Saturday, April 12, 2008

My First Cheat as a Roulette Mechanic

I spent 25 years of my life as a professional casino cheater and have done all sorts of cheat moves on all the table games, but it was always cheating at roulette that so thrilled me above the rest. Its history fascinated me. I was inspired by the almost romantic tales of grand roulette cheats who rubbed elbows with European royalty in the fabled casinos of Monte Carlo, and even more so when I discovered that some of that royalty were indeed roulette cheats themselves!

For me, roulette pastpost moves were works of art, consisting of choreographed patterns of betting schemes that had to be followed to a tee by each member of a highly coordinated pastposting team, allowing it to take complete control of the dealer's movements. I started my career as a casino cheat claiming pastposted bets at the roulette table and eventually worked my way up the team ladder to impress Joe Classon, the team leader and my mentor, who decided I was ready to get my first crack as a roulette mechanic, the key member of a roulette operation charged with switching in high denomination chips after the bet won--underneath the dolly! That is no easy task, and the first time I tried it I found out how truly difficult it was.

It happened in Aruba, where Duke Wilson, our main wheel mechanic, prepared me for my first attempt at a roulette pastpost. Here's the story of exactly what happened as taken from my book "American Roulette."

American Roulette:

In Aruba our attack was equally deployed with everything in our arsenal. The best thing about the “friendly little island” was that each time we had a miss none of the bosses became upset. So we just kept going back inside those casinos refusing our payoffs until they obliged. Joe and Duke decided that the atmosphere in Aruba was right for me to attempt my first roulette move as the mechanic. What a disaster that almost turned out to be!
We chose the Sonesta casino. I sat at the bottom of the table with Duke right next to me and Joe standing in front by the wheel, giving me the chin. The dealer had turned his back and Duke whispered, "Now!" I was so tensed-up with anticipation that I sprung forward as if I had been shot out of a cannon. My body collided hard against the edge of the table, which caused an aftershock that sent the dealer's marker spinning a few numbers up the layout and made winners of a few losing chips and vice-versa. The dealer saw the green chip I was trying to pastpost on the straight-up and yelled for the floorman as I "galloed" out of the casino.
My second straight-up attempt at the Holiday Inn was even worse.
The dealer, whose back had been turned as he reached into his well for chips, turned suddenly back toward the layout as my extended hand was gripping the marker. Panicking, I pulled my hand off the layout but forgot to release the marker. I had actually swiped the dealer's marker off the table. And somehow the dealer hadn’t seen me.
Duke, who again was sitting next to me, instructing, whispered sharply, "Wait! He'll turn back around." He kept his cool and didn't want me getting caught trying to replace the marker.
As I sat there shivering, the dealer paid outside bets on the layout, completely unaware of the marker’s disappearance. I knew that I had to put it back before he turned his attention to the inside bets, when he'd look directly at the chips surrounding the winning number, which peculiarly had no marker placed on top of it. But I had to wait and be patient. Of course, I would have preferred just getting up and flying right out of the casino, then jumping into the ocean, and might have done just that had Duke not been there to guide me safely back down to the layout.
Incredibly, the dealer did turn his back again without noticing the anomaly, and when Duke nudged me with his elbow, I managed to get the marker back on the winning number without further disrupting the layout. Later on, before exploding into laughter, Joe and Duke chided me about not being cool enough to have also slipped in the pastpost when the dealer gave me that second chance. In hindsight, I most definitely could have.
A few tries later, I finally succeeded pastposting a green chip straight up. Then from time to time over the years, Joe let me mechanic wheel moves, though I never became half the mechanic that Duke was.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Iowa Casino Cheat Cops in Training!

Imagine a bunch of cops sitting around blackjack tables learning how to cheat. Well, it's happening in Iowa! Not that there's all of a sudden been a squadron of rogue cops looking to supplement their incomes by cheating at poker and blackjack. Rather that the Iowa gaming authorities want their cops to know how to recognize casino and poker cheating methods so that they can foil any plans to victimize their state's casinos.

An article in the Des Moines Register gets to the point:

It's no ordinary casino.

No smoke wafts in the air. No one cheers a win or curses a loss. There's a lot of cheating going on as well.

One tipoff: The players have handguns on their hips and gold badges on their belts.

This is the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation's new "Gaming Lab." It's better known as the "Royal Diaz Casino" in honor of retired DCI Assistant Director Joe Diaz.

The Des Moines facility will be used to train more than 120 DCI agents about gamblers who try to cheat at Iowa's 17 state-regulated casinos. Some of the gamblers' tricks range from sliding dice on the craps table to "capping" bets during blackjack by adding chips for a larger payoff after the outcome is known. "Pinching" bets involves taking chips back before the dealer collects them.

New agents will pick up skills about card and dice games and slot machines in the lab. Veteran agents will learn about new games, plus the latest tricks by creative gamblers.

"There is a criminal element out there trying to cheat, and they are always trying to get one step ahead of the game. This facility allows us to come in and work different issues, and to develop tactics and techniques," DCI Director Steve Bogle said.

Until now, Iowa DCI agents traveled to Las Vegas, Atlantic City or Missouri for specialized casino training, an expensive undertaking, Iowa Public Safety Commissioner Eugene Meyer said. Agents are assigned full-time to each of Iowa's 17 state-regulated casinos. They work in cooperation with casino security staffs and the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission.

Over the past three years, DCI agents have solved 25 cheating cases in Iowa's casinos, state officials said. In one felony case, Steven Stotts, 57, was sentenced to five years in prison for capping and pinching blackjack bets at the Diamond Jo Worth Casino near Northwood.

In another case, five people were arrested for theft and cheating at Terrible's Lakeside Casino in Osceola. Larry Shepherd, 22, a Terrible's dealer, pleaded guilty to cheating. An investigation revealed Shepherd had misplayed hands by switching cards and was paying losing hands, officials said. He had paid out more than $12,000 in casino money.

The Gaming Lab is housed in the newly renovated Iowa Department of Public Safety Building just west of the Iowa Capitol. About $18,000 was spent to outfit the training facility. The gambling industry donated used casino tables that were refurbished with felt displaying the Iowa DCI's emblem.

It's important to have a first-class training facility because the state's gambling industry has grown dramatically since the first riverboat casino was launched in 1991, Bogle said. The DCI now has more agents assigned to oversee legalized gambling than it has to general crime cases.

Last year Iowa's casino industry, which employs about 10,000 people, raked in more than $1.3 billion in gross gambling revenue from about 22.5 million admissions.

Brandon Neely, a DCI agent who works at riverboats in the Quad Cities, said the training is valuable because it gives him a chance to slow down complicated games, such as craps, and to dissect what's happening. It's different than the fast-paced casino floor, where there's constant action with cards being dealt, dice being thrown and roulette wheels spinning.

Investigators work closely with a casino's video camera surveillance team, which scans every inch of a casino, Neely added. If cheating is suspected, investigators can review the tape to confirm if something illegal happened.

The introduction of coinless slot machines has made it more difficult for crooks to succeed in cheating the slots, said Ben Mems, special agent in charge of the DCI's gaming unit in Davenport, Bettendorf and Clinton.

"But we get counterfeit bills all the time. Sometimes with the bill validators now, they will take the bill, but it won't give them the money. It clogs up the machine," Mems said.

Poker Cheats Held in Check 1st Quarter 2008

Cheats at Poker finally on the downside? Well, I do have some optimistic news to report, but it's not as entirely rosy as that. The results of a statistical analysis for the first quarter of 2008 carried out by data technicians associated with this website show that there has been a noticeable decrease in one area of poker cheating that was absolutely pandemic in 2007: account selling and multi-accounting. After the numerous major account selling and multi-accounting scams of 2007 involving Josh Field, aka JJProdigy, and Bluff Magazine's Chris Vaughn, and the news of CBS' upcoming "60 Minutes" segment on rampant online poker cheating, it appeared that 2008 was going to be the black eye on the right side of online poker's face if 2007 was indeed the black eye on the left side of its face.

But, perhaps surprisingly, this may not be the case--at lease in the murky worlds of account selling and multi-accounting. There have been no recent reports of either cheating activity, which does not mean they haven't been happening but does mean that they've been happening less. Why the sudden drop off of these type of poker cheats? Probably because they've begun abandoning these cheat methods by their own volition. Even though, at least in my opinion, both account selling and multi-accounting are not near the top of the list of heinous online poker infractions (I consider bot play, collusion, and superuser accounts much more serious), they have been condemned by online poker purists and honest players more than any other form of cheating. Notorious poker cheats such as Josh Field and Chris Vaughn have inasmuch been declared "enemies of the online poker state." Field has been banned from a wide spectrum of online sites and tournaments while Vaughn got canned from his job as editor of the popular poker magazine Bluff. So it would be my opinion that existing or potential account-selling and multi-accounting poker cheats are simply walking away from opportunities to cheat via these methods.

Is online poker cheating on the downslide overall? Unfortunately, I can't give you any good news on that. In fact, it's on a steady increase, although not congruent to the marked decrease in account selling and multi-accounting cheating. Both collusion and bot play are on the increase in online poker, and as I have stated in numerous previous posts, these two forms of cheating continue to threaten to land the knockout punch to online poker right between its eyes!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Another Poker Murder! Cause: "Poker Table Rage"

And this one can surely be attributed to "Poker Table Rage." When you have two motorists fighting over a parking space and one kills the other, you have "road rage." When you have two poker players fighting over a seat in a $1/$2 game, you have "poker table rage."

This is absurd!

The following PokerKing article gives the horrifying details:

Just about a month and a half after a senseless, poker-related triple murder in Florida comes yet another death. This time it was 61-year old Arthur Prince, who was killed in the valet area just outside of the Trump Taj Mahal in Atlantic City. 57 year-old Vicente Perez will apparently be charged with aggravated manslaughter and various weapons offenses.

This will be the fourth poker-related murder in the last month and a half. In February, Duane Crittenden II was arrested after killing three players at his private poker game. According to police, Crittenden grew enraged after he felt like he was being cheated by the other players at the table. He left for a couple of hours, and then came back armed with a knife and a gun, and proceeded to shoot and stab the other three players in the game.

The circumstances in the Taj Mahal murder in Atlantic City were a little different. First off, the murder occurred in a very public place--the valet area of the Taj Mahal casino. Second, neither participant in the struggle that left one person dead seems to have had any sort of a previous criminal history, unlike the situation in Florida with Duane Crittenden II.

Here is what allegedly happened at the Taj Mahal casino, as relayed to us by various different sources:

Arthur Prince is playing in a $1/$2 No Limit Hold'em game, and Vicente Perez is on the waiting list.

Arthur Prince loses all of his chips in a hand.

Prince stands up, telling everyone at the table that he is going to get more money from the ATM, and to hold his spot.

The dealer apparently doesn't hear Prince say this, and assumes that Prince is leaving the game. The dealer announces after a short while that a seat is open.

Vicente Perez takes a seat at the table.

Prince comes back to reclaim his seat and finds Perez occupying it.

Prince and Perez get into an argument. Other players at the table claim that they heard Prince say that he was coming back, while the dealer claims to have never heard this.

After ten minutes or so, Perez gets up from his seat and heads to the valet area outside. He has the dealer hold his spot.

Prince becomes even more enraged because not only does he feel that Perez unjustly scooped his spot at the table, but now Perez isn't even using it.

Prince follows Perez outside and the argument continues. The argument escalates into violence. Apparently Prince starts beating Perez with either a cane or an umbrella. Some published reports have Prince beating Perez with an umbrella; other reports have Prince beating Perez with Perez's own walking cane.

Perez has a knife on him and proceeds to pull it out and stab Prince in the neck. The knife hits an artery in Prince's neck and blood is gushing everywhere. Prince is pronounced dead at the AtlantiCare Medical Center about an hour and a half later.

An investigation into the event is currently taking place, and Perez is being held on a $500,000 bond.

Poker. It's not that serious, is it?

This is no joke!

21 MIT Card Counting Film Author Mezrich Gives Opinion on Movie

Bringing Down the House author Ben Mezrich gave an interview on his thoughts about Kevin Spacey's MIT blackjack movie 21 that appeared on Freakonomics. Overall, I thought his responses were rather candid, and he did what anyone writing a casino cheating or casino crime novel turned into a movie would do: make it glitzy and thrilling, even if the lives of a group of card counters are far from either. One sharp question that came up was the film's use of a Caucasian star, Jim Sturgess, to play the main character Jeff Ma, who is in fact Asian. Are the producers going to be accused of playing the race card instead of the ace of spades?

Here's what Mezrich had to say on the film 21.

Q: When you wrote Bringing Down The House, how much of a priority was keeping your account true to real life?

A: When I sat down to write B.D.T.H., my goal was to keep the book as true to the real story as possible, while doing my best to conceal the characters’ identities (at their request). The M.I.T. blackjack team that I wrote about played over the course of a number of years, in a variety of situations; to get deep into the real story, I interviewed many players, casino operatives, private eyes, etc.

In my narrative nonfiction, my goal is to tell the story in a dramatic, thrilling style — to tell the true story in a way that’s very readable, and hopefully fun.

Q: Some of the characters in the book who were Asian were changed to white in the movie. How do you feel about this?

A: That whole issue has been blown way out of proportion on the Web.

In reality, the main character was Jeff Ma, who was Chinese. He asked me to change his identity so he was not recognizable. Jeff was also a consultant on the film 21, was on set for much of the shoot, and was thrilled with the casting of Jim Sturgess to play him.

As for the rest of the team I wrote about, half were white, two were Asian, and one was of mixed race. The makeup of the characters in the book and the movie reflects this.

Q: What changes in the movie are you most happy with and why? Were you unhappy with any changes?

A: I thought 21 stayed true to the feel and excitement of the book. I really enjoyed the movie, though, of course, it strays from the narrative I wrote.

I think Kevin Spacey is awesome in the movie, and I think Vegas and certainly blackjack never looked so good.

Q: What is fueling America’s casino craze?

A:Vegas is fun, plain and simple. It’s an escape, something every 21-year-old kid dreams about — which wasn’t true 10 years ago.

I think you have to separate out gambling and Vegas; even though Vegas is built on gambling, I think what most people dream about when they dream about Vegas isn’t the gambling, but the fantasy aspect of it all.

As for the casino craze — I’m actually a little frightened by the idea of casinos all over the country. Though of course it’s happening because it’s an easy fix for short-term economic problems.

Q: What makes a movie like 21 appealing to its target audience and were you aiming at the same audience when you wrote the book?

A: 21 tells an amazing story; it’s also a glossy fantasy aimed at anyone who’s ever dreamed about beating Vegas and winning millions.

I think the book aimed for the same thing — the idea that a bunch of super-smart kids could take on something so huge and supposedly unbeatable. It’s David vs. Goliath, Robin Hood, etc. But it also happens to be real.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Must-Know Card Counting Strategy Tips

Blackjack Card counting MUST be optimally camouflaged.

With all the buzz on the movie 21, everyone and his uncle want to be the next Jim Sturgess, Jeffry Ma, Kevin Lewis, or anyone else either realistically or fictionally involved in the MIT Blackjack Team movie. My e-mail box is filling up every day with questions about the team, the movie, card counting strategy, tips, anything and everything at all concerning this new phenomenon that is, at least for the time being, getting more hype than poker.

All the inquiries have been concentrated on card counting strategies, techniques, which countries and casinos offer the best counting opportunities, as well as legality issues, which it is of course perfectly legal to card count! However, not one of my e-mailers seems cognizant of the fact that the LEAST important component of card counting is card counting. That's right, card counting itself is easy. Anyone with half a brain, relatively good eyesight and some capacity for data retention can learn to count cards sufficiently in a day or two, be it the simple plus/minus system or some of the more advanced counting methods.

But what's really important and most integral to a successful card counting operation is being able to implement it without drawing attention and being able to play for as long as possible before you finally do, which at some point has to happen, unless, of course, you're bad at it or never win enough money to get noticed.

So how do you do this? As an individual or a card counting team? The answer is in one word: CAMOUFLAGE. The word has obvious military connotations, but any good card counting team should indeed be run as a military operation. My 25-year casino cheating operation surely was. So then remember what you're about to read here, because it is the most important ingredient to success in card counting. In fact, I will list these crucial camouflage techniques in random order because one is as important as the other.

1) The LAST places you or your team should visit at the casino are the blackjack tables. That's right, if you're alone or using the counter/big player team strategy, make sure your big players are seen playing big elsewhere in the casino first. Have them play craps, roulette or baccarat before blackjack. You may think that it's a bad idea for them to be seen by the casino bosses. Not so. The key is that they will be seen as high rollers; craps high rollers, roulette high rollers and baccarat high rollers. See what I'm saying? So that when they are later signalled over to a hot blackjack table with a high true count and lay down the big bets, the bosses in the blackjack pit will already have been made aware that these big players have been gambling big in games other than blackjack. Yes, communication from the craps, roulette and baccarat pits reaches the blackjack pits. True, gambling elsewhere will hurt your bankroll a bit, but it more than pays off at the end because it will have bought you much more time card counting at blackjack where you will spend many more hours than you did at the other games, with at least the same percentage advantage as the disadvantage you had playing craps, roulette and baccarat. Of course while playing those other games, stay away from foolhardy bets like "hard-ways" and other proposition bets in craps, tie hands in baccarat, and use single-zero roulette wheels if the casino has them.

2) When you make scores card counting, do not have your big players cash out chips of a denomination higher than $100. Instead, have them break down $500 chips and up into smaller denomination chips at the tables they were playing at BEFORE your team started playing blackjack. This means have your big players return to the craps, roulette and baccarat tables where they first showed their big action and break down their big chips into $100 and $25 chips. If you've won too much, then just get the $100 chips. The key is you don't want to hit the casino cage with $500 and $1,000 chips. THAT draws heat!

3) When you have losing sessions, it doesn't necessarily mean that you've taken less exposure and can return to the same casino on the same shift the next day. Remember that casinos hip to card counters watch HOW you play more than whether you win or lose.

4) VERY IMPORTANT: Learn how to change your card counting strategy in mid-play! Yes, there are other ways to go about card counting than the classic counter/big player strategy. When I was a professional casino cheater, my team was able to change its strategy (which cheat move we would do at a table) at any given moment due to certain playing conditions in the casino. The same capability is necessary for successful card counting teams. To read the specifics of changing strategy, go to my card counting page. For those of you seriously interested, I do teach card counting classes.

Finally, remember that above all, discipline, perseverance and cleverness is what makes the successful card counter, not the ability to count the cards.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Online Gambling Site Searched For Mass-Murderer!

Prosecutors are seeking financial records from a European gambling Web site where murder suspect Neil Entwistle had an account and lost hundreds of dollars in the month before he is accused of killing his wife and infant daughter in Hopkinton, Massachusetts two years ago.

Middlesex County Prosecutor Michael Fabbri sent a seven-page letter rogatory to the British territory of Gibraltar seeking all financial records for the gambling Web site Casino on Net used by Entwistle, 28. The prosecution believes the records will help prove that Entwistle's financial problems were his motive for shooting his wife, Rachel, 27, and daughter Lillian Rose, 9 months old, on Jan. 20, 2006, in their Hopkinton home.

A letter of rogatory is a legal document sent from one country to another requesting testimony, documents or evidence in a court case. The Middlesex DA's office sent the letter in late March.

Casino on Net is run by a company called Cassava Enterprise Ltd., which is based in Gibraltar, a territory bordering Spain.

In the letter, Fabbri said Entwistle opened the gambling account on Dec. 15, 2005, approximately one month before he is accused of murdering his family.

The prosecutor said Entwistle lost hundreds of dollars that month, which Fabbri said is key evidence in building the motive for the murders.

"The prosecutor needs records relating to this account to help establish that Entwistle had financial difficulties and that these difficulties affected his state of mind and provided him with a motive to commit murder," Fabbri wrote in the letter.

The letter also lays out, with no new details, the case the prosecution is making against Entwistle.

The financial records have not been sent to the DA's office yet, according to the court records.

Entwistle is accused of killing his wife and daughter to hide a secret life of debt, online business scams and sex. Authorities say he stole a gun from his in-laws' Carver home, then used it to shoot his wife and daughter in bed.

Prosecutors allege he then drove to Carver, returned the gun and flew to England, returning to his Nottinghamshire home, where he was later arrested and extradited to Massachusetts.

The bodies of Rachel Entwistle and Lillian Rose were not discovered until Jan. 22, when Hopkinton Police conducted a well-being check at the home.

Entwistle told authorities he discovered his wife and daughter's bodies, considered killing himself, but could not go through with it. He said he went home to England to be with his family.

Entwistle is charged with two counts of first-degree murder and illegal possession of a firearm. He is being held without bail at the Middlesex Jail in Cambridge. If convicted, he faces a mandatory life sentence without the possibility of parole.

Entwistle's trial is scheduled to begin June 2 in Middlesex Superior Court in Woburn.

Poker Bots Continue Online Cheat Gains

Cheats online continue to threaten online poker with colluding bots.

By themselves, bots are a major threat to online poker. Bot software has been readily available to the public for a long time now, and at very affordable prices. The reason even ordinary bots are a threat to online poker is because it’s not very difficult to code bots that will beat the small games, both limit and no limit. Small games are the lifeblood of the poker economy and the $100 losses at $2-$4 are ultimately what feed the $1,000-$2,000 games at the top. In a normal small stakes game, incompetent players fill many of the seats, and the few good players can make quite a killing in the long run.

But with Bots, the keyword is "short run." They have the capability to be in hundreds of games simultaneously, so they will make that killing much quicker. They will continue to expand and fill seats until someone stops them, or until it’s no longer profitable, which might only be when everyone is playing with bots, the grim outlook I already had two years ago in my book "Dirty Poker." What this means is that the legitimate good players will lose profitable games because the bots are taking too much money from the poorer players, who will be put to ruin and eventually quit playing online poker. Without their money in the games, the entire online poker foundation would collapse.

More threatening still are colluding bots, and even more threatening than that are colluding bots with "artificial intelligence." Bots can communicate with other bots and share hole cards. Say someone writes a colluding bot program and sits it in three seats of a game. The bots share hole cards with each other and instantly adjust their strategies based on the extra knowledge. A well-coded bot of this type would be extremely formidable even to strong players.

If poker sites want to survive and keep their gold mine running into the next decade, they need to tackle the bot problem head on. The adoption of Captcha technology (the distorted image of scrawled letters you type in to prove you're human) to distinguish bots from human players has not been as effective as first thought because "botters" watching over their bots can intercept it. If, for example, someone is playing at three computers with a colluding bot on each computer, they can power the bots to play, and at the same time monitor the action to look out for captchas. It’s a solution for the nickel-and-dime botting at the very bottom, but as soon as there’s meaningful money involved, people will sit there just to type in captchas.

Or hire people to do it. A new corrupt cottage industry of "outsourcing bot cheats" has sprouted up on the Internet. Lots of people in Third World countries are happy to earn ten bucks and hour to sit at home and type in captchas.

It’s going to be extremely difficult to win the war against the all-pervasive invading armies of bots, and poker sites will need to attack the problem much more aggressively if they want to keep their businesses going strong. Ultimately, the online deck of cards is stacked against them. There’s no iron-clad solution. Bots can run remotely so the bot software is entirely undetectable on the client machine. Poker clients would have to ban the use of all sorts of "macroing" and other automated input programs to stop it, but the diehard, and I mean die very hard, botters will always be one step ahead.

Another method botters use to greatly reduce their footprints on the client machines is to run the bot on a separate computer. The bot could simply suggest plays (informed on the hole cards of other bots) on that computer, and a hired person could execute the plays in real time on the client machine. The hired player could respond to chat, enter captchas, and otherwise appear like a completely normal player. This could be done in workshop-style offices on a large scale in places like Eastern Europe where kids can be hired very cheaply. The only recourse the sites would have is the labor-intensive collusion detection available to them. But if the botters collude intelligently and selectively, by not colluding on every hand, they could escape detection for quite a while. Lest you think this is far-fetched, such "bot workshops" have existed in China to play online computer games and sell virtual property.

Unfortunately, as I said at the end of "Dirty Poker" in 2006, online poker may still face extinction if the bots and collusion problems don't go away. Add them to all the other online poker scams we've seen over the last 12 months and you have a sort of "Cuban Online Missile Crisis" in online poker. For the skillful honest online poker players, this is a disappointing reality, but maybe if we saw an organized stance taken against bots and collusion play the same way we see that stance taken to get online gambling legalized in the US, we might, as a united online poker community, find a way to win this war.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Steve Forte Heads List of New Cheats Hall of Fame Inductees!

Steve Forte and 3 other notorious poker and casino cheats have been inducted into the American Roulette Poker and Casino Cheating Hall of Fame. Forte--known first as a busted casino cheat, then as the most sought-after anti-cheating casino consultant and renowned author of game protection tomes, and then again as a busted poker cheat for his role as the mastermind of a multi-million-dollar high-tech poker scam at the Atlantic City Borgata--will at least be the beneficiary of this good news while he waits the final disposition of his legal mess in the Borgata matter!

The other inductees are John Soares, a legendary craps cheat and playboy who loved the high life; Duke Wilson, the infamous and talented roulette mechanic who spearheaded the notorious Classon Pastposting Team's attacks on the world's roulette tables; and Balls Abramowitz, who worked the greatest casino cheating move ever, "The Savannah," with Richard Marcus and Pat Mallery, two fellow cheating Hall-of-Famers. To read their inscriptions, go to the American Roulette Cheaters Hall of Fame page.

Archie Karas did not cheat, says Jack Binion

Archie Karas, known as "The Greek," is one of the most colorful poker characters in the history of Las Vegas gambling. According to several sources, Archie arrived in Vegas in December of 1992 with $50 in his pocket and ran it up to $40 million in eighteen months, most of it at Jack Binion's Horseshoe Casino. There have been other mega-high rollers, like the late Australian magnate Kerry Packer, who have won (and lost) fortunes but none with a starting bankroll of anything near the measly fifty bucks that Karas started with.

Two questions come to mind when examining the legacy of Archie Karas playing poker and craps. The first is, is this true? Did he really win $40 million off a starting bankroll of fifty bucks, which is barely enough cash to get into a $1/4 stud game. The answer is "more or less," though probably less. There is no doubt that Karas won millions but how many of them is open to speculation. I would say that the figure is exaggerated by at least 100%, and would put Archie's winnings somewhere in the neighborhood of seventeen or eighteen million.

The second question, which I am asked much more often, is: was Archie Karas a poker cheat and if he was, was he one of the greatest poker cheats of all time?

Truly, I do not know. I never met him. I never saw him play--poker that is. I did see him play craps one night at Binion's Horseshoe, where he took a single $10,000 chip he'd gotten from the WSOP tournament (the only time the Horseshoe let them out of the cage) and went on a wild streak when some old woman who could barely see the dice she was shooting held them for over and hour and helped Archie clean out the table's chip reserve, and two table chip fills after that. The reason I was at the Horseshoe that night was of course to get my hands on some of those $10,000 chips, where my plan was to use three of those rarefied chips to attempt the biggest casino cheat move in history, a super $30,000 "Savannah" straight up on a roulette number that would pay a whopping $1,050,000! More about that in an upcoming post.

Karas' action was so intense that my team got caught up in it just to watch him. By the time the smoke cleared, Archie Karas had beaten Jack Binion's craps table for a cool $7 million! And that, as the legend goes, was just the tip of the iceberg.

Well, as far as cheats go, I can say this: Archie Karas did not cheat at that craps table that night! And as far as poker cheats go, Jack Binion, who was the victim to Karas' craps winning streaks on more than one occasion didn't seem to think Karas cheats either. Several times during Karas' monster gambling years in Vegas in the '90s, where at poker he vanquished the likes of poker greats Stu Ungar, Chip Reese, Doyle Brunson, Johnny Chan and many others, Archie's toughest opponent was none other than Jack Binion, the owner of Binion's Horseshoe. In a classic yearlong battle with Binion, who fearlessly took on the mad gambler and constantly raised the betting limits while other casinos refused to increase their regular limits for him, Karas cleaned out Binion's entire reserve of $5,000 chips in the casino, which forced Binion to actually mint $25,000 chips to keep the action going, something that to my knowledge never occurred before. If anyone knows of another instance where a casino had to mint special denomination chips for a single player in the middle of a hot gambling streak, I'd certainly like to know about it!

Jack Binion was very shrewd about the whole thing, and his raising the Horseshoe's craps betting limits for Archie to $300,000 was because he realized that Archie's goal was not at all to make a simple score but rather to win the Horseshoe! That's right, Archie wanted to win the entire casino with the hotel thrown in too! He wanted the scene to end like some fantasy movie where Binion would end up tossing the keys to the Horseshoe casino cage onto the craps table, saying to Archie, "The Horseshoe belongs to you now." But he knew that Archie would never walk away a winner because he was a true gambler who loved the action and would much rather stay in it than stop after winning any fortune. He knew that Archie would rather hang on the rail of a craps table stuck in quicksand than hang out on his own private island in the Pacific.

At the end, whatever fortune of winnings Archie Karas had amassed, be it $20 mil or $40 mil, it finally went back to the Horseshoe's cage, and the keys to that cage remained safely in Jack Binion's pocket.

In speaking about Archie Karas and cheating, Binion has said, "Archie has more gamble in him than anybody I've ever seen. He was either going to win the Horseshoe or go broke. Nobody had ever won that much from us, and definitely not in the whole town. Archie didn't cheat, and I don't think he ever tried to cheat. The sheer amount of money he won causes you to be cautious. It is only good business to make sure everything is what it is supposed to be, and he is playing on the square. We tried to make sure the dice were absolutely square, and that they were our dice. At the ends of the dice table are little diamond mounds, to make sure the dice bounce randomly. That way you really don't know where in the hell the dice are going to go. No, Archie wasn't cheating. If he was, he would probably still be down there shooting.

"Even if a person does nothing wrong, some casinos will ask them not to play there anymore. They might say he is running too good. He is too dangerous. I don't know if you have ever heard of Kerry Packard. Certain places didn't want him to play anymore. Leon Parrish was another gambler that a lot of casinos wouldn't let play.

"When a player can run a toothpick into a lumberyard, it makes him a tough and dangerous player. Archie fits this bill exactly, which is why so many places are scared to take him on. I'll tell you the truth; Archie truly believed he had the magic touch. Finally the sizzle was over with and the odds reversed themselves. He grounded up and then grounded down, but it took over two years! You could tell the way Archie talked; there was no pull up in him.

"I'll tell you another thing: Archie never sat down to examine how much goods, say $22 million, might buy. He never did want to calculate it. Archie just wanted to gamble. He loves to gamble and shows it. Nobody speaks of it, but there is a thing called gambler's ruin. If Archie's goal was to win the Horseshoe and he succeeded, he probably would have kept on going.

"Of course we gave Archie the respect a winner of this type would be expected to get. We catered to him pretty good. Archie had his own table, and he would call and let us know. It might be several hours until he arrived, but his roped off table would be waiting for him. Archie didn't want anybody sweating him. I guess Archie was ahead of us for over 18 months. He won all the $5,000 chips in the casino, and we had to mint a bigger $25,000 chip to get him to cash the $5,000 chips in!"

"No other gambler had ever done that to us before. Of course, in the end Archie lost, but it is worth repeating, Archie had more gamble in him than anybody I've ever seen. Archie was going to either win the Horseshoe or go broke. He took a good run at it; I will say that for him!"

And I will say this for Archie Karas: If he ever had been a cheater, I would've loved to have him on my team! The guy surely has nerves of steel!

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Casino Cheats IRS?!


Who said casino cheats are only people like me? For everyone's information, casino cheats can also be...well...casinos! In the old days we heard nefarious tales of casinos cheating the players, especially in places like the Caribbean and South America. But the latest casino cheat incident is in Las Vegas and it's not the players getting cheated here but rather the IRS--if the allegations pan out to be true. In fact, it's a murky story of a tangled relationship between two nightclubs and two casinos involving revenue-sharing (no, it's got nothing to do with baseball). Personally, when I hear of nightclubs involved in trouble, I think first of the NFL and some of its burly football players involved in fistfights and weapons possession over strippers, not of casinos and the IRS. Well, not this time. Here's an article by Jeff German that appeared in the Las Vegas Sun about the ongoing IRS casino nightclub probe:


Former Internal Revenue Service agents expect the federal agency’s tax evasion probe at Pure and LAX nightclubs on the Strip to spread to the casino partners that share revenue with the clubs.

Karl Oroz, a 25-year IRS veteran who works as an Atlanta-based private investigator specializing in criminal tax cases, said that if he were still with the IRS, he would be reviewing the revenue-sharing agreements between the clubs and the casinos and looking at the conduct of any casino executives who oversee those agreements.

If there were any tax evasion or tax fraud connected to the clubs, “there are investigative techniques that can be used to determine whether casino employees are participating in it,” Oroz said.

The revenue-sharing agreements between Pure and Caesars Palace and LAX and Luxor, disclosed by the Sun last week, show that the business dealings are far more complex than simple tenant-landlord relationships. Both casinos receive sizable portions of the tens of millions of dollars the clubs take in each year and have a say in almost every aspect of the clubs’ operations.

The IRS has kept silent on the criminal probe since its agents served search warrants in February.

But former IRS agents said disclosure of the tightknit business arrangements between the clubs and the casinos should cause the IRS to extend the reach of the investigation as far as it can to see whether the casinos or any of their employees can be tied to criminal behavior.

“I would think there would be a good opportunity to push up the chain of command, depending on how the money is distributed,” said David Landrum Jr., a retired IRS criminal agent who now consults on complex tax cases from the Oklahoma City area. “Proving whether the casinos are connected to those particular crimes is part of the IRS’ job.”

Michael McDonald, another former IRS criminal agent, who runs an investigative consulting company in Miami, added, “They will want to play it out ... If we were investigating this thing, we would try to take it as high up as possible, just to see where it stops.”

All three ex-IRS agents said it is unlikely the heavily regulated casinos would risk their reputations and livelihoods to participate in any cash-hiding conspiracies at the nightclubs. It’s possible, however, that rogue casino employees could have been involved without the knowledge of casino management, they said.

That opinion was shared by Steve Johnson, a tax law professor at the UNLV Boyd School of Law.

“I would be astounded if the casinos were participating in a scheme to defraud the IRS,” said Johnson, a former IRS lawyer who dealt regularly with the agency’s Criminal Investigation Division. “They’d be putting their licenses at risk.”

Johnson, however, like the others, said the IRS still is likely to look at potential casino involvement.

“In this case, clearly the IRS would want to develop some reasonable good sense as to where the wrongdoing stopped,” he said.

John Anderson, a former Criminal Investigation Division supervisor who deals with complex tax cases as a Los Angeles-based consultant, said the casinos are more likely victims than conspirators.

“My gut feeling is if these guys are cheating the IRS, they’re probably also screwing the casinos,” he said. “It’s very common when you have revenue-sharing agreements that whoever is sharing the revenue tries to hide some of it.”

One former casino executive who still has strong ties to the industry said he would be “absolutely stunned” if the casinos are found to have participated in the nightclub schemes being alleged by the IRS.

But the executive added: “I think the IRS is out on a hook because of all the media interest in the investigation. They’re going to go as far as they can with it. They’re certainly going to see it through.”

Alan Feldman, a senior executive at MGM Mirage, which owns Luxor, said his company would cooperate with the IRS if it comes knocking. “Our records are completely open to state and federal regulators,” he said.

Internal casino investigations are under way at both Luxor and Caesars Palace, owned by Harrah’s Entertainment Inc., and state gaming regulators told the Sun last week they plan an industrywide review of the business dealings between clubs and casinos in the wake of the IRS probe.

However it winds up, Bill Thompson, a UNLV professor who studies the gambling industry, said the casinos should accept responsibility for the reported nefarious activity taking place at the clubs and stop doing business with them.

“What I would hope is that the casinos are held responsible for everything that goes on under their roof,” he said. “If people are not paying their taxes, the casinos should get them out of the building. They should say, ‘You’ve lost your lease and our agreement is over.’"

UK Guardian Rates MY Poker Cheat and Casino Cheat Blog

While reviewing the film "21," The popular UK newspaper, The Guardian, reviewed my poker and casino cheating blog, and I'd say it's rather favorable. Here's the article that appeared in the April 5th edition:


Believe the movies and you'd think robbing casinos was all hidden cameras and acrobats. But, as a pro cheat tells us, you'll have to get past the facial recognition software first. Or better still, says James Donaghy, forget it. If some ball-busting genie made Hollywood choose a vice then gambling would win every time. The movies are infatuated with risk-takers: the maverick, the hopeless optimist, the plucky underdog who beats the odds. Then there's the charming conman who breaks the bank at Caesars who never has to buy another drink as long as he lives. So it's not surprising that Kevin Spacey chose the Ben Mezrich bestseller Bringing Down The House: The Inside Story Of Six MIT Students Who Took Vegas For Millions for his latest film project, 21. It's the true story of how the geeks inherit the earth (well, a few million dollars) by moonlighting at casinos under the tutelage of maverick professor Mickey Rosa (played by Spacey). With a combination of card counting, coded signals and aggressive staking, the mathematically gifted students soon begin to rake in the cash, attracting the suspicion of casino enforcer Cole Williams (Laurence Fishburne). Your average British students are content with a summer job picking grapes or performing inept bar work at any number of licensed premises; but not these MIT bods. Is it just me who sees a solution to the so-called crisis in higher education funding here?

Any casino, of course, is a fool's paradise. A mechanical moneymaking machine designed with the precision and artistry of the watchmaker to separate mugs from their money. As you watch the croupiers, dealers and pit bosses you're watching an optical illusion of fairness. Statistically, the house has an edge. Cheat a casino and you're not really cheating - just levelling the playing field. What 21 highlights is the ever-escalating technological arms race between the scam artists and the casinos.

Richard Marcus, the self-declared number one expert on casino cheating, details the best hustles on his blog. He is the pioneer of the Savannah scam, where he would hide $5,000 casino chips under $5 casino chips on the roulette table, so he won $10,010 each time these bets won, while losing just $10 when they lost. Working in a team including a "mechanic" (the guy who switched the chips) and "chip bettors" who make carefully orchestrated bets that control the dealer's movements giving the mechanic the split-second window of opportunity to switch the chips, Marcus made the con his hallmark.

The casinos don't let go of the money they lose to the likes of Richard Marcus without a fight, of course. There is an entire industry dedicated to catching the cheats and the city of Las Vegas is a breeding ground for the bleeding edge of high-tech surveillance technology. Data-mining, sharing info with other casinos and blanket camera coverage come as standard, but there are also LED coin comparators for slot machine fraud, and even optical scanning and radio-frequency identification (RFID) in the chips to alert the house to counterfeits. Then there's the world's largest casino, the Venetian Macao, using state-of-the-art 3D biometric face recognition software to authenticate its 12,000 staff as they start their shifts. Marcus remains unimpressed. "Facial recognition is an absolute zero. There's not one person alive who's ever been caught by facial recognition," he claims, insisting that the technology is only as good as the casino workers; workers he fooled for years, clocking up a reported $5 million over two decades.

Marcus is also lukewarm on the release of 21. Having met two of the real MIT blackjack team members he told his online readers "neither one would ever have had the slightest chance of joining one of my casino cheating teams". He cites Les Tricheurs ("The Cheaters") as the definitive casino cheating movie. The true story of the beautiful French swindler Monique Laurent, it deals with an altogether more elegant scam. Working the casinos on the French Atlantic coast, Laurent had a sculptor friend design a roulette ball with a tiny receiver inside which would be sneaked into play. As the ball rolled Laurent would press a button on her cigarette packet, containing a transmitter, causing the ball to dive, landing in a group of six numbers with 90% accuracy. Marcus calls it "one of the greatest scams of all time". The use of transmitters was a bold escalation in the casino arms race and, as they often are, the casino operators were caught on the hop.

That's the startling thing that a look at the history of casino fraud reveals. There are plenty of smart people clever enough to think up schemes that will fool the casino. The scams work and if you have the skills and the cojones, you can gradually milk a casino without them ever knowing your name. So why don't you see too many casino operators pleading poverty? Everyone in the business gives you the same answer: in the end the scammers are always undone by greed. Ernest Keller, gaming regulator with the New Jersey Casino Control Commission, says, "They get caught because they get greedy. You're allowed to win in a casino, but not too much." So, while the anti-cheating technology has its limits, con-artists always find a way to trip themselves up. Just like Hamlet, Othello and Ashley Cole, our gambling heroes are always undone by a flaw: human frailty.

Needless to say, the movies will continue backing the little guy against The House. In a rare display of honesty, Hollywood persistently portrays the entire gaming industry as little more than an organised shakedown and anyone smart or crazy enough to try and take it down as some kind of hero. But for the average mope trying his luck, it's a depressingly familiar story. Frankly, it's best to keep out of it. Your 2:2 in Media and Herbal Medicine isn't going to cut it at the casino. Unless you aced every semester at MIT, don't bet your bank on a happy ending.