Saturday, May 16, 2009

Blackjack Card Counting...When Does the Casino Know You're Doing More Than Just Counting the Cards?

Most of you know that counting cards at blackjack has evolved into several more methods of advantage play over the dealer. There is hold card play, which allows players to secretly view the dealer's hole card, which gives them a solid edge over the house. There is Ace tracking, allowing the card counter to keep track of aces in the deck and knowing with a fair degree of accuracy when an Ace will be dealt to him, greatly increasing his chances of a blackjack for which he can be heavily in advance. There is cutting-and-steering Aces as well, where a skilled player can cut the cards a certain way that will result in his receiving a first-card Ace on the deal.

And, there are some other more blatant blackjack scams as well. Let's take a look at two of these, and how the casino catches on to them.

Blackjack Cheat Scam #1

Spill, Cut and Steer

A cheat receives and Ace on the deal. He then casually spills his drink on it. The casino will immediately remove the wet Ace from the game and replace it with another brand-new Ace from an identical deck. How does this replacement work for the blackjack cheat?

Well, assuming he spotted when the new decks of cards were loaded into the blackjack card shoe, all he'd have to do is wait after two shoes were dealt to spill his drink on the Ace. Then when the replacement Ace is inserted into the pack of six or eight decks, he would be able to distinguish it by the brighter white edge the new card would have over the rest of the cards when the dealer presents the pack for him to cut. In other words, the new Ace would stick out like a sore thumb. So then he will just cut the cards a specific number of cards in front of the Ace, depending on his position at the blackjack table. Believe it or not, most casinos are still not hip to this relatively rank blackjack scam, and when the cheat gets it down, he makes money by betting heavily knowing the bright white ace is coming his way!

How do casinos defense against this? First, they would have to know about it, and then they would have to replace the entire six or eight deck shoe!

Blackjack Cheat Scam #2

This one is an inside scam performed by a dealer with a cohort player, and it's a good one!

I am sure you have noticed that whenever the dealer has an Ace or a 10-value up-card, he slips the cards into a card reader built into the table that will tell him whether or not he has blackjack. This device saves the casino lots of time in speeding up the game and avoiding playing hands that would be nullified after the fact by a dealer´s blackjack. The machine also curbs dealer/cohort signalling scams because the dealer doesn't have to manually look at the hole card in these situations as he had to in the old days before the advent of card readers.

But can the dealer still perform an old-tine signal scam on today's modern card-reader equipped blackjack table?

Check this out:

If a hole card is placed in the card reader horizontally instead of vertically (the way it is supposed to be), the dealer will see the index value in the optic viewer if the hole card is a 10-value card. He can then signal this information to his cohort. Knowing that the hole card is not a 10-value card is also useful information in the scam. So, in both instances this dealer/cohort cheat operation can rake money off blackjack tables by increasing the accuracy and effectiveness of blackjack playing strategies, such as hit vs stand, split and double-down.

How do casinos pick up on this:

First, they will get suspicious when paying attention to the cohort's play. Once they see that the play deviates from basic strategy with a 10-value up-card, or they notice that the cohort has an uncanny ability to win on insurance bets, or not take insurance when the dealer doesn't have blackjack, they will look at the dealer's hand movements on camera. When the dealer slips the cards into the card reader horizontally rather than vertically, (and some of them can do it lighting fast in one motion, which of course ends with the dealer placing the cards proplerly into the reader vertically), certain hand and wrist movements are different and noticeable. Normally, dealers place their hand on top of the card, covering most of the card as it is placed into the card reader. Surveillance will look for wrist movements to spot the dealer placing the cards horizontally into the reader.

How often is this scam done in casinos? Not very, but Atlantic City was hit by this and some other card-reader scams in the late 90s and early 2000s. I would imagine that some reservation casinos are still being victimized by it today.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Another Inside Dealer Blackjack Cheat Scam Busted in Mississippi!

While the big inside dealer craps cheating trial goes on in Connecticut, another blackjack cheat dealer was very busy cheating her blackjack table in Mississippi. According to the casino, the blackjack cheat dealer, a woman, and her player accomplice beat the casino for almost ten grand in a single playing session. That is BIG money for a Mississippi casino in such a short period of time--probably too big. I bet that is why they got caught, looking to take too much cash too quickly. I don't yet know how the scam went down, but for them to beat the casino for ten grand that fast, I'm guessing it was a blackjack cooler, which is a deck prearranged for the player to win every hand that is switched into play for the original deck. The player then bets up to the maximum each hand. Problem with this move is that suspicious casino supervisors can call surveillance, who would have the deck switch on tape. So this is just another case of a dealer throwing her career away for a lousy percentage of ten grand.

Here's the news account of the incident:

A blackjack dealer and a patron at the Lighthouse Point Casino in Greenville, Mississippi were arrested and charged with cheating the establishment of close to $10,000 Tuesday afternoon. Shatawna Thomas, a dealer on a 21 + 3 table, and Renover White were picked up by Mississippi Gaming Commission officials and Washington County sheriff's deputies around 5 p.m. Both Thomas and White are from Greenville.

“This is still an ongoing investigation,” said John Gorman, enforcement branch director for the Central District of the MGC's Vicksburg office. “It was (Lighthouse) Casino surveillance that caught the action. They contacted us about what they thought was going on at one of their tables.” According to Gorman, Thomas is a veteran blackjack dealer. The pair allegedly amassed their loot in a relatively short period of time. “They were able to do what they did in less than an hour,” Gorman said. “It's highly unusual for someone to win as much as he did in such a short period of time.”

Thomas was arrested on the casino floor while White was apprehended as he attempted to leave the establishment with the money.

Gorman added that it had been some time since the MGC made an arrest in Greenville involving casino fraud (Can't tell you whether that means there hasn't been much cheating or the MGC enforcement agents are not that sharp). Officials for the Lighthouse Point Casino were not available for comment.

Litany Of Dealer Cheat Sob Stories Emerging From Connecticut Casino Cheat Trial

Lots of cheating casino craps dealers have been telling the court about various financial and divorce problems that had pressured them into participation in the huge Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun insider craps cheat scams, and I really do hope the judge takes their hardships into consideration. They are all testifying against the alleged mastermind, Richard "Mr. Cool" Taylor, who, by the time this becomes old news, will surely be cooled off if not totally on ice at some Connecticut state prison. Below is the latest news account of the trial:

Disgraced former casino employees have been marching up to the witness stand one by one this week to admit to a jury that they took part in a craps cheating conspiracy.
Mattie Tarlton of New London, a former craps dealer at Foxwoods Resort Casino, testified first as the trial began Tuesday in New London Superior Court. The sole caretaker of frail and elderly parents, Tarlton said she has made arrangements to send them to live with a sister in Maryland should she have to go to prison.

As the trial ended for the week Thursday afternoon, Chandler Alfred Jr. of Baltic was on the witness stand. Since losing his job as a dealer, Alfred said he has been doing landscaping work. The state has been calling the former Foxwoods Resort Casino employees to testify at the trial of Richard Taylor, a Memphis, Tenn., man who allegedly masterminded the scam. With high-level casino officials watching from the audience, the expressive Taylor staring point blank at them from the defense table and an inquisitive panel of eight taking notes from the jury box, the former dealers have detailed how they paid players for bets made after the outcome of the dice roll was known.

In one case, a supervisor admitted he scheduled dealers to be at craps tables so that they would be available when the so-called “shot-takers” came in to cheat. All of them said they accepted money for their services - $2,500 to $4,000 in many cases. Eleven Foxwoods employees and one Mohegan Sun dealer have been arrested and lost their jobs and gaming licenses as a result of the alleged scam. Their criminal cases are on hold pending the outcome of Taylor's trial. While each of the employees called this week said under oath that the state has not promised leniency in exchange for their testimony, one admitted Thursday that he thinks cooperating will help his case.

”I hope it gives me some consideration,” said Tony Leyko of North Stonington, a former dealer who described himself as “somewhat of a middleman” between Taylor and the other dealers. He explained that the cheating players received one third of the proceeds and that the dealers and Taylor each received one third. Leyko said he recruited other dealers and would meet up with the player after work to collect the money. Leyko, who loved being paid to “play a game” at the casino, also admitted on the witness stand that he had run a sports betting pool at Foxwoods. Since losing his job, Leyko has fallen back on a previous vocation, general contracting, to pay the bills.

David Kelley, who took a job as a security guard in 1992, the year Foxwoods opened, and had worked his way up to a floor supervisor position by the time he left in 2007, now lives in Florida and works part time, on weekends, with a company that organizes events. Kelley testified that he was making “a very good living” while working at the casino. Now, he said, his financial status is “horrible.”

Roger “Troy” Morris, another floor supervisor, has also moved out of state and testified that he, too, is having a difficult time.

Timothy Cahill of Norwich, a dealer almost from Day One at the casino, was working was assistant floor supervisor when the scandal broke. He now works in packaging at a Frito-Lay's plant. His voice shaking, Cahill testified that he had been “struggling” financially when he was recruited into the scam. ”I was in the middle of a divorce,” he said. “I needed money for lawyers.”

Alfred will continue testifying when the trial resumes Monday. The state is expected to rest its case by Tuesday.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

CSI Season Finale To Feature Poker Cheat Scam!

Tonight's Crime Scene Investigation (CSI) Finale will have a poker cheating scam at the center of its plot. I have no idea exactly how the poker cheat will play out in the episode, but I would bet my sweet ass that some poor old poker cheat is going to end up dead!...probably in a bloody bath of cards and chips. And I can't wait to see what the scam is and how the CSI sleuths are going to uncover it! The only thing I am disappointed about is that the shows producers didn't call me in to consult on the show. Well, I'll have to live with that, and I will certainly have comments about how accurately the poker cheat scam was depicted...whatever it is.

Slot Machine Cheat Scam Uncovered In Philippines!

There are lots of major casinos in the Philippines and lots of professional cheat teams visit there, most to assault Manila's baccarat tables. But earlier this month a Japanese slot cheat team was caught rigging machines in Manila and other Philippino cities with casinos. This is the firt time I have heard of Japanese casino cheats! Based on the outcome and short duration of their slot machine scam, it doesn't appear that they are much of a threat to the international casino community.

What's next? Japanese online poker cheats?

Here's the info on the slot scandal, although there are no specifics about how the cheat team put down its scam on the slot machines.

Parañaque City police have arrested and detained two foreign nationals who were caught cheating on slot machines in a government-operated casino. Immigration Commissioner Marcelino Libanan identified the two as Japanase Kasuhiro Watabe and Korean Kang Dong Mook. Libanan said the two have been detained at the BI Detention Center in Bicutan, Taguig City since they were picked up by police last May 7.

Probers said the two earned as much as $8,000 from their illegal activities inside a casino of the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor) in Barangay Sto. Niño, Parañaque. But it is believed they have scammed similar amounts from other Philippino casinos.

Libanan issued a mission order for the duo’s arrest after receiving information that they were about to post bail for the estafa complaints filed by the police before the Parañaque City Prosecutor’s Office. “They will undergo deportation proceedings for being undesirable aliens aside from facing the criminal charges that were lodged against them with the court," Libanan said.

PAGCOR officials had requested the BI to place the two in the immigration watchlist.

Okay! Watch out for them!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Notorious Online Poker Cheat JJ Prodigy (Josh Fields) Banned Again For online Multi-Accounting Cheating!

Most rational people learn from their mistakes. Other people, just don't seem to get it. Back in December 2007, online poker player JJ Prodigy, whose real name is Josh Fields, confessed and apologized for his actions which earned a ban from PokerStars and PartyPoker for multi-accounting.

In a highly publicized post on, Fields detailed how he had been playing on online poker sites since the underage of 15, offense number one. Curiously, his confession occurred just as he was about to reach the legal age to begin playing live events. At the time, many of his peers were skeptical at the timing of his announcement, believing that he was making a self serving attempt to get back into the good graces of the poker community just in time for his live participation. By and large, he was not viewed as being sincere though he vowed to change the public perception of him.

Subsequentially, he tried to play in some live tournaments, such as the Aussie Millions and PokerStars Caribbean Adventure. However, he was denied entry into the PCA because of the PokerStars imposed ban. Incredibly, in September of 2008, not even a year later, Fields was once again caught cheating online, earning him yet another ban. This time, Fields used the PocketFives forum to post another apology, stating:

"I would also love to say that I am not the poker god that I tend to be talked up to be on the forums ... It is unfair how highly I am looked upon as a poker player as well. No one should ever get some of the praises I get ... I assure you I will do everything in my power to amend my past and move on to a more ethical, aware, and self-understanding future."

Word has now gotten out that Cake Poker, in February of 2009 has banned Fields for multi-accounting for an incredible 3rd time. At present time, it is believed he is preparing to apologize once again though it is unclear who out there would actually believe him at this point.

At the very least, the case of JJ Prodigy does show that online poker sites are, in fact, taking cheating seriously now and are cracking down on players looking to give themselves an unfair edge over the competition.

Foxwoods Cheat Dealer Describes Craps Cheat Ringleader As Mr. Cool At His Trial

Everything about this guy who walked up to a Foxwoods Craps table with a harem of hot babes in tow seems so cool. But his scam wasn't so cool. When are casino cheats going to learn that inside casino and poker scams using various casino dealers or pit personnel will always fall flat on its face, and usually rather quickly. When I cheated a casino I worked for out of thirty grand on its mini-baccarat table, I was the ONLY person on the inside of the casino involved in the scam. My cohorts, who took the money off the table, and I got away scot-free!

Here's the dirt on the first day of Richard Taylor's trial:

Former Foxwoods dealer Mattie Tarlton said her first encounter with Richard “Mr. Casino” Taylor was memorable. Taylor strode onto the Foxwoods gaming floor with a full entourage of “beautiful women” and “big guys,” and promptly lost $12,000 in two rounds at her craps table, she testified Tuesday. He also paid a patron $500 to “go away,” she said.

“We were looking at each other like, ‘Who’s this guy?’” Tarlton said.

Taylor, 43, of Memphis, Tenn., is now on trial in New London as the ringleader in an elaborate cheating scam involving late bets with craps dealers. He faces multiple felony charges, including first-degree larceny and cheating while gambling.
The fidgety Taylor made an instant impression in the New London courtroom, eliciting a warning about courtroom conduct from presiding Judge Stuart M. Schimelman. Obviously the judge didn't like this guy's style of "cool."

Taylor had been scratching notes on a yellow pad, shaking his head in response to comments from the prosecution, spinning in his chair and passing notes to his defense attorney, Ralph Bergman. “I don’t want you to become a distraction,” Schimelman said. “You’re very dynamic in the way that you act. Tone it down a little bit.”

Tarlton started testimony Tuesday with a craps lesson for the six jurors, explaining basics of the fast-moving dice game. A dealer can help a player cheat by allowing a bet when the outcome of the dice is already known. She is one of several Foxwoods dealers charged as co-conspirators, who are all expected to testify for the state at Taylor’s trial. State police arrested Tarlton and about a dozen people as part of their investigation.

Casino surveillance first spotted Tarlton’s suspicious dealing late in 2007, when the investigation by state police began. Tarlton was allowing late bets to Allan “Big Al” Grossman, a player police said worked for Taylor. I imagine these late bets or "pastposts" were glaringly obvious and I wonder how Foxwoods surveillance let this go on for so long. How long did it take them to spot this???

Police said Taylor worked with other players and recruited dealers, using code words such as “strawberry daiquiri” or “hot chocolate,” to identify themselves when approaching a craps table. Dealers later met with Taylor outside the casino to accept payoffs, police said. Tarlton testified Tuesday that she received a $1,000 “tip” from Taylor at a Dunkin’ Donuts parking lot after their first meeting — even before she ever cheated. She described the buzz around the casino among dealers when Taylor returned to the casino in 2007. It was at the same time, she said, she started noticing other dealers making late bets for players associated with Taylor.

State prosecutor Stephen Carney plans to build his case around the testimony of dealers. “The state believes we will be able to link the conspiracy back to this defendant, Mr. Taylor,” Carney said.

The trial is scheduled to continue today.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Colorado Casinos Fear Cheat and Card-Counting Attacks With Increased Table Limits!

Poker rooms and casinos have long been a bypass for cheats and blackjack card counters because of their ridiculous $5 maximum bet. I once visted one of these casinos during a ski trip, and although it was situated in a beautiful valley surrounded by the Rocky Mountains, I could hardly take the casino seriously. However, on July 2nd, the state will allow betting maximums of $100, still not enough to generate the interest of major poker and casino cheat and card counting teams, but obviously enough to get Colorado casino operators worried.

The state, which by popular vote will allow higher stakes starting July 2, hopes to stack the odds against errors and cheats. Its casinos are turning to Las Vegas gambling veterans in preparation for an anticipated influx of higher-stakes players, cheats and card counters when bet limits rise statewide this summer.

They're bringing in people such as Jimmy Payne, the former boss of the high-limit pits at the Hard Rock and Bellagio casinos.

"If there's a $5 mistake, that really doesn't affect the bottom line too much," said Payne, now the table-games director for three Black Hawk casinos operated by Golden Gaming. "But once you start talking about the higher limits, a mistake could cost you a little bit of money. On roulette, you could have a $3,500 mistake."

On July 2, casinos will raise bet limits from $5 to $100, expand to 24-hour operations, and add craps and roulette-table games — all changes approved by Colorado voters last year.

Though the $100 limit won't attract "whales" — gamblers who may win or lose upward of $1 million in a single night — it will still lead to a new wave of worries for Colorado gambling officials.

The state Division of Gaming will require more cash to be available on the casino floor because of the higher limits. With a $5-maximum bet, most casinos are mandated to have $1,800 in cash on hand for each blackjack-table game. Regulators haven't finalized how much additional cash will be required under the new stakes, but they do know that bigger bucks bring on bigger scams.

"If the casino is going to be opened longer and there's going to be more money available, the potential for cheats is going to increase," said Don Burmania, a spokesman for the Gaming Division.

Card counters, who aren't a concern with a $5-maximum bet, are expected to show up. Casino officials also are concerned about "advantage players," or "cross-roaders."

"Those guys are the ones that concern me the most," Payne said. "A cross-roader is a guy who makes a living taking advantage of weak spots in the casino." An example of a common weak spot is a dealer who doesn't know the exact payout on every bet in games such as roulette or craps. Roulette and craps are two of the more complicated games in the industry.

The Colorado Gaming Division hired 13 new investigators and auditors to deal with the changes--and the cheats and counters. Several casinos are beefing up their staff by about 100 positions. Many have been filled with seasoned veterans familiar with craps, roulette and higher-stakes tables.

Jacobs Entertainment, operator of two Black Hawk casinos, has hired a table-games director from Las Vegas and 10 pit bosses who have worked in higher-limit markets, assistant general manager J.J. Garcia said. The Isle of Capri Casino in Black Hawk has also turned to veterans for many of its 100 new positions. Inexperienced dealers are being trained to spot common cheating methods such as "past-post" — when a bet is surreptitiously slipped onto the table after the outcome has been determined, such as when the roulette ball has dropped into the numbered slot. Casino managers are studying higher-limit "volatility" — or how much their wins and losses will swing on any given night.

"They're not used to players coming in and winning the kinds of money they might win with the increased limits," said Bob Hannum, a University of Denver statistics professor who will co-host a training seminar for casino officials in June. "The idea is to get a sense of it . . . so they don't get real nervous when they see a guy win $1,000 in a few hands."

Understanding the fluctuations can also help casino officials identify potential cheaters.

"One of the things they do to catch cheaters is look at the wins and losses and see if they conform to the mathematics," Hannum said. "If they don't, it's a red flag to start looking more carefully at the game."

My take on this: These Colorado casinos will get hit by many minor league cheat teams but the big guys won't bother--unless they want to pick up their expenses on the way to their ski vacations in Aspen and Vail.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Poker Dealer Cheats In Business For Themselves!

Yes, this is one aspect of cheating at poker that doesn't get much attention, but it ought to. We all know cheating goes on heavily at home games, but it happens more often than you might think in your local poker room or casino, whether it be in a remote location or in Las Vegas or Atlantic City. There are two basic ways poker dealers cheat. One is by having a confederate play in his game, where he manipulates the cards in that player's favor. The second is when he steals chips from the game (which is actually more common than manipulating the cards he deals) with some clever moves that are very difficult for surveillance to spot, even when they are zooming in on him. But in order to make up the difference to the casino, the crooked dealer has to make moves on YOUR chips, so be careful that you receive all the chips in the pot for your winning hands when the dealer pushes them to you!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Will There Be Any New Cheat Scams At The 2009 World Series of Poker?

This poker cheating question really needs to be asked in two different forms. One is "Will there be any new cheat scams at the 2009 World Series of Poker?" The other is "Will we HEAR about any new cheat scams at the 2009 World Series of Poker?"

I bet you see what I'm getting at! The answer to the first question is that there will most definitely be a new poker cheat scam or two. However, the answer to the second is that we probably won't hear about them because the cheats have to get caught in order for that to happen.

I think that if there are to be new WSOP cheat scams in 2009, they will most likely be in the neighborhood of team syndicates partnering up to get the top prize money, and then later, without a doubt, some dirty-dealing at the final table. I still am abhorred by the long time interval between the determination of the players who will play the final table of the main event and the actual play of that final table months later. That is nothing less than a four-month breeding ground for cheat scams.

As far as any mechanized cheating at the poker tables goes, it's very unlikely we will see it, and even if there is something to be seen, we won't see it because it will be very high-tech and not available to the naked eye. But don't panic, I still think we have a little time before card-marking lasers hit the WSOP!