Saturday, February 16, 2008

Poker Cheating Scandal on French Poker Forum Widens

Last Tuesday I posted about a French poker player who was swindled by a fellow player on the French poker forum "Le Club Poker." Now there's lots more on that developing story.

Contributors and administrators of the French forum started to investigate the
different ins and outs of this gloomy story, trying to bust the scammer and force him to pay back the $500 he scammed from another member. Soon it appeared that another contributor was also scammed of $500 by the same guy! And the reason why he didn't tell everyone at first is because it was HIS intention to scam a poker room! What he agreed to with the scammer was to play online and chip dump to him in order to quickly and "securely" clear his bonus points. And needless to say, after chip dumping money to the scammer, he was never payed back.

Then some people on the forum, by crossing different sources, were able to discover some identity information and even a picture of the scammer. That's when the original scammer came back to life on the forum saying that his different poker rooms and forum accounts have been hacked and that he's not the one who stole the money--he even complained that HE was the victim! People didn't believe him, and they started "bashing" him and continued their investigations. And they were right to do so. Even if by now everything is still not clear, it appears that a small but widening group of online poker players, using multiple forum accounts, have been trying to do that same money transfer scam on different poker forums (even on the well known 2+2 forum) along with some regular colluding scams at the poker tables. And they used to have their "meeting point " on and IRC channel.

Tell me about a dirty story!

Right now, with all the pressure and the investigation by the forum's administrators and contributors, the original victim has been refunded half of the
money ($250) and the pseudo scammer-victim has been banned. But what's quite interesting is all this undercover stuff that seems to have emerged so far. Who said that poker online is safe? You can't even trust your poker forum buddies!

And then a third forum contributor posted to say that he was also scammed out of $75, again by the same guy using the same money transfer technique. The only reason he didn't inform of it earlier was because he didn't want to "rat for such a small amount..." I guess it's more because he was ashamed to be conned like this!

What in the world will happen next in the world of online poker??

Friday, February 15, 2008

Poker Cheating: Bots Usage by Poker Site!

DoingPoker using bots to fill up the tables? The evidence seems overwhelming.

A routine observation of the traffic at DoingPoker revealed some unusual activity. After further investigation, it seems likely that the site uses robotic players, or bots, to fill up the games and create the illusion of an active player base.

It should be noted that this conclusion is an inference based solely on outside observation. It cannot be proven to a certainty. DoingPoker’s management claims that the players are human testers. Some of the evidence that led to the conclusion that they are bots is presented here, and readers are invited to investigate for themselves and make their own judgments.

Not Your Typical Poker Site

The first remarkable thing about DoingPoker is the number of players. Every online poker site has a daily cycle, with traffic building throughout the day, peaking in the evening, and bottoming out in the early morning hours. Every poker site, that is, except DoingPoker.

The site averages about 90 real money ring game players, but what is unusual is that the site has the same number of players at all times of the day and night. Over the span of 48 hours, observations at many different times showed that DoingPoker always had between 90 and 95 real money ring game players. (At the time of this writing the table arrangement had been changed slightly and player counts were consistently in the mid-80s around the clock). This fact by itself is enough to indicate that something highly unusual is gong on, but it is certainly not the end of the story.

The site offers five different poker variations: hold’em, omaha, omaha high/low, stud and stud high/low. At most sites of a similar size, players naturally gravitate toward hold’em, the most popular game, and the other games will run only sporadically, if at all. DoingPoker, however, has at least one active game of every type around the clock. Such a high level of game diversity is unheard of for such a small site.

The Players

Taking omaha high/low as an example, at any time of day, an eight-seat table with two seats open can be found. At one point in time, six particular players were observed playing at the table. Two hours later, the same six players were still playing at the table, but every single one of them had changed seats. Twelve hours later, the same six players were still at the table, once again in different seats. In the following days, the same six players were always observed at the table.

The player names also show patterns suggestive of a common origin. Among the relatively small group of players are “sasha-us,” “sasha-00” and “SUMO-00.” Also present are “jangsangv” and “jangsang-.” Many of the names end with a period and/or contain a hyphen, as if management were trying to create unusual character strings that wouldn’t interfere with the name choices available to their actual customers.

The Play

The players at DoingPoker often seem to make decisions that no rational human player would make. This applies not only to the betting strategies, but even to the way the players enter and leave the games.

One player in a limit hold’em game was observed to leave the table after playing a hand in early position, only to return within a minute and post a blind immediately in front of the big blind. After playing through both blinds, the player left and immediately returned again, posting a blind again when the button had passed. The player played every hand, but instead of staying seated and posting just two blinds, small and large, the player posted three big blinds and a small blind.

Many other occasions were witnessed in which a player left and then returned within a minute, for no apparent reason related to bankroll management or otherwise. The maneuver, repeated at random intervals, did serve the purpose of ensuring that an observing human player would have regular opportunities to grab an open seat at an otherwise full table.

One might expect robotic players to have a tight, value-oriented style of play in which percentages are carefully calculated, but that does not seem to be the case. Based on limited observation, the players play loose and aggressive, happily check-raising and bluffing each other while waiting for human competition.

In one 10-handed limit hold’em hand, at least five players saw the turn. A third club hit the board on the turn, making a flush possible. The pot was then bet, raised and reraised by the first three players. In all, five players ended up calling four bets to see the river. A blank hit, and the turn bettor, raiser and reraiser all checked. The pot was bet and raised behind them, and the turn bettor, raiser and reraiser all folded to two bets on the river. The river bettor called the raise and then mucked, because the raiser showed a monster hand -- top two pair.

In another limit hold’em hand, four players called two bets on the turn. The board was 10-9-9-5 with three clubs, making a flush and full house possible. On the river, an offsuit king also made a straight possible, but otherwise made no difference. The pot was then bet, raised and reraised on the river by three different players. The bettor mucked and the raiser called the third bet. The reraiser showed an unimproved pocket pair of sevens, and the raiser won, not with a full house, flush, straight or even three of a kind, but with J-10, for two pair.

In no limit hold'em, the players can be observed making seemingly endless strings of minimum raises. Players are seen to raise and reraise, putting in more than five bets, only to fold to one or two more bets. No bets or raises of any size other than the minimum were observed.

The Denial

DoingPoker does not warn its players that they are playing against bots. The website makes no mention of them. The website contains the following quotes:

Responsible Gaming: DoingPoker, acts solely as host, insuring Fair and Honest games.

Action: DoingPoker has non-stop poker action 24-hours a day against real people from all around the world.

The site’s terms and conditions specifically forbid players from using any kind of artificial assistance, including bots.

The site’s management seems to make some effort to disguise the existence of the bots. Even at a table with seats open, the robot players will regularly get up from the table and change seats. Unsuspecting human players who do not pay close attention to the names might not realize that they are facing the same cast of characters they faced two hours or two days ago.

In an apparent effort to maintain the illusion of normalcy, some tables are kept full while others have seats kept open. At the full tables, departing players will be replaced from time to time by new players. And yet despite all the turnover, the total number of seated players hardly changes at all.

The site’s support staff, when contacted, denied only that bots are used in real money games.

DoingPoker’s management was asked to comment on this story. In response, Carlos Miranda, General Manager of Dagoweb S.A., sent the following statement: has not been officially launched yet. We are still testing our software and for that purpose we have both modes available, play money and real cash. We have a testing facility that gives jobs to a lot of people and those we use, for playing money mode and also real cash games as well. We also use our own programmers in India, programmers in China and friends to help us test our software. Most of the people we have playing are not that much of poker savvy, but we get great feed back. does not have any kind of Bots as mentioned in your email to fill in spaces.

It should be noted that the site is not only open for testing. According to the website, real money players and deposits are being accepted. There is no indication on the website that the site is in a testing phase. The only indication of testing is in the site's downloadable client software, where the word "beta" appears below the name of the site.

A Word Of Caution

Given the reckless playing style of the bots (or human testers), DoingPoker might seem like a poker player’s dream. However, it is unknown whether the bots play the same style against human opponents. No evidence for collusion among the bots has been seen, but In a game where all but one player are house robots, the possibility for collusion is obvious. If the bots are sharing their hole card information, a whole array of cheating options is available. If the bots also know the human player’s hole cards, the hapless human doesn’t stand a chance. This is what allegedly happened at the now-defunct, which went out of business when players began to suspect they were being cheated.

Pokertropolis also allegedly used bots to prop up the games, though without necessarily cheating the players. The only fraud alleged in that case was management’s repeated denials that bots were used in the games. Pokertropolis is now also defunct.

Some players may consider the use of bots to be a harmless extension of the concept of proposition players, or props. Most players have no problem with playing against human props, but not everyone is comfortable playing against robots, especially when those robots are programmed and managed by the house.

Even if the bots are not cheating and are easy to beat, there is another thing to consider. A site which has almost no real players also has very little cash flow, and may have difficulty paying the players who do win. This is especially true when any money won on the site is likely to have been lost by the site’s robot players. In other words, unlike every other poker site, at DoingPoker the players are playing against the house, giving the house even more incentive not to pay out. There has been at least one unsubstantiated claim that the site refused to pay out winnings to a player.

As stated above, the existence or non-existence of bots cannot be conclusively proven by observation. Players are urged to do their own investigation and to use caution when deciding to play at a new site.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Poker Cheating Buster Cashing in on Presidential Election/Richard Marcus on "Keep Flopping Aces" radio show tonight!

Serve Ravitch, the professional poker player who was instrumental in exposing the giant Absolute Poker Scandal, now says he can cash in on the outcome of the upcoming US Presidential Election. Here's a news article that appeared around the world yesterday:

THERE IS a professional poker player in New York named Serge Ravitch who is convinced he can make money off this year's presidential election. But to explain what he's up to, I want to start with a story about Super Tuesday.

By early evening last Tuesday, Hillary Clinton looked very likely to win the Democratic primary in California. The initial exit polls showed Clinton ahead by three points. As more polls came out, her lead grew.

But everyone knows that exit polls can be misleading. So on Tuesday evening, I also checked out Intrade, a Web site based in Ireland where people buy and sell contracts whose price is tied to real-world events. Strangely, the prices on Intrade were suggesting that Barack Obama would win California.

There was good reason to take those odds seriously: Intrade has done an excellent job of predicting election results over the last few years.

It's no wonder, then, that the site has become a phenomenon. In recent months, when I have asked former advisers to Bush or Bill Clinton what they think will happen in 2008, they've often talked about Intrade.

But now a little backlash has begun. Barry Ritholtz, author of the popular Big Picture economics blog, has put together a list of Intrade's misses. Last Tuesday, meanwhile, I e-mailed a high-profile Democratic economist and asked what he made of the dueling numbers coming from the California polls and from Intrade. He replied with a salty two-word message, the second word of which was "Intrade."

Then there is Ravitch, 27, a lawyer turned poker player whose previous claim to fame was his role in exposing an online-poker cheating scandal. In late December, he started posting notes on an Internet message board vowing to profit from what he saw as Intrade's blatant inefficiencies. He has generally been announcing his trades as he makes them, and most of them have paid off. In the span of just six weeks, he says, he has earned a 35 percent return.

"I believe quite simply that the people who are trading on Intrade and the methods they're using are so flawed that they can't be right in the long run," he told me.

After what happened on Super Tuesday - Clinton won California handily - I started to wonder if he had a point.

The mechanics of Intrade are simple enough. You can buy or sell a contract tied to the outcome of an event - Will Barack Obama win the California primary? Will "Atonement" win Best Picture? Will the United States or Israel bomb Iran this year? - so long as you can find someone else willing to be on the opposite side of the bet. Once the outcome becomes clear, the contract pays either $10 or nothing at all.

At 8:30 p.m. last Tuesday, the Obama-wins-California contract was selling for about $6 (which meant the market collectively thought he had a 60 percent chance of winning). If I wanted to bet on him and you agreed to bet against him, I would have deposited $6 in your Intrade account. Had he won, you would have owed me $10 - the original $6, plus $4 in profit. Since he didn't win, you would have kept my money. It's all very similar to the futures market on Wall Street.

Or at least it's similar in concept.

In practice, Intrade is different because there still isn't all that much trading on the site. John Delaney, Intrade's chief executive, said that roughly $50 million in contracts tied to the 2008 election had changed hands already, which is up from $15 million for the entire 2004 election cycle.

The limited size of Intrade's market has created two main problems. The first is that the biases of a small group of traders can have a big effect on prices.

Ravitch has made a nice profit betting against Ron Paul, the libertarian who late last year was, amazingly, given almost a 10 percent chance of becoming the Republican nominee.

In a more liquid market, Paul's small band of intense supporters wouldn't be able to affect his price. On Intrade, they can. Along similar lines, Al Gore is now given an 11 percent chance of being the Democratic vice presidential nominee, which Ravitch considers silly.

The second problem is that the market seems to react to new information too slowly. In a healthier market, you can't easily predict where prices are going.

On Intrade, reactions often happen in slow motion - and eventually turn into over-reactions. Obama's stock rose for days after he won Iowa, then fell during the two weeks after he lost New Hampshire and rose again in the 10 days after he won South Carolina. The impact of each contest took surprisingly long to sink in.

For this reason, Ravitch has recently been betting that the odds of Obama getting the Democratic nomination will keep going up this month, even though they were already around 60 percent when we spoke late last week. As Obama wins more primaries, Ravitch figures the contracts will continue to gain value, and he can then sell them before the March primaries, which look more favorable to Clinton.

I suspect that something similar happened with the California contracts: There simply was not enough trading volume to ensure that the market reacted quickly enough to new information, not enough smart money.

The California prices were particularly striking, because in the past Intrade had been most useful on the day of elections. Its longer-term odds - like the fact that the Democrats are given a 66 percent of winning the White House - may be interesting, but they are based on probabilities that are inherently unknowable. On Election Day, by contrast, the odds can reflect real information, like exit polls, voter turnout and early returns.

So it is fair to say that Intrade is not as advanced as some had thought. But that is why the existence of people like Ravitch is so welcome. As more traders try to exploit Intrade's inefficiencies, those inefficiencies will become rarer and rarer.


Tonight at 9 p.m. EST, 6 p.m. PST, I will be the guest on the popular 1-hour radio show "Keep Flopping Aces." Naturally Lou Krieger and I will be talking all about cheating in the poker world. Tune in live worldwide to Rounders Radio. If you miss it, there are upcoming podcasts.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Poker Cheating First-Time Author?

Everyone remembers how the magazine reporter and author James McManus broke into the professional poker world and scored big at the World Series of poker, right? Well, if not, it was through a writing assignment for Harper's Magazine to cover the 2000 WSOP. It was there that he perhaps crossed the line from writer to player. But now, this first-time author, Martha Frankel, went overboard in her poker research, but in a very negative way. Read this New York Times article to see how:

“MY heart is pounding,” Martha Frankel, first-time author, says when a reporter calls to reschedule. “You’re not calling to cancel, are you? My nephew is dying. I told him, ‘You die on Sunday, I’m not coming to the funeral, because I got The New York Times coming up on Monday.’ ”

This is what the seasoned reporter regards as an Open and Forthright Personality, an indication that the only enticement that will be needed to convince the subject to reveal his or her innermost secrets is the word “Hello” — even if, as is the case with Ms. Frankel, the subject is a veteran interviewer herself.

Meet her at a bakery on a miserable morning of freezing rain and treacherous roads in the Catskills, not far from Woodstock, and in five minutes you will feel not only as if you have known her all your life, but as if you still have one of her sweaters. As her book, “Hats and Eyeglasses: A Family Love Affair with Gambling,” to be published next week by Tarcher, is an intimate memoir about her online gambling addiction, with a cheerful foray into the drugs she’s tried over the years and didn’t become addicted to and an explicit description of what she’s done in bed to keep her husband, Steve Heller, from getting interested in her family’s cockamamie quick-money schemes, it probably makes sense. Then again, Ms. Frankel, who is 57, throws off more warmth than the rental car.

“You O.K.?” Ms. Frankel asks when the reporter arrives, and while her lips move, the voice is Fran Drescher’s. “I saw those ambulances screaming up 28 — I was worried. We’re going to my house in my car.”

And, after arriving there: “Watch out on those steps — they’re icy. Two days before Christmas I slipped on them and got two black eyes. Everybody in town was saying to Steve, ‘Ya finally did it, huh?’ ”

The house is trimmed in ’50s turquoise and accessorized inside with car parts by Mr. Heller, a furniture builder, sculptor and ’50s car fanatic who runs a shop called Fabulous Furniture a few miles away in Boiceville. Taillights from a ’59 Chevy Impala are mounted over the fireplace; the kitchen cabinet pulls are made from car trim.

When the tour is over, she sits down in the living room to talk. How, she is asked, did the nephew take it when she told him that if his funeral conflicted with the interview she wouldn’t attend?

“Fine,” Ms. Frankel says. Apparently he’d already said there was no way he’d be leaving before the Super Bowl. A few minutes later, though, her tone changes and she seems on the verge of tears. “My niece has children the same age I was when my father died — knowing what’s going to happen, it’s almost too much for me to bear.”

Ms. Frankel’s father was an accountant, her mother a bookkeeper. She grew up in a housing project in the Bronx and then in Queens, where games of chance — mah-jongg for the women, poker for the men — were a part of life. And though the title of her book, “Hats and Eyeglasses,” is an old gambling expression for a dreadful run at the table, Ms. Frankel’s childhood memories are happy ones, in which gambling equaled friendship equaled food equaled laughter equaled love. They bet on everything, from sports to how much her mother would lose at Weight Watchers.

Then, just after she was accepted to the Bronx High School of Science, her father died. His death unmoored her; she chose a less challenging high school. At the University of Miami, she had a brief marriage to a classmate who bet on sports games and was dealing cocaine. Ms. Frankel left him after he was convicted of selling cocaine to an undercover agent, then dropped out of college and moved to Woodstock, N.Y. There, 38 years ago, she met Steve Heller. The moment he said he did not watch football, she says, she fell in love.

She managed her husband’s business for 10 years, and then, after meeting Annie Flanders, who was then the editor of Details magazine, started writing, specializing in celebrity interviews. Her work appeared in Movieline magazine, Cosmopolitan and American Film. Her Web site,, shows pictures of her with her arms around her subjects, and many of the stories were the genial “tell us who you most loved working with” sort, but not all.

At times, Martha Frankel could be not merely formidable, but outrageous, asking Anne Rice if she and her husband, Stan Rice, had engaged in one of the sexual practices Ms. Rice wrote about in the S-and-M novels she published under pseudonyms. “Stan was alive then,” Ms. Frankel says. “I wouldn’t have done it if he had died.” She reconsiders. “No, I would have. I just didn’t like her. “

Life was good. Ms. Frankel was flying to Europe, bringing in $3,500 to $4,000 a profile and making about $80,000 a year. Then in 1995, while writing a script about a card shark, she tracked down a family friend who had been a professional poker player. She also joined a weekly neighborhood game, where she limited herself to betting $99 and never, she says, went over her limit. About once a month, she’d visit a casino. She remembers that she usually made money, but she was becoming obsessed with the game.

“Before ’95, I never turned down an assignment,” Ms. Frankel says. “If the money was good enough, I’d interview Adolf Hitler and make him sound very fascinating: I’m a ho. But when I started playing poker, I started turning down stories. It was the beginning of a slippery road.” In 1999, after finding out about online poker, Ms. Frankel registered at a site called Paradise Poker. The betting limit was $300 a day, and up to $3,000 a month. She lost from Day 1, but she could not stop.

“It was almost like a chemical change in me,” she says. “I always heard crack cocaine was so different from cocaine — it has this thing that immediately hooks you. I was hooked on online poker the minute I started.”

What made online poker different from the poker she had played for years?

It was faster, Ms. Frankel says. In an amateur game, perhaps 18 hands would be dealt an hour; in the casinos it might be 30, but online it could be 60. And there were no people to “read.”

“It was like a visceral change in me,” she says. “All of a sudden I was in front of a computer eight or nine hours a day. It didn’t seem like real money.”

Playing poker with friends or at the casino, she always knew when it was time to leave, but online, she says, “I was unable to leave.”

She began playing 10 days a month and working the rest, so it seemed things “evened out.” Then she persuaded the site’s administrators to raise her monthly limit to $5,000. She could not make enough money to pay off her losses, so they were mounting. She handled the household bills, and could hide much of what was happening from her husband, but at times the mortgage payment was late and money was tight. Too ashamed to tell anyone what was happening, she withdrew.

“Every day this was my prayer — probably this is the prayer of every addict: Please let me stop today, please let today be the day,” she says. “I had no idea what would make me stop. It felt like it was out of my hands.”

Her mother was sick, but Ms. Frankel discouraged her from calling. because calls broke her online connection. Then one day her mother called, crying. “She was hysterical,” Ms. Frankel says. “She kept asking what she had done to make me so angry.” Her voice clutches up. “She was a great woman and that I made her feel like that made me feel so awful.”

That was the end of online poker. Ms. Frankel went to visit her mother; she took every assignment she could and kept away from her computer, writing at her husband’s shop. She had played online poker for a year and a half, and while she does not reveal the figure in her book, she estimates that she lost $50,000 to $60,000, compounded by interest rates of up to 20 to 23 percent, which took her a few years to pay off.

Still, she was unable to tell her husband and friends about the addiction until last year, when she sent them her manuscript. Her husband was infuriated, she writes. He demanded that she tell him how much she had lost. She refused.

Ms. Frankel’s lifestyle today hardly resembles Gamblers Anonymous recovery: though she long ago deleted the poker site from her computer, she still plays poker once a week with friends.

Has she also gone to casinos?

“Many times,” she says. “It feels like a totally different thing.”

Some would call this denial.

“I don’t think I’m in denial,” Ms. Frankel says. “Gambling barely affects my life. I know recovering heroin addicts who drink. I play poker.”

“I only play for what I can afford,” she adds. “It might not suit everyone, but it’s impossible to think one thing suits everyone.”

A few days later, the reporter calls back with a question she had forgotten: When did Ms. Frankel finally tell her husband how much she lost?

The night after the reporter left, Ms. Frankel says. Her husband said he had imagined it was much worse. That night she slept better than she had in a long, long time.

My "Beat The Casino" Rap Video is on You Tube!!!

Yes, I did it! I made the world's first "Beat The Casino" Rap Video! It's posted on You Tube and I am sure you will love it. I may not have the beat but I still got plenty a cheat! It's pretty funny too! To see it, go here to You Tube.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008


That's right! The scam happened right on the French poker forum "Le Club Poker," where one member scammed another out of $500. This is a first!

A guy (the victim) on this forum started a thread to say that he'd like to cash out $500 from Full Tilt Poker to deposit the funds back to his Everest Poker account. He said that he's having problems withdrawing the funds because his Visa credit card doesn't allow money-back-transfer operations (this happens sometimes with some banks that have rigid security control procedures, especially in France, no wonder due to the recent $7.2 billion trading scam). So his only solution is to open a Neteller account, than cash in a small amount at the poker room, and then, only then, will he be allowed to transfer the cash back to this new Neteller account... a really annoying process...

Another guy (the con man) who was a quite respected member of the poker forum with more than 500 posts to his credit, tells him that he'd be glad to help him. "Transfer the money to me and I will get it back to your Everest account." The victim then transferred the $500 from his Full Tilt account to the con man's Full Tilt account, then waited for the con man to transfer the money back to his Everest account.

Needless to say, 5 days later, the money's still not there and no more posts from the con man!

Il a bien disparu...that's French for "he disappeared."

Gotta love this stuff!!

The Best Poker Scam Never Done!

I have been blogging of late about great poker cheating scams over the course of two centuries. But here's one that would be perhaps the greatest of all if it were ever done!
This scam is one that would net its perpetrators a cool $8.25 million. At least that’s what the take would have been had the scam taken place on July 18, 2007. Does that amount ring a bell? How about the date? Can you figure it out?

Okay, congratulations, you’ve come to the conclusion that this yet undone fantastic scam has something to do with the championship event at the World Series of Poker. So you ask if winning it is a scam? Well, yes and no. I’ve already told you what I know about that in my book "Dirty Poker," but what I have in mind has nothing to do with playing poker.

It’s a heist! Of course it’s a heist. That’s the best way to get the eight and a quarter mil without having to look at a goddamn card, ain’t it? After all, how many movies have we already seen depicting casino heists? Let’s see: there are the two “Ocean’s” movies with George Clooney and Brad Pitt, though the sequel doesn’t have much to do with heisting casinos, even if it did evolve from the original remake. Then there’s Nick Nolte in The Good Thief and of course the French classic Mélodie en sous-sol with Jean Gabin and Alain Delon, my favorite film. I used to rent it after a hard night’s work kicking some French Riviera casino ass, and then go back to the hotel room and chill out while watching it.

But these are just movies. True, there have been some dazzling real-life casino heists, like the 80’s Vegas job engineered by a Stardust security guard who set up his own casino cage to be hit, but then got caught when the FBI found Stardust money wrappers from the booty in his kitchen cookie jar. In the 90s, LA drug gangs bombarded the Las Vegas strip with brazen casino robberies at about the same time Heather Tallchief, an employee for an armored car company, drove off with three million bucks while her partner was left standing outside the casino holding an empty bag. However, none of these ballsy jobs netted anywhere near the eight and a quarter million I’m talking about now.

You’ve finally figured it out! Yes, that’s right. I’m talking about heisting the final table at the World Series of Poker, right at the end when the tournament officials pile up those bricks of $8.25 million in cash on the table! You think I’m crazy? Why not heist the World Series? The haul would certainly be the biggest in Las Vegas history, at least at the time of the crime. Shit, it would be in the same class as the infamous Lufthansa heist at JFK Airport, and they’d probably make a movie about it starring De Niro. All you and your cohorts for this one would need is a few sets—not of aces, but of balls!

Now you ask me how to do it? Hey, wait a minute! You know I’ve always been a classy thief. I’ve always managed to remove casinos from their money with a touch of class. But a heist? Or maybe it’s not a heist after all. Maybe you guys can figure out a way to pull it off through massive deception and artful distraction. I don’t know, but all I can tell you is that if you get away with it, you’ve not only earned my respect but you’ve played one hell of a hand.

Now that, my friends, is dirty poker!

Monday, February 11, 2008

Russian Tennis Stars linked to Organized Online Poker Cheating!


ESPN has recently updated the ATP investigation of Nikolay Davydenko, who is strongly suspected of throwing a tennis match last August. Among the information coming from confidential documents obtained by Outside The Lines were the user names of two Betfair clients based in Russia. One with the user name “DJULTS” reportedly bet more than $540,000 (U.S.) on Vassallo Arguello to win and then 15 minutes later added more money on him with the Argentine as a surprising 1-7 favourite. Another Russian gambler with the handle “SGENIA” was reported to have bet more than $364,000 (U.S.) in the second set on Vassallo Arguello at odds of 1-5 after Davydenko had won the first set. Davydenko eventually retired in the third set trailing 1-2 with an alleged big toe injury. But he played in Montreal the following week, and went 17-5 at his next six tournaments.

When asked about whether he might be connected to the Russian Mafia, Davydenko replied that the Russian Mafia didn’t exist. Come on, Nikolay, you can do better than that!

American tennis star Lindsay Davenport was recently interviewed at the recent Australian Open about the spate of gambling scams enveloping the world of professional tennis. She said she had no knowledge of them directly but heard much talk about it among her fellow tennis stars in the players’ lounges. Her feeling was that if any of this alleged match-fixing is proven to be true, it should be dealt with accordingly.

To date, most of these tennis gambling scandals have centered on Russian and Soviet Bloc players, both men and women. The last major one implicating Nikolay Davydenko, a top-ranked player, came about last summer when an online betting company reported unusual betting patterns during a match between fourth-ranked Davydenko of Russia and Martin Vassallo Arguello of Argentina. The company, Betfair, voided all bets and the ATP has been investigating ever since. Davydenko, who as a heavy betting favorite quit while trailing in the third set and denied any wrongdoing. But this story had us wondering about many questions, one of which surely is “If Davydenko’s really tanking a match, why on heaven’s earth would he do so?” After all, money can’t be a problem for any top-ranked international tennis star, can it? Well, if they’re playing a lot of poker and their betting strokes aren’t as lucky as their forehands and backhands are good, that certainly could be a possibility.

We’ve also had incidents with not-so-top-ranked tennis players, and even non-Russian ones. Back in December, a couple of low-level Italian tennis players, Potito Starace and Daniele Bracciali, got fined and suspended over friendly $7 bets they may have been making as a fraternal joke among their fellow players. Even though the Italian Tennis Federation denounced the penalties by the governing body as an “injustice,” and the players themselves said they had been made scapegoats, Starace, ranked 31st, was suspended for six weeks and fined $30,000, and Bracciali, ranked 258th, was banned for three months and fined $20,000. On the surface, this double “illegal” incident appears miniscule and not worthy of any mention. But is there more to it? Were the “$7 bets” quoted in the newspapers missing a few zeros? Is some larger, more corrosive body of gambling cheating cloaked in this? And is it related to poker?

First, all this recalls a major poker cheating incident involving yet another Russian athlete if not a tennis player. I remember how shocked I was when I read it in the newspaper in the summer of 2003. At the top of most of the world’s sports pages that day was a color photo of the beautiful Russian gymnast, Vera Shimanskaya. I couldn’t believe it! The diminutive dirty-blond, blue-eyed Russian knockout was a goddamn poker cheat! Not only was she an Olympic gymnast but she was also an Olympic gold-medal gymnast. That’s right; Vera won a gold medal at the 2000 Sydney Games. Later, unfortunately, the gold medals didn’t seem to satisfy her anymore. Vera wanted gold chips instead. Apparently her road to these riches followed down the inglorious path to organized poker cheating.
According to the article, Vera and her “Eastern European” boyfriend had taken to the Western European road as a he-and-she poker-cheating team. They were not at all of the nickel-and-dime bust-out variety. When Vera was arrested at a Spanish casino near Valencia, authorities claimed she and her partner had scammed poker players at that casino for $10,000. In one night! And that was only at the casino where she finally got caught. In the ensuing investigation, it was determined that the stylish duo ran up similar ill-gotten gains at six other casinos in Spain before their tainted luck ran out.
Imagine this, I thought putting down that newspaper. A graceful Olympic gold-medalist tumbling off her podium, spinning all the way down to the pits of poker cheating. What was the world coming to? And then I wondered how they did it. The initial shock of who did it wore off, so I asked myself how an athlete such as Vera could go from Olympic sport queen to Madame Ripoff in so short a period of time. Was the boyfriend the real gaff artist and Vera just the sexy distraction? They must have done something banal to distract everyone in the whole casino. Something not unlike having Vera, dressed in a skimpy leather skirt with her leg muscles pumped up by stiletto heels, bend over in front of the poker table to pick up the lipstick she “dropped” on the floor while her comrade switched in a stacked deck. That would seem the most likely way it went down.

It wasn’t the case. It turned out that Vera had been playing poker regularly in several of London’s card clubs, though she had never been accused of cheating in one. But somewhere in her brief sojourn as a poker player, she learned how to mark cards. In doing so she would’ve had to put some time and concentration into it, and then a lot of practice. I am not saying that the dedication to training as a card-marker need be as stringent as what she’d given to gymnastics, though Vera would’ve had to perform similar nimble twirls with her fingers in order to bilk ten grand from a casino’s poker players. The Spanish authorities refused to give details on the exact method she and her partner used, though journalists covering the incident reported being told it was very advanced.

So, if we add the latest Russian tennis gambling scandals to the Russian Gymnastics Queen poker scandal of the past, the same questions abound today as did then: Why would someone with fame, success and big-money-earning potential be involved in poker scams such as these?

Well, very often if not nearly always, people participating in gambling cheating scams, whether famous or ordinary, rich or broke, are usually involved because of a degenerating gambling problem of their own. In fact, had I not been a bust-out gambler during my teen years and early adulthood, I never would have become a professional poker and casino cheater, so I speak about this with lots of experience. If these athletes are problem gamblers and have lost fortunes, the natural bail-out avenue for some is to gamble on outcomes of sporting events related to their own sport—and sometimes their own team, as they would know more about their own team than any opposing team. And if their sport is individual competition like tennis, they might be prone to gamble on themselves or, much more serious, against themselves, which would entail fixing the outcomes.

We all know the stories on both sides of the Pond about famous athletes implicated in gambling scams. Both in Europe and the US we’ve heard the same stories about corrupted officials refereeing games. In fact, just last year one of the NBA’s referees was indicted for gambling on the very pro basketball games he was officiating. But this is old news. What about once great athletes in one sport becoming cheaters in another sport? Poker is now considered a sport, isn’t it? I mean we see it everywhere on TV and on sports pages across the nation, right?

For those of you who don't know, there have been several Russian ex-athletes who have become “professional” poker players during the last decade, even before poker exploded into the mainstream. The most notable of these is of course Yevgeny Kafelnikov, who was also a subject of a tennis-fixing scam back in 2003, when he lost in straight sets to Fernando Vicente, an unheralded player, who hadn't won in months before that match. At the outset, Kafelnikov was a 5 to 1 favorite, but before the match began the odds shifted dramatically, making Vicente the odds-on favorite. There was a big stink over this and Kafelnikov soon disappeared into the poker world. When photos then surfaced of him in the company of known Russian mobsters, suspicious talk about a possible ugly relationship intensified.

A year or so later, I got the first of several e-mails accusing Kafelnikov of being part of professional poker-cheating teams. Players swore that he was involved in collusion rackets at the very least. Although I had absolutely ZERO evidence to support their claims, I did have my own suspicions about ex-athletes implicated in gambling scams suddenly appearing in the poker world, especially in the years at the dawn of the poker explosion. I have also been made aware that some of these Russian pro athletes and those from other countries as well have accounts with online poker rooms and betting sites, and the natural question is whether some of them may also be involved in cheating at online poker, which would be easier if they are capable, because they could easily hide their true identities. And speaking of online gambling sites, there is also a connection between some high-profile Russians of ill-repute and the ownership of several online gaming companies. Whether this has any direct association to tennis gambling scams involving Russian players and betting action at either online sports books or poker sites is not specifically known at this time.

In any event, this possible connection between pro tennis and brick and mortar and online poker cheating is troubling to both professional sports and the poker world, and it is my opinion that this nefarious link does indeed exist.

Poker Cheating with headphones and cell phones?

Recently I was in Harrah's Atlantic City poker room. I noticed that one of its policies is to not allow headphones, and they have also banned cell phones from the tables. Suspecting the reasons why, I approached a floorman and asked about it anyway. He said that players had complained about other players wearing headphones cheating at the tables. When I prompted him for details he stated the obvious: that one person viewing a game from a remote location in the room could be communicating players' hands to a cohort at the table. This, he assured me, could be done with cell phones or with a varied assortment of electronic equipment. NO KIDDING! I then told him that I thought it was a bit much to ban headphones because of the large percentage of players who use them for legitimate purposes such as listening to music or calming and relaxation melodies. He countered with a mention of last year's high-tech poker scam at the Borgata, which happened in a private hotel suite, not in the poker room. I said, "Oh, of course, I understand." But I was really thinking that Harrah's policy was ridiculous. I turned to leave and suddenly he said to me with a bemused expression on his face, "Don't I know you from somewhere?"

Well, I doubt he was around during my cheating days, so I responded, "You probably saw me on TV."

He smiled and said, "Sure, you're an actor."

Then I said sardonically, "Close enough," thinking of James Caan in the movie "The Gambler" when a loan shark said to his character Axel Freed, "You're Alex Freed," and Caan responded sardonically, "Close enough."

Frank "Lefty" Rosenthal on Casino Cheats

Real-life Robert De Niro Movie "Casino" character takes a gamble on South Beach and discusses how Vegas casinos really caught cheaters.

"My Kind of Town, Miami is..."

Game theorist Frank "Lefty" Rosenthal is the man Sports Illustrated crowned as the greatest living expert on sports handicapping. But he's probably better known as the man actor Robert De Niro portrayed in the 1995 Martin Scorsese epic Casino, that also starred Sharon Stone and Joe Pesci. Rosenthal ran four Las Vegas casinos owned by the Chicago mob back in the 1970s -- and is one of the few men ever to survive a car bombing. Rosenthal, 78, now lives a quiet life of semi-retirement in South Beach, serving as a consultant for offshore online casinos. We asked him about Casino and the South Florida gambling scene.

Q: Actor Robert De Niro portrayed you in Casino as a character named Sam "Ace" Rothstein. Was there anything De Niro got wrong?

Bob De Niro studied the script and his character quite well. On execution, he was flawless. His director, imperfect.

Q: In one scene, there's a scene where your character orders security to crush the hand of a guy cheating at blackjack. How realistic is that?

A: Pretty much on target. The two bandits, using electronic signals, were not your ordinary thieves. They belonged to a rough and organized band of highly trained and professional pickpockets. They had raped the strip casinos over a period of time. . . . Hence, we played hardball, sending their entire crew a message.

Q: You've spent time at Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino near Hollywood, which will debut baccarat and blackjack this summer. If you ran the casino, what would you do?

A: That's simple. Loose as a goose slots, returning at least 95 percent on every buck. They could go a shade higher, which would guarantee them a terrific handle.

Q: What are your favorite things to do as a South Beach resident?

A: Study and admire the Latina lovelies, with curves galore.

People always ask me, having seen that famous scene where they break the blackjack cheater's hand, if I ever encountered anything of the kind in the back room of casinos. Well, firstly, I've only made it to the back room a half dozen times or so during my 25-year cheating career. But by the first time I did, in 1977, the Mafia era in Las Vegas was already on its way out. The movie "Casino" depicted Vegas more in the 60s and early 70s, when cheats caught by casinos really got roughed up and sometimes worse. I'd heard stories about Vegas desert burials, but I never encountered anything close. In fact, no one ever laid a glove on me, though during a back-rooming at the old Desert Inn in 1982, an angry security chief said to me in a very menacing tone, "I oughta just take your ass up to the penthouse and push you out a window onto the Strip." That was the closest I ever got to getting the "Casino" treatment you saw in the film.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Great Online Casino Bonus at Golden Casino!

Online casino bonus: Double your money at Golden Casino

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Naturally, in order to successfully battle bonus scammers, the casino has imposed a wagering requirements. The casino being so loose, however, no one should have a problem covering the requirements. If you have any questions about the bonus, or the terms, you can always contact the friendly only casino staff by phone or email. You can also chose not to get the casino bonus, but who would do such a thing?

Absolute poker to take over Vegas 247!


Reasons unclear for Vegas 247 takeover

The online poker software developer and network operator Absolute Poker has finalized a deal to acquire one of its largest skins, Vegas 247, for an undisclosed purchase price.

Details are still sketchy, but blogs such as NetBet have been examining the rumored deal for the past two weeks, revealing that affiliates were the first members of the general public to be informed of an imminent player migration, as many will be affected financially. The two poker rooms have not yet combined, but are expected to do so in the immediate future.

When the migration occurs, Vegas Poker players will have their accounts transferred to Absolute Poker.

The Absolute Network boasts close to 2 million registered players, and has recently emerged from an in-house cheating scandal culminating in a half million dollar fine from the Kahnawake Gaming Commission that did little to enhance its reputation, and which I think was a joke.

The reasons for the buy-out are not known, but speculation is that Absolute, like Party Poker before them in the Empire takeover, wants to corral the substantial player-base and cease paying revenue streams to Vegas Poker 24/7 when both rooms’ customers play at the same tables.

On Friday, Absolute Poker's official line was given in a statement by Joe Norton, a former Kahnawake chief and owner of Absolute Poker's parent group, Tokwiro Enterprises ENRG.

The statement reads: “Today’s online gaming community demands and expects a transformative gaming experience that seamlessly integrates superior technology, responsiveness to customer needs, and a safe and secure environment in which to play. Absolute Poker and Vegas Poker 247 are at the center of this trend, and this acquisition will build on our combined heritage to redefine the online gaming experience.”

According to the statement, the Vegas 247 brand will be shelved.

Absolute Poker has provided operational and back-office support to Vegas Poker 247 since its inception in 2006, obviating the need for extensive revisions of back-end operations. Norton says that Absolute will begin executing the migration of players’ accounts, and will continue to honor all affiliate deals and run Vegas Poker 247’s tournaments under the Absolute Poker brand.

Best Poker Cheating Dealer Ever!

I have been recounting some humourous but true anecdotes about the greatest card tricks and poker scams in history. This one is the first about a poker cheating dealer ripping off her game. As it usually the case, women make better card cheats than men, whether it be from the outside or inside of the poker table. Read this and have a laugh!

The double-rake scam
In the 1890s, San Francisco’s Barbary Coast overflowed with gambling action. Many people don’t know this but the City on the Bay was actually a precursor for Las Vegas. The first casino slot machines were invented and put to use along its waterfront gambling halls.
Like in all American gambling venues, poker found its home on the Barbary Coast. Ever since the Gold Rush, players flocked in droves to try their luck and skill on the new frontier’s poker tables. Gamblers came from New Orleans, Steubenville, and even Alaska to get in on the action. Many enjoyed the Coast’s row of watering holes as well.
One person who recognized that most of the poker players became drunk by the morning wee hours was an enterprizing lady dealer named Babs. Her shift began in the early evening and didn’t end until enough players went broke to stall the game. Babs dealt five-card stud, just as she had in New Orleans before coming out west.
Her husband was an experienced laborer who had a special talent for constructing gizmos that worked on pulleys, springs and levers. Like his wife, he also had a penchant for high living, but also like his wife he was always short of cash. Together they hatched a plot.
Babs’ game worked on a rake from each contested pot. She was responsible to remove the chips due the house before pushing the pot to the winning player. The rake varied from one to three percent depending on the particular game and how drunk her players were. It was in carrying out this function that Babs realized she could further rake the pot for her own benefit. If hubby could produce the tool, she’d produce the cash.
The tool was a hollow white cylinder that looked like a small stack of white $1 chips. It had a bottom base that moved inward on springs. By lightly pressing the top end of the cylinder to activate the springs on the bottom, Babs was able to suck up three $1 chips in the dark while supposedly removing only the $1 chips needed to satisfy the game’s rake.
She did this every hand, unless someone was causing her to feel heat. Her game was loaded with action that made big pots, so no one noticed the three $1 chips she siphoned off every pot. At twenty pots an hour, Babs had taken down $60 each time her watch’s minute hand struck twelve. That amounted to $500 a shift, four grand a week when she worked seven days, a real fortune in 1890s America.
Babs continued her double-rake scam unimpeded. She and hubby began living in secret luxury, richly decorating the inside of what from the outside appeared to be their modest home. Together they dined in fine restaurants, frequented the opera, attended ballet performances, enjoyed piano recitals in private hotel suites and sat in the orchestra while viewing stage plays. Alone each indulged in private fantasies with or without the spouse’s knowledge. At the poker table no one seemed to have a clue. Babs and hubby began to believe it could go on forever.
Forever ended abruptly one night when Babs pressed the top end of the cylinder to suck in the chips and was shocked to see her index finger go right through the top into the cylinder. The top had collapsed. Babs’ first thought was that it wasn’t so bad. Hubby could either repair the device or build a new one. But what Babs hadn’t noticed those first few moments was that her finger had been gripped by the snaking coils inside the cylinder and could not be dislodged. True to her coolness under pressure, Babs did not panic. She tried to continue dealing the game with the cylinder sticking onto her fingertip like a white thimble. She gamely carried on for a few hands but finally one of the drunken players asked her if she’d been sewing during her break.
Shortly afterward, Babs and her husband disappeared from the Barbary Coast. Rumor had it that they had been packed into a large cylinder, similar in shape to the one Babs had used on the poker game, that is weighted down somewhere on the bottom of the San Francisco Bay.