Saturday, December 22, 2007

Full Tilt Poker Makes Another Major Bots Bust! / Greektown Surveillance or is it "Geektown" Surveillance

Those last two words--"Bot Bust"--are becoming mighty familiar around here. I am not talking around the richardmarcusbooks world, I'm talking about that of online poker. Speaking of which, as we get closer to 2008, I have been hearing of a new bot programming technology on the horizon, one that will not only make detecting them more difficult but will also increase their intelligence, or I should say, artificial intelligence, to the point where they will consistently beat not only the best online players but Phil Laak as well! But I didn't say anything about them being able to beat Jennifer Tilly! What exactly this new technology is is being hushed right now, though some of my contacts in the online cyber world have promised to let me in on it once they now. In any case, the bots continue their incessant advance against whatever defense the online sites are throwing up on them. For now, the sites are fighting them off, but if the storming of the Bot Bastille continues, the sites may be backed into a cyberspace black hole!

Here's what's going on at Full Tilt:

Every once in a while I come across an article that makes me lol! Well, here's one with the surveillance director of the Greektown casino in Detroit is being interviewed and after hearing what he had to say, I think I'm about ready to jump
off this keyboard and fly to Detroit and slip in a few big moves!

Check this out and see if you'd be scared of some sword-swinging sleuth like this watching your moves in a casino!

Five questions with Greektown Casino surveillance supervisor Tom Jones

December 20, 2007

Tom Jones (no relation to the singer) is a surveillance shift supervisor for Greektown Casino, where he has worked for 8 years. Before that, he served in the U.S. Army Military Police Corps. He sees the worst elements that come into the casino, and it's not people out to cheat the business, he says. It's people out to steal from other patrons. He's got some good tips for ways players can avoid problems, and he's also got the steel to back them up -- literally. Jones, 40, paints miniature metal figurines and does live sword fighting in his off hours. He lives in Ann Arbor.

QUESTION: What do surveillance employees do? What types of things do you see on the floor?

ANSWER: We watch the casino and keep an eye on its assets. We look for the cheats, the thieves, the people who are trying to commit criminal acts against the casino and the other patrons. Most often, it's patron-on-patron theft at the slot machines. Someone leans forward and they're really intent on the slot machine. Someone comes by and picks up their jacket. You get that all the time.

Q: What can players do to reduce their odds of being a victim?

A: Sit on your jacket. Ladies, keep your purse on your lap. Keep it closed. Make sure when you get your ticket (from the slot machine), you fold it up and put it in your pocket.

Q: How did you get started sword fighting?

A: I have to blame my brother, Brian. He got me interested way back in junior high in "Dungeons & Dragons." Now I'm in Ring of Steel. It's a theatrical combat group out of Ann Arbor. Every once in a while, I get together with my friends and practice sword fighting. It's actually very aerobic and very good for your arm strength. We wear safety equipment; it's a very well-choreographed dance with swords. It's a lot of fun.

Q: When do you use your skills?

A: I do it for charity. At the American Cancer Society fund-raising relays, we set up an arena. April will be our first race next year. I'm covered with balloons. Kids pay to attack me with wooden swords and they try to knock the balloons off. I always let the little ones win. They get to chase me around the ring. After a day of that, you're like, "Get me out of this armor!" I had a kid who could not understand the rules and kept beating on my leg. I had a welt the size of a grapefruit. My fastest bout was 7 seconds; it was an adult, a 22-year-old. She got mouthy with me.

Q: How did you get started painting figurines?

A: My first wife taught me in 1990. I've done 350-400 so far. I do fantasy and medieval -- 12th Century to 10th Century. I also paint dragons and unicorns. Those are more challenging -- you have to use your imagination. For the re-creations, you have books. It lets me focus on one thing and tune out the rest of the world. It also steadies my hands; try painting an eyeball on a figurine that's 1 inch tall.
A few months ago Full Tilt Poker busted a number of "bots" operating in their mid limit Heads Up Limit games. A substantial amount of money was confiscated from the "bot" accounts and redistributed to the victims, and the bots were banned from the site.

Now Full Tilt Poker has banned a number of other "bot" accounts. Actually, they banned these accounts about a month and a half ago, but just started distributing the seized funds yesterday.

"Bot" accounts seem to either prefer the really low limit No Limit Hold'em ring games or the mid limit Limit Hold'em games (heads up). The rationale for operating bots in both games is easy to see: in the case of the low limit No Limit Hold'em games, you could employ a fairly basic strategy of simply pushing all-in if you held a certain range of hands. Due to the weak play at these levels, you are going to get called by extremely weak hands. Heads Up Limit Hold'em is another obvious choice for people employing "bot" technology because the artificial intelligence needed to play a heads-up game is presumably much easier to program than in a short-handed or full ring game.

A few months ago, a number of "bot" accounts were banned from Full Tilt Poker, including "japinthesack" and "beatme1." Hundreds of thousands of dollars were confiscated and returned to the victims of the "bots."

Now, Full Tilt has banned another batch of bots operating in the heads up mid limit Limit Hold'em games. One of these accounts is "pokergirl z", who has apparently had about $47k confiscated from her account. There were a number of other alleged "bot" accounts banned as well.

The owner of the "pokergirl z" account has been posting on 2+2, proclaiming her innocence. As I said earlier, her account was actually banned about a month and a half ago, but Full Tilt Poker just recently started distributing her seized funds.

Her account was initially frozen on October 12th. After a number of weeks of investigation, Full Tilt banned her account permanently, saying that they had assessed her hand histories and "playing patterns" and had determined that she was using an artificial intelligence program. As per their usual policy, Full Tilt is being tight-lipped about exactly how they determined that she was "allegedly" a bot, but one can assume that they use statistical analysis, timing tells and maybe even screenshots of her desktop to come to their conclusion.

"pokergirl z" is obviously not pleased, but there is no way for her to really do anything as Full Tilt has the final say.

It makes you wonder how many alleged "bot" accounts are operating on Full Tilt or any other site at this exact moment.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Online Poker Cheats and Steroids (Part Two)

Yesterday's post concluded with my opinion that mental performance enhancing drugs, (although I have no current knowledge of specific professional poker players using them), are definitely a threat to the pro poker world, and even to those who play in big cash games but are not outright professionals. Today I want to talk about what I perceive as a much bigger problem, that of drug use connected to online poker, where big action is available non-stop in every nook and cranny in the world, and where sleep deprivation becomes a factor for those addicted to playing online.

Yesterday I spoke about the drug provigil, marketed as Modafinil. Today I am adding another brand drug, Adderall, to the mix. Adderall is a pharmaceutical psychostimulant comprising mixed amphetamine salts. The drug is used primarily to treat attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder and narcolepsy. Adderall has also been used successfully to manage severe cases of treatment-resistant depression. It is a Schedule II controlled substance, meaning that it has been deemed to have a high potential for abuse and addiction despite genuine medical uses.

I have been made aware of poker players using this drug by way of a disturbing e-mail I received from the mother of teenage boy playing online in Scandinavia (which, by the way, has depression rates amongst the highest in the world, and that is not good in conjunction with online gambling addiction). She wrote that her son was staying up all hours in the night playing online, missing sleep, missing school, missing out on just about everything. Did I know anything about this? she wanted to know.

Well, one thing I knew even without knowing was why these kinds of drugs appeal to sleepless online poker players who want to be just as sharp while playing as they are sleepless.

Where Modafinil and Adderall can even be more effective in the realm of poker is certainly online. Because there, players can play in multiple games at once and need to retain more data and play more hands in a much less shorter period of time, and this taxes the brain and requires a keen alertness unadulterated by "sleepiness" in order to accomplish all that effectively.

For example, if one normally plays a maximum of 3 tables simultaneously and wants to increase that because he is a winning player, meaning that more hands in action translates in the long-run to more profits, but is limited because he knows that with the added amounts of opponents with each new table, he will not be able to keep track of all the variables at once, and thus will miss opportunities where variance plays would be more effective in given situations, he may search for the added "fuel" needed to make this jump upwards possible.

When one plays more tables at once than he is used to, he is often forced to "default" actions because the players change so frequently online, and also because it is difficult to keep track of who might be in which emotional state. Short-handed games alter this decreased tracking effect even more, as one tends to devote more focus on the short game than the other tables. Everyone is different of course, but for most players, their natural comfort level where they don’t feel like they're giving up anything due to distractions is 3 tables, or 27 simultaneous opponents.

But with Modafinil and Adderall, players are able to extend their effective gamesmanship to 6 tables with relative ease. Once on the drugs, those players usually add one table at a time, lingering on the newly added variables until they feel they have a good read on the players and the games. Their new altered ability to increase attention to detail allows them to reliably track player movements on all tables, most importantly when new players come into any game. They feel the ability to track the movements of more than 50 simultaneous players, with perhaps the capacity for even more as they experience growing confidence in their "poker's little helpers."

For these players it is vital that none of their active tables overlap with any others, in order not to block the information as it streams in. Personal set-ups vary with many using a video card with dual monitor outputs, two 21-inch monitors set to 1600x1200 resolution on each, and placing the monitors side-by-side and sitting between the two, as opposed to having one directly in front of them and one to the side. Basically the idea is to have all the action visible without needing to shift one’s eyes or head around, and relying on the increased awareness of Modafinil and Adderall to keep track of where each player was sitting and sits now, which is normally difficult since their names/avatars are shrunken at 1600x1200 resolution and multiple actions are taking place simultaneously.

Back to live poker now to mention long, multi-day tournaments with the brutal, extended hours of play per day. One of the obvious main differences between tournament and ring play is the inability to dictate your playing hours in the former. If the tournament director is determined to play down to a set number of remaining players for the day, there is a very good chance that an extremely long session is in order, with a participant stuck at his table until the goals of the TD are met. Besides the designated breaks and meals, a tournament player has little choice about choosing whether to play on, even if he knows he has long lost his peak mental performance. If the day requires sixteen hours of play, those players who can sustain their best play for the greatest amount of time within that sixteen have a significant advantage over those that peak and crash after 8, 10, or 12 hours.

Extending this thought, if we look at a super tournament like the Championship WSOP event which will take 5 or more stress filled days to complete, and has an abnormally large chance of causing sleeplessness and exhaustion as the days progress, a player that requires less sleep in order to feel completely rested, and benefiting from a state of heightened awareness in his waking hours even with this shortened rest, will again have a tremendous advantage. The cumulative weariness of those long days would affect anyone, chipping away at one’s ability to sustain his or her best. Since lots of no-limit Hold’em play is so deadly towards a single, thoughtless or missed-cue mistake, the ability to side-step this type of mistake would be huge. Some people will turn to drugs to provide what they feel is a very practical and effective solution to this problem, more effective than any other training they might undertake to improve the quality of their sleepless time.

I want to stress that in spite of the great detail I have given here, explaining exactly how online players create their edge and set-up their equipment, doing drugs to enhance your poker skills will ultimately hurt both you and the game, just like it's done to baseball players and baseball.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Poker and Steroids! Is that Ridiculous?

Well, steroids have invaded just about every sport under the sun, and now that poker has become a sport, has steroids' evil era of cheating tarnished the professional world of poker too? This is a funny question but it is not at all ridiculous. The first analytical discussion, and an obvious question you might ask yourselves, is whether steroids or human growth hormone could somehow give professional poker players and edge the way they do baseball's fastball pitchers and power hitters. Could they actually merit being taken by poker players looking for a dishonest edge? This argument can be broken down into two parts: physical and mental.

Physically, it's rather obvious that the muscle-bound effects of either steroids or human growth hormone will do absolutely nothing to help poker players win at the tables. But when speaking of "physically," I'm talking about sheer size and power, not stamina or the ability to stave off sleep and headaches. Which brings us toward the other, more integral argument about steroids in poker: the mental side.

It turns out that the conclusion there is rather straightforward as well. Anabolic steroids are not going to do anything much to give a cheating poker player and edge in the games--unless, of course, he plans on strong-arming his money back from a fellow player who beat him out of a big pot. But, as much as we might not like to admit this, there are certain "poker steroids" out there. I am not talking about steroids in the anabolic sense; I'm talking about other kinds of performance enhancement drugs. There are several but the one at the forefront is called provigil (generic name Modafinil). Provigil is a drug that keeps you awake. It has legitimate medical uses and has also been used by the military to increase the performance of its pilots and soldiers in combat situations. Provigil enhances short-term memory and lets users stay awake for extended periods. In short, it keeps you awake, alert and sharp, three necessities in the world of winning poker.

What is poker about and what does provigil have to do with it? Maybe nothing, maybe something, maybe soon to be something more, although I hope not. Poker itself is about gaining and exploiting edges against your opponents. Usually study, observation, analysis, and experience, which are all naturally occurring processes that everyone has the capacity to practice, coupled with the ability to mentally sustain our applied knowledge in these areas, are what achieves these advantages, and thus, even though some players will always be better than others, poker is thought of as a "fair" game. Modafinil is the first artificial stimulant I've heard about that alters this landscape by giving a player the ability to perform longer mentally and at a more concentrated level than what he can achieve normally. Modafinil not only helps in gathering knowledge with a sharp, observational outlook, but also in applying intellect without normal taxation. If a player already has analytical skills, the drug can help him to contain the emotional destructiveness of tilting, as he can focus beyond the immediate result and concentrate on the overall plan, essentially wiping out an inherent weakness of many good players.

You know, I hesitated before writing on this subject. Do I really want to open up a can of worms, such as the one pried open by George Mitchell in naming Roger Clemens as a massive longtime steroid user? In fact, do I have any knowledge of specific poker players taking Modafinil? Is there a "Marcus Report" that names names like Mitchell's report did with baseball's steroid-takers?

Sorry, but no. I haven't even heard of a single player who has taken Modafinil or any other drug to enhance their poker skills. But the problem is that I heard several players talking about it on several different occasions. This is why I am writing about it now. I think Modafinil and other drugs capable of altering the landscape of thought and alertness may threaten poker in the very near future. Especially in light of the megabucks surrounding the pro circuits, let alone the driven desires to succeed in competition and be champions at all the major events.

So let's learn a lesson from baseball and the Mitchell Report and stop talking about drug-induced breakthroughs for mental competition. As baseball once went through a time period where players talked about steroids before actually taking them, poker might be in that similar time period right now for mental-performance enhancers, and that is why any of you out there who might be influenced to take drugs to better your poker play need to think twice. It is not worth it, and with all the regular forms of cheating we see both online and in brick and mortar cardrooms, this kind of very dangerous cheating is the last thing we need.

TOMORROW: Modafinil and online poker, is that a real problem now?

My New Poker Ratings Are Up! / Online Ghosting

I have posted all my online poker and casino reviews to my review page, which I think can help you make decisions about where you choose to play online. I want to emphasize that unlike the various poker/casino review and informational websites out there, the twenty poker rooms and casinos I have compiled for my lists are there only because for the past several months, they have been the SAFEST online gaming establishments where incidents of collusion and other forms of cheating have not come to my attention. Thus it is of my opinion that these are the best sites to play at right now and should continue to be in good and honest standing for a long time to come. I will update these lists whenever the need to do so arises.

So choose any one of them freely and good luck while playing!


What's this? If you guessed yet another form of online poker cheating, you're right, although it's not of the most nefarious kind, falling somewhere in the same sinister barrel as account-selling. If you've ever heard of the term "ghostwriters" used for behind-the-scenes authors writing books for celebrities who may not be capable of fashioning their own letters, you will see the connection to the word "onlineghosters" denoting those who...well, those who occupy a shadowy realm in online poker rooms. Here's a short description:

Ghosting occurs all the time in multi-table tournaments. An increasing problem with online poker is how many people are playing one hand? The ghosting cheating method uses another person to offer their opinion. First, the other person (the ghost) is watching the player in the tournament, and the player is telling the ghost what cards he has via telephone, instant messenger, or in person and offers advice as to what course of action the player should take during the hand.

Ghosting is nearly impossible to regulate or stop, and thus it is actively happening in nearly every tournament. Officially, the card room policies state that more then one player to a hand is ok because they have no way of knowing how to stop it from occurring. Ghosting is simply another way cheating and is not the way the game is intended to be played. You can imagine that ghosting can get out of hand very quickly, as players probably are already charging other players for their services to ghost them.

Ghosting is unethical and goes against the one player to a hand rule which was a founding principle of poker. As it is impossible to detect players being ghosted and using the expert ghost for analysis and decision-making it becomes tougher to win tournaments.

Well, at least these ghosts wear white.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Poker Cheating and Identity Theft...Is that a Marriage made in Heaven?

Many of you have heard of my book Dirty Poker but I imagine my book Identity Theft is not as well known to you. I wrote that book back in 2006, and told many true stories of how crooked gamblers used stolen identities to fleece casinos and poker rooms.

Well, here's a story of how one crooked poker player stole another's identity to launch, of all things, a benefits scam. And the poor victim is already dead. Talk about muddying someone's grave! Well, you know what they say: If you can't screw 'em while they're livin', screw 'em after they're dyin'!


11:40 - 18 December 2007

Poker player Norman Kay took a drastic gamble by trying to steal a dead friend's identity in a benefits scam, Exeter Crown Court heard.

Kay, 63, of Courtenay Terrace, Starcross, used the man's details on a UK passport, birth certificate, NI certificate and NHS medical card.

The court heard Kay was trying to claim benefits, using the false details, to pay off £50,000 in gambling debts.

Judge Jeremy Griggs said: "Instead of using a canoe, he thought he'd use Day of the Jackal."

The judge was referring to the case of former teacher and prison officer John Darwin who came back from dead after apparently drowning in a canoeing accident. The Day of the Jackal is a spy novel and film in which a criminal sets up false identities for himself.

Kay had pleaded guilty to an offence of improperly obtaining a passport, an offence of false representation and a charge of attempted deception.

Prosecutor Emily Pitts said Kay tried to claim Pension Credit using false documents in the name of Christopher John Francis, a man who was born in 1944 and died in 1974.

Mr Francis, who the court was told died in a work-related accident, knew the defendant.

If Kay's claim had been successful, Pension Credit would have enabled him to also claim housing benefit, council tax benefit and free prescriptions. But staff at the Benefits Agency realised the national insurance number belonged to a dead man and an investigation was launched.

Police surveillance linked Kay to his two properties, in Sheffield and Starcross.

Documents linking him to the identity theft were found at his Starcross home.

The court heard his wife had been unaware of the scam and was standing by him despite her shock.

Defence counsel Piers Norsworthy said: "Sheer despair drove him into ending Norman Kay's legal status, to disappear, and for Mr Francis to begin."

He said the defendant had not intended to flee the country but needed the passport as part of the benefits scam, which he hoped would pay off his poker debts.

Mr. Norsworthy added: "He'd hoped, perhaps as many gamblers do, that the end would be a happy one. But the ruse was rumbled."

The court heard Kay did not have any recent criminal convictions.

Judge Griggs adjourned sentencing for Kay to have an operation, as the defendant is in poor health.

But he warned him: "I make it absolutely clear this is offending which merits custody and that is likely to be the outcome."

Kay will be sentenced on Friday, February 1.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Bluff Cans Chris Vaughn/Old Runaway move pops up on Vegas Strip

Bluff Magazine has canned its editor, Chris Vaughn, for his involvement in the Full Tilt account-selling scam. Can't say I'm surprised by this, as poker magazines, like any other medium in print journalism, has to do what it has to do to keep up appearances. One thing for sure, though: I bet Vaughn could write quite the interesting article about the scam, for whichever magazine or publication he ends up working for. Here's what went down:

Poker Magazine Fires Editor Following Online Poker Room Cheating

The managing editor of a popular poker magazine has been fired for his role in the latest cheating scandal to rock the online poker world. Bluff Magazine, which has both print and online editions, announced Monday that it had canned its 24-year-old managing editor, Chris Vaughn. Vaughn, according to news reports, had cheated in an online poker tournament and then, when confronted about it, lied.

In a statement posted on its website,, the poker mag announced: “Bluff Media, publisher of Bluff Magazine, has made the decision to terminate Chris Vaughn as managing editor. In light of Chris’ involvement, recently admitted facts and the feedback obtained from industry professionals, it became apparent that the credibility required to perform the job functions of managing editor of Bluff Magazine at our company’s level of standards have become severely diminished. While we regret having to make this decision, we believe that it is the best alternative for all parties involved, including Chris, Bluff Media and the poker playing community at large. We wish Chris the best of luck.”

According to news reports, Vaughn recently won an online poker tournament at the Full Tilt poker room. However, it was soon revealed on a poker posting forum that midway through the tourney, which Vaughn had entered legally, he had sold his account-–that is, his position in the tournament to another, better player, who went on to win the tournament, news reports said. Later, in an interview on Internet radio, Vaughn lied about his role in the scam, the reports said.

As is so often the case, the cover-up became worse than the crime and Bluff had to fire Vaughn.

Vaughn's win was a case of account-selling, the practice of turning over an account late in a major online tournament to a potent, star online player. The practice has come to light only in recent months, after several account-selling incidents were discussed on major poker forums. It was quickly recognized that a star player taking over one of these accounts was gaining a significant edge over his remaining players, who would have no idea that a new tough player, perhaps with a radically different style, had suddenly assumed a seat at the table. Account-selling is considered dishonest and therefore cheating, and is against the rules at online poker rooms.

In an interview, Vaughn was asked about his role in the cheating scandal and denied it. But then in a follow-up interview, Vaughn said, “When they asked me the question (about cheating) on the show, I panicked and I lied.”

Well, hopefully this online scam will at least get us to the end of the year, meaning that I hope there won't be yet another before we all toast one another Happy New Year!


I heard that over the weekend, a guy walked into a Strip Casino in Vegas, laid a stack of 20 black $100 chips on a blackjack table, was dealt a hard twenty, lost the hand to the dealer's drawing out a five to a sixteen, then swiped his 20 black chips off the table before the dealer could get to them, and ran out the door, down the casino's entranceway with security agents in pursuit, and finally disappeared in the throng on Las Vegas Boulevard (the Strip).

At that I had to laugh! (lol) I don't know if he did it out of frustration or if he'd actually planned beforehand on bolting if he lost.

You see, I had done the exact same thing with my cheating team several times 25 years ago! We called the move "the runaway," which was a modified version of the old "walkaways" that old-timers in downtown Vegas did in the '50s and '60s when the casinos were all open like arcades to Fremont Street.

Back in the summer of '82, we had a lot of heat in Vegas on our pastposting moves, and we were sitting around the hotel room telling war stories, when my partner Duke told me about those old-timers doing walkways, which was betting a few $25 chips on "red" on roulette tables, then whenever "black" came in, scooping up their chips and walking out the open casino onto Fremont Street, which was literally a few steps outside the casinos.

I got a good chuckle out of it and said to Duke and the rest of my team, "Hey, Fuck the walkaways, let's do some runaways!" They all looked at me like I was nuts, but that very same night, I laid 20 black chips on a blackjack table at the Tropicana, lost the hand and ran out the door! My partner Jerry was waiting with his motorcycle outside the front entrance (in those days Vegas was not so congested and these escapes were possible, no longer the case today). I jumped on the back and we burned rubber and sped away!

We actually did three more of those runaways that night, and boy did that heat up Vegas! And then we did it a few more weekends during the following year, whenever we had too much heat on our regular cheating moves. I can tell you that the runaways were the most fun part of my entire cheating career; I was always laughing like a hyena when running out the door with the chips.

In the original manuscript of my book American Roulette (Great Casino Heist in Europe), I had written a chapter about the runaways, but unfortunately it was edited out by the picayune publisher to save space. However, there is a chapter about the same scam pulled off by others in my last book, The World's Greatest Gambling Scams. Go to my book page if interested in reading it.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Online Poker Cheating Safety Ratings Now Daily!

For those of you who are new visitors to my website as well as online poker players, you may not be aware that during the past year I have been running a computer-generated cheating-rank system of the Internet's online poker rooms. I have been updating these ratings biweekly. However, I am pleased to say that due to current demand, not doubt inspired by the recent spate of online poker scams, starting today I am going to update these rankings every day. The actual ranks are a compilation of the three major forms of online poker cheating: collusion play, bots play and the rare incidents of hacking, be it from the outside or the inside, as we saw in the recent Absolute Poker Scandal. Lesser forms of cheating such as all-in misuse, time-out and chat box manipulation are not counted in the compilation. Although successfully hacking the sites is rare, it does happen. Collusion play has remained constant or dipped on certain sites, however, bot play is on a sharp increase as developers of these sophisticated software programs are coming out with better stuff almost on a daily basis!

So check out my cheating-rank system every day.