Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Luminous Readers: The Alchemy of Luminous Inks and Dyes

There is no doubt that many have tried to make their own luminous systems by experimenting at home. The most usual approach is mixing various dyes and tints in an effort to make a luminous ink or daub. And this is precisely where the problem is: the word "mixing" has no place here. What the hell do I mean, right?

If you try to make up a luminous dye and you experiment by mixing stuff together, you're on the completely wrong track. Mixing will not get you closer to a solution, it will make it impossible to get the desired results. The more you mix, the farther you are from the solution.

But how is this possible. For sure some stuff has to be mixed together to make up a substance. Well, yes and no. The problem is that chemistry is a bit more complex than mixing stuff together in a test tube.

I obviously have to write the rest of this post without revealing any secrets, or solutions, for making luminous dyes. So, I can only speak in vague, general terms.

But, basically, the problem with mixing dyes is that it will yield a result completely opposite of what is desired. If you were to run a spectral analysis for a given dye you would produce a graph that would show some kind of curve. Again, without revealing an specs and number I can vaguely say that different inks and dyes (i.e. colors) will produce different graphs. Some graphs will have a jagged line going up and down like a stock market index (that's not what you want); others will have a low level, followed by a high hump, and then the line goes down to the low level (that's closer, but still not quite right); some graphs will have a couple of humps (that's not it, either); and so on. The graph that you want to see should look like a flat line that becomes a peak, just for a small portion (like a sharp spike) and immediately goes back down to the low level. That's the graph you want to see. The higher that spike goes, the better ink you have and the narrower that spike is, the better.

So, one does not achieve this by mixing two does together. In fact, by mixing various components together you basically a) lower the amplitude of the spike, b) you make that spike wider, c) you add more spokes all over the place, d) you stretch the very tip of the spike and make it into a line... and so on.

This should kind of make sense, right? So, I probably already said more than has ever been revealed on this subject before. I didn't reveal any specifications and I didn't say what kind of procedures one should do to achieve the desired results. But it is a sure thing that mixing dyes will never lead to any favorable results.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Chinese Gamblers and Traditional Cricket Fights

On my last trip to Hong Kong I found an interesting piece of gambling-related equipment, in an antique store. It's an antique cricket cage, used by gamblers to carry crickets to cricket fights.

Chinese gamblers are quite passionate about fights. Those could be thought of as miniature versions of cockfights or dog fights. The cage you see on the photo is about 100 years old.

I don't know much about cricket fights, but I do know that they are deeply embedded in the Chinese culture, especially in the southern parts of China, around Macau and Hong Kong. In fact, fighter crickets can be treated as celebrities. When a fighter cricket dies they are put into a coffin and there is a funeral ceremony -- no kidding! In Macau there is even a museum where there are a few cricket coffins on display, amongst other things.

Gambling is illegal in Hong Kong, which is why you will not find any casinos there. The only legalized form of gambling, in Hong Kong, are off-track betting parlors. And we all know that the Chinese like to put-down a wager. Here's a photo of a warning sign that is posted at the entrance of one of the Hong Kong Jockey Clubs.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Blackjack "Experts" from the MIT Blackjack Team

In a recent blog post BlackjackVT and The MIT Myth... I expressed some of my skepticism regarding the claims and expertise of the MIT Blackjack Team(s) that (as the story goes) took Vegas for millions.

So, what's the point of this post?

I just noticed a Google Ad for BlackjackVT "featuring" (i.e. name dropping) the MIT Blackjack Team (again). I took a screen shot of the ad and inserted the image here for your viewing pleasure. Check out the spelling of the word "blackjack."

It would appear that these blackjack "experts" couldn't even spell the word "blackjack" properly. Either that or they're just sloppy. In either case, this doesn't speak too highly of their attention to details.

Bottom line: if one wants to convince the world that they are experts at blackjack, they should at least make sure they spell that word correctly in their ads.

Also, I'm not really sure what "ACUTAL" means, but I think I can guess what they meant. I'm really glad they emphasized it in ALL CAPS, otherwise I may have missed it.

OK, I get it. They're math wizards, but they're just not 100% literate.

So, I'm just curious... When you see something like that, which word comes to mind? Experts? Or, charlatans?

Luminous Readers: Not All Glasses are Created Equal

In my previous post from the Luminous Readers series, titled Luminous Readers: Glasses vs. Contacts, I outlined the differences between luminous contact lenses and luminous glasses. In that post I expressed my opinion that glasses are by far superior than contacts. I stand behind that statement, however, there's more to the story. In this post, titled Not All Glasses are Created Equal, I will outline some of the differences between various luminous glasses. Because, as the title of this post says, these glasses are not all the same.

In the following picture you can see three types of luminous glasses. The first one is a pair of glasses that I picked up in Asia. The other two are the Black Predators, described in detail on my site, in the Marked Cards chapter. So let's have a closer look.

The Asian made glasses at the top are undoubtedly a big improvement over the old attempts at making luminous readers, by fitting spectacles with ruby red lenses. At least these glasses look somewhat normal. However, as you can see there is still a red tint that makes the appearance of these glasses not quite right. Technically, these luminous glasses work very well; i.e. you can see the luminous marks at the backs of the cards very clearly. But the thing that's not quite right about those glasses is the appearance. They are not deceptive enough, because something just doesn't look quite right.

The other two glasses are two variations of the Black Predators. As you can see, from first glance, the Black Predators make a much better first impression. They look more like regular glasses. I phrased that last sentence carefully, as I didn't say they look 100% like regular glasses. Since I am very familiar with these gaffs I can spot them right away, but to the casual observer these glasses look the same as any other sunglasses that poker players wear, nowadays, to conceal their expressions.

So, the pair of glasses in the middle are standard Black Predator Luminous Glasses. You put these on and you can see luminous marks on the backs of playing cards. These glasses look black to the casual observer, but they are not truly black. They just appear black; and their appearance varies depending on the lighting conditions.

As you can see, I took this photo by laying these glasses against a white sheet of paper. Also, the illumination is coming from all sides, more specifically, also from behind. This is the worst possible illumination to hide the true nature of these lenses. In a live situation, these glasses would be worn on someone's face, and due to the fact that the frames wrap around, there would be minimal light coming (or reflecting) from behind. So, in that situation, these glasses would appear darker than when they are just left lying on the table. Also, if the person wearing the glasses also happens to be wearing a baseball cap, there is really no chance that the lenses would look anything but black, to the outside world. But the prying eyes from behind the glasses see colors.

Furthermore, these lenses are gradated. This means that they are darker on top and lighter at the bottom. So, the user can easily adjust the lighting by discretely tilting the head up or down.

The most important thing that I should say about the appearance of these lenses is that their appearance varies greatly depending on the type of illumination. If you've ever used a video camera you know that you have to perform a white balance adjustment, so that the camera balances the colors correctly. If you forget to do that, the entire image may appear to have a blue hue, or a red hue, or green, or yellow, etc. The reason for the white balance is because all the lighting conditions are not the same, depending what is the light source. So, Black Predators will look different, even to the outside observers, depending on the type of light source. In some lighting conditions these glasses will appear to have a blue hue, in other lighting conditions they look reddish, and sometimes they look kind of purple. So, that is one of the inevitable imperfections, but that can be compensated by wearing the glasses tight to the face and eliminating some of the light by wearing a baseball cap. Of course, in some lighting conditions they appear just black.

The third pair of glasses is a Black Predator hybrid system. A hybrid luminous system uses a combination of both, glasses and contacts. In my previous post Luminous Readers: Glasses vs. Contacts I explained that one of the reasons why glasses are superior to contacts is because the glasses are gradated. By comparison, the contacts are just dark, so the person using them is stuck in the darkness. So, the hybrid system uses a pair of contacts that are a fraction lighter than the standard ones, and the glasses are also lighter than standard Black Predators, but they are still gradated. So, instead of being stuck in the dark, the user can adjust by tilting his head, take occasional quick peeks around the frames and even remove the glasses altogether.

Also, when a hybrid system is used right, the glasses alone do not reveal the luminous marks on the back of the playing cards, unless one is also wearing the contacts. It should be noted, however, that the work has to be put on the cards properly. If the work is too strong it can be seen without any glasses, or contacts. So, It has to be balanced just right, so that the glasses alone do not reveal the work, or at least don't make it apparent enough to be seen by the casual observer that happens to put these glasses on.

At this point, one may ask the most obvious question. So, which system is the best, standard glasses, contacts or hybrid?

In my earlier post Luminous Readers: Glasses vs. Contacts I've already explained that glasses are technically better than contacts, so I still have to answer which glasses are better, plain luminous glasses, or hybrids?

The answer is, any system that uses contacts will throw the vision slightly out of focus. So, even with a hybrid system you don't see as clear an image as with the glasses, or naked eyes. Also, although the contacts for the hybrid system are a bit lighter, they are actually still quite dark. So all the issues with contact lenses that I've explained in the previous post are still present - they are just a bit lessened, but still present.

In conclusion, no one can say which system is "better." After all, what does "better" really mean? These systems have all been developed by makers of crooked gambling equipment for the sole purpose of cheating at cards. If a system achieves that objective, without being detected, then we can say that the system is as good as gold. So, in my posts, I don't really get into those issues. I am only explaining the technical differences between various luminous systems.

There you have it. This is pretty much all I can think to say on the subject. But there's always more to be said on various related subjects.

This post would not be complete without at least mentioning one thing. Are you ready? Because what I am about to say has never been published before.

This post is titled Not All Glasses are Created Equal. But another thing is true, too: not all luminous systems have been created equal either. This issue, however, is something I will have to leave for a separate post. But now it should suffice to say that all the luminous glasses described in this post belong to the first group (or class) of existing luminous systems. This group of luminous systems is what's available to the general public. But there are two other groups of luminous systems that work on different principles and are generally not known to those that are not in the know. I won't spill all the beans, but in one of the following posts I will give you many details about those systems that have never been publicly discussed before. And the post will have some picture, too.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Is Poker a Game of Chance?

There's an ongoing debate about skill vs. chance in the game of poker. People (many much smarter than I am) have offered their takes on this issue, but there's no reason why I also shouldn't share some of my thoughts.

I was once present at a poker game when one of the player hit the nail in the head with a comment he made. The comment was made after one of the players had lost all of his money, and left. This player, whom I'll call Mr. Big, was a regular. And everyone loved him. He was a good tipper (so dealers loved him) and a consistent loser. He was a self-proclaimed "professional" poker player (as if I haven't heard that one before) but in reality his real income came from another, less "glamorous" source: a day job. As if there's any shame in having a day job, Mr. Big insisted that he was a pro. OK, fine by me. It was also fine by anyone else that played with Mr. Big on regular basis. After all, Mr. Big paid for everyone else's utility bills, rent, food... There was really no reason to hate him. Mr. Big was always a good sport and never really complained. But it was still amusing to hear him say that he was a professional poker player.

So, on the night in question, when Mr. Big lost the last dime he had on him (and probably had to walk home) one of the players said: "He doesn't play. He gambles."

I wish I had said that, because that's such a great quote. But honestly, these words came out of another person's mouth. But, regardless who said it, these words say it all.

It has been said that poker is a game that combines elements of chance and elements of skill. I guess this is true. But something else is true, too.

Poker can be played as a pure game of chance. "He doesn't play. He gambles," it has been said. And that is absolutely true. Poker can be played in such way that the element of skill is completely eliminated. In this case, the player (woops, I meant to say, the "gambler") has absolutely no chance of winning. Well, perhaps in theory this is not necessarily true, but what they say about theory is that, in theory there is no difference between theory and practice, but in practice there is.

What would that mean?

Let's take an analogy as an example. Mystery writer, Lawrence Block, once wrote a funny comment (paraphrased): what are the odds of a monkey playing with a typewriter and producing Hamlet? Well, I guess the odds exist, in theory, but we all know that in practice a monkey hitting random keys on the typewriter will never produce Hamlet, by chance.

Same goes for Mr. Big (or sorry, I just realized that I'm comparing Mr. Big to a monkey). Mr. Big, and many others that gamble at poker, will never win in the long run, because the odds against it are astronomical.

So, back to the question: Is poker a game of skill or a game of chance? Well, it can certainly be played as a game of chance, but it takes serious work to play it as a game of skill.

If you have a few minutes to spare you may also want to check my parody article, Poker is a Game of Chance, on the National Center for Irresponsible Gambling web site.

Friday, September 25, 2009

The Mott Street Poker Club; first reprint

Not long ago I made a couple of blog posts The Mott Street Poker Club; a rare find... and The Mott Street Poker Club; reprint available. Today the first reprint arrived in the mail.

I have to admit that I was quite pleasantly surprised at the quality, and the overall appearance of the reprint. As you can see on the photo, at first glance the reprint is not much different than the original. But that's just at first glance. The reprint has a glossy cover, of course, and does not show any real signs of aging.

I was at first a bit worried about how a new book would look, if the cover had a scanned image of an old book, showing all the wear and tear. It didn't look too good on a JPG image, but when I hold the actual book in my hands it looks good.

The inside pages also came out great. I managed to preserve the original page numbering and layout, and the illustrations are nice and clean.

So, now that this book is available, feel free to tell your friends. The original is still a desirable collectors' item but at least you can pick up a reading copy for the fraction of what the original would cost.

Go to the CARDSHARK Online BookStore for details. Reprint available in hard cover, paperback and also as a PDF download.

Luminous Readers: Glasses vs. Contacts

Due to the fact that I host the most popular crooked gambling site, CARDSHARK Online, I receive a significant amount of emails, from poker players, casino executives, professional card cheats and also from people with an academic interest on the subject of crooked gambling. After 10 years of running my site I've noticed that the inquiries can be quite repetitive, i.e. people always ask the same questions about the same things. The most popular subject of inquiries is luminous technology, more specifically, luminous contact lenses used to read the backs of marked cards.

Although I am happy that people choose to ask me about those contacts, I've reached a point in my life when I can no longer answer all these questions. So, instead of answering individual emails, I've decided to publish a few blog posts, on the subject of luminous readers, and go over all the details. In the future, I will just be referring all inquiries to these blog posts. I also recommend that you read the Marked Cards chapter on my site.

So, this post is specifically about Luminous Glasses vs. Luminous Contact Lenses. What are the differences? Which one of the two is a superior gaff? Why?

First of all, let me start by saying that glasses are by far better than the contact lenses. There are several reasons why.

First of all, glasses last forever; contact lenses do not. After a while contact lenses will get contaminated by fungus and bacteria and they will no longer be safe for use. Even if one attempts to sterilize old contacts, once they are past their expiration date, they are unsafe, because they can't really be sterilized. Why? Because old contact lenses will develop microscopic crackles on the surface and those crackles are the ideal breathing ground for all kinds of microbes. So, if you put such contaminated lenses into your eyes you are putting yourself at risk. You may (and most probably eventually will) get all kinds of nasty eye infections.

So, bottom line: contacts have to be thrown away after X number of uses, or after X number of days. How many uses? How many days? Well, that depends on several factors. First, it depends what material the lenses are made from. All contacts are not the same. It also depends how often you used them, how you handled them, how old they are and how you stored them, and at what temperature. No one can really say for sure, how long they last, but it is safe to conclude that they should be discontinued after one year.

Since glasses last forever, they retain a resale value. If one day you lose interest in this prop, you can simply sell it. In fact, once these glasses become antiques, their value goes up. By that time contacts will be long forgotten.

You can also share glasses with others. You can't do that with any contacts, because a) the contacts should be made specifically to your own eye measurements, and b) you risk spreading infections, by sharing contact lenses.

Furthermore, contact lenses have to be ordered specifically for the individual who intends to wear them. I will get into specifics in a follow-up post. But for now it suffices to say that glasses are more or less universal.

There's more. Luminous glasses offer far better results, and better control, than contacts.

In plain English, with the glasses you will see much better than with luminous contacts. The image will be by far clearer. By comparison, when you wear luminous contacts, your eyes will have a hard time focusing. Most people will actually not be able to focus fully and will constantly see a blurry image. That is one detail that no one bothers to mention, when you inquire about luminous contacts. But if anyone tells you differently, you can be sure that they are either a) not being quite honest with you, or b) don't really know what they are talking about (that's right, a lot of the guys that sell these contacts are just resellers and they've never actually worn them in their own eyes).

As I already mentioned, with the glasses, you have by far better control, than you have with the lenses. What does that mean?

Well, the contacts are really dark. This means that once you put them in your eyes you feel as if the light switch has been turned off. Yes, you feel the same way when you put the glasses on, but the difference is that when you wear the glasses you can always catch a few peeks from the side of the frames. Plus, the glasses are gradated (at least the Black Predators are) so by lifting or lowering your head you can adjust for more or less light. This is not possible with the contacts.

So, why is it important to have proper control over what you see? I'll give you two examples.

First of all, with a classic luminous system all reds are (at least partially) blocked. This means that when you are looking at the face of a red-suited playing card, all you may see is a faint impression of the red print. So, in plain English, a 7 of diamonds looks more or less blank. This actually depends on several factors: the specific luminous system used, the brand of playing cards and the illumination. But the bottom line is that once you have the contact lenses in your eyes you may not actually be able to see the faces of the red cards; or at least have to struggle to see them. By comparison, with the glasses you can just take a quick peek over the edge of the frames.

Another example becomes painfully obvious once the person wearing the contacts tries to use luminous daub. After all, the whole purpose of wearing luminous lenses is to see marked cards. So, cards can either be marked in advance (usually with ink) or on the fly (usually with daub). Well, if you mark the cards in advance you would most likely use glasses and you would take the glasses of, after marking each card, to see what the folks without the glasses see. The whole point is that others should not be able to see the luminous marks. But if the work is too heavy, it can be seen without any lenses. So, if you daub cards on the fly while wearing glasses, you can just take a quick peek over the edge of the frames, to inspect the work; make sure it's not obvious. But when you have contacts in your eyes, you have no idea what others see. Is the work too heavy? You have no idea.

On a side note, real professional card cheats work in teams, anyway. The guy that puts the work on the cards leaves the table before the guy with the contacts show up.

There are plenty of other reasons why luminous contacts are not as good as the glasses. For example, the glasses can be worn by anyone - but the contacts cannot. Why?

Well, when you step into a dimly lit room, your eyes adjust to the darkness by opening up the pupils. But every person is different, with regards to this. For example, my pupils never open up beyond 7mm in diameter, no matter how dark the room is. I tested and measured. But with some people their pupils open up much wider. I've even seen people whose pupils open up almost all the way to the edge of their irises. Those people cannot wear deceptive contacts. Why not?

Because deceptive luminous contacts are made in such way that the filters do not cover up the entire surface of the lenses. If my pupils open up to a 7mm diameter, I will make my contacts with the filters around 8.5mm. But people whose pupils open up much wider would have to wear contacts with filters that would basically cover up their entire irises. Their eyes would appear black.

Luminous contacts are more apparent when worn by people with blue eyes. So, the darker the eyes, the better these contacts blend in. That's why Asian people are the best candidates for contacts.

Then there's a whole issue with prescriptions. Some people require prescription glasses or contacts. So, the obvious question is, can luminous contacts be made with prescription. Well, yes and no. Or, it depends.

Not to get too deep into technical details, but once you put such a dark contact lens in your eyes you prescription is thrown far off. So, in some cases it may not even be possible to manufacture a pair of luminous contacts with proper prescriptions. The other problem is that contact lenses are actually made by licenses labs. In the US the labs are not allowed to make prescription lenses that are tinted beyond a certain level. So, US labs will not make prescription luminous contacts, because they would risk losing their licenses. In Asia, of course, the rules are different (or there are no rules) but before you get too excited about ordering from an Asian distributor let me share a story.

I have personally visited two outlets in Asia that distribute these contact lenses. I almost fell on my ass when I saw how these contacts were stored and handled. All the contacts are kept inside a jar, floating in some liquid. The liquid is all fogged up with stuff floating around. So, when a customer order a pair the guy just dips his fingers into the jar, pulls out a pair of contacts, puts them into a vial and squirts out some fresh contact lens solution into the vial. Plus, contacts distributed by Asian outlets are not made to individual measurements of customers. They are just mass producing a bunch of contacts, one size fits all. The problems is that one size does not really fit all. But I will tell you more about that in a separate blog post.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Basic Principle of Poker Cheating

Although this post is titled, The Basic Principle of Poker Cheating, the theory discussed here is applicable to any gambling games. So, it may appear that this post is titled incorrectly. However, due to the current popularity of Texas Hold'em I wanted to talk specifically about how it applies to poker. The theory described herein is the basic principle of the professional poker cheating strategy described in the blog post The Card Sharp that Came to Town, and all others.

So, what is the #1 basic principle of poker cheating? The fundamental principle that applies to any cheating strategy, regardless if we are talking about marked cards, bottom dealing, collusion, or any other specific cheating strategies. Well, the basic principle is the use of a mathematical advantage over the opponents.

Sounds simple enough to understand, but what does it really mean?

Regardless what cheating strategy is in use, all that the cheat is really working with is a mathematical advantage. It could be a very small advantage, or a big one. But that's really what it all boils down to: a mathematical advantage. Before we get into details, let's compare this "basic principle" with the basic principle of casino gambling, from the house's perspective.

We all know the saying, The house always wins, at the end! How so? Well, the "house" (i.e. the casino... any casino) has a mathematical advantage over their opponents (i.e. the players) so "at the end" (i.e. in the long run) "the house always wins" (i.e. the players don't stand a chance). Let's break this down into some easy to understand examples.

One of the easiest gambling games to understand is the good old coin toss. The coin can either land on heads or tails, so the players wager on the outcome of future coin tosses. The odds of the coin landing either on heads or on tails are 50/50. So, if we were to play the game fairly, the bank (or the house) would have to pay 1:1 (or $1 for every $1 wagered). This would make perfect sense from a mathematical (and moral) point of view. But from a gambler's point of view it makes no sense at all. Why not?

This game, played as described above, doesn't make any gambling sense simply because no one can ever count of winning, in the long run. If I want to be good at this game, there's absolutely nothing I can hope to do to better my odds of winning. If I wanted to open a gambling hall, it would also make no sense at all to offer this game. So, if I wanted to offer this game in a casino, I would have to introduce a house rule that would secure a profit, in the long run.

Now, let's say that I make it the house rule to pay .95c for every $1 wagered. What does that mean for the house, in the long run? Well, it means that every time a customer wins a dollar, I take 5 cents from that customer. So, if a customer wins 100 times, $1 at a time, I ended up collecting $5 in total, from all his wins. To earn $100 that customer would have to win a total of 2,000 $1 bets (or one single $2,000 bet).

With these rules, the house could not possibly lose, in the long run, as long as there are enough stubborn players that are trying to win. With the above example, any player with a $100 bankroll, will lose that entire bankroll after 2,000 $1 wins. So, you go to a casino with $100, you play $1 at a time, and after you win 2,000 times you have no money left. But of course, you cannot possibly win 2,000 consecutive times, so there will also be losses, which basically means that you're fucked.

Oh, did I say fucked? Sorry...

Now, I don't really think people are stupid enough to agree to these kind of house rules, for a coin toss. Of course not. And that is why you can't find this game in any casinos. But the basic principle of what I've just described applies to any bet you can make in a casino. In American roulette, for example, there are 38 numbers around the roulette wheel, but the house only pays 35:1 for straight-up bets; or 1:1 for outside "even" bets (and those bets are not really even since the odds of hitting are not 50/50, because of those two zeros; and if one wanted to replicate this with a coin toss, to eliminate those obvious .95c-to-$1 rip-off payouts, one would have to come up with a fatter coin that lands on its edge X% of the times).

So, the "house" (i.e. any casino) has a "small" advantage, and in the long run that is exactly what pays for the flashing lights, "free" drinks, cocktail waitresses, VIP service, and so on. If the house had as little as 1% advantage, the game is unbeatable. It doesn't matter how "small" the advantage is - a game with an advantage is unbeatable, in the long run.

So, hopefully I've explained this well enough. Now let's go back to that Basic Principle of Poker Cheating business.

A professional poker cheat only needs a "small" advantage to take anyone's shirt home, in the long run. It doesn't really take much, but if the cheat sticks to the strategy, no one stands a chance.

Poker is a lot more complicated than roulette, or a coin toss. First of all, since poker is a game of skill, the players are not equal; i.e. some already have a mathematical advantage, simply because they are better players. If a professional poker cheat has a regular "gig" against a bunch of tourists, he really doesn't have to cheat. Just playing a good game is pretty much the same thing. But who's got time for "the long run" since the suckers are gonna lose anyway, and a small additional advantage will ensure that one doesn't spend too much time getting to the only destination where destiny will take a good payer to (meaning their money in his pocket)?

There are many kinds of poker cheats and different kinds of cheats use different cheating strategies. All their strategies have one thing in common; that they all give the beneficiary some kind of advantage. For the cheats this advantage works exactly the same way as the advantage that casinos enjoy. This is, by any logical standards, an unfair advantage. In fact, this opens up the question: Are casinos actually cheating? Well, it depends whom you ask, but one thing is for sure: they are definitely not gambling. And neither are the professional poker cheats. This is quite a lot that casinos a professional poker cheats have in common, come to think of it.

So, armed with this advantage, professional poker cheats really don't have to do much, to ensure a steady income. Every cheating strategy is just some kind of advantage; some strategies have smaller percentages and some greater. But, just like casinos, if a player has as little as a 1% advantage over everyone else, no one else can win, in the long run.

So, exactly what do professional poker cheats do? The good ones certainly don't deal from the bottom of the deck. Bottom dealing, by the way, is also not a sure thing. Even if one deals himself three aces, someone else may catch a full house. But the mathematical edge is higher than in some cheating strategies that professional cheats use. But even in the simple example of dealing three-of-a-kind from the bottom of the deck, the percentage is not always the same, for all three-of-a-kind scenarios. Hold'em players should know that. If you have a set of 9s the odds that some lucky bastard beats you with a straight are greater than if you have a set of Aces (because a 9 on the board, as opposed to an ace, is open-ended. In any event, the real pros have subtle strategies that no inexperienced player really has much of a chance detecting - and absolutely no chance at beating. You can win a pot, but you can't really win.

For more detailed information on the subject of poker cheating you may also want to check the Poker Cheating chapter on CARDSHARK Online.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The Coin Toss: An Old Gambling Swindle

The coin toss is a very old gambling game. It is also an old swindle that is described in the classic gambling book, Sharps and Flats.

Those of you that are following my work know that I recently published the online edition of the book Sharps and Flats. My web site has the entire original text available. However, the web site offers an added value, because it also has annotations. This time I added some of my own annotation for the article on the Coin Toss.

The swindle that Maskelyne describes utilizes a beveled coin (as seen in the illustration above). In my annotations I am expanding on his description on the psychology behind this swindle and I also mention the use of another type of gaffed coin; i.e. a double-sided coin.

Please visit my site (link provided above) to read the entire article, along with my annotations.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Casino Innovations by The Clueless: Sic Bo

Anyone that's been around casinos in the past few years must have noticed that all the table games are becoming more and more equipped with high tech electronic gadgets. Perhaps the most prominent gadgets are automatic shufflers, but there are plenty of other gadgets, too.

Most of these innovations are developed with the intention to make casino games more secure. The problem is, sometimes, that a lot of casino equipment developers don't really know enough about casino game security. Some of these guys are actually clueless. Hard to believe, but true. As a result, these inventors sometimes come up with stuff that range from questionable to ridiculous.

Below are two photos of the latest "security feature" that one developer has come up with, to make the game of sic bo more secure. At first glance everything looks fine, but look closer.

What you see on the second photo is the inside of the cover that is kept over the glass dome, while the dice are being rattled. Look closely...

In sic bo, the dice are traditionally shaken before the players place their bets. As a result, sic bo has always been one of those games that attract professional cheats. I hope I don't have to explain why...

So, in the casino version of the game the dice are encased inside of an enclosure, to prevent anyone from touching the dice. The base of the enclosure is fitted with a vibrating plate that shakes the dice. Since the dice traditionally have to be shaken before the players place their wagers, a metal cover is kept over the glass dome while the dice are shaken and while the players place their bets. Then, the dealer announces, "no more bets," and removes the metal cover to revel the result. The weak point of the game, from a gaming security point of view, has always been the fact that the dice are already displaying a result, inside the enclosure, before the players bet. This is a unique feature of this game and I am not aware of any other gambling game that is played in this way. So, the dream of any sic bo player is to be able, somehow, to see inside the dome, through the metal cover. This dream may have been resolved by the company that developed the "security" equipment that you see on the photos.

On the second photo you see the inside of the cover. At the top of the cover, on the inside, you will notice a miniature video camera. This is a new "security feature" that is the pride and joy of the company that came up with this innovation. The idea is that a computer first takes a snapshot of the dice, after they have been shaken and stores this photo into a log bin. The computer is also equipped with a visual recognition software that is capable of reading the result. Thank God for that, because it really makes it easier on the croupier that no longer has to look at three dice and process all that complicated information (i.e. three one-digit numbers from 1 to 6) in his/her head. Now the computer does all the mentally challenging work for the croupier.

OK, so the idea is that the new "security equipment" prevents the dealer from changing the result, after the dice have been shaken. Huh! And how the ***k would the dealer be able to do that? Oh, right... I think there was some "scientific" research done in the 60's where they were testing subjects that claimed to be able to move objects with their minds alone. It takes concentration. Right! I think the ability to move objects with the mind is called telekinesis. Well, I feel so much better now that I know croupiers won't ever again be able to do that, in casinos.

OK, seriously, now. The guys that developed this "security equipment" obviously don't know the one most important historic fact about casino scams. Historically, all the significant casino scams always involved inside help. So, now they are equipping casinos with "security equipment" that is fitted with a camera that can see inside the dome. Good luck with that.

Friday, September 18, 2009

The Card Sharp that Came to Town

In my years of doing independent research on crooked gambling and running the world's most popular card-cheating web site, CARDSHARK Online, I've had opportunities to meet some pretty interesting characters, from all over the world. Sometimes I come to them, other times we arrange to meet somewhere (usually when I happen to be traveling to a town or country closer to where they live) and sometimes they come to see me.

Earlier this week I had the pleasure of meeting two very interesting gentlemen that came to see me. One of them flew in from out of state to order some equipment and the other one made arrangements to meet with me, because he happened to be in town. It is that second one that I want to tell you (just a little bit) about.

First of all, I didn't take any pictures of him, so the generic photo you see here is just window dressing for this post.

Of course, the guy has a name, but I will not tell you what it is, because the man is a professional cardsharp. More precisely, he is a crooked poker dealer - a card mechanic.

When card mechanics are portrayed in movies they are likely to be shown as people with incredible (and slick) hand skills, dealing cards from the bottom, switching cards, or entire decks, and so on. Although all of the above are possible scenarios, in real life, professional cheats prefer to stay away from much of the "fancy" stuff. In fact, most professional cheats don't really have much to show that would impress the average Joe. But successful cheats still have an arsenal of tricks that are guaranteed to secure winnings in the long run.

If you don't know much about gambling, consider this. The casino industry always manages to suck their customers dry, just by having a small mathematical edge over their customers. That mathematical edge, no matter how small it may be, is very significant in the long run, because it makes any casino games impossible to beat (unless one is doing more than just gambling). So, many professional card cheats operate on the same basic principle; i.e. they incorporate a secret strategy in their games that gives them an unfair mathematical advantage over anyone else. In the long run they can't lose, unless they get caught or come across someone other cheat with a better mathematical edge.

So, what is my "friend" doing to gain this mathematical edge?

Well, he is just collecting a fee, actually (so he really can't lose), but what he is doing to earn this fee is something relatively simple that gives some players the kind of mathematical advantage I was just talking about. Unfortunately, I am not at liberty to reveal all the details of his cheating strategy, but I do have permission to reveal a few of the details.

If you've never played poker, this will not sound like much. In fact, if you're not an experienced poker player, you probably don't even stand the chance of winning (even in the long run) with this strategy. But if you play poker on regular basis, you will know that this is money in the bank. So, here we go. The game is (no surprise here) Texas Hold'em...

Imagine for a moment that every time you were dealt a hand, you knew in advance that one of your two pocket cards (and you always knew which one) would pair up on the board (and you knew when). Do you think you could use that knowledge to your advantage?

Well, this is exactly what this guy is doing for his clients. In cardrooms where they employ house dealers, the dealer handles the cards on every round, including the cut. If you ask my opinion, it's idiotic that the dealer would be given that much control over the cards, at all times (they certainly don't do that in any of the pit games) but those are the rules pretty much everywhere in the world. I'm not complaining. I'm just saying that if you want my honest opinion, this rule is idiotic. If cardrooms just adopted a simple procedure that required the player on the button to insert the cut card into the deck (like they do in blackjack), they would eliminate 90% of the scams. But "they" don't really care about poker, do they?

Anyway... Our "friend" is able to do what he does best, precisely because the rules make it possible. As far as the outside world is concerned, all he does is shuffle, cut and deal. But many times there is a player at his table that knows which one of his cards will pair up on the board (and when; he doesn't do it on every round).

So, I've already revealed the most important detail of the cheating strategy that this professional cardsharp was kind enough to describe to me. To be honest, he didn't tell me everything I wanted to know, but I do know more that I am at liberty to say, at this time. It is as much as he agreed to let me post on this blog, so I'm afraid I have to end here.

Also, I know what town this guy is from and that is (as you may expect) yet another detail that I cannot discuss. What I don't know is who his clients are, but I'll know to look for them, now that I know more than I should.

Monday, September 14, 2009

The Mott Street Poker Club; reprint available

I recently blogged about finding a copy of a rare 19th century book, The Mott Street Poker Club. Well, I got right down to work and I put together a reprint edition which I made available through my new CARDSHARK Online BookStore. The reprint is available in hard cover and paperback.

You may not be able to find an original copy, but at least you can have a reprint for a fraction of what the original would cost you.

If you are a serious poker player, or if you're just interested in the history of gambling, this is definitely a book you should read.

Friday, September 11, 2009

The Mott Street Poker Club; a rare find...

A few days ago, I picked up a rare historic poker book, The Mott Street Poker Club. The Mott Street Poker Club is a book about a poker club in New York's Chinatown. The text is full of racial overtones and does not really portray Chinese immigrants in a positive light.

The Mott Street Poker Club has been published in several slightly different editions. The one I managed to find had been sold to me as the "true" first edition. I was told that the first edition was published in 1888 by William Paterson, and the second edition, by White & Allen, in 1889. Here's a photo of the book I just purchased. (Bummer about the water damage, but at least the inside is clean).

If you read between my lines you are probably sensing that I may not be fully convinced that my copy of The Mott Street Poker Club is a true first edition. This is why I say "I was told," instead of phrasing it as if I'm stating a fact. Well, I am not convinced this is a first edition. In fact, I am convinced that it is not. And if you think you may ever be in the market for this rare book, you may want to read my thoughts on the subject.

On thing that we know about this book is that it's about a poker club in New York City. This being said, it would be safe to assume that it is very likely that the book was first published in New York. So, let's take a closer look at the cover.

The first image is a scan of a White & Allen edition, and the second image is a scan of my book.

One detail that stands out to my eyes is the publisher's inscription at the bottom of the cover. The White & Allen edition indicates that the book has published in New York, in 1888, while the William Paterson edition (the book I picked up) says Edinburgh and London. Just that detail alone would tend to suggest that the White & Allen edition is the true first. But there are a few other details that support my theory.

Look at the way "White & Allen • New York" is written. Now look at the way "William Paterson • Edinburgh and London" is written. See the difference?

The publisher's name White & Allen is part of the original illustration, by Michael Woolf. The letters of the publisher's name are illustrated inside of a sequence of playing cards, strung along the ponytails of the two Chinese men. This is an elaborate drawing, undoubtedly done by the same artist made the original illustration of the cover. Same goes for the word New York. All of those credits look like they are part of the original illustration.

On the William Paterson edition (which i was told is the true first) the lettering is a font. It looks as if the original credits "White & Allen • New York" were cut-out and replaced by a font that says "William Paterson • Edinburgh and London".

There is another detail that's an eye sore. What is that numeral "1/-" at the right side, all about? Perhaps the price? whatever it is, it was slapped on carelessly on top of the illustration that was so carefully done by the artist. You can actually see a ghosting of what looks like may have been the edge of a paper, onto which the "1/-" was written, that covers up part of the original illustration. Look at the lower left corner, of the ghosting, at the side of "1/-".

So, the book had been sold to me as a first edition, by an antique book dealer. I'm no expert at antique books, but a quick observation (and a Google search for an image of the cover) tells me that this is not the first edition. Whatever... I can still take some pleasure in owning this book.

One interesting thing about this book is that the author's name is not mentioned anywhere in the book. The author (I'm told) is Alfred Trumble. I was able to verify this on the internet, but the skeptic in me tells me to keep checking. In any event, very little is known about Alfred Trumble except that he wrote several unsigned pieces for Fox's "Police Gazette."

The book has 50 pages with black and white illustrations, mostly depicting gambling scenes from the poker club. The poker club itself is situated inside of a Chinese-owned laundry.

Since this is a rare book (early editions are very rare, but other editions are more common) I actually have plans to dedicate a web site for it. The site will have the entire text, with some annotations. I also plan to publish a reprint. Due to the fact that the book is now in the public domain, I can do that.

I'll keep you posted...

Counterfeit Casino Chips at the Wynn Macau

Casinos have come a log way in combating counterfeit chips. Nowadays many casinos have equipped themselves with RFID technology, which is supposed to put an end to many of the scams involving manipulation and counterfeiting of casino chips. However, despite the RFID technology, counterfeit chips were still discovered at the Wynn Casino in Macau. How is that even possible?

First let's start with the news report that was published in the Hong Kong Standard and in the Macau Daily Blog.

According to these articles, six Chinese gamblers were nabbed at the Wynn Casino for passing counterfeit chips. Unfortunately the news articles are quite badly written, unclear and poorly researched, so it is hard to make much sense out of them. According to these articles these Chinese gamblers (for the mainland) were caught with a total of 38 high-denomination counterfeit chips, valued at HK$10,000 (US$1,290). They've already managed to pass 16 of them, but were then caught because they (allegedly) tried to pass the 22 remaining chips. What is mind boggling is that the chips even made it passed the gaming table(s). According to the news articles the gang managed to pass the 16 chips all the way to the cage, where they were later detected thanks to (I quote) "a more delicate detector in the cage." What's that all about? Casinos use less delicate detectors on the tables, but are equipped with "more delicate" detectors in the cage? Nonsense! There's not such thing as a less delicate and/or more delicate RFID detector. These detectors are just standard RFID readers that are all connected to the one and the same central database, run by one piece of computer software.

The article also mentions that the chips managed to pass infrared detectors. Well, in this day and age infrared stamps are no longer the most secure feature, due to availability. Also, at least in theory, there should be absolutely no reason to add infrared identification technology to casino chips that are already fitted with RFID tags. This would be like putting a tattoo on a child, so that his mother could recognize him. So, due to the mention of infrared stamps we may be lead to believe that the gaming tables at the Wynn are not fitted with RFID readers. Perhaps the tables are only fitted with infrared readers and the cage is the only place that's equipped with RFID readers. How else could RFID chips possibly go past the tables? But this is just speculation, based on an article that is clearly not well-written.

Further down, the article says, "detector in the casino cage found the 16 fake chips, which contained lower-value microchips." This makes no sense, either, if the gaming tables are fitted with RFID readers. RFID readers work in such way that as soon as a chip, or a bunch of them, are placed within reach of the reader, the system detects which chips they are. RFID tags work in such way that each and every chip has its own unique ID, like a fingerprint. So, the exact same RFID tags are used for any value chip, but since each RFID tag has its own unique fingerprint, the software checks each ID with the database and immediately determines exactly which chip it is - not only the value of the chip, but also the exact ID of the chip. So, if a chip has been placed on the layout, the system knows the entire history of that particular chip, i.e. which table it came from, when was it last in the cage, how often was it wagered, etc. So, in other words, if one were to take a white chip and paint it black, the croupier may see a black chip, but the system would read it as a white chip. Nothing would happen until the croupier tried to pay a winning wager (in the event of a win). At that time, the system would detect that the croupier is overpaying a winning wager, even if the croupier had no idea that the wagered chip was a fake. Basically, RFID systems in casinos are set up in such way that these discrepancies are immediately detected at the table, in real time, when transactions are made. So, there is no way that a fake chip could ever get passed the table and make it all the way to the cage.

This also means that it is virtually impossible to make a fake RFID chip from scratch. Even if one were to fabricate one, and install the exact same RFID tag inside the chip, the fake chip would not pass. The only way it could pass is if someone on the inside had access to the system. This person would have to enter the fake ID into the database, so when the fake chip showed up anywhere where the readers are used, the system would have no idea it was fake. Since, historically speaking, most casino scams always involved inside help, this is not a purely theoretical possibility. There is no such thing as a 100% foolproof technology.

So, what conclusion can we make from the news article? The only conclusion I can make is that the gaming tables at the Wynn are not fitted with RFID readers. Either that, or the person that wrote the article didn't have his/her facts straight.

Now, this all brings us to the question, can RFID technology be defeated by professional casino cheats? The short answer is, anything's possible.

One of the early scams involving the manipulation of RFID chips never made it to the gaming tables. What I mean is that the companies developing RFID technology, for casinos, already thought of this scam, and took measures to prevent it, before the cheats had a way to test it in casinos. This hypothetical scam involved the use of a counterfeit chip, not fitted with any RFID tags. So, how would it even be possible to pass such a fake?

First, let us understand how RFID readers work, on gaming tables.

On a baccarat table, for example, the players are seated around the table, placing their wagers into the betting areas. Each and every betting are is fitted with a reader, under the cloth. When any amount of RFID-tagged chips is placed on top of that reader, the reader picks it up. But, here's the thing... The chips don't have to be placed literally on top of the reader. The reader actually picks up an RFID tag anywhere within the range of that particular reader (or RFID tag). This means that the reader would idea if an RFID chip had been placed under the table. Since the players are seated all around the table, any player is in perfect position to place a genuine RFID chip on his knee and press it against the bottom of the table, right under the reader. The reader picks up the information and tells the system that such-and-such chip has been placed down as a wager. This only makes sense if the player places a counterfeit chip on top of the table, at the same time. So, this would be done by mixing-in a fake chip amongst one or two genuine chips, on top of the table, while pressing a genuine chip against the bottom of the table, at the same time. Visually, the dealer sees that the player wagered three chips (for example) and the reader also picks up the same information. So, if the wager wins, the dealer pays the player the appropriate amount in genuine chips and the system doesn't know that one of the chips was a fake. But if the wager lost, the dealer picks up a fake chip.

Here's the problem.

First of all, some casinos also use RFID readers inside of the chip tray. So, if a wager lost, the discrepancy would be detected immediately, as soon as the dealer placed the losing wagers into the chip tray. But, RFID technology is sold as optional features. This means that a casino can pick where to install the readers. In theory a casino could opt for having readers under the betting spots and no readers under the chip tray. It boggles the mind why any casino would ever consider such option, but (at least in theory) anything's possible.

But even if a gaming table in some casino is not fitted with RFID readers in the chip tray, there is another problem. If a fake chip ends up in the tray, it will be detected as soon as the dealer uses that chip to pay any legitimate winning bet. So, the lifespan of this fake chip may be very short.

But as I mentioned before, the developers of RFID technology already thought of this hypothetical scam, so they came up with a solution. All the RFID enabled tables have shields under the readers. So, if you place a genuine RFID chip under the table, the reader doesn't pick it up.

Are there any other possible scams that involve RFID chips? Well, I am told that many casinos that acquired the RFID technology have had problems with it. I even know one actual casino that disabled their RFID readers because they had too many problems with the technology. I know which casino it is, but I will not divulge the information here. It would seem that the RFID technology works well in laboratory conditions, but when it hits the casino floor there are bugs that slow down the operation. And in casino land, when you slow down the tempo, it is the long term equivalent of shutting down the joint a few weeks in a year. And a casino that is not open for business is losing money; losing by not wining to its full potential. And since casino business is all about money, some have come to the conclusion that the cost of RFID technology goes beyond what they pay to acquire it.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Cambodian Gamblers

Here are some photos I took in Cambodia, last summer, of various gamblers in and around Siem Reap. I have a lot more photos in my bulletin board, along with a detailed report, but in a nutshell, here you see some card players gambling at an open air market, pool players playing a game that combines pool and playing cards, and some gamblers playing baccarat against a robot, in a casino.

In Cambodia there is a law that says that casinos are not allowed within 200km from Phnom Penh, the capital. This is why you see a robot dealing baccarat in the photo above, that was taken at the Soho club in Siem Reap. To get around this legal restriction many places that are within 200km from Phnom Penh are equipped with automated games. So, technically-speaking, these places are not real casinos. However, in February 2009 the prime minister of Cambodia ordered all the automat casinos to shut down. This literally happened overnight. This new law did not affect any of the regular casinos.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

BlackjackVT and The MIT Myth...

Well, those of you who know me probably also know by know that I'm a skeptic by nature. When it comes to the "legendary" MIT blackjack team, what it all boils down to is that I believe the stories as much as I believe that Mona Lisa was a man.

First, there was the book Bringing Down the House, by Ben Mezrich. Although this book cannot compare with truly great literally works, such as Harry Potter, I'll admit that it was still a pleasant and enjoyable read. But that's all it was. Just because I thought the book was entertaining it doesn't mean that I necessarily believed the stories. But at the time, my stand was along the lines of: there must be some truth it is, but the claims are probably exaggerated to some degree. Basically, like a guy saying, "I caught a fish THIS big!" OK, I believe you caught a fish, a big fish, but perhaps it stayed bigger in your memory than it actually was in reality. That was more or less what I thought of the MIT stories at the time the first book came out. But then came the second book.

The sequel to the great MIT story was Busting Vegas, also by Ben Mezrich. This follow up book was undoubtedly supposed to top the first one; otherwise, why bother writing a follow up book? I'm sure opinions will vary, but if you ask for my opinion the book miserably failed in that attempt. Unlike the first book, the stories in the second one were not even believable. I'll agree that it revealed a few interesting ideas, for those who are completely unfamiliar with what kind of trickery may be attempted in casinos, but overall, the book was unconvincing. Perhaps one day I will write a more thorough review and get down to a few detailed examples, to explain exactly what I men. But that would require more time than I am willing to spend right now. So, for now, I will just summarize it in one sentence: stories for little kids.

Of course, these books provided the perfect foundation for the people involved in those adventures to try and cash in on the fame. That's where the real money is - not in casinos. So, shortly thereafter, Semyon Dukach, the hero from Busting Vegas, started selling blackjack training seminars, i.e. teaching people how to make some serious money from casinos, by counting cards and playing perfect basic strategy. He came up with a DVD set (of which only volume 1 ever came out), put some videos (from his own DVDs) on YouTube and launched the site Although Semyon looks like a decent fellow, and he does know a thing or two about the theory of blackjack, I wouldn't rush to him with my wallet in my hands, throwing money at him, to teach me how to take-down the casinos. Not to mention, I can't imagine myself every being tempted to test out his theories in a real casino, sitting behind a pile of casino checks that I'd purchase with my life savings. Cause I don't know if I'm gonna catch a 10, when I double-down on 11, but I think it's a pretty safe bet to say that Semyon will not give me a refund in the event that I lose my shirt at blackjack, even after following his strategies to the T.

Anyway, good luck to him...

Semyon is not the only MIT blackjack celebrity that is trying to cash in on his fame. Other members of the legendary MIT team have popped up like mushrooms, in the past few years, all claiming to have the perfect system that will make you rich. Another things they all have in common is that they've all "retired" from the business of card counting and they all have "valid" reasons to tell us all how it's done. Let me ask you one thing? How many Warren Buffetts, Bill Gates', Stanley Hos, JP Morgans, John D. Rockefellers and the likes do you see running around the world, offering seminars on how to make money they same way they did it? Of course, real millionaires don't have time for that kind of nonsense. Not to mention that I can't really think of one reason where they would get a motivation to do such a silly thing. Are you kidding me!

Of course, you may see Donald Trump come up with a get-rich-quick course, but don't put Donald into the same group as Warren Buffett and Bill Gates. If you want to know how Donald really built his "empire" I can recommend the book Temples of Chance, by David Johnston.

Members of the legendary MIT team will probably try to cash in on their reputations for as long as they are able to. One day they will probably run blackjack courses from various retirement homes where they'll all be living (oh, you don't expect them to live out their old days in villas and mansions, do you?). But the latest attempt at squeezing a few bucks showed up the internet, recently, in the form of a web site BlackjackVT.

BlackjackVT stands for Blackjack Virtual Training. I'll admit that the site has a slick look. But that's all that the site is -- just a slick looking Dot Com.

When you visit the site you can click on the circular arrow and a flash video player will bring the static image of Dave Irvine (who???) to life and he will begin by saying, "...can you imagine winning $5,000 or more this weekend, playing blackjack?" He then continues by telling us the same old story over and over again. I just can't figure out why such a smart guy, such as Dave Irvine, would be so dumb not to figure out that he can make more money, from his system, by employing a team of people to rip the casinos apart for him, while's he's drinking margaritas on some beach and banging chicks? No, Dave Irvine is a modest guy. He's made his money, now he's had enough of the good life and he wants to share his know-how with the rest of the world. He decided, he doesn't need more money. These are all typical syndromes of rich people. Of course, he doesn't really explain why he doesn't just do his winning blackjack training seminars for free, now that he doesn't need any more money.

I looked around that BlackjackVT Dot Com site and I must say that it was really painful to watch through all those infomercial videos. There is even a video interview of some dude that (claims to have) worked in one of the casino surveillance rooms, at the time, trying to (and finally managed to) bust the blackjack team that ripped Vegas apart.

Speaking of the surveillance guy, some details caught my attention while I was reading his bio: "Dave Rapp has worked in casino security for over 25 years..." and "...provides a never before seen view into what security did to counteract the MIT Team..." and "...Casinos have had security scrutinize Mike and Dave's play..." Note the use of the word "security" instead of "surveillance".

What most people don't know (and apparently the experts that put together BlackjackVT Dot Com fall into the same category) is that in most casinos "security" and "surveillance" are two different departments. Casino security are the guys you see walking around the casino floor; casino surveillance are the guys that monitor the activities from the surveillance room, i.e. the famous eye-in-the-sky guys. It would have been nice if the folks behind BlackjackVT Dot Com knew this distinction and used the proper term in the bio of a (supposedly) ex casino surveillance expert.

In any case, all the interview, or better say scenes from the infomercial, are totally unconvincing. I don't consider myself an expert at psychology, but I think I can pretty much tell when someone doesn't even feel comfortable in his own skin, telling a bunch of lies and stories that never took place. That's the first impression I get from watching the interviews.

If you take the time to watch through all those video infomercials you may get the impression (like I did) that they are trying to sell a bunch of outdated "winning" strategies. Casino procedures have much evolved and the infomercials don't exactly leave me with the impression that their course is much up to date. You may probably learn much more from reading a 1970s book on card counting, than you'll learn from this course. Well, at least that's the impression I get from their infomercials.

On a related note, this morning I received a spam email from PokerVT. I already bombarded their inbox with one hundred nasty replies, but I also checked out their site (or better say, their home page).

It is obvious that the same company is behind both sites (there's even a link from one to the other). I did not look deeper than the home page of the poker site, but I get the idea. The blackjack site left enough of an impression on me to know what to expect from the poker site (although I must admit that I personally like Daniel Negreanu much better than the guy they used for the blackjack site).

It is quite apparent that this company is in the business of putting up various VT sites for various gambling games. The company is in fact called Lightspeed VT. However, for an internet company, it would seem that they don't really have a vision.

When Obama and McCain had one of their debates on TV, McCain said something about a plumber. The third time he said the words "Joe the plumber" I jumped right on the internet to check if the domain name was still available. It was not. Later there was some talk that the domain name sold for a few bucks.

Anyway, for a company that already put out two sites and it is surprising that they didn't realize that the next logical step is Well, I jumped right on it and checked for, and The first was taken, but the other two were available. So, instead of putting down 15 bucks in red I used that small change to purchase those two available domain names. What do you think is a better bet, on "red," or purchasing two domain names?

I have to tell you that is still available as I write this. So, if you feel like being a speculator, feel free.

This post first appeared on the CARDSHARK Online bulletin board.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Don't Miss The Cheat from the Louvre

If your home base is in or around Atlanta and if you have any interest in card cheating and crooked gambling, there is an opportunity for you to see the masterpiece The Cheat with the Ace of Diamonds, before it is sent back to the Louvre.

This masterpiece was painted by famous 17th century French painter Georges de la Tour (1593 - 1652). The Cheat is normally exhibited at the Louvre, but it arrived to the High Museum of Art Atlanta ( on February 17th. It will stay there until September 13.

The painting depicts a gambling scene. A card cheat is seen in the act of fleecing a young dupe out of some money, at a game of cards. The cheat seems to be teamed up with two women, serving wine and doing whatever it takes to distract the young gambler while the cardsharp is doing his business. Gambling has always been popular in all societies and often frowned upon; and same goes for other vices. So, thematically, this painting depicts the three popular vices of 17th century France: gambling, women and wine.

As it turns out, I was in Paris this past December/January and I had the opportunity to see the painting at the Louvre, so I don't need to go to Atlanta to see it. I also happen to have a few photos of The Cheat I've taken at the Louvre. Here you can see The Cheat "at home" (center) surrounded by other 17th century French paintings.

In the following few photos you can see it a bit closer.

Note, in the last image you can see that The Cheat is not the only gambling-related painting on display in that room. On the adjoining wall you can see a painting picturing backgammon players. Here's a better shot.

So, The Cheat leaves Atlanta next week, and it would really be a bummer if you missed it. But for those of you who can't make it, here are a few close ups.

Also, I have a pretty good description of The Cheat with the Ace of Diamonds on CARDSHARK Online, in the Art History of Cheating chapter.

And finally, in case you don't know this yet, Georges de la Tour produced a similar painting that is on permanent display at the Kimbell Art Museum, in Fort Worth, Texas ( titled The Cheat with the Ace of Clubs. Here's a photo of that one, too.

The Kimbell Art Museum is also home to yet another painting that portrays a gambling scene, or more precisely, a scene with a card cheat: Caravaggio's masterpiece, The Cardsharps, which is actually the most influential painting of a gambling scene, in history. Here it is.

So, anyone with a serious academic interest in gambling should take the time to see these masterpieces, at one time, before it's too late.

If you happen to be in Paris, after September 17th, you can see The Cheat at the Louvre. The Louvre has a total of 8 miles of rooms corridors and it's easy to get lost, so here's a map.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Learn Bottom Dealing

I am finally glad to announce that I've finally put together a tutorial for bottom dealing. You can access this tutorial through the Tutorials of Card-Cheating Techniques page on my site. You will need to have an active membership account to access the tutorial, however. If you don't have a membership yet, they are only $5.95 per year, which is a really bargain price. Also, the membership will allow you to post on my bulletin board, which I maintain daily and answer all reasonable questions that any of my members have. Not to mention that you may get a lot of answers and tips form other experts and peers.

The bottom dealing tutorial is really elaborate and detailed. I took my time to make eight clean-line illustrations (such as the one you see in this article) and I really think that I've explained all the relevant details.

There are many kinds and variations of the bottom deal. The bottom deal that I describe in this tutorial is the deal that I do, using the master grip, which is, in my opinion, superior form the more common Erdnase grip.

Check it out...