
I learned the rest of the signals for high pairs. Jacks, tens and nines followed suit by placing the chip from left to right across the middle of the cards. So if I had a pair of tens off the deal, the single chip would go dead center. Eights, sevens and sixes used the bottom of the cards. “Learn to place your chip quickly on your cards,” Carla said. “You don’t want to be out there looking like you’re painting a goddamn logo on them.”
It all seemed easy enough, so I asked how strong non-pair starting hands were signalled. Carla’s boyfriend, who I’ll call “Preacher,” answered with a knowing smile. “We use two chips,” he said, which made perfect sense because you had two cards with different values. “But it’s slightly more complicated because we have to differentiate between suited and offsuit cards.” Sure, I reasoned, my cohorts had to know whether I had a flush draw or not.
Preacher further explained that only high running cards were worth signalling. When signalling hands such as A-K, A-Q, A-J or A-10, you used two chips on one of four different positions across the top of the hole cards. When your hand was K-Q, K-J or K-10, you used one of three positions across the middle of the cards. With Q-J or Q-10, you dropped to two positions at the bottom of the cards. When these hands were suited, the two chips were placed precisely one atop the other. It followed logic: neat like that implied “suited,” as if it “fit well.” When the high starting cards were offsuit, the top chip would be angled slightly off the bottom chip. Again, you could follow the same logic: sloppy and therefore “unsuited.” I quickly learned that the secret visual language of poker collusion was sound in its application. (To see the actual images of collusionspeak, go to the magazine page of richardmarcusbooks.com and click on the collusionspeak article.
What about after the flop? A colluder’s pre-flop signal of suited high cards did not identify which suit it was. How does he tell his cohorts that he’s flopped a flush draw, or a made-flush when all three cards are of the same suit?
The signal used to communicate flush draws is a simple continuation of the suited high-cards signal given after the deal: two chips lying neatly atop the cards. If the flop contained two cards of the right suit or all three to make the flush, the person with that hand would simply drop a third chip on top before removing all three in favor of the innocuous chip-shuffle.
Straight draws worked basically the same way, although by knowing the value of each person’s hole cards we could deduce when a straight draw came alive simply by looking at the board. When the straight draw or made straight was not clear (due to lower running cards that had not been signalled before the flop), we would switch down to the bottom of the cards and place the chips in the location exactly opposite the flush signals.
My best advice, having been a participant and witness to many crooked poker games, is to simply get up and find another table (or poker room) whenever you’re wary of collusion taking place. I know that it’s sometimes difficult to do that, but in the long run it’s the best move. Even the most skilled players are not going to win out against the best collusion teams.
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
Well, two years ago it appeared that they were. Besides some weak and rather unprofessional attempts to use hidden computers to track played cards (especially in stud games) and calculate playing and betting strategies with that knowledge, nothing much about sophisticated technology was heard through the real-world poker-cheating grapevine. But that began to change in 2005. In September of that year a woman playing three card poker at the Mint casino in
True, three card poker is not poker, but it is a step closer to it than say blackjack or roulette. It is certainly a poker derivative game. But if this incident was not enough to make you wary about possible goings-on in our brick and mortar cardrooms, less than two years later, back in July, we learned of another frighteningly high-tech scam that was indeed poker, if not in a brick and mortar public cardroom. It was, however, in a brick and mortar room. Of course I am referring to the high-stakes private-game scam in the Borgata hotel in
To date, here is what I am aware of concerning actual high-tech cheating in brick and mortar ring games. There are perhaps half a dozen professional teams working with micro-cameras across the world, but that number is about to increase. They operate in a similar fashion to the
Here’s the scenario to watch out for, or I should say to be aware of because it’s very difficult to see even if you’re watching out for it. But you never know, you just might see something to clue you in. Ideally, the high-tech team will have two people with hidden micro-cameras on the table. This is not always possible due to playing conditions at any given moment, but if the team is patient they will not only get their cameramen to the game but into the positions best suited for their covert operation. With most dealers, those positions are the 2 and 3 seats to the dealers’ left and the 8 and 9 seats to their right. These positions supply the cameras with the best angles and the optimum fields of vision determined by the distances that the cards travel from the top of the deck on their way to the felt in front of the players. The cameras will nearly always miss several cards, especially those dealt to the players in the 1 and 10 seats because of the shorter distance, but in all cases they will pick up more than enough cards to give the cheaters a monster edge in the game. As demonstrated by the three card poker scam, the images will be slowed down by a computer program and read clearly on monitors, then relayed back to players at the table wearing invisible audio devices in their ears. In most cases, the two players filming the cards will be the only team members in the game, as there would be no inherent profit in having a third player, unless, of course, the team wanted to get into added collusion play (they’re already playing in collusion) with another hand to participate in the whipsawing that sucks more money into pots. But the third player really is not necessary and would probably reduce the overall profit because in a ten-handed game they would have three dead seats (their own money) instead of two.
If you think this type of cheating would completely run over a hold’em game, you’re right. But think what it would do to a stud game! How many hands are decided on that river card dealt facedown? And dealers tend to be more deliberate in their delivery of that last card to each remaining player, which only gives the cameras a bigger window in which to catch its image. If you’re wondering about tournaments, the threat of high-tech cheating is decidedly less, regardless of what may have happened at the Borgata Open. Firstly, and especially in no-limit events, players often risk getting knocked out in a single hand. This would nullify whatever chips they had won up to that point as there would of course be none left, and only the loss of entrance and re-buy fees would stand. Secondly, tournaments are much more scrutinized by cardroom personnel, and many of them are already being filled by cameras that are supposed to be there. Imagine the scandal that would brew if the network cameras discovered the illicit ones! And thirdly, as there are always high-stakes cash games going on during all the major tournaments, it is much more profitable for the high-tech cheaters to join their low-tech counterparts in these games. So in short, don’t worry much about high-tech tournament cheating—unless someone is using isotope imaging to mark the cards.
Isotope imaging...what did I say! Is that another high-tech cheating formula coming to brick and mortar poker? Not exactly, but there are high-tech card-marking schemes in the works. Can you guess what they entail? Well, if there’s one technology that’s on the cutting edge of just about everything, naturally it would be that same technology to take poker cheating to new heights in the coming years. Of course I’m talking about laser technology. We’ve already heard about laser scanners in cell phones used to predict where roulette balls will land. Several of these scams have proliferated, the most famous of which is the Ritz Roulette Scam in 2004, where another trio of two men and a woman beat a bunch of
Are there any other nefarious high-tech gadgets in the works to cheat you out of your money in brick and mortar poker games? You bet. The only problem is that I don’t yet know what they are. But as soon as I do, I will let you know. I can tell you one thing now, however. The high-tech cheaters out there are more determined than ever. They will go to great lengths to develop products and strategies to remove you from your money. Don’t panic, though, just remain vigilant. Like in any poker game, if you get the feeling that something not kosher is going on, just get up and go find another game. Don’t hang around trying to figure out if someone at the table is filming the deals or “beaming” the cards. It might be too difficult.