Saturday, December 01, 2007

Another Online Poker Scandal! Not Again!

Yep, it's true, and I am really thinking about writing "Dirty Poker 2." I said it in "Dirty Poker" and I'll say it again: The cheating population in online poker is rising at pandemic rates! Many people thought I was nuts when I announced two years ago that in a decade more than 90% of people playing online poker would be cheating in one form or another, many simply succumbing to the eventual reality that "everyone else is cheating, I might as well too."

Last month, the incident occurred at Absolute Poker, now it's Full Tilt. Read all about it:

Full Tilt Poker - Another Alledged Online Poker Cheater Busted and Banned
November 30th, 2007 Written by Cathy "LadyHoldem" Roberts

Once again in the online poker world we have allegations of cheating. It would seem that here real soon, online poker is going to be the cleanest industry out there, though we do wonder just a bit if we will see the same big names still offering their up online poker tables to the masses. Will these online poker rooms where cheaters have run rampant, security leaks have been found, and poker players have been frankly - screwed - be able to grab hold of their tarnished reputations, wipe them clean and stay in business?

Just before the Absolute Poker Saga we read of quite a few poker rooms where online poker bots were present, for the most part, the bots can’t beat the people and are just there to generate rake on rake back deals, so they didn’t get a whole lot of press, they might have gotten a little more time, if it hadn’t been for the major online poker cheating explosion at Absolute Poker following the 2+2 fact finding mission that uncovered that whole thing.

Just before that saga broke out however, a little tiny tournament incident came up at PokerStars, the story involved theVOid finishing a tournament on his sisters account, after having already busted out with his own username. This wasn’t the OH MY GOD sort of cheating like we heard about with Absolute, more just a shame on him! He lost the money, I believe he got banned, maybe even just a suspension, but it was handled, it was timely, and the Absolute Poker news definitely out shined.

Now here we are just weeks later, the poker world is getting back to normal. Absolute Poker is cleaning up that mess they have going on over there, dealing with audits, and we’re all waiting to hear final outcomes, repayments, etc. When today, Pokerati a major online news source’s headline reads “Tiz the season for Cheating” following talk of cheating, in a big way, at Full Tilt Poker.

The current accusations involve Bluff Magazines managing editor Chris Vaughn and a couple of tournaments - high stakes poker tournaments, that played out about a month ago. The claim is that Vaughn won the Million Dollar Guaranteed tourney played at Full Tilt Poker, scooping $197,984.00. Then just one week later he took down the Poker Stars Sunday Million scraping in $240,633.00.

Now here’s where the story starts getting good… #2 in the final finishers of the Full Tilt Poker tournament “Soren ‘Kongsgaard’ Kongsgaard says he got a letter from Full Tilt via his email that said Bluff Magazines Managing Editor Chris Vaughn or “BluffMagCV” had been disqualified from the tournament. “Kongsgaard” was now the winner, and was awarded the prize money.

What happens next, or what Pokerati describes as unconfirmed seems to parallel a story brought to us by the PokerKing not to long ago, allegedly Chris was backed by “Imer1um” Mizzi who took control of the computer, and therefore the tournament somewhere during the tournament, finishing the game for Chris. As a result, but Sorel Mizzi (Imper1um) and Chris Vaughn (BluffMagCV) have been banned at least temporarily, pending investigation by Full Tilt.

There is someone’s side of the story posted on Sorel’s blog. Pokerati also brings up a valid point, Chris from Bluff Magazine was just interviewed back on November 18th by Scott Huff and Haralabos Voulgaris on Big Poker Sundays, a radio show that you can tune into on Haralabos asked Chris if he’d ever been accused of ghosting, meaning the staked players backer steps in and finishes up a game. Chris’ response was yeah “I’ve been accused of that. I think it’s going to come with the territory when someone relatively unknown wins two in a row.” In response to the truth in the question Chris says “But as far as having someone take over for me, that’s ridiculous”

We don’t have any word yet on how the alleged tag teaming came to Full Tilts attention, but this is an important event, people will always try to cheat, however, as online poker undergoes closer scrutiny, and in turn becomes more secure, they will get away with it less and less.

We spoke to Bluff Magazine’s editor in Chief Mathew Parvis, who tells us that Chris Vaughn (BluffMagCV) “will not be commenting at this time.”
Kudos to Full Tilt for being on the ball.

New Videos of Savannah/Cheating Tip of the Day/Scam of the Month

Okay folks, December 1st has arrived and my new website is almost done! The video clips of my famous/infamous Savannah move are now up as is my two-part "Dirty Poker" interview with KLAS-TV 8 investigative reporter George Knapp in Las Vegas. Also today begins my new daily "Cheating Tip of the Day" column as well as my "Scam of the Month" page, which will feature a new major casino/poker cheating scam each month. Check out my Magazine Articles page, where articles written by or about me appear and will be added to frequently. I am currently awaiting an FHM Magazine spread on me that featured in its May, 2005 edition. Para la gente que hablan espagnol, ahora hay videos en espagnol y tambien habra pronto articulos en espagnol! Don't forget to e-mail me with your poker and casino cheating tips. If I post them, you will receive an autographed copy of "The World's Greatest Gambling Scams."

Friday, November 30, 2007

More Online Poker Controversy/Online Card-Counting?

As you all know, the online cheating world has been dominated by the Absolute Poker scandal the last month, but other stuff has been going on despite its lack of press, Here is some of it:

The Absolute Poker scandal should have been enough. It remains unresolved, though most of the details of the cheating have been made clear, and the poker public still awaits the conclusion of the audit.

Back in early October, there was another mini-scandal on PokerStars. The winner of the WCOOP main event was disqualified, and “TheV0id” was stripped of his title and $1,378,311 in winnings.

And we have another.

This time it revolves around Bluff Magazine’s managing editor Chris Vaughn. On 10/21, he took down the $1 Million Guarantee tournament on Full Tilt Poker for $197,984. The following Sunday, he won the Sunday Million tournament on PokerStars for $240,633. Well, it seems the first one didn’t stick.

According to the second place finisher in the Full Tilt event, Soren “Kongsgaard” Kongsgaard, he received an e-mail from FTP stating that Chris - screen name “BluffMagCV” - had been disqualified and “Kongsgaard” was awarded first place money.

Reportedly, though unconfirmed at this point, Chris’ backer, Sorel “Imper1um” Mizzi, took over at some point in the tournament and played the remainder of it for him. Chris and Sorel have now been banned from Full Tilt. More details can be found on Sorel’s blog, though it’s not clear who is writing the blogs.

Ironically, Chris was just interviewed on 11/18 by Scott Huff and Haralabos Voulgaris on Big Poker Sundays, a radio show on Haralabos asked him if he’s ever been accused of ghosting, where a person’s backer plays for them, and Chris said, “I’ve been accused of that. I think it’s going to come with the territory when someone relatively unknown wins two in a row… But as far as having someone take over, that’s ridiculous.”

Online Card-counting at Blackjack...Is it possible?

Well, of course it's possible, but is it profitable? Firstly, deck-penetration in online games is bad. It ranges from shuffling every hand to 50% or so. At best this is really token penetration. Technically you can get an advantage at these games by card counting but the fluctuations are enormous. You would need a huge bankroll, maybe a million bucks, and you'd have to be prepared to suffer interminable losing streaks, perhaps periods of months if you play every day. I've heard that Global Player, one of the most popular online casinos, does have a slightly more attractive game. It offers a "Baden-Baden" 2-deck game with bog-standard European rules. They deal out only a third of the cards, which normally is a bad game, but unlike a real-world casino you can exit the game and re-enter with a fresh virtual shuffle. That means you can shuffle away negative decks without any noticeable loss of time. But this still will not do much to give you any significant online true counts, so my advice is to hurry back into your local brick and mortar casino and try to find some good blackjack games with real cards and real penetration.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Link between Tennis Scandals and Casino Cheating?

So what's with these tennis gambling scandals involving Russian tennis players? The latest one implicating Russia's Nikolay Davydenko, a top-ranked player, has us wondering about many questions, one of which surely is "If he's really tanking a match, why on heaven's earth would he do so?" After all, money can't be a problem for a top-ranked international tennis star, can it?

This recalls another alleged cheating incident involving yet another Russian athlete if not a tennis player, the 2000 gold-medal winning gymnast Vera Shimanskaya who was busted in a Spanish casino in 2003 for involvement in a poker card-marking scheme. The same questions abounded after this shocking news: Why would someone with her fame, success and big-money-earning potential be involved in a scam such as this?

Well, very often if not nearly always, people participating in gambling cheating scams, whether famous or ordinary, rich or broke, are usually involved because of a degenerating gambling problem of their own. In fact, had I not been a bust-out gambler during my teen years and early adulthood, I never would have become a casino cheater, so I speak about this with lots of experience. If these athletes are problem gamblers and have lost fortunes, the natural bail-out avenue for some is to gamble on outcomes of sporting events related to their own sport and maybe their own team if their sport is not a team sport...and maybe even fixing the outcomes. We all know the stories about Art Schlichter, Paul Hornung, Alex Karras, Pete Rose and many others. But this is old news. What about once great athletes in one sport becoming cheaters in another sport? Poker is now considered a sport, isn't it? I mean we see it on ESPN and on sports pages across the nation.

For those of you who don't know, there have been several Russian ex-athletes who have become "professional" poker players during the last decade, even before poker exploded into the mainstream. The most notable of these is of course Yevgeny Kafelnikov, who was also a subject of a tennis-fixing scam back in 2003, when he lost in straight sets to Fernando Vicente, an unheralded player, who hadn't won in months before this match. At the outset, Kafelnikov was a 5 to 1 favorite, but before the match began the odds shifted dramatically, making Vicente the odds-on favorite. There was a big stink over this and Kafelnikov soon disappeared into the poker world.

A year or so later, I got the first of several e-mails accusing Kafelnikov of being part of professional poker-cheating teams. Players swore that he was involved in collusion rackets at the very least. Although I had no specific evidence to support their claims, I did have my own suspicions about ex-athletes implicated in gambling scams suddenly appearing in the poker world, especially in the years at the dawn of the poker explosion. I have also been made aware that some of these Russian pro athletes and those from other countries as well have accounts with online poker rooms and betting sites, and the natural question is whether some of them may also be involved in cheating at online poker, which would be easier if they are capable, because they could hide their identities. In any event, this possible connection is troubling to both professional sports and the poker world, and it is my opinion that this nefarious link does indeed exist.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

More Mini-Baccarat Cheating Exposed

But this time it wasn't the usual false shuffling scam. It was removing and holding out a single card from the night before and then using that card as the key card for switching cards in and out of the game during a run of 27 hands. Here's the related news article. Wow! It just seems that mini-baccarat has become the rave of casino cheating. And I can sure understand it, as it is without a doubt the easiest casino game to cheat when you have the dealer in on the scam. Actually, mini-baccarat was the first game I ever cheated in a casino...and I was the dealer. You can check out that chapter in my book American Roulette or Great Casino Heist in Europe.

American Roulette

Great Casino Heist

Here's the article:

$750,000 Jupiters Casino sting

Melanie Pilling


IT took 55 minutes for a Chinese woman allegedly to help swindle more than $750,000 at the mini baccarat table in the high rollers room at Conrad Jupiters Casino on the Gold Coast.

Southport District Court was told yesterday that Wei Shan Liu was one of six people who concocted and carried out a scam at Club Conrad on May 17, 2005.

It is alleged an accomplice of Ms Liu, 42, took a casino card from the mini baccarat table the night before, then later used the card to deliberately manipulate the game. The court was told the accomplice hid the extra card in his left hand and secretly traded it with a card he was dealt during 27 hands 'to increase the likelihood of losing'.

Crown prosecutor Judy Geary said Ms Liu's role in the scam was to deliberately bet the opposite to her accomplice.

Ms Geary said that Ms Liu knew about the scam and was therefore able to bet 'confidently' against her accomplice and in large amounts.

It is alleged her bets ranged from $7000 to $40,000.

"There is certainly nothing illegal about winning at a casino," said Ms Geary, "but ... in this case the money was not won but obtained dishonestly."

The court was told that Ms Liu won $400,000 of the group's $750,000 swindle and won 21 of the 27 hands where the extra card was used.

Ms Liu and her accomplices were arrested at Coolangatta Airport later that afternoon.

Ms Liu, 41, pleaded not guilty to one count of fraud to the value of $5000 or more.

In the opening address of the trial against Ms Liu yesterday Ms Geary told the court there were obvious differences in the mannerisms of Ms Liu's accomplice before and after he had the extra card in his possession.

Ms Geary said the accomplice could be seen moving his hands around the table and playing with chips before the alleged cheating.

But after he had the extra card, she said he kept his left hand face down on the table for the hour that the six players gambled.

She showed the jury surveillance footage of the card allegedly being stolen and then later used during several hands of baccarat.

"Clearly there are two different styles of play and the differences are significant," she said.

Ms Geary said the jury would hear testimony from experts that would show how and when the cards were swapped on the video tape, but there were no witnesses who saw the cards being swapped or concealed.

The trial, described by Ms Geary as a 'giant jigsaw puzzle', is expected to last three weeks.

Poker Bots Continue Their Forward March

Back in November 2005, in an interview with MSN, I stated that within 10 years there might not be any human beings left playing online poker. What I meant is that with the rapid development of highly efficient poker bots and their invasion of online poker sites and infiltration into their games, it would only be a matter of time before honest human players realized that it would be in their best interests to fight bots with bots. Well, according to the latest news about this, my timeline may have been off, erring to the side of too much sooner. Now I'm afraid that my observation in that interview was too farsighted! Here's an article on this out of Australia:

Warning: your next poker partner may be a bot

Asher Moses
November 13, 2007 - 12:44PM

Photo: Rob Homer

The lucrative world of online poker has been put on notice as researchers edge closer to developing software that can outplay even the most skillful humans.

The research poses a significant threat to the multi-billion dollar online poker industry and players, who down the track risk being fleeced by legions of robot-aided scammers.

Computer programs can already beat most humans at checkers, backgammon, scrabble, bridge and connect four. A decade ago, an IBM super computer famously beat the former World Chess Champion, Garry Kasparov, in a six-game duel.

But the huge amount of money changing hands in online poker games - $US60 billion in 2005, according to some estimates - gives hackers a particular incentive to cheat the system.

In an opinion column for The New York Times, Ian Ayres, an economist and lawyer at Yale, said that, in the very near future, "online poker may become a suckers' game that humans won't have a chance to win".

In July this year, two of the world's best poker players only narrowly beat a computer program at Texas Hold 'Em during the first Man-Machine Poker Championship in Vancouver, Canada.

The program, Polaris, was developed over 16 years by the computer poker research group at the University of Alberta. It incorporates a number of fixed strategies but can also adapt based on moves and mistakes made by the opponent.

"We won, not by a significant amount, and the bots are closing in," one of the world champion players, Phil Laak, told The Guardian after the match.

Other poker-playing computer bots, such as Bluffbot and WinHoldem, can already be downloaded from the internet but their accuracy and effectiveness when put up against the world's best players has been questioned.

Professor Jonathan Schaeffer, who co-founded the Alberta university's poker research group, said the team was already working on programs that could take on multiple players in both limit and no-limit games.

His group had already "solved" checkers earlier this year, developing a computer program that knew the best move to make in any possible position.

"All games lead to a draw, unless one side makes a mistake," Dr Schaeffer said.

Polaris is today only strong at two-player Texas Hold 'Em games that have a limit on the amount players can bet.

"Building a program that plays on par with the top human players in this domain is something that will happen fairly soon, perhaps even next year," he said.

The goal of the poker research group, as outlined on its website, is to "produce a poker program that is stronger than all human players".

But despite the rapid progress, Dr Schaeffer stressed it could be a while before computer programs could seriously challenge the top humans in no-limit games and games with three or more people at a table.

He denied the university's research posed a significant threat to online poker sites, saying the sites would "do everything in their power" to block players from using software programs to play for them.

"All these sites have programs that look for evidence that a computer is playing instead of a human," Dr Schaeffer.

But Dr Ayres said computer bots such as Polaris were "quite-scaleable", and it would be virtually impossible to prohibit computer-assisted playing. He said bots could randomise their moves to make them harder to detect.

Australian laws prohibit companies from offering online casino-style gambling services here, but the laws have done nothing to stop swarms of Australians from betting through sites based overseas.

This year, an employee of one site,, was caught cheating.

According to reports, he exploited a security breach in the site that allowed him to see other players' cards and reaped hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The site has since patched up the security hole and, like all online poker sites, is in a constant battle with hackers. The main sites have so far been reasonably successful at blocking third-party bot software, however, this will become increasingly difficult as the bots become smarter and more random.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Borgata Poker Dealers and Supervisors caught running major Mafia bookmaking and Money Laundering Operations!

Once again the Atlantic City Borgata's poker room is caught up in a major gambling criminal enterprise. Last June it was a high-tech poker scam that was later found to be operating not in the casino's main poker room but rather upstairs in a private hotel room. But this time the scam was not only centered in the Borgata's main poker room but was operated by some of its poker dealers and their supervisors, who are accused of promoting illegal sports gambling and aiding in money laundering operations by concealing certain cash transactions that are supposed to be reported the IRS. In all, 23 people were arrested, including one alleged mafioso who maintained a safe deposit box loaded with cash and Borgata gaming chips at the casino's cage. Here's the news article on the arrests:

18 Nabbed in Atlantic City Gambling Bust

By WAYNE PARRY – Nov 14, 2007

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) — An illegal sports gambling ring run out of a high-stakes poker room in an Atlantic City casino was busted Wednesday, and 18 people were arrested, including four with mob ties.

Since March 2006, the ring took in $22 million in bets on college and professional football and basketball in the poker room of the Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa, said New Jersey Attorney General Anne Milgram.

The off-the-books exchanges of cash and casino chips were unraveled only when an informant told authorities what to look for using the casino's eye-in-the-sky surveillance cameras, Milgram said.

The suspected ringleader of the operation, Andrew Micali, 32, of Ventnor, is an associate of Philadelphia mob boss Joseph "Skinny Joey" Merlino, according to a New Jersey law enforcement official who spoke on condition of anonymity because the criminal complaints do not mention any reputed mob ties.

Three associates of Micali also were arrested on charges of promoting gambling, money laundering and loan-sharking: Vincent Procopio, 41, of Brigantine; and Anthony Nicodemo, 36, and Michael Lancellotti, both of Philadelphia.

"They sought to escape detection by enlisting casino employees in their crimes," Milgram said. "I'm pleased to say they greatly underestimated our vigilance and determination to keep organized crime out of Atlantic City casinos."

Twenty-three people in all are charged, and authorities were seeking five on Wednesday.

Most were charged with promoting gambling or money laundering.

Authorities said the Borgata cooperated with the investigation and let investigators use casino surveillance video.

Borgata spokesman Rob Stillwell said the ring involved "rogue employees." No one was arrested on the casino floor, and the integrity of the casino's operations was never compromised, he said.

The casino employees charged included poker room supervisors, dealers and a bartender.

The state Casino Control Commission was expected to punish the casino workers, commission spokesman Daniel Heneghan said.

If the charges are proven, the case would be among the most serious mob incursions into the Atlantic City casino industry since the first casino opened in 1978.

Milgram said authorities followed the money in the case from the casino to so-called "wire rooms" in Philadelphia. The wire rooms were used to tally the bets and calculate winnings and payouts for the ring.

The ring was publicized mainly by word of mouth among illegal gamblers, who were advised whom to see in the poker room to place their bets.

Authorities said the ring engaged in "massive money laundering" facilitated by casino employees who would not record certain exchanges of cash and gambling chips. This is a common method of money laundering at casinos called "chip washing," Milgram said.

"It involves taking cash, turning it into chips, 'washing' the chips by betting and then turning them in, and taking cash out," she said.

Losing bettors were forced to take out loans from the ring at more than 50 percent interest to cover their losses, authorities said.

In their search Wednesday, authorities seized more than $40,000 worth of cash and Borgata chips from a safe deposit box Micali maintained at the casino. The state also obtained a court warrant freezing Micali's bank account with more than $200,000 in it.

Fear of organized crime led New Jersey to institute tight controls when legal gambling began, but regulations have been loosened over the years.

The anxieties were expressed in a now-famous speech by then-Gov. Brendan T. Byrne when he signed the law authorizing casinos on June 2, 1977: "I've said it before and I will repeat it again to organized crime: Keep your filthy hands off Atlantic City. Keep the hell out of our state!"

Unlike Las Vegas, Atlantic City has no legal sports book.

This is the second high-profile sports betting charge in New Jersey in the past two years. In 2006, a state trooper, NHL hockey coach Rick Tocchet and a third man were charged with running a sports gambling ring. All later pleaded guilty.

Associated Press writers Beth DeFalco in Trenton, Jeffrey Gold in Newark and Geoff Mulvihill in Mount Laurel contributed to this report.