Monday, April 21, 2008

Best Poker Cheats Hand Of All-Time

Who's the best poker cheat of all-time?...Lancey Howard, no doubt about it! Who's Lancey Howard? He's the guy that beat Steve McQueen in the movie "The Cincinnati Kid." If you remember the classic 5-card stud final hand, Howard, played by the great Edward G. Robinson, beat the kid's full house with a straight flush and sent McQueen to the poker graveyard.

BUT HE CHEATED! How do I know? Well, I explained it in my book Dirty Poker, but if you never read it, read this:

I’ve been a dirty poker player ever since I was old enough to hold cards and count chips. Before I reached that age, though, I learned a very valuable lesson from my grandfather. I’ll never forget it. I was nine years old and I was with grandpa at the movies watching The Cincinnati Kid with Steve McQueen. I’m sure that if you’re a poker player or fan, or a cheat, there’s a very good chance you’ve seen it. Some of you veterans of poker may have had the pleasure of seeing it in the theater, as I’ve had. But I’m not mentioning this because I want to tell you how sexy Ann Margaret was or that the rebel McQueen was my first childhood hero. I just want to bring the film’s final scene back to life because in a way it shaped my own life, and had it not been shot I probably would have never been a casino cheat or written about poker cheats.

Remember that classic last hand, perhaps the greatest hand in the annals of poker anywhere? The one that was more amazing than any hand you’ve ever seen in a real poker room or on a TV poker tournament or even in front of your computer screen logged on to The one that even surpassed those doozie hands you’ll never forget from the home games you played in your basement while growing up.

Of course I’m talking about those fatal cards Lady Fingers dealt to the Kid and his nemesis, Lancey Howard. The Kid had been in command of their grueling heads-up fight to the finish, which had been going nonstop for two days. The elder Lancey looked haggard and ready to crumble, and the Kid was about to deliver the knockout blow. When the fifth and last card was dealt to the Kid, he was looking better than ever. That because he received an ace, giving him a full house of aces over tens, a monster, a virtual lock winning hand in five-card stud. After all, how hard is it to get that same hand in seven-card stud? I know most of you don’t play that game either anymore, but you still know exactly what I’m talking about.

Well, Lancey Howard wasn’t that impressed. His fifth card staring up from the table was the nine of diamonds. His three other up cards were also diamonds and, as we were reminded by Lady Fingers’ gravelly voice, in range of a “possible straight flush.” After the Kid bet out his two pair of aces and tens on board and got raised by Lancey, and then had the gall to raise again, to which Lancey coolly responded by re-raising, my grandfather turned to me and said without whispering, “Richard, there’s a cheating scam in the works.”

“What do you mean, grandpa?” I asked him wide-eyed but with a little less innocence than most of my nine-year-old peers had.

He pointed an accusing finger at the silver screen. “Lancey’s got the jack of diamonds in the hole.”

I looked again at the hand but the camera angle shifted back to Lancey’s face as he puffed his cigar. Suddenly he didn’t look so beat up anymore. Then the camera panned the Kid’s face. McQueen was sweating. First thing I thought upon seeing those rivulets drip off his forehead was that the Kid understood what my grandfather was saying. I on the other hand wasn’t yet the sultan of cheating I was destined to become.

But I did figure out, the next time Lancey’s cards were in view, that my grandfather was alluding to the possibility of his having a straight flush.

“McQueen’s got an ace in the hole, Richard. You can bet your sweet little arse on that.”

As I processed it all, some petty guy two rows behind us had the audacity to tell my poor, little old grandfather to shut his mouth. I wanted to verbally accost the guy and throw my popcorn in his face, but I was too intrigued by what everyone else in the theater seemed to take for granted, or just didn’t want to have verbalized.

“The dealer’s in on it,” grandpa continued. “Lady whatever-her-name-is fixed the damn cards. She dealt McQueen a full house, all right, only so Lancey could bust him out with a straight flush.”

I was now hungrier than ever for the action on the screen. If there were one person on the planet in whose words I had faith in, it would be my grandfather. To this day, so many years after his passing, I still have never valued anyone’s words the way I did his. When the hand played out exactly as grandpa had predicted, the Kid and Lancey re-raising each other until the Kid was all-in and in debt, followed by the dramatic flipping over of Lancey’s hole card to reveal the straight flush which beat the Kid’s aces-full boat, I realized that my life had changed forever and that I would always beware of the rampant dishonesty prevalent in poker, as it is in every facet of life pertaining to money.

Yes, I know I’m confusing you, but you are reading me correctly. I still believe to this day—and I am widely considered to be the greatest professional casino cheat of all-time, which if one thing does not make me an idiot—that the famous final hand in The Cincinnati Kid was fixed and that Lady Fingers, Lacey Howard, and even Karl Malden, who was portrayed somewhat in the film as the Kid’s confidant, were all involved in collusion to have Lancey wipe the floor with the Kid’s ass and cut up his money as soon as he was out the door. As a matter of fact, I’m sure of it.

How could I be wrong? I mean, just take a look at the hand: aces-full against a straight flush in a five-card game with no wild cards! I will not bother you with meaningless odds calculations. I will only say simply, Come on, if you believe that hand was on the up and up, then you’ve probably been a victim a lot more than once to the flocks of cheaters that swarm poker in all its vicinities. And you’re probably the prince or princess of their prey.