Saturday, December 15, 2007

The First Known Professional Roulette Cheater

In the early 1800s, the French Gaming Police was established to combat casino crime among the royalty that gambled in Monte Carlo's princely gaming palace, Le Grand Casino, and later in the other Côte d'Azur beachside gaming playgrounds lining the Mediterranean. Surprising these gaming gendarmes, European royalty were found on both sides of the fence. Dukes, barons and earls could not only be found buying their "chances" at a roulette wheel but often pocketing other royal family members' gold pieces they had furtively removed from the layout when somebody else wasn't looking. Generals, polo players, and even a beloved princess, had all been caught tampering with spinning wheels to give themselves a little royalist edge over the commoners.

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

Collusionspeak: The Official Language of Live-Poker Collusion

I first learned about major poker collusion teams from two members of one of my casino-cheating teams in the early 90s. They were both serious poker players then, one of whom is now the owner of a WSOP bracelet. The following article I wrote about the simplistic sophistication of the universal language of poker collusion.


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.

The strategy for collusion teams (which normally have two or three players) is twofold. First, when none of their members has a winning hand, they attempt to drive their opponents out of the pot by raising and re-raising, giving the impression that one of them holds a monster hand. Second, when one of the colluders really does have the monster hand, they use the same tactics to suck in as much money as possible, making their opponents pay through the nose to chase those straights and flushes. Both forms of this strategy are practiced with inconspicuous agility. Naturally, certain subtleties and “non-plays” are utilized to camouflage their operation.

Barring the massive $1,000/$2,000 games and up, where the household names abound and collusion play would just stick out too much to be done in comfort, it’s going on just about everywhere. The infestation starts at the $15/$30 limit, peaks at $20/$40 through $100/$200, then begins to level off and drop as the limits progress from there. Anything below $15/$30 wouldn’t be worth it except for desperados looking to put together a bankroll or low-level colluders practicing to get into the big-time, which doesn’t take long if they don’t get their signals crossed.


The key to modern live-poker collusion resides in the subtlety of communication amongst the colluders, mainly passing one another the value of their hole cards. As the vast majority of collusion takes place at Texas hold’em limit tables, I am going to stick with that game as a template. A common misconception is that sophisticated collusion teams use hand signals to communicate what they’ve got in the hole. Not so. The best and most undetectable method for this covert means of divulging their hole cards is using the hole cards themselves in conjunction with chips. What more natural way to do it than by using the two things most intrinsic to any poker game: cards and chips? There are two things that virtually every poker player in the world does when sitting in a public poker game, and both naturally camouflage the passing off of illicit information. The first is that each player protects his hand by placing something over the facedown cards, very often a chip or multiple chips. The second is that every player in the world I’ve ever seen play, be it Phil Hellmuth or my long-deceased great-grandmother (who I did actually witness playing poker), constantly fiddles with his chips. What’s the first sound you notice upon approaching poker tables in any casino or cardroom? I mean the first non-human sound. It’s the rattling of the chips, right? The constant cacophony of clay on felt that’s as everlasting as the whish of a running stream. Even the hiss of spinning roulette balls in the outer casino cannot compete with this; for roulette balls do take breaks from spinning.

Given those two indisputable facts of poker life, the cheaters take advantage and create their unspoken collusion language, all the while appearing to do nothing but protect their hands and fiddle their stacks of chips. It’s as smooth as a dirty dealer dealing seconds without the slightest rasping sound to give it away.

I was first taught collusionspeak by two experienced professional poker players, one of whom is rather well known on today’s WSOP circuit. That was nearly twenty years ago, when the pair worked with me cheating casinos’ table games. At the time, I was a novice at poker cheating, but as we stood watching a big-action $20/$40 hold’em game on the rail of a Caribbean poker room, the woman I’ll call “Carla” explained how it was done.

The first thing Carla taught me was that the actual signal of chips on the cards would only last a fleeting second and be part of the constant playing-with-chips sequence that took place during every deal. Once the intended receivers of the signal received it, then that particular telling chip (or chips) would be removed from the cards and the meaningless sequence continued.

In Texas hold’em, I learned, the most important starting hands are high pairs. Carla told me that when dealt a pair of aces, I must drop a single chip from my stack on the top left corner of my cards. The chip had to be set half on and half off the cards as to prevent confusion when reading it from any position at the table. If the starting hand was a pair of kings, I’d lay the single chip on top of the cards, but this time in the middle, again half of the chip parted from the cards to lie on the table’s felt. For pocket queens, the chip would occupy the top right corner.

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 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.


So now that I’ve told you how I learned the secret language of collusion and how it plays out in cardrooms, what can you do to protect yourself from the cheating teams out there speaking it? Well, you can look out for these patterns of dropping one, two or three chips on certain areas of the hole cards, and if you’re sharp you might spot it happening. But the problem is, just like in baseball where a catcher changes his fastball and curveball signals to confuse an opposing runner on second base who might steal them, good collusion teams often have backup sets of signals. They may turn to using chip signals off the cards, or rotating the cards to different angles, or in some cases forgetting the cards and chips and just using hands and fingers. The point is, you’re not always going to have success intercepting their signals or even proving to yourself that particular chip-fiddling is indeed collusionspeak. So the best thing to do remains judging the other players’ actions on the pots. If you notice certain pairs or threesomes of players constantly raising and re-raising, something might be going on. Especially if you see players repeatedly folding their hands on the river after having either re-raised or seen multiple raises. Legitimate players don’t display this kind of play on a repetitive basis, unless, of course, they’re steaming. Try also to observe the collective fortune of the two or three players you notice engaged in the whipsawing. If you can determine that amongst them there is a profit and that as a group they are winning more pots than percentages would dictate, then you have further reason to believe there’s a collusion team aboard.

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

Is High-Tech Cheating a Real Threat in Brick and Mortar Cardrooms?

For several years now, we’ve been hearing about high-tech cheating scams happening in online poker games. First came collusion-type cheating engineered by players using multi-PCs and multi-IP accounts. Then came poker “bots” whose software programs are now believed capable of incorporating artificial intelligence into strategy decisions. And finally, recent claims of hacking security codes and high-tech money laundering through which criminals wash their illicit earnings while playing poker online. But what about our good old-fashioned low-tech or non-tech poker rooms? Are they safe from the high-tech wizardry that crafty cheaters would use against unsuspecting players?

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 London, England, aroused suspicion while winning at an exorbitant rate, 34 of 44 hands, which is highly unlikely at that game. The same woman had been noted winning at similar rates in other London casinos offering three card poker. Another thing Mint security officials noted that compared to her previous wins at the other casinos was that a white van was parked in the proximity of the Mint’s front entrance. An immediate on-site investigation was launched, and the woman was found to be wearing a harness on her arm that housed a tiny digital micro-camera, all of which was covered by her sleeve. Sitting in the back of the van outside, officers found a computer “techie” hunched over two computer screens. One was for the live feed, the other to play the recordings of what the woman’s hidden micro-camera was filming inside the casino: the cards coming off the dealer’s pack as he dealt them facedown to the players and himself. By positioning her arm on a downward slope from the dealer’s hands as he dealt, the woman’s camera was able to film the cards’ faces. Back in the van, the techie slowed down the digital images on the screen and perfectly read the cards. He then relayed the info back to the woman and another man at the table, also an accomplice, through the hidden earpieces they wore. The two cheating players then played their hands with an enormous edge on the casino.

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 Atlantic City, which took place just before the start of the Borgata Open, Atlantic City’s preeminent poker tournament. For those of you unfamiliar with the details, it took place in a luxury Borgata hotel suite that was rigged with digital cameras in the walls. These cameras filmed players’ hole cards while they peeked at them rather than the cards coming off the dealer’s deck. In place of the van used in London’s three card poker scam was the hotel room next-door to the suite. That’s where two techies viewed the filmwork on laptop screens and relayed the info to their cohorts playing in the high-stakes game through the earpieces they wore. It was very similar to the London scam inasmuch as digital film and radio equipment were used to film cards that were supposed to be unseen and transmit that information back to the table. In fact, rumors circulated and still persist that there was more to the Borgata scam than was released by the New Jersey Casino Control Commission and therefore the press. This scam was not made public until early July, a month after it allegedly got busted. Why? Early reports claimed that the scam was directly connected to the Borgata Open and was in commission while the tournament was taking place. The natural supposition in that case was that the big-tournament players’ hole cards were being secretly filmed and that information given to a syndicate of tournament cheaters lined up against them at the tables. Whether or not this is true and a coverup is in place to protect the integrity of big-time tournament play doesn’t really matter. The fact is that high-tech cheating has arrived in brick and mortar poker, and you need to be aware of it, because in the future it will grow.

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 London three card poker team. Filming players’ hole cards in a public cardroom scenario is generally too difficult if not altogether imperfect. The problem is that in spite of the most sophisticated miniature digital camera equipment, cheaters still have to get the right angle and viewpoint of players’ hole cards to film them. Most poker players are already wary enough of this. They naturally protect their hole cards while peeking at them, in most cases keeping them adequately hidden from any eyes lurking behind, either human or those man-made and fitted into optic lenses. Unless cheaters had some kind of tiny periscope hidden somewhere in the cushion of every player-spot on the table, effective filming of hole cards would not be viable. But filming the faces of the cards coming off the deck during the deal, that’s a different story. This can be done with a master’s proficiency. Just like the London trio filmed the cards coming off the deck at the three card poker table, a cheating team can very accurately gauge the angles necessary to accomplish the same feat at the Texas hold’em and seven-card-stud tables. Of course particular dealers would either inadvertently aid or hinder the efficiency achieved by the cheaters, but there are many dealers out there who, from the right angles, consistently expose enough of the downward spiralling cards’ faces to the tiny lenses up someone’s sleeve or hidden in a woman’s open handbag.

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 London casinos out of $3 million. The next step in laser cheating technology is going to revolutionize marking cards at poker tables. Forget all that invisible and disappearing daub that is the avant-garde method of today’s advanced card-markers. Within a few years we will see, or at least suffer unknowingly, the effects of tiny laser pens that card-markers will use to shoot beams onto the backs of their hole cards, which will result in tiny discolorations that can only be seen with special lenses and at certain angles. As we already know laser-engraving technology for marking everything from retail bar codes to paper, wood and plastic products, the transformation to covertly marking the backs of playing cards is just over the horizon. And these laser guns will be made to look like the normal assortment of objects players routinely surround themselves and their chips with at poker tables.

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.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

A Real Cheating Carnival at a Three-Card Poker Table / Online Casino/Poker Reviews Coming / Thanks For Your Compliments on my New Website

Recently I have been blogging a lot about online poker cheating since its scandals have been so huge and dominant in the news the past few months. In doing so, I almost forgot to recount a funny "real casino" cheating incident that happened while I was in Vegas last month. Whenever I'm in my former "Candy Store City," as I like to call it, I always stroll through the casinos, just observing things, watchful for some of my former cheating buddies and other cheating teams I came to know over the years. Well, that last trip there I didn't stumble on anyone I knew, but I did happen upon a foursome of cheaters who were a long way from professional, although they did get the job done. They were two college-age couples and were playing Three Card Poker. My interest in the game stemmed from its newness to me. When I retired from my cheating career, Three Card Poker was still a distant thought in its inventor's head. So anyway, I just decided to watch the game and kill some time.

It didn't take long before I knew some cheating was going on. And even before that I recognized how vulnerable both the dealer and the game would be to cheating. The two couples were not sitting at the table as couples; only I knew the two pretty women at one end of the table were with the two dudes at the other end. The reason I caught on to that was because I observed the two guys actually switching their cards to make their best hands! That's right, as blatantly as you could imagine, passing off their cards as if they were playing team bridge! It really was quite easy because the two babes at the other end of the table were blond and hot and smiley and giggly, and the dealer was quite hopeless under their spell. So much so that he completely abandoned his position behind the middle of the table to flirt with them. They kept him busy with the usual bullshit about not knowing how to play the game, and the dealer was more than happy to oblige, thinking he was going to hook up with them after his shift for a few drinks at the Horseshoe. Yes, I gave it away, the casino where this happened was in downtown Las Vegas, but these carnival games (all the poker derivative games in the blackjack pits) are getting hit like crazy. The reason is that the atmosphere around them is so lively, and the pit bosses don't watch these games closely; they just don't take them very seriously, mainly because the limits are generally lower than the regular casino games in the pit. Then, of course, there's all that fun and chatter about the jackpots associated with these carnival games. You can bet that the two dudes switched cards for hours on end and only stopped when the guy dealer was relieved on his breaks by a lady dealer. Unless that relief dealer was a lesbian, the blond babes' flirting wouldn't do them much good!

Two days after that, I caught another entertaining episode of cheating a carnival game. This time it was Four Card Poker, and yes, it was on the Las Vegas Strip, and yes, there were two babes involved. But neither was hot, nor were they with any guys! These two "cheat chicks" were professional bet pressers, (adding chips to probable winning hands) using well-practiced agility to press their bets when they held good cards. They did their moves underneath the camouflage of tucking their cards after they looked at them. Shit, were they good! Don't forget, in these games if your going to press your bets, you have to press two of them in accordance with the ante/play/raise rules. These womanly wonders needed no distractions. And they didn't have to worry about any horny pit bosses looking at them! I took the liberty of following them into another casino and watched them ply their tricks with what I imagined was a wide smile of appreciation on my face.


I am working on this with my webmaster and soon will ad this new page to my website, where I will be discussing, rating and warning about online poker rooms and casinos.


For those of you who e-mailed me with your positive thoughts about my new website, I do appreciate it. Naturally its expansion is keeping me quite busy and I do enjoy it. I guess you can say that now, instead of switching the chips, I'm switching the words! Again, thank you.

Monday, December 10, 2007

888 Talking To The Feds!

This sounds like a secret meeting behind closed computer screens!

Do you get nervous when shadowy meetings take place between the US Justice Department and online gaming officials? What if you're involved in money laundering and/or tax evasion and gamble online? Should you be shitting bricks?? Well, maybe. Think about this:

Prior to the passage of the UIGEA, Partygaming announced that they were going to be voluntarily talking to the US Department of Justice regarding their online gaming activities in the US. Now, 888 Holdings has released a similar statement, saying that they will be entering into discussions with the US government. Analysts say that this is positive news for the two companies, as they believe that in co-operating with the US government, they may avoid any potential litigation or investigation on behalf of the US government in the future.

Believe me, these discussions are not benign. I wouldn't be surprised if the US government compiles a list of Neteller users living in the US, and then tries to obtain a list of US poker/casino players from companies that they are "talking" with. Sure, they are not going to knock down doors and arrest these people, but they could easily audit those who appear on these lists. It's a safe bet to assume that many people didn't pay taxes on their winnings, and I really wouldn't be surprised if the US government eventually went after them. Remember, it has always been the US government's tactics to get criminals they couldn't get otherwise by charging them with tax evasion. If you didn't know, that's how they got Al Capone!

Stay tuned, we shall see.

How Should Online Poker Sites Punish First-Time Cheaters?

With all the recent scandals and the dozens more going on that haven't yet made the news, this has become a very interesting question. And since there is no FBI or Scotland Yard exactly breaking down doors to arrest online cheaters, it really is up to the poker rooms to determine the punishment for those caught. As an-ex cheater myself, you might think I would naturally lean toward leniency, after all, while plying my trade in the world's casinos for two and a half decades, I always hoped that the gaming authorities would handle me "with care" had they ever nabbed me. Well, you're kind of right if you think that. I do think that online poker sites should treat cheaters in a similar fashion to how criminals are cheated in most of the western world's criminal justice systems, that's to say inasmuch as the severity of the offense and the recidivism factors are concerned. (Shit! In the Asian World they might cut the keys of your keyboard!) If we're talking about simple collusion scams with cheaters whispering each other their hole cards via Instant Messenger, I don't think they should be barred from a poker site for life. Even if the infraction is for employing those nefarious bots, I think a second or maybe even a third chance at redemption should be given (if there is such a thing as online poker redemption). But when the offense is as offensive as viewing other players' hole cards via hacking or insider assistance, then I think it's time to bring out the ONLINE GUILLOTINE! I mean, come on, that's like breaking open a toilet stall door and robbing a guy who's not only defenseless but more than likely at least half naked! So for all these creeps involved in the Absolute Poker Scandal, throw away their computer keys! Let them try to find another way to hack their way out of online poker prison! But for that less harmful pair who pulled that fast switch on Full Tilt Poker, let's cut them a little slack and let them wiggle their way out of the line of online poker fire.

Well, that's my opinion. Here is what someone else had to say:

The entire Sorel Mizzi situation recently has sparked an interesting debate online: was his punishment too excessive? He clearly broke the rules, as did Chris "BluffMagCV" Vaughn, but do both players deserve to be banned for life from Full Tilt Poker?

"JJProdigy" cheated. Justin "Zeejustin" Bonomo cheated. Sorel "Imper1um" Mizzi cheated. They were all banned from at least one of the major online poker sites. "JJProdigy" and "Zeejustin" were caught multi-accounting. "Imper1um" was guilty of buying an account of another player late in a tournament from which he had already been eliminated.

All of them were caught and banned for life from the sites that they cheated on. All lost significant sums of money. All of them were publicly ridiculed.

And all of the players were no older than 21 years old when they were caught and banned.

You have one side of the argument that says that these guys are all of above average intelligence, and knew exactly what they were doing. They knew that it was wrong, and they knew that they were cheating their fellow player. They deserve to be banned for life, and by banning them from life and seizing their funds, you are deterring any other would-be cheaters. A zero-tolerance policy is the best way to police the sites and keep the game as clean as possible. That is one side of the argument.

The other side says that everyone makes mistakes, especially people that are barely out of high school. They say that these players lose tremendous sums of money when they are caught and also lose the respect of the poker community. They are ostracized and ridiculed. They say that most kids make mistakes when they are young, and that a lifetime banning for a first offense is excessive. If you are caught driving drunk, or even murder someone, you are given a second chance by society most of the time, so why shouldn't you be given a second chance by an online poker room?

What do you think? If you are found guilty of multi-accounting or purchasing an account late in a tournament, should you be banned for life? Or do you favor a system that severely penalizes a person for a first known offense, and then bans them if they become a repeat offender?

Do you ban a first offender for life? Or do you feel that punishing someone say, ten years after the fact, is a bit excessive? If Sorel Mizzi still can't play on Full Tilt Poker when he is 41 years old, 20 years after the fact, do you feel that this is fair or unfair?