Saturday, February 14, 2009

Try This Card Trick On Your Valentine!


Of all the card tricks I've ever seen or heard of, this one is the best of all-time. And it has a special twist. You see, I, Richard Marcus, probably the best poker-casino-cheating con man of all-time, was the victim! And it happened to me on Valentine's Day!

It went down like this:

One Valentine's night twenty years ago while getting drunk in a New York Irish pub, the conversation turned to gambling and card playing. I was there with a girl I had met hours before in another pub that might also have been an Irish one; I can’t remember. There were twenty or so people engaged in this conversation and it was quite lively. Two Irish guys—I mean real Irish guys from Ireland with red hair, white skin and freckles— had everyone cracking up with their little gambling anecdotes leading to one catastrophe or another. Then a woman who was plainly Italian pulled a deck of cards and slapped them on the bar.
“Anyone want to see a great card trick?” she beamed, probably at least as sauced as I was.
Everyone pitched in with encouraging laughter to say how thrilled everyone else would be to see her card trick. She then proceeded to do that classic dopey poker-hand trick everyone has seen performed by at least four generations of his family: the one with the four hands of seven-stud ending up four jacks, four queens, four kings and, of course, four aces for the dealer.
Everybody applauded her, anyway, and then another schmuck took the cards and began shuffling. When he’d finished, he dealt three columns of seven cards face up. He said to the girl who’d just finished her crummy trick, “Pick a card, but don’t tell me what it is. Keep it in your head.”
The girl was either stupid enough or drunk enough to blurt, “Does it have to be one of the cards you dealt on the bar?” The rest of the deck was lying off to the side.
The guy indulged her with a smiling nod. She was kind of hot and had big tits, so obviously he didn’t care how dumb she was.
The girl’s drunken eyes passed over the twenty-one cards. “Okay, I chose a card.”
I recognized the trick as soon as the guy started dealing out the columns. It was one of those mathematical numbers that could never go wrong if you didn’t fuck up the procedure. The version he was doing was the one with the petals and the flowers, goading the victim to pick this petal then that one after she’d already picked the two columns that didn’t contain the card. I think the first time I saw the trick done was in kindergarten.
The woman, ever so drunk as she was, managed to play along and finished by affirming that the card the guy flicked over at the end was indeed hers.
I’d just about had my share of card tricks when one of the two redheaded Irish guys clamored, “Those tricks are for bloody boobheads!” Anyone here want to see a real good one?”
For some reason I volunteered, surely hoping it would be better than the previous two and the last of the night.
He picked up the deck off the bar and fanned them face up in front of me. “Pick any card,” he said.
I looked at him. “Just like that, face up?”
The other Irish guy piped in behind him. “Yeah, mate, just like that.”
I slid out the 9♠ without hesitation. I looked up waiting for one of them to do something.
The one next to me spoke. “What would you say if I told you I know someone back in Ireland whom I could call right now, hand him the phone without saying a word, and he’ll tell you that the card you picked was the nine of spades?”
I looked at my watch. It was eleven o’clock at night in New York, which meant it was four o’clock the next morning in Ireland.
“I’d say the guy either goes to bed late or gets up early.”
They laughed heartily, then the one behind suggested slyly, “Care to make a little wager on that, mate?”
I looked at the girl I was with. I could see she knew as much about cards as I did about the theory of relativity, which was zero.
“Come on, mate,” the one who’d spread the cards said. “Why not put a little fun in the evening. Soon it’ll be the top of the mornin’.”
“Okay,” I said pulling out my wallet. “I’ll go twenty bucks saying you’re friend in Ireland can’t tell me my card if you don’t tip him off.”
“Twenty bucks!” they exclaimed in unison. Then they took turns telling me I insulted their chivalrous play. The one behind finished off with, “The phone call over there will hardly be covered for twenty bucks, mate.”
Well, whatever their gig was, it was clear they knew I’d lose the bet. And this in spite of the fact they didn’t know whom they were trying to hustle. But I was curious about their trick, plus I was in a good mood knowing I was going to get laid once I got out of there.
“So how much do I have to do this for?” I asked them.
“You got fifty.”
“Sure.” I laid the fifty on the bar. They did not hesitate to lay theirs alongside it. “Now let’s make that call.”
You have to remember that twenty years ago there were no cell phones. There was just a cranky old pay phone near the entrance. The front guy asked the bartender, “Pat, gimme ten bucks in quarters, would ya?”
“It’s okay,” Pat chimed, you can use the bar phone.” He reached underneath the bar, pulled it out and slapped it on the surface next to the nine of spades. “Who you calling, anyway?”
“Some bloke in Ireland.”
The phone slid off the bar and disappeared faster than you could say “Dublin.”
I followed the two Irishmen to the pay phone. At least ten people followed me, everyone with either a drink or cigarette in his hand. As the one dropped a load of quarters into the phone’s slot, he piped at me, “Are you ready, mate?”
I nodded.
“I’m not going to say a word to my buddy on the phone about your card. I’ll just see if he’s home and pass you the phone when he comes on. Okay?”
“Okay.”
He dialed a number, then after a few seconds said into the receiver, “Is Mr. O’Leary there?” Then he said, “Hold on,” and passed me the phone.
I put the receiver to my ear. “Mr. O’Leary?”
The cheery voice on the other end was indeed Irish. “That’s me, mate. Your card is the nine of spades.”
At first I thought it no big deal that he knew my card, but when it finally hit me that he knew my card I was flabbergasted. For some reason I thanked him before hanging up.
When I turned back to the two Irishman, they were already at the bar scooping up my fifty-dollar bill. Everyone else was asking if the guy on the phone guessed my card.
“He didn’t guess it,” I informed the crowd with a bit of thespian delight. “He knew it.”
The two Irish guys were laughing as I came over. “You want to do it again, mate?” one of them asked.
“Yeah,” I answered immediately, “but how ‘bout for less money.” I knew that I was outhustled but I wanted to see this again, figure out how they did it. I knew they wouldn’t give it up for nothing.
“Okay,” the second one said as he picked up the cards and gave them a quick shuffle with a fancy bridge. He spread them and told me to pick a card. I fingered the width of the fanned cards and slipped out the 4♣. Then the first Irishman put a twenty-dollar bill on the bar and told me to match it.
I laid the bill on the bar and followed them back to the phone. Evidently enough quarters remained in the Irishman’s pocket to make the second call. He dialed and again asked for Mr. O’Leary. When O’Leary came on the line, he told him to hold on and passed me the receiver. I bid the familiar voice hello and he answered with “Your card is the four of clubs.”
“Wanna go again, mate?” The Irish guys were having a ball with me.
“How the fuck did you guys do that?” I demanded.
The first one gave me a peppered shrug and said, “You know magicians don’t give away their secrets.”
“It’s not magic,” I protested. “It’s a goddamn card trick.”
The second one had a great retort for that. “It’s not a trick. O’Leary just read your mind. He knows you’re thinking of your card when you get on the phone. So he just hones in on your brain and finds the part of it thinking of the card.”
“You guys got a good line of shit,” I said, and they got off laughing at me. The whole bar was getting in on it, including the bartender who seemed to have already borne witness to their little gag. I approached the bartender and asked him how they did it. He just chuckled and said in an Irish accent, “I haven’t the foggiest idea, mate?”
How the hell did they do it? That thought prevented me from both getting laid and sleeping that night. I lay awake for hours in the girl’s apartment, in her bed with her lovely body sprawled naked in the same spot where she’d finally given up on me and fallen asleep.
Not only am I a fairly intelligent person but I know how to navigate pretty well around logic. The first thing I was sure of was that somehow that Irish guy in the bar told Mr. O’Leary what my card was. The only way that certainty would not be true was if there had been another unseen phone extension inside the bar and somebody else told Mr. O’Leary the card. But after being led on a tour of the place by the bartender, during which I felt like an idiot, I had to accept the fact that there was no other phone there.
So then how did the Irish guy tell O’Leary which card I’d selected? I had been right by his side when they spoke. Twice. Each time, the Irish guy said nothing more than “Is Mr. O’Leary there?” and “hold on.” Neither utterance contained words that would indicate the nine of spades and the four of clubs. But somehow those words did indicate those cards. And it was killing me to find out.
I racked my brains. Somewhere in those lines was a hidden code that told Mr. O’Leary what my cards were. But how could the same exact lines give him the correct information for two different cards? I even asked myself if it were possible that the inflection in the caller’s voice tipped off O’Leary. But if that were the case then O’Leary would have to be sensitive to fifty-two different inflections. Impossible.
The unknown solution ate at me an entire week. Then finally, not being able to take it anymore, I returned to the pub on a busy Saturday night. The place was packed, and sure enough the two Irish guys were hustling another customer with their trick. Only this time the bills on the bar were hundreds and the guy getting taken was sweating and did not look happy.
I watched all this from a distance. The Irish guys either didn’t see me or didn’t recognize me. The victim followed them to the phone, probably for the second or third time, and upon hanging up came walking back toward the bar in disbelief, then did an about-face toward the exit. The second he was out the door, I saw one of the Irish guys pass a bill off to the bartender, who promptly stuck it in his pocket.
So the bartender was in on it as well. They were working a major scam with this trick, or whatever the hell it was.
I came back the next night determined to crack the case. Irish pubs in Manhattan usually drew crowds every night of the week. Sunday night at this one was no exception. The Irish guys were flirting with a couple of women by the bar. I decided to wait patiently until they went into the routine. I knew they would eventually because these guys were not there for just booze and women. The place was their livelihood.
At midnight, just before I was about to pack it in, two slick looking black dudes walked inside the bar. They had that instant air of loose cash, either pro athletes or musicians. The Irish pair adroitly got them into conversation and within a half hour the bartop was crawling with hundred-dollar bills. I was thinking to myself that the scammers had better be careful with these black guys. They looked like the kind you didn’t want to fuck with. But obviously the Irish duo was very well rounded and knew how to handle whatever situation arose during the working of the scam.
Well, we’ll see about that, I said to myself.
After it happened, I realized I’d been destined to do it. But at the crucial moment I still had to make sure not to blow it. Bad timing could have blown the whole thing, and I would’ve been in a lot of pain for nothing.
As soon as the Irish guy dropped the quarters into the phone’s slot, I made my way through the thinning crowd toward him. I watched him dial and waited until I knew instinctively that the moment had arrived to make my move. I charged the pay phone and grabbed the receiver from the guy’s hand. He protested but I quickly knocked him out of the way. I then put the receiver to my ear without uttering a sound. What I heard at first made no sense. It was indeed O’Leary’s voice and it was counting…“two, three four, five, six…” The Irish guy made a lunge at me but I knocked him out of the way again. His buddy was coming after me too, but one of the black dudes stuck out a big arm and held him at bay. By that time O’Leary had reached “king.” And then his voice rasped in my ear, “What’s the fucking card, mate! Did I miss it?”
“You sure did, scumbag!” and I hung up the phone.
There’s an old New York joke about asking a bartender what time his Irish pub closes. He doesn’t answer you with a time; rather he says, “As soon as the first fistfight breaks out.”
Well, that meant that this Irish pub would be closing real soon. In the ensuing brawl I got whacked with a few good shots that drew blood from my mouth. The poor Irish guys, whose names turned out to be Arnold and Donald Lorrigan and who were currently on their way to the hospital ward at the Rikers’ Island jail, got the shit kicked out of them. The arresting cops asked me what it was all about, and when I told them, one of the coppers, who was also Irish, quipped, “Musta been a pretty good card trick.”
It was simply the best card trick I had ever seen. The way it worked was in reversal. It was true that the caller was transmitting the information to O’Leary, but he was doing it in reverse. That’s why virtually no one can figure it out. The key to deciphering it is that you have to know it was O’Leary speaking first, not the Irish guy. The first words I had heard from the caller were “Is Mr. O’leary there?” Upon hearing those words you naturally assume that whoever answered on the other end had picked up with a “hello” or something to that effect. Then when the Irish guy says “Hold on” and passes the phone off to the victim, you naturally think that O’Leary had just come to the phone after having been summoned by the person who had picked it up.
But it is really O’Leary who answers the phone. And instead of saying hello, he goes right into a recital of counting the cards…“ace, two, three, four…” Then when he arrives at the card you had chosen, the caller says “Is Mr. O’Leary there?” That stops O’Leary’s counting dead in its tracks. For if the last card O’Leary said was “jack,” then he knows it’s a jack.
Next only the correct suit needs to be transmitted. Once O’Leary receives the signal that the card is a jack, he begins reciting the four suits…“spades, clubs, hearts, diamonds.” As soon as he hits the correct one, the caller says “Hold on,” which tells O’Leary he just said the right suit, and passes the phone to the victim who’s about to be stunned.
What makes this trick so unbelievable is how natural the talking sounds. The set-up guy just dials a number, asks to speak with someone and then asks that person to hold on while he passes the phone to the victim. I had never been so impressed by a card trick or phone trick, whatever you want to call it. Learning it was well worth the seventy bucks I lost and the busted lip.
Over the years I’ve done that trick dozens of times, though never for profit. The most fun performing it is at parties or anyplace with large gatherings of people. Listening to people trying to figure it out is as funny as any comedy routine you’ll ever see. The ridiculous theories people put forth to solve the puzzle are as unreal as they are hilarious. You hear everything from high-tech satellites eavesdropping on the room to infrared lenses spying on the deck of cards from another galaxy.
One time at a party while doing the trick, a cute girl made me come with her into the bathroom with the lights off. She said she wanted to be sure that no one else could see which card she chose. I wondered if it was a pretext to jump my bones, but when she struck a match to create a small light while she picked the card, I realized how nuts this trick drove everybody, as it had once done to me.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Casino Cheating Scam Rocks India!

In my 25-year cheating career I never worked casinos in India, but maybe I should have! Read this:

PANAJI: Arun Kapoor, the group CEO of Delta Corporation Ltd and High Street Cruises and Entertainment Ltd, Porvorim, in his complaint to the Panaji police has alleged that seven of his employees ganged up with two customers and cheated the company of 80,000 rupees.

In his complaint, Kapoor said that since November 2008 at Casino Royale and Kings Casino, Mandovi, Jonanthan Araujo, Bhushan, Aigal, Naresh Haji, Reinar Estrocto, Nani Salgaonkar, Gilbert D'Cruz and Pundalik Bale, all working at the two casinos as dealers along with two customers Firoz Dessai and Rohan "ganged up with the common intention in the process of gaming and cheated the management and stole cash amounting to Rs 10,000 and gaming chips worth Rs 70,000, all worth Rs 80,000".

The police have registered an offense of theft in a closed premise and cheating against the nine persons. They have arrested Naresh, Reinar and Firoz and recovered Rs 45,000 from Firoz. Police said that the rest of the persons are absconding.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Poker Pro Layne Flack Taking Russ Hamilton Heat!


Back in December, poker pro Layne Flack implied poker legend, Doyle Brunson, may have bought his earlier World Series of Poker bracelets.

In an interview with Card Player Flack was quoted as saying:

"Poker pro Layne Flack won the $1,500 pot-limit Omaha rebuy event this year, dismissed the notion that a bracelet could be bought.

'That's bullsh--," said Flack. "It's not like there is no play. The field is huge.'
Flack pointed out that a player can only rebuy when he has as many chips as when he started the tournament (or less), so it isn't as if someone could just buy a dominant stack.

"You want to talk about buying a bracelet? Let's talk about Doyle's bracelet when there were eight people in the tournament," said Flack. ‘The critics should look back in history and see where a bracelet has been bought'."

In a follow up interview with the popular poker mag/website, Flack clarified his earlier comments. He insisted that he respects anyone who has won a bracelet, regardless of the year he or she won it, and talks about the difficulty involved in some of the smaller tournament fields.

Needless-to-say, when Flack first made his comments, Doyle Brunson wasn't exactly happy.

"As a rule, I don't say anything about things people say in interviews. But I can't help being deeply offended by (that) article" Brunson said. "I thought this man was a friend of mine. Back in the early days of the WSOP, I certainly didn't even consider that a bracelet would have any value. I only played in 2 or 3 events a year because Jack Binion expected me to. I actually didn't pick up two bracelets in the 70's-80's because I already had a couple. I never won a tournament that had 8 people in it. There were only 14 entries in a mixed double tournament that Starla Brodie and I won. If I could find that bracelet, I would sent it to Layne and tell him to stick it where the sun doesn't shine."

Gambling911.com reported this weekend that Flack has really taken some flack this past week for an interview that aired on RawVegas.tv, a subsidiary of the uber popular WickedChopsPoker website.

It was the first public interview (err ambush) with accused "insider poker cheat" Russ Hamilton (you might remember his name mentioned during a 60 Minutes segment covering the scandal).

The poker community wasn't necessarily focused on what Hamilton had to say (he didn't say much) as they were with the person whom he played golf with. That would be Layne Flack.

"This crowd already sees Hamilton as the devil," explains Payton O'Brien, Senior Editor of the Gambling911.com website. "They now see Layne Flack as someone who is selling his soul to the devil perhaps."

One member of the PokerRoad forum community had this to say about Flack playing golf with Hamilton:

"Look if people in the poker community want to pretend like it (the cheating scandal) is a big deal in public but then behind closed doors they don't care, why should anyone believe any of these (poker sites) are fair. One of the only reasons we trust sights like Pokerstars or FullTilt is because people like Berry or Ivey say it is a fair game. No outsiders are ever let in to audit it. Now if sponsored pros are hangin' out and being friendly with supposed cheaters or at least some one who is accused of cheating it should make everyone feel unsafe."

Accused 2006 WSOP Main-Event Champ/Renegger Jamie Gold Set To Join UltimateBet?


Remember the scandal in which Gold tried to reneg on his partnership after he won the 2006 WSOP Main Event before finally settling? Well, now he appears set to join cheat-scandal plagued UltimateBet.

Read this:

A lot of speculation has been raised as to how well 2006 World Series of Poker winner, Jamie Gold, is doing financially when it comes to his poker career.

Much of the talk began in early January when, on the new episode of PokerRoad, they briefly spoke about Jamie Gold and there was mention by Ali Nejad mentioned how Gold has gone from having $8 million to nothing.

The speculation surrounding Gold's finances grew more intriguing when it was reported he was seen playing $2 to $5 no limit hold em and $5 to $10 no limit at Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas. Supporters claim he's playing these games for pure enjoyment. Detractors claim his "reckless nature has caused him to come close to squandering his entire bankroll."

What we do know for certain is that Jamie has been involved in a plenty of charity poker work of late, which hardly sounds like somebody who is blowing wads of cash at the poker tables. The idea that he is playing $2 to $5 no limit hold em seems to support the notion he has some degree of discipline.

Jamie Gold has also acknowledged that he is looking to team up with a new online poker room, one that does take customers from the U.S.

Unfortunately, these are few and far between. There is Full Tilt Poker, which seems a bit saturated with talent at the moment, PokerStars, Cake Poker, our friends at Doyles Room (now part of Cake), the Merge Network and a handful of smaller card rooms.

Bodog, ranked among the lower top 15 of online poker rooms in terms of real cash players, previously dropped Gold after his big upset win in 2006.

This leaves us with UltimateBet.

Gold acknowledged this week that his charity work involved UltimateBet spokesperson, Annie Duke.

"I was invited to get involved with the Ante Up For Africa tourney on Annie Duke and Don Cheadle's behalf," Gold says.

And while the choices are somewhat limited for the time being, most meet the criteria he is looking for.

"I am looking for, and will find a site that we can all trust, accepts US players, and will teach and support their players without worry of impropriety or monies not being safe," he states.

And while UltimateBet had been involved in a much publicized "insider" cheating scandal last year, that card room feels it has implemented measures to prevent a similar incident from happening in the future, including a change to new software (the Cereus platform).

Gold won the largest pot of any World Series of Poker events and enjoyed a status similar to that of Chris Moneymaker - a player who seemingly came out of nowhere and helped propel the World Series of Poker to that next level. Gold's win had a storyline that drew even more interest to the event when he was forced to share his winnings with a Hollywood promoter he'd befriended back when he himself was a Hollywood agent.

Russ Hamilton Keeping His Mouth Shut About UltimateBet Scam He´s Accused of Masterminding

WickedChopsPoker via its RawVegas.TV arm featured exclusive footage of "alleged" UltimateBet super-user Russ Hamilton after completing a round of golf at a course he frequents (second to last paragraph) yesterday in Las Vegas.

You might recall Hamilton was at the center of an insider poker cheating scandal involving UltimateBet that aired on none other than 60 Minutes this fall.

"One thing from this video is very clear: Russ Hamilton absolutely does not want to discuss his alleged involvement in the UltimateBet super-user cheating scandal," the WickedChops.com poker website points out. "Like, not even a word. And if you're innocent, even if your lawyers tell you not to talk, really, don't you just have to talk? How do you NOT?"

Hamilton, winner of the 1994 World Series of Poker main event, has total live career tournament winnings up to $1.5 million, though he's believed to have amassed quite a bit more via his role in the online poker cheating scandal.

On September 29, 2008, the Kahnawake Gaming Commission stated it had found clear and convincing evidence to support a conclusion that between the approximate dates of May 2004 to January 2008, Russ Hamilton was the main person responsible for, and benefitting from, multiple cheating incidents at Ultimate Bet.

You can watch the exclusive Russ Hamilton video at WickedChopsPoker.com

Do Any Of Those Online Poker and Casino Cheating Gadgets Work?


These days you can hardly search the Internet for anything related to cheating at gambling (online or off) without falling upon an array of google-sponsored websites hawking online gaming cheating devices. What was once the domain of brick and mortar casino roulette computers has largely given way to devices whose sellers claim can do everything from count cards at online blackjack to determine where roulette balls will land on online roulette wheels to teach you how to control virtual world dice in craps games and, of course, to see your opponents’ hole cards at poker, which appears to be the most attractive of all the online gaming cheating gizmos and gadgets for sale.

But, and this is a very big “but,” do any of these gadgets actually work? In prior months I had written extensively, both for Gambling Online Magazine and on my blog at richardmarcusbooks.com, about the brick and mortar roulette computers for sale online. The truth concerning them is that the majority of them do work, but only up to a certain point. The ones for sale on the Internet for a thousand quid or two will overcome the huge built-in casino roulette advantage and even give you a sleight statistical edge, but due to other factors—mainly the imperfect actions of those using them, lack of internal operational security, and the fact that practically all roulette bosses in all European casinos are already keen to this fashion of beating brick and mortar roulette—very few groups employing them make any worthwhile money at it. There is, however, much better and much more expensive equipment that is not for sale online and is quite effective tracking spinning roulette balls, but the playing lives of those operating them is still usually short and most find themselves barred from every casino on the continent before they earn enough to pay off their equipment.

As far as the Internet sale of gadgets for cheating online gambling goes: are their buyers mainly suckers, or is there anything to this stuff? Well, lets start with the most popular of these offerings: software that supposedly allows you to see your opponents’ hole cards in poker games. In light of all the online poker scams connected to this type of cheating, right off the bat the validity of these online cheating “packages” cannot be 100% dismissed. I, for one, can attest to that. Back in 2005, I was witness to a clandestine operation of online cheaters using high-tech software called “Peeker” to see their opponents’ hole cards. At the time, Peeker worked on several sites and no inside help was needed to assist the cheating operation. Although it is true that today’s online poker sites’ security systems are much better than just a few years ago and their source codes more difficult to crack, I do not believe, nor do many people with much more knowledge than I, that effective hole-card peeking software implemented from the outside can totally be rendered useless. But is this type of powerful software really available for sale on the Internet? If so, then why are people selling it? Why are they not just using it?

I do think that some serious hole-card software is for sale on the Internet, but not in the sponsored Google ads you see to the right of your search engine results. Just like there are hidden corners in the cyberworld for terror, hate and child porn material, there are those for people with access to buy highly advanced online gaming cheating equipment, but I assure you that the numbers of people trading in this area are small and the prices big—very big. As for why people are selling it instead of using it, there are a plethora of answers. I would lay odds that some people are doing both: selling some of their equipment while using prototypes to cheat the players on online poker sites and the operators of online casino sites. In other cases, those with the capability to design and develop this kind of software technology just don’t want to use it for personal reasons. They very well might be into other forms of cybercrime such as identity theft and bank and credit fraud. Whatever the case, don’t always assume that the “why are people selling it instead of using it?” discrediting clause means that whatever is for sale is bogus. I would, however, discount the vast majority of cheating software and equipment for sale to the general Internet public.

What about the cheating offerings for online gambling games other than poker? Do they have any validity? Can you count cards and gain an edge at online blackjack with the aid of cheating software? Can you know ahead of time if Player or Banker will win the next hand at online baccarat? Well, to date, I have no concrete evidence of these technologies making anybody any money, although I get e-mails from people claiming they have used them to beat these online games and online roulette as well. Not surprisingly, I have also received e-mails from sellers of various cheating software wanting to post articles on my blog espousing their effectiveness. One person who claims to have written software that will beat online blackjack by exposing the dealer’s hole card even invited me to China at his expense to see his “laboratory”—with the condition that after proving its validity I would write about it on my blog. Honestly, I was tempted, but my schedule is just too hectic to go to China anytime soon.

You’re a gambler, right? And the world is undergoing a severe financial crisis, right? Well, here are two issues that should concern you: How will the slumping worldwide economy affect both brick and mortar and online gambling? And how will it effect cheating in both venues? The answers to these questions might not be what you think. Before we get into how falling financial markets and failing businesses might affect cheating, let’s first take a look at how the global economic swoon is changing overall casino and poker room gambling, both online and off.

As you might expect, brick and mortar casino gaming revenues across the world are sharply down the past few months, but less so in Europe and the UK than in the US and Asia. Some land-based casinos in the most stricken areas have taken drastic measures in what is probably as much the anticipation of casino revenues continuing to fall as reaction to the current dismal situation. The most pronounced of these has been taken by the Mohegan Sun Casino in Connecticut, USA, since its opening one of the most profitable casinos in the world. Mohegan officials have recently announced that all of its employees will be subject to pay cuts in 2009. Whether this is due solely to realised drops in revenue or in conjunction with projected drops, it is concrete evidence that the worldwide brick and mortar casino industry will be suffering somewhat in the months to come.

Another remarkable example of real-world gambling chaos is the boom to bust devolution of the giant casinos in Macau. Just six months ago we heard how revenues and profits of the casinos in this Asian gambling mecca had surpassed those of Las Vegas, becoming the new gambling capital of the world. The children of casino mogul Stanley Ho and others were embarking on yet the development of more billion-dollar casino megaresorts. Growth seemed like it would sprout up forever with a never-ending influx of gamblers from mainland China and the Pacific Rim. Well, that bubble the size of London has burst, and now reports out of Macau say that ex-casino workers are transforming into everything from day labourers to clerks at the post office to simply unemployed. Despite this, Ho’s son and daughter claim they will continue developing billion-dollar projects already in the works.

What about online poker and casinos? How the deflated economy is affecting them is a bit harder to gauge. The problem is that nearly all the news and statistics analysing online casinos and poker rooms comes from online sources, whose accuracy tends to be less dependable than that of real-world news networks. I have read online reports whose data measuring the drop-off in Internet gaming vary from 20% decline to 80%. Whatever the true number, it is clear that online gaming is suffering, although the online poker and casino sites themselves have displayed no signs of panic.

Personally, I would be surprised if online gaming revenues are truly down as much as 80%. Why? Well, first of all, online gambling has proven to be more addictive than brick and mortar gambling—as much for its easy availability as its speed of dealing and playing hands. Furthermore, there has always been a correlation between unemployment and increased online gambling by those newly jobless. To put is simply, people out of work often find themselves more frequently online gambling because they have more time on their hands than when they’d been working. Unfortunately, many of these people dig into their savings to stay in the games when their luck runs bad. Others look to online poker and casinos to make their ends meet while out of work. Of course you don’t need me to tell you that these attempts more often fail than succeed.

But there is potentially an even darker side to the effect on online gambling from the current economic plight. You might have guessed it: I’m talking about the possibility of more cheating and more large-scale online gambling scams. One very notable aspect of this financial crisis is that it has exposed many financial frauds, including perhaps the biggest in history, the $50 billion “pyramid scam” allegedly engineered by American Bernard Madoff that victimised some superrich owners of online gambling entities. As far as actual play on online sites is concerned, the average number of players will, for at least a while, remain lower than in recent years, but the average number of cheaters and scammers will likely rise. We probably won’t see any major inside scams like Absolute Poker and UltimateBet any time soon, but mid and lower-level cheaters using poker bots, collusion and other outside cheating techniques will increase their raids on online poker rooms.

Why am I saying this? Well, actually I am only using real world history to predict the immediate future of online gaming. Since the Great Depression of the late ’20s and ’30s, whenever there are economic struggles and hardships, financial scams proliferate. That’s because in these times people are desperate to earn money—and cheaters and scammers know how to find the ponds these people navigate in search of making money. Throughout history, one of those biggest ponds has been the gambling world, which nowadays makes the online gambling world prime territory for Internet savvy casino thieves.

In addition to outright cheating incidents, there may be other, more severe, problems plaguing the online gaming world if economic conditions don’t improve relatively quickly. That is, we could see (if online gaming revenues continue to fall) a dej√° vu of Internet gambling’s early days when a number of online casinos disappeared from the cyberworld without returning funds players had on deposit with their sites. This is not likely but could certainly happen if there is a major failure in the online gaming industry.

So, what’s my advice to you online gamblers during these times of financial crisis? It’s not to panic but to be vigilant when you’re gambling online, especially in the poker rooms. If you suspect cheaters at your table, whether you think they might be “botting” or playing in collusion, your best choice is to move to another game or another site. If you find that you’re continually losing even without suspecting you’re a victim of cheating, still do the same. It could equally be a spell of bad luck or some new online poker scam we haven’t heard about yet. And most important, remember: if you are suffering non-gambling financial woes due to the fiscal crisis, and surely lots of you are, don’t look to gambling, either brick and mortar or online, to bail you out!