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.