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.
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
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.
NEW ONLINE POKER AND CASINO PAGES COMING SOON!
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.
THANKS FOR YOUR COMPLIMENTS!
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
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.
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?