Saturday, March 01, 2008

Poker Cheating the Easy Way!

I am often asked what was the easiest score I ever made cheating casinos. Was it at roulette? Was it blackjack? Craps? Baccarat? Some people even ask if I ever rigged a million-dollar slot jackpot, which is about as far away from my cheating activities as slot machines would be from the Dalai Lama! The answer, however, is "none of the above." In fact, the easiest score I ever made in a casino had nothing to do with cheating. Nor did it have anything to do with gambling! It did have something to do with the Mirage poker room, but only because I was standing on its rail when it happened.

Back in 1989, when the Mirage was barely open, I was hanging out in its casino waiting for my casino cheating partners to arrive in Vegas for a big cheating weekend. There was a heavyweight championship fight and the town promised to be packed up with big action. I arrived on a Wednesday, two days before my teammates were flying in that coming Friday. Just trying to kill time, I wandered into the sports book. While watching the myriad of TV screens covering 3 different sports, I got to bullshitting with this guy named Joe from Brooklyn. He seemed like my kind of guy, and I could tell right away he was hustler. After a few hours in the sports book, we went to the coffee shop and grabbed a bite to eat. While there, a well-dressed guy came up to our table and approached Joe. This guy was of a classy type and reeked of money and style. He sat down at our booth next to Joe; they obviously knew each other. After some quick casual conversation, the sharp-looking guy got up and left.

Later that night, I saw Joe playing blackjack at a $100 minimum table near the poker room. I came up behind him and he acknowledged that it was okay that I stand there and watch him. In his hand he had a fistful of purple $500 chips, and he was shooting a $1,000 a hand. During the ten minutes I watched, Joe held his own but didn't appear to win any money. Then the handsome guy appeared and they started talking in hushed tones. I felt I should leave, so I did.

The next morning I ran into Joe in the coffee shop and we had breakfast together. We again shot the shit, although he never said anything about who the other guy was or whatever he (Joe) did for a living, which I sensed had something to do with shady trade and that he was doing it now with this other guy. I of course mentioned nothing about the way I made money in casinos. Then after coffee, I followed him out to that same high-limit blackjack table near the poker room. He reached in his pocket, pulled out a handful of purple $500 chips and started playing two hands. I watched him play for a half hour and he did okay, winning around $4,000. Then I strolled into the sports book to watch a ballgame.

I ran into Joe three more times that day, and again that evening we dined in the coffee shop. Then later on, around midnight, I saw Joe playing blackjack at the same table next to the poker room. He again had a handful of purple chips in his hand, and he was playing two spots at $1,000 per hand. But this time he was making a killing. After winning both hands three times in a row, he spread to three hands and raised his bets to $2,000. He caught a big streak and was soon ahead more than thirty grand! At that moment, I saw him look over his shoulder and a funny look came over his face. I turned in that direction and noticed the sharp guy heading toward us.

Suddenly, I felt a hard slap on my hand. I was totally stunned. It was Joe grabbing my hand and jamming something inside it. "Get lost!" he roared with throaty viciousness. "Now!"

My mind was twirling in confusion, but I knew enough to get lost. I also knew that what he jammed in my hand was casino chips. And, that unless he was a magician pulling a fast one, those chips had to be purple--$500 chips!

I kept my fist tightly closed and headed to the men's room. Inside a stall I opened it, and there they were: seven purple chips--$3,500! At first I was leery about cashing them out; was this some kind of setup awaiting me at the cage? But I couldn't resist the lure of the easy money, so I went right to the cage and cashed them out. The cashier asked if I had any markers to pay; I answered no. She gave me the cash, no problems. I stuffed it in my pants pocket and got out of Dodge in a heartbeat!

I wondered about that incident for years. Why did this guy give me $3,500 simply to get rid of me? I would have just as equally fled under the harsh tone of his order to get lost. There was no need to give me one dollar, let alone thirty-five hundred of them. This was probably the most amazing thing that ever happened to me, even more so than my 25-year cheating career. A total stranger gave me $3,500 in a casino! Unbelievable, but true!

The only conclusion I could draw was that Joe was scamming the rich guy, probably playing on his money with a promise that he had some kind of system to make big money, and for that he would get a percentage of what he won, an arrangement similar to deals made between poker players and their backers. But I guess Joe was going south with the profits from the big score he was making and was afraid that I would say something about how much money he was winning in front of the guy. That's a laugh! Little did Joe know that he was in the company of someone who knew how to keep his mouth shut!

I saw Joe one more time in Atlantic City two years later. We crossed by each other on the boardwalk and definitely made eye-contact. Neither of us stopped. Neither of us even hesitated. It was like...well...two ships passing in the night.