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Best of Howard Schwartz

Gaming Guru

 

Author Exposes Cheating In Live Games and On the Internet

15 March 2006


Richard Marcus is no angel. He's been cheating in casinos and at poker tables for more than two decades. His first book, American Roulette, published three years ago, outlined how he scammed casinos at blackjack, craps, roulette and baccarat and was never detected. True, a book by an admitted cheat might have some credibility flaws in it, but this guy knows his stuff -- and it's been verified by some of the best cheat detectors in the business.

Now comes his latest, and clearly, one of the most controversial books to come along in years -- for players, the house, and gaming enforcement officials who should get a copy before the industry gets a big black eye.

Titled Dirty Poker (The Poker World Exposed), (267 pages, paperbound, $17.95), the book is hot off the presses (March 2006). If the author's name sounds familiar, you might have seen him on the History Channel's Breaking Vegas segment. Authoritative and arrogant, Marcus likes to live on the edge--he's not shy (his photo is on the back cover).

What Marcus tells us should scare hell out of the poker room industry and those who regulate and guard its integrity. It's no secret that poker games have been rigged; teams have ripped off innocents in private games for generations. You can go back to the days of Wild Bill Hickok (1870s) and even before, to the riverboat heydays (1850s) to find crossroaders (another word for cheats) with extra cards, holdout devices or slick-fingered dealers. The late great Johnny Moss once said he learned to cheat before he learned how to play (at age 14). "Dealing' from the bottom of the pack, dealin' seconds, usin' mirrors, markin' cards..."

Marcus is a new generation cheat, among many others who are on the move in casinos, card rooms, private games, in the U.S. and internationally.

His book is provocative and should send up a red flag to new players, those young Turks who made their money the easy way and think they're good enough to play with the big boys in Las Vegas, on the Internet or in cash games everywhere.

Marcus is able to capture the mindset, the thought processes of those who cheat or fantasize making a living through that dangerous "edge." He equates poker cheating to steroid use in sports. He seems to understand how the revenge factor works when applies to crooked dealers. Yet what makes the book fascinating is the re-creation of situations where collusion (signals to playing partners) has taken place with specific examples of positioning chips on cards or using verbal or non-verbal clues. Now you may understand better why card rooms demand only English be spoken at the tables. (The rule is less likely to be effective in Europe or Asia).

Aruba as a vacation spot might be nicer, but playing cards there was (and may still be) a dicey situation there. Lots of hanky-panky among thieving dealers there says Marcus.

Marcus details how "muckers" (palming cards in and out of play) and "switchers" work and how surveillance camera and management are blocked out of view during the moves.

He makes a good point -- that surveillance cameras in card rooms "only record the action" and pay little or no attention to players' hands. Marcus emphasizes correctly that casinos pay less attention to poker action because the house isn't being ripped off by cheats -- players are! The cheating he details is happening everywhere -- Nevada, Atlantic City, California.

He admits to having played with poker cheating teams, and spotlights a new twist being brought to the tables -- a marking daub sold for $5,000 for a small bottle, which comes with special contact lenses. The angle is that the daub or marking chemicals disappears within 30 minutes, so all evidence, should the card be confiscated, is non-existent.

Certain games are better than others to cheat at -- Omaha or the split games are better than straight hold'em says Marcus, and he explains why. Ironically "bad beat jackpots" are difficult to set up because a big hit gets lots of surveillance tape replay.

Because European casinos are less severe when cheaters are detected and caught, the climate remains ripe for future scamming adventures, Marcus says.

The book really rolls into high gear when he begins to discuss what the poker industry must fear most -- tournament cheating syndicates. The question is: Does cheating take place at world class major tournaments? Marcus says yes, but without detailing people or exact stages of tournaments. He outlines how syndicates, consortiums, partnerships are formed and how "chip dumping" (deliberately losing to a partner or pre-established team member) impacts the game and makes it so difficult for "outsiders" and satellite winners to make it to final day's action.

Proving "chip dumping" exists is obviously hard, but rumors of the procedure existing have circulated for years. Marcus offers no solution to this, perhaps the "Achilles' heal" of the entire poker industry.

Marcus outlines other areas of tournament play which need more attention by those conducting or promoting the action. This includes "chip doping" (which simply means during a break or between tournaments, chips are added to their bankroll from their pockets or handed off by a partner, in effect "re-arming their buddies."

He says ego and greed are motivating factors many professional players carry with them to the tables and he seems to get a little over-dramatic when he suggests poker has become "society's new hard drug."

One of the most important chapters in his book is sure to make waves. It's the section on online poker. The question is how secure the system is to ensure honesty. Here too Marcus says collusion has taken place and still does. He talks about concepts called the Scoop Monster; questions the RNG (random number generator) security measures; explains how poker robots are dangerous and suggests codes can be bypassed to display opponent hole cards.

Marcus' book should be a loud wake-up call to the poker industry, to online poker sites and to players who wonder if they are getting a fair deal no matter where they play. It's a must-read for all who love the game or operate a card room anywhere on this planet.
Howard Schwartz
Howard Schwartz, the "librarian for gamblers," was the marketing director for Gambler's Book Club in Las Vegas, a position he held from 1979 to 2010, when he retired. Author of hundreds of articles on gambling, his weekly book reviews appear in numerous publications throughout the gaming industry.

Howard Schwartz Websites:

www.gamblersbook.com
Howard Schwartz
Howard Schwartz, the "librarian for gamblers," was the marketing director for Gambler's Book Club in Las Vegas, a position he held from 1979 to 2010, when he retired. Author of hundreds of articles on gambling, his weekly book reviews appear in numerous publications throughout the gaming industry.

Howard Schwartz Websites:

www.gamblersbook.com