Monday, December 24, 2007

Tennis Betting Bust Over $7 Bets! / My Biggest Cheating Move Ever!

I've blogged a few times about the recent tennis scandals and as far as the Nikolay Davydenko scandal might be linked to professional Russian poker cheating teams, including the one that one-time Olympic gold-winning gymnast Vera Shimanskaya was hooked up and busted with in Spain. But this? This is a little too much. A couple of low-level Italian tennis players getting fined and suspended over friendly $7 bets they may have been making as a fraternal joke among their fellow players. Give me a break! No one is getting involved in throwing tennis matches over $7, at least not in this solar system. Anyway, here's a news article about it:

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.


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 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.