Friday, April 18, 2008

UK Governing bodies seek Anti-Cheating Action on high-risk bets

Cheating scandals in the world of sport have become so prevalent, especially in Europe, that even the pub game of darts has been victimized by cheating scams! Now a network of governing and regulatory bodies has begun to speak out against the cheats orchestrating these major cheating scandals afflicting sports competition. According to the UK Independent, almost every sport offers a multitude of cheating opportunities for individual cheat plays that don't even effect the outcome of matches.

A coalition of every major sports governing body in Britain, including the Football Association and the Premier League, has accused the government of being "complacent" about the "very serious threat" of corruption and cheating that arises through the provision of certain "high-risk" markets by the gambling industry.

The governing bodies want some bet types banned or strictly regulated, as well as more passing of information from bookmakers to governing bodies and funding to police the integrity of sport. Only government can legislate on this, via the Gambling Commission, and despite the coalition "consistently warning" the Gambling Commission about the easy potential for cheating, it believes not enough has been done to stop it.

Earlier this month, the revelation that a UK footballer had colluded with a bookmaker for profit by getting himself benched is one example of a high-risk betting market making corruption and cheating simple. It is possible to bet, for example, on whether there will be a red card (penalties) in a match, and also on tallies of red cards, via spread betting.

In tennis it is possible to bet on double faults and in cricket on whether the first ball of a match will be a wide. These and other examples show sports' constant vulnerability to cheating as a result of certain specialist bets that sport has no control over. One football governing body said: "We know there's a door open to corruption, we know measures could be taken to make corruption harder. But we are powerless to shut the door. That needs legislation."

Tim Payton, a spokes-man on behalf of the coalition--which includes the FA, the Premier League, the RFU and RFL (rugby union and league), the LTA (tennis), the BHA (horse racing), the ECB (cricket) and the BDO (darts)--said: "The sports bodies take the cheating threat from betting very seriously.

"The sports have consistently warned the Gambling Commission that the growth in sports betting threatens their integrity. The sports want stricter regulation of high-risk bets and the right to receive more information on the type of bets being placed.

"The Government cannot afford to be complacent on this issue. The sports have presented them with detailed proposals... that need implementing as soon as possible."

Around $75 billion is spent each year on sports betting in Britain and the coalition members want around $10 million collectively to "police the integrity" of all members. This would pay to monitor betting, collate intelligence on cheating scams, set up legal and disciplinary measures and provide education. At the moment the sports do this individually. Aside from a horse racing levy of around $4 million, the gambling industry pays nothing towards this.

The UK Gambling Commission is sponsored by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. A DCMS spokesperson said: "The Government is aware that a number of sports bodies are in discussion with the betting industry and supports the efforts they are making to forge voluntary arrangements to address this issue. The Gambling Commission continues to regulate gambling in this country and has extensive powers. The Government will continue to monitor this issue."

When asked why high-risk bets are not banned or more strictly regulated the spokesperson said: "The Gambling Commission are best placed to answer this."

The Gambling Commission's position is that "bookmakers already risk-assess all bets offered and scrutinize all bets that pose any form of risk." The Commission says "it would not be be appropriate to restrict the categories of betting opportunity".

One problem for the government in seeking to impose stricter legislation is the fear that gambling firms will move offshore. This creates two problems: first that the industry moves out of the jurisdiction of legislation and second that the government risks losing lucrative revenue streams.

In a report sent to the Gambling Commission last August, the coalition warned the government against complacency. It cited examples of scandals few believed would happen, including examples in cricket (Hansie Cronje) and Italian football (the Serie A scandal).

The coalition said: "It is complacent to assume that incidents that have occurred overseas will not be replicated in the UK... we must remain vigilant to ensure similar incidents of this scale do not attack British sport."

Betfair Demands Action to Curb Sports Betting Cheating

A new relationship is needed between the sports and betting industries if the fight against corruption and cheating is to be won, one of the world’s leading internet betting operators has said recently.

Betfair, the giant online sports betting company, called on sport everywhere to use all the tools that are being provided for it by the legal and regulated betting industry, and to recognize that using those tools alongside better education of participants and stronger sanctions against cheats is the most effective solution to rooting out any problem.

Making the keynote speech at the Global Leaders in Sport conference in Auckland, New Zealand, Mark Davies, managing director at Betfair, said when it comes to issues of corruption, sport is often looking at the wrong target: only participants can rig events, and focusing on the growth in betting, or the growth in the number of people betting, is futile. He encouraged sports regulators to work with any betting operator which was prepared to share information relating to the names of people whose bets are suspicious.

He said: “Sports regulators today should expect information on what betting is taking place on their product, and – and I cannot over-emphasize this enough – by whom, in order to allow them to fulfill their role of policing sport.

“The only way to know whether players are being corrupted is to have the names of the people behind the bets. Any attempts to look at the betting quantum and make judgments on it are absolutely doomed to failure. Sport needs to put itself in a position where it has access to named information, wherever it can get it. If it is not doing that, it is not using the tools available. I find it amazing that any sporting body would turn down named information from a betting operator willing to provide it with no strings attached, and yet there are plenty which do.”

While emphasizing Betfair’s belief that corruption and cheating in sport is far more limited than recent speculation has suggested, Davies suggested that the reluctance of sport to accept that the legal and regulated market offers solutions rather than posing problems is limiting the ability of both to deal with what problems may exist. He said that betting scandals traditionally have emanated from illegal, unregulated markets.

Speaking to 200 delegates from four continents, Davies pointed out the perils of opaque and illegal markets, and suggested that embracing the transparent and regulated market was the best way to counteract problems of match-fixing.

He said: “Imagine a world where bookmaking is illegal. Take Betfair, and Ladbrokes, and William Hill, and everyone else you care to mention which is governed by proper regulation, and close them all down. What happens to sport’s [betting] problem then? Does it go away, stay the same, or get bigger? Clearly, it gets bigger. The Hansie Cronje story shows you that.”

Davies reiterated Betfair’s commitment to pay sports bodies a percentage of the profits achieved on betting on events run under their jurisdiction, but resisted the idea that any payment should be linked to integrity.

“The regulated betting industry today is not some backwater of corruption in smoke-filled rooms, but a modern leisure industry which engages its customers and allows them to get involved on a participatory level that enhances their enjoyment. It harnesses those customers, and wants to do so in partnership with sport rather than at the expense of sport. The legal and regulated betting companies around the world want to work with sport, not against it. But they need sports bodies to recognise that it isn’t betting that causes problems, but corruption.”

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Is calling Doyle Brunson a Porn Star?

I am not a fan of the oft irreverent betting media site but this article about Doyle Brunson certainly caught my attention, no matter how ridiculous it may be. Now...I have read various accounts about Brunson, some calling him a cheat, others a Wall Street crook (there was an SEC investigation into Brunson's offer to buy WPT Enterprises), but never until now a porn actor! Well, okay, perhaps we can all take this with a grain of salt, but in my opinion someone should spill the whole shaker over!

Here is their article on Doyle Brunson's so called porn escapades:


If you are a fan of the poker world the way we are, perhaps you've noticed an interesting trend of late: Celebrity Poker Players who have appeared in porn flicks. There was magician David Williams in "Granny Loving Foot Lovers". Then are 70's porn icons Ron Jeremy and Jamie Gillis who have also dabbled in some poker tournaments. If we really want to stretch it, we could say that Dancing With the Stars contestant and poker pro Shannon Elizabeth starred in a porn flick as there are those who probably consider American Pie just that. We won't even touch the reporter Jenny Woo porn video, which has successfully been removed from circulation.

So we knew it wouldn't be long until the Texas dolly, hundred something year old Viagra popping Doyle Brunson would eventually jump into the fray.

"Here I am Dusting Off My Texas Size Willy" gets four stars from our own Payton O'Brien.

"That's because we don't see Doyle naked and there is no real sex. Eeegad!" O'Brien said.

It seems Doyle has been getting a little frisky these days watching sexy bikini clad girls engage in one on ponging.

Doyle gets into a little sadomasochistic torture cowboy hat wearing guys target his you-know-what for a little "ball pleasure"....

Watch below to see poker pro Doyle take on these thrusting cow pokers (there's a video on their site if you have to see it). Never have we seen Doyle so stiff. Doyle watches listlessly as his balls get wet.

Okay, I guess we have.

So shocking, so disturbing....we are going to regret showing this on

But we'll do it anyway because we

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Is Soft Playing in Tournaments Cheating?

Almost everyone will say that soft-playing in poker is downright cheating, at least at first take. But upon further delving into the definition of what it means to cheat at poker, there are still those who believe that the practice of soft-playing one's friends or family is perfectly acceptable in poker, since it takes place because of personal beliefs and emotions that are just as legitimate as the ethical values of players who would refuse to soft-play anyone. Is this hogwash?

One argument that supports the allowance of soft playing in poker is that poker's uniqueness as a gambling game in itself deems soft play allowable. Their stance is that since poker is a game of multiple betting rounds, and the position of strength and weakness varies with each round and turn of a new card or cards, players should be allowed "varying" strategy tactics and that soft play is nothing but a combined tactic that ultimately becomes individual strategy at the end, when one or more soft players at the table no longer participate in soft playing. With blackjack, craps and other casino games, they argue, you make one bet on one decisive outcome, either win or lose, while second, third and fourth bets are optional and not intrinsic to the first. Only in poker does the amount of money at risk to each player accumulate with the deal of each round, therefore, those people who are not overly bothered by soft play feel that two or even more players involved in a pot have the right to "blanket the hostilities" at a certain point. Since any pair, set or group of players can do this, they claim, and that soft playing is not open or "active" cheating, they take the stance that soft playing should even be tolerated.

I, as certainly an "active" cheater (to say the least!) wholeheartedly disagree.

When soft-playing players have an ongoing agreement not to bet into each other once the action becomes heads up or reaches a certain point, they are tearing the innate competitive threads of the game. Whatever the reason, this arrangement amounts to a private deal that is more than just an ethical violation of the game. It not only gives those making it the chance to curb losses at several key junctures of play but also negatively impacts those not involved in it. In tournament play, soft playing can make or break the final table, leaving one player who might have been eliminated in honest, non-collusion play with just enough chips to survive and eventually go on to win the tournament. What soft play is, no matter how you cut the cake, is collusion, and, in my opinion, no less form of collusion than outright collusion players signalling the values of their hole cards and whipsawing opponents at the table. The fact is that these actions give those who are soft-playing in tournaments the edge over those who are not.

To illustrate the point, imagine that you're in a seven-card stud game, and you're the low-card bring-in on third street. Two soft-playing partners, A and B, enter the pot on either side of a fourth player who completes the bet. You call, player A raises, and you, Player B and the fourth player all call. Fourth street brings overcards for everyone, and gives you a split pair to go with your three-card flush. Player A bets and the fourth player folds, leaving just you and the soft-playing partners A and B. Now Player B raises. Your pair is smaller than their fourth-street cards, and since you don't like the odds you're getting for your draw, you fold. The moment you do, Players A and B proceed to check on fifth, sixth, and seventh streets. It's pretty obvious just how advantageous this arrangement is for them. By fourth street, they had locked up eight bets, half of it strange money, plus the antes. But the problem isn't only the pact to eliminate risk on betting rounds five, six and seven; it is the looming prospect of it that appears on round four, which offers incentive for two players who are soft-playing to bet a third player off his hand. By doing so, they are acting as a collusion team, converting the already invested chips of the uninvolved player into dead money. Clearly, this puts players who don't have soft-playing partners at the table at a distinct disadvantage against those who do.

Soft playing at poker is nothing short of cheating.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

PokerStars Responds to Jennifer Newell's Security Cheat Inquiry

Well-known poker writer Jennifer Newell, who has covered the subject of cheating in online poker quite thoroughly these days, claims that she sent questionnaires to the security staffs of all the major online poker sites that accept US players. According to Newell, only PokerStars responded, which doesn't at all surprise me as they have been at the forefront of the fight against online poker cheats. Here are the questions and answers between Newell and PokerStars:

Q: What company or individual(s) own your site?

A: PokerStars is owned by Rational Entertainment Enterprises Limited, a privately held Isle of Man company.

Q: What company or organization holds your gaming license?

A: There is a misconception about offshore companies being unlicensed and unregulated. PokerStars holds its license with the Isle of Man Gambling Supervision Commission. More information can be found at www.PokerStars. com/IOM.

Q: What is your site's stance on multi-accounting and seat-selling practices?

A: With trivial exceptions, a player may play on only one (his) account during a tournament and may not "hand off" his seat mid-event to a different player. Violation of this rule may result in penalties including disqualification from the tournament, with full forfeiture of winnings (which will be distributed to other players) and barring from PokerStars. Further clarification, including examples of what is acceptable and unacceptable activity can be found under Rule 21 at

Q: What security measures does your site employ to prevent cheating?

A: PokerStars employs a large number of experienced poker players who review any suspicious activity at the tables. These reviews are initiated from three main sources: 1) player complaints, 2) automated alerts of unusual activity, and 3) standard scheduled reviews of accounts. These reviews involve examining both account activity and the hands played by the player in question for any suspicious activity. In addition, we have a Games Security department whose only goal is to protect players from inappropriate activity by other players.

Q: How can you assure players that their money is safe and the games are fair?

A: Regarding money, all PokerStars player balances are held in a segregated account of a major European bank and are never used for any sort of operating expense. PokerStars was the first major site to establish a segregated account of this nature. If every player on the site wished to cash out their full balance tomorrow, there would be absolutely no problem handling all of the requests. No player has ever failed to receive a cash-out on our site in over six years of operation.

Regarding games, as indicated above, we engage in both reactive and proactive reviews of the play between players on our site. In terms of receiving a fair deal, we have undertaken great lengths to develop truly random shuffle, safe from any hacking or manipulation. Our random number generator was submitted and verified by multiple auditing agencies. More details can be found at

Finally, we have a standing offer with every real money player on our site to send them every real money hand that they have ever played for review... Many players have taken advantage of this service, and often publish their results, all of which always indicate that our shuffle is completely random.

Q: What separates you from other online poker sites with regard to safety and security?

A: Several of the measures outlined above are unique to PokerStars (segregated account balances, offer to send all hand histories). However, the biggest way that we separate ourselves is by the company culture that has customer focus as the main company value. That focus is what brought us the reputation of having the best support in the industry. PokerStars was founded by businessmen and technology professionals who were also passionate recreational poker players viewing poker as both challenging and entertaining. Much of senior management is still heavily comprised of people who love poker and who are committed to providing a great poker experience for all our players.

Would Patriots' Bill Belichik Make a Good Poker Cheat Too!

SPYGATE STUD! Imagine that game! You have 10 players sitting around an oval green poker table with white hash marks and little yellow goalposts in front of each player for protecting their hole cards. Now imagine that one player has a tiny camera embedded into one of the goalpost's uprights that films the other player's facial expressions, hand movements and even hole cards if the cameras can get the right angles on players who are sloppy in picking up their cards and peeking at them.

Sound far-fetched? Well, of course it's far-fetched. But imagine playing poker with New England Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick! Would you play against him? Heck! Even if I had the skills of Daniel Negreanu, Phil Hellmuth and Barry Greenstein combined, I would not go up against Bill Belichick on the poker gridiron! Heck! Even if I had the rumored-to-be-less-than-honest skills of Men The Master Nguyen and Doyle Brunson, I wouldn't go up against Belichick at the poker table. Heck, even if I had the cheating skills of Richard Marcus, I wouldn't try using them against Bill Belichick!!!

I mean, come on, don't you think this guy Belichick would find a way to beat you? Even if you had your own cheat partner, say the Desert Fox Field Marshal Erwin Rommel standing behind Belichick and spying his hole cards with his vintage World War Two field glasses and sending you flares across the poker room to signal their values, would you feel secure in your edge? If anyone could study the game, then combine his analytical skills with a little spygate maneuvering of his own to outwit you and Rommel, don't you think it would be Bill Belichick?

You see what I'm saying? Oh! And one final thing: I wouldn't play online poker against Bill Belichick either! I wouldn't care what handle, nickname, avatar or emblem he used! Not even if I had the skills of Josh Field, Alan John Grimard--or even their alter egos JJProdigy and AJ Green.

You know what? I don't think I'd play poker against Bill Belichick online or off even if he voluntarily showed me his hole cards every hand!

Monday, April 14, 2008

The Super Savannah Attempt To Cheat Binion's Horseshoe Out of a Cool Million!

Most of you who read this blog are familiar with my notorious "Savannah" roulette cheating move, that has been called my many in the industry the greatest casino cheating move ever conceived. But most of you do not know that I once drew up plans to use the Savannah to cheat the Horseshoe out of a million bucks, which would be the biggest one-shot non-slot machine cheating coup in casino history. I had included a chapter about this "Super Savannah" caper in my original manuscript for "American Roulette" but it was cut due to length constraints. So here are those pages about how my casino cheat partners and I attacked Binion's Horseshoe in an attempt to hit Jack Binion's cage for that cool million.

From American Roulette:

The idea for my Super Savannah one-million-dollar casino move came to me with Binion's legendary Downtown Las Vegas Horseshoe casino in mind. It was the only casino in the world where a million-dollar move was possible. Until then, the largest casino move payoff ever dared by a pastposting or pinching (picking up losers off the layout) team had been a $70,000 prize we tried for on a ten-thousand-franc straight-up monster in Cannes on the French Riviera, which was left unpaid due to the odd French gaming rule that no casino non-roulette chip could be bet on the inside of a roulette layout.
Every May (at that time), the Horseshoe sponsored the World Series of Poker championships which lasted four weeks, culminating in the final championship no-limit event that pays the winner a legitimate multi-million-dollar first prize. The event had obtained enough notoriety by the mid-eighties that it's been televised annually by ESPN ever since.
There were several unique elements about Binion's Horseshoe, but only two of them concerned me: First, it is the only casino in the world that posts no limits on its tables. Like in any other casino, you see a minimum bet posted on a plaque on all its tables, but there is no mention of a maximum. In other words, as ole Benny Binion himself used to love to say, "In my house, you bet whatever the hell you want." As long as he had the cash in the cage to back it up, the Nevada Gaming Control Board had nothing to say.
The second Horseshoe uniqueness concerning me was its light brown ten-thousand-dollar chips that were used solely in the poker tournaments. A player winning a $100,000 first prize was given ten ten-thousand-dollar chips which he could take to the cage to cash out or have a check written to himself against them. The uniqueness about these ten-thousand-dollar chips themselves was that they were the same size as all the other denomination chips in the casino, and moreover, were not overly different in color to Binion's light gray one-dollar chips. These ten-thousand-dollar chips were never in the dealers' racks in the casino, but they circulated freely among the big-time poker players during World Series time.
Which is what put the idea in my head.
I explained it to my partners Pat and Balls one late-April night in 1997 while we watched an NBA playoff game in Pat's apartment. Balls had already been made privy to Savannah and had by then experienced several moves with "her."
"What we do is go into the Horseshoe during the World Series and buy three ten-thousand-dollar chips off one of the winning poker players. If we have to, we pay a few hundred dollars more than $10,000 for each chip, but I don't see why the players would hesitate selling them; they have to cash them out sooner or later anyway...Then once we have three ten-thousand-dollar chips we do the Savannah on a number straight up..."
Balls tilted his head with an oblong effect and started nodding wildly with the cigarette in his mouth. It was comical watching. He understood immediately and knew my plan could work. Pat didn't quite yet get it, so I continued. "...Simple...We bet three Horseshoe light brown ten-thousand-dollar chips on one of the three bottom numbers in the last row...say 36...then we put three or four of their gray one-dollar chips on top, cutting them like we always do with the Savannah move in the columns or the 19 thru 36, so the dealer doesn't see the light-browns underneath. The idea is to make the dealer think that all the chips in the stack are one-dollar gray chips. To hide the light-browns even better, we use a check-bettor to bet stacks of gray chips all around the number; that'll create the camouflage we need. The dealer'll probably think that the same person made all the bets since all he'll see are gray chips. Then he spins the ball. If number 36 comes in, we win a million fifty thousand dollars. If it doesn't, we scoop up the bet and say we didn't see the ball drop if we get caught..."
Everybody laughed because it was ludicrous—but absolutely feasible. The key element in my head was that there was no posted limit on Binion's tables, which meant that if the bet was legitimate—which it would be—they had to pay it. There would be a ton of steam when it won. The first thing the Horseshoe casino would do was go to their surveillance tape—or maybe even before that, call security to have their officers surround the claimer at the table, ready to haul him off to the back room, in the belief that something underhanded had just taken place. If they didn't have it on tape, they certainly wouldn't pay it. They'd tell the claimer something like, "I'm sorry, sir, but the dealer didn't acknowledge the bet, so there is no legal bet." In that case, we decided, it was worth the exposure to file a complaint with the Nevada Gaming Control Board Enforcement Division. We could not be refused payment on the grounds that the claimer was a "known" casino cheater. Even if the claimer had a previous conviction for a gaming offense, they would not be able to use that history for disqualification of a bet. Provided that the claimer was not in the infamous Black Book, he had the legal right to enter the Horseshoe casino and make that bet.
In such matters, the Gaming Control Board makes the final decision as to whether or not a casino must pay a disputed bet. The Enforcement agents gather the evidence, present it to the three board members, who vote "pay" or "not pay." There are no abstentions, thus either a majority or unanimous decision is rendered by the Board. That decision is final and can only be overturned by the State of Nevada's courts. Not only did we plan to sue both the Horseshoe and the State of Nevada Gaming Control Board in the event we didn't get paid, we would have "premeditated" witnesses present in the Horseshoe casino when all this took place. People who were "clean" had to be present at the roulette table when the $30,000 bet was made. People who could later testify that they saw the claimer make the bet, that they saw and consciously distinguished the light brown ten-thousand-dollar chips from the one-dollar grays. Those potential witnesses would be Raul and Rosa Garcia, a young married couple I knew in Vegas who occasionally helped me cash out chips in casinos, and they could never be connected to any of the three of us. We'd also use some of Raul and Rosa's friends, who were also clean. And as a final coup, the hot information lines at both the Las Vegas Review Journal and the Las Vegas Sun newspapers would be anonymously called as soon as it became evident that the claimer was not being paid immediately. The Horseshoe would not want the negative publicity surrounding its refusal to pay a million-dollar bet when its very existence had been built on Benny Binion's prideful claim to accept any bet.
If the bet won and the Horseshoe did have its legitimacy on tape, I had no idea what would happen. I doubted that they would pay the $1,050,000 on the spot. There would be some sort of investigation. Identification checks and surveillance photos would reveal that a professional cheating team was involved. But again, unsavory reputation cannot be used against a person claiming his winning legitimate bet. The chief of the Nevada Gaming Control Board at the time, Bill Bible, and his two fellow board members up in Carson City would have to render a "pay" decision if all the video evidence supported the legitimacy of the bet.
But would the Horseshoe admit to having it on tape if they indeed had it on tape? Surely that would not be in their interest. As far as surveillance manipulations and tape-doctoring go, I am a casino novice. However, I assumed that if the Horseshoe wanted to "lose" a tape, or simply state that the particular roulette table in question was not being filmed at the precise moment the incident occurred, it could easily do so. Whatever the Horseshoe had or didn't have after the claimer claimed would not change everybody's assumption that somewhere foul play was involved.
The mechanics of the Super Savannah pinch move for chips on a number straight up were exactly the same as they'd been for chips bet on the outside of the layout. It was still the same theory: pick your chips up when you lost; leave them there when you won. The great difference was probability. Any number straight up on a double-zero (some wheels only had a single 0, most had 00 also) wheel had one chance in thirty-eight of coming out, which meant that according to the odds we could reasonably expect to see a winner on number 36 within thirty-eight spins. When doing the same move on the outside 19 thru 36 box, we had eighteen chances in thirty-eight of winning, which was eighteen times greater than when betting on a number straight up. This huge fluctuation of probability forced us to take an entirely different approach to the straight-up Savannah move at the Horseshoe.
Knowing that we could never make the thirty-thousand-dollar bet a second time after having just picked up a loser, we had to implement some sort of time schedule to follow for making the bets. The reasoning for that was simple: If the claimer claimed an unseen thirty-thousand-dollar winning bet that paid $1,050,000, the first thing the Horseshoe would do was review the tapes from the instant the claimer had arrived at the table. That would allow them to see the pickup on the previous spin, and they'd put the whole thing together and the claimer would end up in the Clark County Detention Center just a few blocks away. I also assumed that in the event of a claim, they would review the tapes from all the roulette tables in the casino, to see if the claimer had placed any other roulette bets before hitting his lucky table. Likewise, if they caught a pickup on any of the other tables, the claimer would be locked up. Thus only one bet could be placed on any single shift. To really play it safe, to virtually reduce the probability to zero that the Horseshoe could ever link a claim to a pickup, we could interspace the time in between bets to seven days. I knew that all casinos kept their recorded tapes seven days before re-recording over them. My surveillance operator friend Donnie had told me that all casinos cycled their tape libraries in the same fashion, again in accordance with Gaming Control. By waiting seven days after a pickup to make a new bet, we could eliminate the conspiracy charges that would come with a bust. The obvious negative factor associated with that wait was the possible long duration until fruition. At one bet a week, a slight deviation from normal probability could have us waiting years to catch number 36. Then again, who knew?...We could always get lucky and see the winner come out on the very first spin. We had to decide with what frequency we wanted to risk the exposure. There were numerous alternatives from which to choose. We could, for instance, make one bet every week on each of the three shifts. That would amount to three bets per week, and with a normal probability distribution, we could expect to see a winner within thirteen weeks. If we opted for zero risk as far as the claim-to-pickup linkage was concerned, we'd expect the same winner within thirty-eight weeks.
We didn't spend as much time churning over that issue as one might have expected. The decision was simple. Given the facts that we were already the most ill-reputed casino cheating team in America, and that none of us had ever served a day in prison for the thousands of felonies we'd committed during our careers, one slip-up into a conspiracy charge and we'd all draw the maximum sentence. The Horseshoe was also a Griffin Investigations client. Imagine if they got their hands on an air-tight case against me, I thought, before rendering my opinion that since none of us were desperate for the immediate windfall of cash, we could wait out the goddess of probability and continue working the other Vegas casinos in the interim. Both Balls and Pat agreed that it would be stupid to risk putting our asses in a conspiracy net just out of impatience. So we decided that once a week on a different shift we'd make a concealed $30,000 bet under three one-dollar gray chips straight up on number 36. When it lost, we'd scoop up the bet and replace it with six one-dollar chips. When it eventually won, we'd leave the three ten-thousand-dollar light brown and three one-dollar gray chips on the layout and fight for the $1,050,000 payoff. As far as Raul and Rosa were concerned, we'd pay them for their time spent at the horseshoe, plus give them a piece of the big payoff—if and when we received it.
The World Series of Poker started the last week of April. We had to be careful about how we approached a player possessing the ten-thousand-dollar chips. Any steam getting them would blow the move in its incipient stage. We couldn't just approach him and say, "You wouldn't be interested in selling some of your ten-thousand-dollar chips, would you?" We needed to integrate ourselves into the poker playing world. To do that, Balls was the most qualified among the three of us. He was certainly the ablest player and he already knew some of the Vegas tournament heavies. We decided to have him sit down at some of the high-stakes side games (poker games not part of the World Series Tournament) and rub elbows with the tournament winners, eventually asking them if he could buy their ten-thousand-dollar chips because he didn't like carrying cash with him up to the room. Each of the seven tournament winners during the first week of the World Series played in side games after the tournament event that he'd just won. Balls got into all those games, more times than not ending up in a seat next to the champion. I had urged Balls not to gamble too much on the hands, just to play conservatively so we wouldn't get buried trying to get the big chips. With Balls you always had to be careful. He was capable of going off for the whole damned bankroll.
Balls did not succeed in procuring a single light brown chip. The first tournament-winner he sat down next to seemed annoyed enough by the cigarette smoke coming out of Balls's mouth not to want to hear the words that accompanied it. I asked Balls to stop smoking but that was impossible. He'd no sooner abandon the move entirely. Another winner clammed up completely after Balls asked to buy his chips. He started overtly guarding the stacks of black hundred-dollar chips he had in front of him on the table, thinking that Balls might be a chip thief. When I saw Balls's reckless attempt to use his charm on the middle-aged woman who had just won the two-hundred-thousand-dollar first prize in the 7-card stud tournament, I realized how fruitless this was turning out to be, but at the same time, the woman's brushing Balls off gave me another idea: Cassandra, a hot Asian babe I knew from around town.
She gave me a friendly kiss on the cheek when I found her at her usual Mirage poker table. "I have a proposition for you," I said after the kiss. "I want you to play poker for me down at the Horseshoe."
"You're going to pay me to play poker?" Cassandra was smiling dollars—again.
"You could say that." I explained to Cassandra what I wanted her to do: sit down in the high-stakes poker games next to male tournament winners and seduce them into selling their goddamned ten-thousand-dollar chips. She agreed without asking any questions. Her price was fair enough—$1,000 per chip.
"A thousand bucks per chip!" Pat raged upon hearing that. Even Pat Mallery, who really was one of a breed of big spenders that always picked up checks and left huge tips, found Cassandra's demand a bit exorbitant.
"What do you want me to do?" I said, exasperated. "If we wait for Balls to get three ten-thousand-dollar chips, we might not get them until next year's tournament—if we still have any money left. At least that Chinese poker-playing whore will get us the damn chips."
Cassandra got the chips within her first hour playing next to a big and fat well-known poker-playing and cigar-chewing Texan who had won the day's five-card draw lo-ball event. I had passed Cassandra $30,000 in cash and $3,000 in black chips for use in the game. She lost $2,000 playing, and with the $1,000 she charged me for each chip, the mission accomplished cost us five grand, the most money ever lost during a buy-in procedure. Well, I looked at it as a long-term investment. If within the next year we hit the million-dollar-plus payoff, it would have been a heck of an investment.
On May 3, 1997, Pat, Balls, Raul, Rosa and I surrounded a roulette table on the graveyard shift at the Horseshoe. It was nearly five o'clock in the morning and the casino was dead, except for the same poker game in which Cassandra had bought the chips that was still going strong. We had decided that Pat would be the claimer for the move because he was the only one of the three of us who had never been back-roomed in a casino, and was therefore unknown to Griffin, at least as far as his identity was concerned. Balls would be the check-bettor, betting stacks of dollar gray chips to camouflage Pat's six-chip bet of three light brown ten-thousand-dollar chips with three gray chips on top. My job was to engage the dealer in constant conversation so his attention would always be diverted from Pat's bet. With three ten-thousand-dollar chips placed underneath, we couldn't depend on chip camouflage alone to prevent the dealer from seeing them.
Raul and Rosa had been the first two players to approach the table. They each bought in for a separate color of roulette chips and got the dealer spinning the ball. Next, Balls arrived and bought stacks of dollar casino chips, which he bet in mountainous fashion surrounding the splits and corners bordering the number 36. I was fourth on the table. I bet red five-dollar chips on the top numbers. My bets had no strategic value to the move. I was only there to keep the dealer's eyes more on me than anything else. I didn't have the gift of gab that Pat had, but for this occasion I'd do my best.
After two spins, Pat moved unnoticed up to the bottom of the table and made his bet, cutting the three grays on top perfectly, jutting them out toward the dealer which concealed the three light-browns underneath as well as possible—but not completely. It was up to me to finish that job with my mouth.
The floorman, who had nothing much to do at that untimely hour, came up to the table amidst the sudden start-up of a wheel that had been dead for awhile. Pat immediately used his body to cut him off and then engage him in affable conversation so he wouldn't have much time to peruse the layout. If the floorman didn't leave the table before the spin, Pat would be obligated to pick up the bet—or Balls or myself would do so in the event that Pat was too busied occupying the floorman. If Pat picked up the bet in front of the floorman, the risk was too great that he would see the ten-thousand-dollar chips. Each of these possible "automatics" was well prepared for. We all had to be on extreme alert every second, ready to scoop up that bet if it risked being seen. If seen, the person picking it up would theatrically laugh off the horror that would have been had he not realized at the last moment he'd almost risked $30,000 when he'd only wanted to bet six. That in itself would take heat but not enough where we couldn't return a week later on a different shift and make the second bet.
The floorman turned his back on the table and we all breathed a sigh of relief. The dealer spun the ball-—and I swear-—it momentarily bounced into the slot for number 36 before bouncing back out and careening around the cylinder to find another losing number. I clapped my hands exuberantly as I let out a "wa-hoo," feigning celebration for one of my five-dollar chips that had won. Pat went out and grabbed up his bet—and got caught by the dealer despite my "take-out." The dealer didn't over react and Pat apologized with the I-didn't-realize-that-the-ball-had-dropped number. The floorman was never made aware of what had transpired. Everything was cool and one by one we left the table.
On May 10, we returned to the Horseshoe on the day shift. Pat bet, lost and picked up the chips. No heat. I marked the occurrence down in my Super Savannah journal. On May 17, on the swing shift, he bet, lost and picked up again. My entries into the journal continued into June, July and August. Each time, I wrote down the roulette table number, the dealer's name, the floorman and (or) pit boss involved, as well as a brief description of events that might prove useful for future attempts. While we worked Savannah at the Horseshoe, we also used her a little in the other casinos in Las Vegas, just to get a payoff here and there. We chose our spots very carefully, though. We didn't want heat from another casino blowing into the Horseshoe, nor did we want to risk too much exposure. It was of the utmost importance to protect Pat from Griffin agents as well as from Gaming Enforcement agents who patrolled the casinos. They were always on the beat.

Early in the evening on Labor Day, we again took our positions at the wheel in Binion's Horseshoe. The casino was jam-packed and I had the funny feeling that something was going to happen that night. When the dealer spun the ball, I felt myself shaking. That sensation had not happened to me since the very first time I cheated a casino, some twenty years before. The ball dropped smack into number 36! My lungs tightened up...But then it bounced out! Then it dribbled around the rotating roulette wheel and slowed by number 36 again! It began falling in the slot for 36 but by the time the ball completely fell in, it was in the neighboring slot for the number 13!

Talk about 13 being bad luck!

I exhaled a sigh of...I don't know what it was, but that night was the last time we ever tried the Super Savannah move. Time just wore us down and we finally decided to give it up in pursuit of the $10,000 payouts we routinely collected on the regular Savannah moves. To this day, not having successfully pulled off the Super Savannah move remains one of my regrets about my 25-year casino cheating career.

I guess it's the equivalent of a great golfer never winning the Masters and wearing the fabled "Green Jacket."

Epassporte Pullout shocks US Online Poker Players!

epassporte credit card processing house is now officially out of the online poker business. As of 4:00 EST Friday, epassporte stopped servicing poker transactions. Rumors began last week when Epassporte representatives were telling concerned customers that they were just experiencing "technical difficulties" and that there were no plans to stop processing online gaming transactions while transactions were blocked at a number of the major poker sites, including Pokerstars. Some rooms took down the Epassporte option from their cashier screens; others simply produced a "temporarily unavailable" pop-up when you tried to click on Epassporte.

Cake Poker then lowered the boom when it posted a message on their cashier screen that Epassporte had informed them that they would no longer be providing e-wallet services to Cake Poker, effective immediately. It also announced that this was an industry wide situation, not just effecting Cake Poker.

Withdrawals, however, were still being processed. Many online players feared another Neteller debacle where funds were frozen for a long period of time. This didn't appear to be the case, as people were still able to withdraw their funds through their ATM cards. So the total extent is that Epassporte will no longer be allowing deposits or withdrawals from online poker sites. For Americans gambling online, this could spell disaster.

According to some sources, Gregory Elias and United International Trust, the managing partners of Epassporte, received notice that the US Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York that is conducting a widespread investigation of Internet gambling, including poker. Apparently Epassporte will not be taking any chances of engaging the US Justice Department on American "Internet shores."

There has been no specific mention about simply blocking US transactions--they are only blocking transactions related to online gambling. Neteller and Paypal are still available as funding options to many outside of the United States, so likely there are not too many non-US residents that utilized an Epassporte account. For Americans, it is obviously bad news, as yet another popular e-wallet solution has shut its doors to gambling transactions.

However, none of this will stop the online gambling crusaders in Washington fighting Congress to get online gambling legalized and regulated in the US.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Is Andy Bloch the real-life 21 Movie MIT Blackjack Team Guru?

So who's the real hero in Kevin Spacey's film 21, Andy Bloch or Jeff Ma? At first it seemed to be Ma, but more and more I'm seeing news articles claiming it was Bloch. It also appears that the real-life MIT Blackjack Card Counting Team is getting bigger and bigger with each new day the film has been out. The first controversy stems from casting Jim Sturgess supposedly in the role of Jeff Ma. Sturgess is Caucasian while Ma is Asian. The MIT Blackjack Team was, according to everything I've heard, purportedly made up of several Asian players, but not according to the movie. When asked about this, Andy Bloch told the UK Telegraph that the team was decidedly "white." For those of you unfamiliar with Andy Bloch, probably believing Jeff Ma was the brains behind the MIT Blackjack Team, Bloch is another MIT graduate who began his successful gambling roll as a blackjack card counter but who gave that up for even greater success and riches in the poker world, not only through playing but by writing books and producing instructional DVDs. Whichever of the two is the real-life catalyst of the card counting team, there's still no disputing Bloch's success in the gambling world. I, however, would just like to know not only who the film's main character is based on but also how many players this MIT Team really had. Perhaps they should publish and official roster like a football club!

In any event, the UK Telegraph published a major article on Andy Bloch. Read it and come to your own conclusion about who was the MIT Card Counting Team's big player.


By Tim Shipman

Handcuffed, arrested, accused, threatened - and all for being too good at cards. Tim Shipman meets the former student gambler whose winning streak has become a Hollywood hit.

The blackjack dealer flicked the cards with a felicitous snap across the green baize. With every low card that hit the table, the young man's pulse increased. The count was good. It was time to strike.

Andy Bloch was 24 years old. By day he was an engineering student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; by night, part of a team making millions at the blackjack table.

The movement of his hand was imperceptible to those nearby, but to his watching friends it conveyed urgency: Get in now. This is our chance.

A swaying figure stumbled up to the table, spilling his drink and betting big. "Don't egg him on," said Bloch.

He caught the merest flicker of recognition from the apparent drunk - in reality a man Bloch had trained with for months. "Eggs": code for a dozen. Twelve times the basic bet. Bloch watched as the "Big Player" on his team put down the chips: $12,000. The cards came: another win.

It was a scene repeated in casinos the length of the Las Vegas strip between 1993 and 1999, when Bloch was part of the fabled MIT blackjack team, who for 10 years ran one of the most successful card-counting operations in the history of gambling.

Now 38, Bloch still looks like the kind of guy who tells you to turn your computer off and then on again, but now he has been immortalized in the film 21, starring Kevin Spacey, which has gone straight to No 1 at the US box office.

In an interview with The Sunday Telegraph, Bloch - now one of the world's top poker players - describes how they beat the casinos at their own game. "I probably made half a million over six years," he says, sitting in a steak house in Washington. "Some I earned as a player and some as an investor."

He was also threatened, arrested and barred from every casino in Las Vegas.

Card counting is not illegal, it is not cheating, but casinos can refuse to let you play. The concept is simple, if difficult to execute undetected. "You can get an edge by watching the cards that come out of the shoe [card holder]," he says.

A succession of low cards stacks the odds in favor of the player, because the high cards remaining give him a better chance of getting a score close to 21 and increase the likelihood of the dealer going bust.

Every time a card under seven comes, the spotter mentally adds one to the "count". For every 10, picture card or ace, he subtracts one. When the count reaches more than 10 it is time to increase the size of your bet.

To avoid detection, the MIT team used signals to get a Big Player into the game. "We had codewords for the numbers zero through 20 to tell the Big Player how much to bet," Bloch says.

"A word beginning with the letter A would be one unit and J would be 10. You would say: 'Jesus, how could I lose that hand,' and they would know to bet 10 units, which might be $10,000."

Bloch is not your average card sharp. He has two electrical engineering degrees from MIT and a third from Harvard Law School. This year he finished runner-up in the world heads-up poker championship, taking his lifetime tournament winnings to $3.2 million.

He was recruited by the Blackjack Team in 1993. In the film, the team mentor, played by Spacey, is an MIT professor. In real life the leaders were MIT graduates.

Unlike the hero of the film, who agonizes before joining up, Bloch had no qualms about what he did: "The only people who think it is cheating are people who don't understand it. You're just using your mind."

Like every team recruit, Andy Bloch had to complete a rigorous training regime. "I didn't pass for six months," he says. "We would deal fast and have lots of distractions. People would ask you questions. We'd have music playing and the dealer would try to cheat you. If you missed it, you failed."

On Fridays in game week, the team would fly to Las Vegas and find the busiest high-stakes blackjack tables. "You want a lot of action because if you're the only big player you're going to get a lot of attention," Bloch says.

Andy played every role, but the most exhilarating - and the most frightening - was to be the Big Player. "It's the most risk," he says. "If you get spotted, you're the face they're going to fax around all the casinos."

In the opening lines of Casino Royale, Ian Fleming describes the "compost of greed and fear and nervous tension" in a casino. It is a sentiment Bloch knows well.

"When you're playing blackjack, with every tap on the shoulder you worry that it could be the last time you're in the casino," he says. "When you see the heat coming, you want to get out as quickly as possible.

"I never got beaten up. I got grabbed, I got handcuffed, I got arrested on trumped-up charges or false accusations of cheating."

He does, though, know of other counters who experienced violence. "I know of a guy who won money and then was playing golf with the casino owner, who pulled a gun on him and said: 'Give me all the money you just won from me and I won't kill you.' So he gave him the money."

The bad guy in the film is a casino security boss, played by Lawrence Fishburne. In reality the team's opponents were the Griffin Detective Agency, which specializes in catching card counters.

But Bloch says the real villain was losing. "The most brutal moment is when you lose and they come up to you and say you're no longer welcome to play. You're down and you're out."

When in real difficulty, the team were able to call on the services of a leading defense lawyer, recommended to them by Alan Dershowitz, the Harvard Law professor who helped defend OJ Simpson.

The team first called on his services when their founder left $100,000 in a plastic bag in an MIT classroom and the janitor, fearing it was drug money, gave it to the police,. The lawyer helped recover the money. Dershowitz's nephew later joined the MIT team.

The film has created some controversy because the lead characters are white, while the hero of the book on which it is based, Ben Mezrich's Bringing Down the House, was Asian. But Bloch says that while his team did capitalize on the view of some casino managers that Asians can be erratic gamblers - a perfect cover for the Big Player - his team was mainly white.

Andy Bloch doesn't play much blackjack now. When he enters a casino, the managers steer him straight to the poker tables. When he entered the World Series of Poker Europe in London last autumn, he had to get special dispensation to enter the gaming floor at all.

Bloch says poker and blackjack give him "different kicks". While he has won more money at poker, blackjack may be harder. "I've never been arrested or had to worry about who I am playing poker. You have to hide what you have in your hand - but in blackjack you have to be acting the entire time you're playing."

For six years it was an Oscar-worthy performance of which Kevin Spacey would have been proud.