Sunday, November 29, 2009

Luminous Readers: Research and Development

In the development of marked cards one must keep very detailed records. Most experiments will be failed ones and some experiments will appear successful, at first, but will turn out to be failures at some future time.

This post is about the development of luminous readers and in the photo below you can see one of the experimental lenses I keep in my archive. This is one of the two boxes that are filled with all the experimental products that were used in the development of some luminous systems, including the Black Predators.

The other box is also safely stored, but there is no reason to show it here, especially because it may contain some clues that I don't really feel like proliferating. So, let's go over some details.

First of all, none of these lenses are commercially available anywhere. In other words, those are not some lenses that were purchased and assembled for testing. All of the lenses in this box were custom coated for the specific reason of researching luminous systems.

All the red lenses you see are variations of the red-lens system, which is (as I'm sure you are aware of) the most common luminous system for marked cards. I want to emphasize that most of these are failed experiments, but nevertheless, these are part of the original archive of all the experimental pieces produced during the research and development.

You will notice some blue lenses, too. Well, there are several kinds, and only one of the blue lenses in this box work for the blue lens system that I've described in the Luminous Readers: Not for The General Public post.

In the upper right corner you will see a pair of lenses that appear black. Those are both finished lenses for the Black Predators. They just need to be cut for whatever frames and they are ready to go.

On the left side of the cover you will see a mirror. This is a luminous filter with one-way mirror coating. This particular piece is flat, but the same can be done on a curved lens.

And finally, you will notice a pair of clear lenses. No, those are not what I would assume most people may think of, in the context of this post, but they are part of an ongoing experiment that I am pretty certain no one can even think of in their wildest of dreams. There is nothing I can say about this ongoing experiment, at this time, except that the system borders with science fiction. If I even explained how this system works most intelligent readers would think I'm some kind of a snake oil salesman. But one day (don't ask when) this system will be known to some people; and I guess in future times the information will spread, just like any other information out there (with all the misinformation and false speculations).

At the beginning of this post I said that some experiments will appear successful, at first, but will turn out to be failures at some future time. What does that mean?

Well, some chemicals are kind of unstable. So, when one is developing solutions for marked cards one must keep in mind that what appears to be good today may look very different tomorrow, or in a few days, or in a few week, or in a few months. And sometimes, like the old nitrate dice, the stuff just "spontaneously" deteriorates after a few years, or decades. Of course, there is no such thing as true spontaneous deterioration; if something deteriorates over time it is due to reactions to oxygen or temperature, or both. So, when experimenting it is very important to keep an archive and look back at the experiments after some time has passed.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Riffle Stacking Tutorial for Texas Hold'em

A few days ago, I published two basic tutorials for riffle stacking. Those were based on 5-card draw poker, a game that anyone hardly even cared about, nowadays, but since it is the most basic poker game I had to get those tutorials out of the way first.

Today I published a fully-illustrated tutorial on riffle stacking for Texas Hold'em (a game many poker players do care about, nowadays). Furthermore, the riffle stacking procedure in this tutorial follows the standard RRSR casino cardroom procedure.

Did I mention the fact that this tutorial is fully illustrated? I think I did. I can't remember for sure because I am going dizzy after doing a total of 31 illustrations.

I can hardly believe it myself that I put myself through this hard labor, producing 31 detailed line drawings, just to explain how riffle stacking works. But one thing lead to another that before I knew it I was married to the idea of illustrating 31 steps of the procedure. So, now it's done and I think it looks OK.

In closing I might as well take a moment to explain what RRSR stands for.

RRSR is the casino industry standard shuffle: Riffle, Riffle, Strip, Riffle. This is considered to be the most efficient and safe shuffling procedure and has been the industry standard for years, in most casinos around the world. Casinos are now switching to automatic shuffling machines, but this is still the industry standard for most casinos that still do manual shuffles. So, as you will see in my tutorial, the shuffle may be efficient but is far from being safe, or foolproof, at least not the way it is allowed to be done in most casinos.

You will need a membership account, on my site, to access this tutorial, but memberships are only $5.95 per year. What else can you buy for $5.95 these days?

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Inside View of a Roulette Wheel

Roulette was one of the most popular casino games in Europe, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. In fact, to this day there are always herds of roulette system players, still trying to figure out how to beat this game. Of course, the only true winning roulette "strategy" is to own a roulette game and let the gamblers do what they do best, which is to gamble until all the money is gone. But this time-proven fact, backed with sound mathematics, doesn't stop thousands of people still try to beat this game with various systems and pseudo theories, such as the Martingale System described on my parody site, National Center for Irresponsible Gambling. Just search the online forums for "winning roulette systems" and you'll see how many people are still trying to figure out how to win at roulette. Some ever swear by their systems. Of course, those are not the same people that have been trying to beat this game in past centuries. As the old saying goes, A sucker is born every minute.

This post is definitely not about how to beat the game of roulette. It is simply a post to show you the inside mechanics of a roulette wheel. Here's a picture.

This is a photo of a display model of a standard casino roulette wheel, with a wedge sliced out, so people (i.e. potential customers) can see a cross-section of the inside. Every part is fabricated to a very tight tolerance, to ensure proper balance. Furthermore, when the wheel is being installed the technicians must use a special level, especially made for roulette wheels. That is the most important part of the installation, because if the wheel is not leveled, it will have a bias. That bias may not help you predict what numbers the ball is likely to land in, but it will cause the ball to start its descent always at the same spot.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Riffle Stacking Tutorials

My members have been patiently asking me, for quite a long time, to put up some tutorials on riffle stacking, on my site. I've been really busy with all sorts of things and somehow never had time to do this. But now, I am pleased to say, I've finally managed to put some of these tutorials up on my site, in the Tutorials of Card Cheating Moves chapter.

The tutorials are fully illustrated and (I like to think) also very informative. Here is just one sample of the illustrations you will find in these tutorials. I'm sure these are the only fully illustrated card-cheating tutorials on the internet.

The bad news is that you need to have a membership account to read through them. But the good bad news is that the membership fee is only $5.95 per year. This is a symbolic fee that basically pays for my hosting, so that I can supply my members with these materials. I think a cup of hot tap water that had been poured over a spoonful of ground-up coffee grains (a short-lasting item that we've all come to know as "a cup of coffee") at Starbucks, costs more or less the same as my yearly membership fee. What I'm trying to say is that $5.95 per year is a bargain for what you will find on CARDSHARK Online.

The riffle stacking tutorials that I published on this day of November 22nd, 2009, are just the basic riffle stacking techniques. However, that's just the beginning. In the near future you will be seeing some riffle stacking tutorials that are more elaborate and explain some lesser known techniques of running up a deck.

So, that was enough typing for me, for one day. I'm gonna watch a Netflix movie and spend the rest of the night in bed, for change.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The National Center for Irresponsible Gambling

There is definitely not a shortage of gambling sites, but in my opinion the internet could use a few more sites with gambling humor. So, I came up with a new site.

The National Center for Irresponsible Gambling [] is a parody web site that bears a striking resemblance to the official web site of the National Center for Responsible Gaming []. The NCIG is a fictitious organization and the sole purpose of the site is to amuse (all that is clearly explained on the disclaimer page). It should also be noted that the NCIG web site is not in any way trying to make fun of the NCRG.

It took me about three full days to build this site and it was a spur of the moment. One day I was just browsing through the NCRG site and thought to myself, wouldn't it be kind of funny if the word "responsible" would somehow change to "irresponsible?" Also, the word "gaming" would have to change to "gambling." I kept looking at that web site and just felt inspired to do a parody. So, I checked to see if the domain name was still available and when I saw that it was, I just couldn't resists. I bought the domain name and got to work right away.

I built the site too resemble the NCRG site as much as possible, without lifting any actual images or copying any of the content. I was also careful not to come across as if I had anything against that organization.

Since I am a chronic insomniac I did most of the work at night. I was having fun, so my fingers just kind of knew what to do as I placed my hands on the keyboard. So, now the NCIG web site is a result of a maniac playing with a computer keyboard for about three days. And it's not as if I actually had any free time, since I was also working in my workshop building gaffed blackjack shoes (you can follow the progress in a separate thread).

So, it's not exactly as if I ever have a shortage of projects, but I always seem to add an extra one on top of my pile. I am glad this site is done and I don't have to think about it any more. If you find any typos, I wouldn't be surprised, since I didn't even bother proofreading, for most part. I just kind of wanted to preserve the fresh feel of my initial inspiration, which is also a reason why I had to do it right away. So, log on to the new site and enjoy.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Marked Cards: Classic Daub

Daub is the hustlers' jargon for any of numerous substances that may be used to mark playing cards, on the fly, during the course of a card game. Usually the backs of playing cards are marked with daub, but in some cases they can be the edges, too.

Several kinds of daub have typically been used by paper players, including ready-made (repackaged) compounds as well as various improvised substances, such as cigar ashes or the black tint from newsprint. The infamous crooked gambling distributors, throughout the 1900s, used to make their own daub from raw ingredients.

The image above shows a container of N-daub made from an old recipe that has been handed down through a few generations of professional card cheats. The basis of this daub, as you can see, is some kind of black pigment. N-daub is one of the few daubs that can be classified as "classic." Some other worth mentioning are golden glow and silver sheen.

Various types of colored daubs have also been used by professional card cheats. The two most usual ones are red and blue, which are sometimes used respectively on red-backed or blue-backed cards; although some paper players actually do it the other way around and use red daub on blue-backed cards and blue daub on red ones.

There are other colors, but perhaps the most usual one, after red and blue, is green. Some green daubs are luminous (i.e. to be used with various kinds of luminous glasses or contact lenses) but some are not. One of the best luminous daubs is called rag-daub and is actually dark brick red in color, not green. Also, please note that there are other types of luminous daubs that are not green.

N-daub can be called classic because of several reasons. First of all, it is made from an old recipe, the old fashioned way. It is also used in the classic way and contains one ingredient that is the base for (as far as I know) all classic daubs. I don't think I'll be divulging a great secret if I tell you what this ingredient is; and I won't be the first one to publish this information, either. The ingredient in question is soapstone, which is the basis of what makes any daub a daub, in much the same way that flour is the basis of any dough.

Soapstone is a soft stone that has been used for centuries to make powder. The powder is basically talk powder, except that commercially available talk powder has other additives. But in its purest form talk powder is just powdered up soapstone. It is actually not easy to find pure talk powder nowadays, but the best source is from a workshop that cuts soapstone for various purposes. They have that stuff lying around like sawdust. That's where I got my soapstone powder from and have enough of it to last me a lifetime. I should also mention that soapstone is also the base ingredient for 90% of makeup. So, it is not surprising that paper players have found that some kinds of makeup work just as well as daub that has been fabricated by the crooked gambling distributors.

Of course, soapstone alone is not enough to make any kind of daub. There are a few other ingredients that are mixed together into the paste. The proportions have to be just right, too. The most common utensil used to mix the ingredients is mortar and pestle.

Some daub recipes have appeared in an old book entitled How it's Done, by Edward A. Litzau, but I was fortunate enough to get my hands on the original handwritten notes that were stored in the safe of one of the biggest crooked gambling suppliers of the 20th century. All of their daub and ink recipes are there.

The book, How it's Done, still occasionally pops up on eBay, but nowadays it's almost impossible to follow the recipes within because they all list brand names and sources that have long been out of biz. There was a supplement, later published with the book, but these supplements are really rare. I guess most people didn't realize the value of some piece of paper that came with some of the late editions of this book, so that may be the reason why most of these got lost. But the supplement contains some updated information (although "updated" is a relative term, due to the age of this supplement).

I should give a word of caution for all those that may want to experiment with some of the recipes from that book. Some of the ingredients listed in that book are actually very toxic, such as phenol. That particular chemical (we now know) should not be handled outside of laboratory conditions. In fact, you can't even get that stuff these days, anyway, but I mention it just in case.

So, N-daub is one of several professional grade daubs that have stood the test of time. It can be used on any cards, plastic or paper, of any color. But just because it's the professional stuff that still doesn't mean that it's easy to use.

Like any other trick from the arsenal of the professional card cheat, using this daub (or any other) requires practice and experience. A novice is likely to make a big mess of his fingers and the cards; not to mention that a novice most likely doesn't even have a clue how to use the work in a live card game. It is not the intention of this post to go into that, anyway, but I should at least mention that playing paper is an art.

Paper players are often teamed up, just like any other professional hustlers and card cheats. For example, if a team wants to hit a poker game, they will send the painter(s) first, to put the work on the cards. After the painter(s) leave the second part of the team (or an individual) comes in to take care of business. This is a very safe approach. If marked cards are discovered, at this time, the real culprit appears to have nothing to do with it. There is absolutely not physical evidence and the real culprit was never seen handling the cards excessively or doing any of the moves that would telegraph the work (although it should be noted that only a trained eye could spot a good painter at work, anyway).

In closing I should probably mention what that liquid is, on the photo next to the daub. That is called daub rejuvenator. As the name would suggest it is used to rejuvenate the daub. Basically, this daub will eventually dry out if it is not occasionally rejuvenated. This liquid is actually one of the base ingredients of this daub and as any liquid it can dry out, even when trapped inside of a paste in a closed container. So, basically, every now and then one small drop of this liquid needs to be added to the daub. This needs to be done way ahead of time (i.e. before the next intended use) to allow the liquid to spread throughout the thick paste.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

How Clueless are Casino Executives... in Korean Casinos

Due to all the moral issues with gambling, in many countries casino business is a government operation. In those countries casinos are usually treated the same as the national lottery. And, as we all know, when a government is doing business, one has to deal with a lot of regulations and bureaucracy; not to mention ludicrous decisions, incompetence and total lack of logic. Welcome to Korea.

In Korea, gambling is prohibited by law. This doesn't mean that gambling is non-existent, in Korean. It only means that there are basically two gambling scenes: the illegal underground gambling scene and the government operated casinos. And because gambling is illegal in Korea, the casinos are for foreigners only. That doesn't mean that you will not find Korean people gambling at the tables. It only means that if you do see Koreans you know right away that they have foreign passports.

Compared to any serious casinos in the world, the Korean ones can best be described as rinky-dink. Also, there aren't many of them.

In Seoul, there are only three casinos. Two of them are Seven Luck and one of them is the Walker Hill Casino. The there is only one more Seven Luck Casino in Busan. Of course, when I say Korea, I talk about South Korea. There are also some casinos in North Korea, but since I have not been there (yet) I can't really share any information.

Let's have a look at some photos I took, of casinos in Seoul.

This is a photo of the Seven Luck Casino in Gangnam (located just south of the Han river in an expensive district of Seoul).

The next photo is of the Walker Hill Casino, on the East side of Seoul. This casino is at the Sheraton Hotel, a very expensive sterile environment for the tourist looking to visit Seoul and avoid any contact with the genuine Korean lifestyle.

And the next image is a picture I took on the inside of the Walker Hill Casino. I'm sure they wouldn't be happy about it, if they knew (or once they find out), but my feelings about it could be described with a popular expression that would produce the following abbreviation: IDGAF. In fact, speaking of taking photos inside casinos, to this day I've never been able to figure out why casinos object to people taking photos. What could someone possibly do with a photo?

So, I'm here to tell you about the incompetence of casino executives in Korea. Shall we?

So, casinos a government operated. This means that decisions at the very top are made by democratically elected government officials, as opposed to people that actually know something about casino business. At some point in the past those lawmakers have passed laws that dictate how government operations have to be conducted; not specifically casinos, but any government enterprise in general, such as a hospital, a school or even a kindergarten. So, there are some general rules that all these "businesses" have to conform to. And then at some point after these laws have been passed someone decided to throw a couple of casinos into the mix. The problem with that "business model" is that a casino is not exactly the same kind of enterprise as a kindergarten. But the same general rules that were once made for any generic government business apply to casinos. Why? Because in a bureaucrat's mind all government businesses are basically the same thing: i.e. a government operation.

Are you with me so far? It gets better.

It gets better when I tell you what some of these rules are. There are some rules that dictate how high-ranking executives are picked to top positions in government enterprises. The rules that define the criteria have absolutely nothing do with the person's qualifications regarding the particular business that person is thrown into. The rules have to do with the person's current rank, age, social standing and such (and I'm sure also a "tiny bit" of good old corruption). Social standing and age both play a big role in Korean society (as in many other Asian countries). Respect for people of higher social standing is so deeply engrained in Korean culture that it was even the reason for a couple of plane crashes, as the copilot was "unable" to "tell" the pilot what to do (so it was easier to let the plane crash than to embarrass the family by showing "bad manners" and/or "signs of bad upbringing").

So, how exactly are casino executives elected?

The short answer is that some high-ranking public servant is promoted from a lower-ranking post in a previous government enterprise and sent to serve his term in the casino. In other words, a social worker may be promoted to casino manager, an assistant manager of a kindergarten could be promoted to surveillance director. With executive positions previous experience with the specific business plays absolutely no role. In other words, a casino manager doesn't have to know how to play blackjack - the (lower ranking) dealers are trained to run these games. The manager or director is a high-ranking executive and that's all there is to it. So, to put it simply, what the average Korean casino surveillance director knows about casino business is approximately nothing. It gets better.

The new casino executive receives absolutely no training. Why? Well, here's the Korean hierarchy at work. How can anyone give lessons to a casino director? Kids go to school; not casino executives. And it gets even better than that.

By law, any such executive positions can only be held by an individual for a period of three years. So, in three years all casino executives will be sent to other posts and be replaced by fresh executives that have come form various other enterprises.

Now, as most of the readers of my blog (and site) know, as a general rule, most casinos are vulnerable when they first open for business or when they introduce new games. The first three month of any new casino are typically penciled-in in any professional casino cheat's calendar. So, Korea seems to be a pretty good scene for casinos cheats as they can just come back every three years and take advantage of familiar territory with fresh talent.

If I wanted to, I could continue trashing Korean casino executives, but I think I've made my point. Plus, I don't want to shoe bad manners by trashing people that are of much higher social standing than myself. After all, the people I am talking about are casino managers and surveillance directors. And who am I? Just some blogger on the internet.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Casino Equipment: RFID Playing Cards

When it comes to high-tech casino equipment there are just a handful of inventions that rank at the top of the list. One of these inventions is a product that is still under development: RFID playing cards.

These playing cards are being developed by GPI, one of the leading manufacturers of casino equipment in the world. They first showcased this product in early 2009, but were not really making it too public at that time. In other words, at the time the company is still very selective about whom they show this product to and if you ask one of their representatives about these playing cards, they may even deny their existence, if they don't know who you are. But they do exist. And here are a couple of pictures.

The new RFID playing cards are made form plastic and feel just like any other plastic cards. They are no thicker than conventional playing cards and at first sight there are no clues that would give away the fact that these playing cards are embedded with RFID tags. However, a closer look at the surface of the cards (as seen in the second photo) may reveal a few imperfections, such as the small rectangular impression that seems to be visible on the surface (covered up by the printed clubs suit). This small impression seems to indicate that the RFID tag lies beneath that spot.

But what the heck are RFID tags, anyway?

Sorry, I am writing this blog assuming that all the readers know what RFID tags are. So, for those of you that may not be familiar, let me explain.

RFID tags are Radio Frequency Identification tags. In other words, microchips that are typically capable of carrying 2,000 bytes of data or less. This data is basically a unique ID assigned to that particular RFID tag; in other words, each tag carries a unique electronic fingerprint.

RFID tags are used in some casino chips, to track bets, payouts, etc. These tags are always attached to some kind of antenna and both are embedded inside the object that is tagged.

Outside of casinos, RFID tags are used in employee ID cards, to name one example. Those are the plastic ID cards that employees can scan at the entrance of the place of employment, to clock in, open doors, etc.

One of the most important things to understand about RFID tags is that each single tag has a unique ID assigned to it. So, the software running the identification system can differentiate between each and every separate tagged object. In the case of casino chips, it doesn't only know that this is a $100 chip (for example) but know that this is the $100 chip that is used in such and such place at this moment in time (as long as the chip is near a scanner. It also knows the entire history of that particular $100 chip. In the case of playing cards, RFID tags would be able to differentiate between each and every playing card used.

As I mentioned above, the RFID technology for playing cards is still under development. There are a few problems.

Unlike casino chips, playing cards are pliable. Each time a playing card is used, whether it's being shuffled or dealt, or picked up for identification, the card is momentarily bent. That presents a problem with RFID technology.

The problem lays in the fact that the RFID microchip needs to be attached to an antenna. Considering the size of this microchip, this electrical connection is so small that it can easily break under any kind of stress. And it really doesn't require much to break that kind of microscopic connection.

Let's consider some possibilities, how these playing cards could be fabricated.

Well, we know that the entire RFID tag (the chip and the antenna) is inside the playing card. This means that the playing card must be made by fusing two separate sheets of plastic. The antenna itself is probably just printed. This is just a logical assumption, as I don't really have any insider information. But I know that there are plenty of conductive inks that are used to print electronic circuits and such. So I am assuming that this kind if conductive ink is used to "print" the antenna. The printing is the easiest part, but how does one attach that microchip to the antenna?

Well, connecting the microchip to the antenna is actually still not the problem. These types of micro connections are today's industry standard in the electronic industry. The problem lies in the fact that playing cards must endure a lot of physical abuse, through normal use. So, that is the last little bug that the company is trying to resolve, before these playing cards hit the market. And I'm sure it's just a matter of time when this bug will be resolved.

So, assuming that this technical challenge is completely resolved, we are still left with some questions about the use and practicality of RFID playing cards. What practical use would casinos have form this technology? Would these playing cards be too expensive? Does this technology present any security risks?

Those are all valid questions. I guess time will prove if this technology has much of a practical application in the casino industry. But we can still speculate...

First of all, if an 8-deck baccarat shoe is loaded with these playing cards, the RFID reader would know immediately if all the cards are there. It would also know if the 8 of clubs (for example) from this deck has been switched for the 8 of clubs form another deck. I am not quite sure what the benefit of this would be, but the system would definitely be able to "know" this.

Furthermore, the baccarat table (to continue using baccarat as an example) would be fitted with RFID readers. So, when the dealer deals out the cards the system would know what cards were dealt out to which position. Of course, this is an issue that has already been resolved by the introduction of the Angel Eye baccarat shoe but I guess the RFID technology would just offer a different approach to resolve the same problem. Kind of like replacing a Braun electric razor by a Philips, that uses rotary blades, although both basically do the same thing. The question is, of course, is the new solution more practical than the existing one?

RFID playing cards could also be used in blackjack to analyze players and flag card counters. But the question is, does the casino industry still need to worry about card counters, now that continuous shufflers, such as the ShuffleMaster one2six, are becoming industry standard? It would be safe to assume that any casino that is equipped with RFID playing cards would also be equipped with automatic shufflers. But still, I can think of a few ways that RFID playing cards could be used to flag suspect advantage players and cheats. And this is where we mention cheats... Hm...

The biggest question is: can these playing cards be used for cheating? Well, let's see... One thing for sure, these playing cards are essentially a new type of marked cards. This is undeniable. The short answer to this last question is, yes. If you want a slightly longer answer, I could say, absolutely. But if you want me to elaborate on the possibilities, I would say this post is already getting too long, so I will have to save the juicy stuff for another post, at some future time.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Luminous Readers: A Glimpse Into the Past

Marked cards are probably as old as the earliest playing cards ever made. After all, cheating is just human nature and there is nothing that would lead us to believe that the moral an ethical standards of the earliest users of playing cards were any different from the ethics of today's Texas Hold'em players. Of course, there isn't exactly a shortage of people that will tell us that most poker players are honest; but of course, that's just nonsense. Honesty and gambling are two words that mix like oil and water. And while I mention the word gambling when I talk about poker there are plenty of those that will tell us the poker is a game of skill and therefore not gambling. But that's just an oversimplification of an issue that is actually much more complex than to be summarized in one sentence.

Those are all interesting issues that I'll be talking about in other blog posts. This time I want to talk about the evolution of luminous readers.

There's some early mention of luminous readers in an old book, entitled, Protection. I am not sure if the description in that book is based on facts, or just on theory, as I was never actually able to see a pair of luminous glasses that date back to that era. But luminous readers are also mentioned in the crooked gambling catalogs (i.e. the infamous Blue Books) of the 20th century. And those gaffs did in fact exist, otherwise they would never have been listed in catalogs. But one would have a really hard time finding a pair of those glasses, today.

The reason most of those luminous glasses seem to have disappeared is because the frames were made from a very unstable material. I am not sure exactly what the material was but I think it was cellulose nitrate, which is the same material that casino dice were made out of, form about 1920s to 1950s. In the 50s dicemakers started using cellulose acetate, which is more stable. Anyway, the frames for the luminous readers sold by crooked gambling distributors were made from one of these materials that completely deteriorates with time. The material seems to deteriorate spontaneously, first by forming hairline cracks in the corners and then spreading throughout. There are ways of preserving the material, but no one really thought to do it. So, make a long story short, I would be really surprised if any of these glasses still exist in their original (and whole) form.

But how do I know all that?

Well, I did come across a pair and I saw the effect of time. The entire frame crumbled into a pile of "crystals" and all that was left were the lenses. And the lenses are actually the only part of the spectacles that we're interested in. In the image below you can see a pair of original luminous lenses that were sold by one of the infamous crooked gambling distributors of the 20th century.

The lenses are round and flat, which leads me to believe that there's a good chance they were actually made for something other than reading luminous marks on the back of playing cards. Sometimes cheating gaffs are just repackaged products that are really made for something entirely different. But I guess we'll never know.

At one point I even had the actual luminous ink and pencil that were sold along with the luminous glasses. Needless to say that the pencil was in fact a repackaged product, but I am not sure about the ink. In either case, the gaff didn't really work too well, when I tested it.

If you've ever looked through any of the old crooked gambling catalogs you may have noticed that the luminous glasses rarely appeared illustrated. Most of the time they were just listed, along with a brief description. Well, I guess that's because those glasses really looked ridiculous. The Hunt catalog did have an image (as you can see in the photo) but as you can see the frames resemble those glasses that usually come with a plastic nose attached.

So, those were the early years of luminous readers. Those were the good old days.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Casino Innovations by the Clueless: Blackjack Layouts

Here's a picture showing three blackjack tables, designed and fabricated by TCS JohnHuxley, one of the leading casino equipment manufacturers in the world. What's wrong with this picture?

Well, to anyone that's ever dealt blackjack these tables should appear, to put it mildly, less than ideal. The problem is in the layout design.

Blackjack games can be divided into two categories (for the purpose of this post): pitch games and shoe games. Pitch games are single-deck and double-deck games in which the dealer holds the deck(s) in his/her hand and pitches the cards towards the players. The cards are pitched face down and the players take them in their hands. Most people have never seen pitch games. That's because they are no longer common, but that's the original blackjack, actually. Dealing shoes were introduced at some later time and have then taken over the pitch games, for a number of reasons.

So, shoe games are exactly what the name suggests: games in which the dealer deals the cards form a dealing shoe. Unlike pitch games, in shoe games the players are not allowed to touch the cards (one of the reasons why they are preferred by casinos) and the cards are dealt face up.

So, what's the problem with those blackjack tables?

Well, since there are two kinds of blackjack games, there are also two kinds of blackjack layouts.

In pitch games the cards are being pitched all the way across the table. So, the cards are sailing in the air, over the entire layout (and over the live bets) and then land in front of each player. In these games the layout needs to be designed in such way that there is plenty of room between the betting areas and the outside armrest, so that there's enough room for the dealer to pitch the cards form a distance and so that there's still room for the players to keep their chip stacks (which they're going to lose, anyway, sooner or later).

In shoe games, there doesn't have to be as much space between the armrest and the betting spots, because the dealer is not going to throw anything there. There just has to be enough room for players to keep their chip stacks in front of them and so that their chip stacks are not too close to the live betting areas.

However, since the dealer deals the cards face down, in shoe games, all the cards will be dealt in diagonal rows between the betting areas the dealer's chip rack (basically starting over the insurance line and building up towards the dealer). That's also where the dealer deals out the hit cards in pitch games, but the difference is that in shoe games there are always two cards more being dealt out in that area; i.e. the initial two cards that each player gets. For this reason blackjack layouts that are intended for shoe games have to be designed in such way that the betting areas and the insurance line are all closer to the players, thus making enough space for the cards to be dealt out. Because let's not forget, the dealer also deals the cards for the house, right in front of the chip rack.

So, basically, these layout pictured above are more suitable for pitch games than for shoe games. In fact, a dealer will struggle with this layout because the cards will become cluttered, especially if a lot of low value cards happen to be dealt and if a few players happen to split pairs. To be honest, the layout in the middle is actually perfectly fine, but the top and bottom ones are not - especially the top one.

I don't want to sound to critical, but this company should know better, as they've been in this business for years and they are considered to be one of the leading companies that make casino equipment. But the truth be told a lot of their casino equipment has major flaws. What I've just described here is just a bad layout design that makes it hard on the dealer. But what I am alluding to is that this company has designed some casino equipment with major flaws that can be exploited by both, casino cheats and advantage players. Their equipment can be found in major casinos around the world. So, what are those flaws? Well, how much is that information worth to you?

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Casino Equipment: ShuffleMaster one2six Automatic Shuffler

ShuffleMaster is the world's leading manufacturer of casino shuffling machines. These have already become industry standard in most well-equipped casinos.

One of the most popular ShuffleMaster machines is the one2six continuous shuffler. This machine has pretty much replaced the standard dealing shoes.

There are two variations of the one2six machine. The difference is in the feeder - i.e. the part into which the dealer places the cards, after every round. In the earlier version of this machine the feeder was equipped with a mechanism that would cover the cards and pull them in one by one, starting from the top. A few years later ShuffleMaster came up with an improvement, so the newer machines are equipped with (what the company calls) a gravity feeder. The cards rest on a couple of rollers and the individual cards are pulled into the machine form the bottom up. The machine pictured here is the later model.

The one2six ShuffleMaster also has two different front-end attachment options. The one pictured here has a blackjack option installed (this is also the option used in mini baccarat games). The other option is the single-deck tray, used in games such as Caribbean Stud, Three-Card Poker, Let It Ride, and so on. Of course, the machine also has to be reprogrammed for a different game if it is switched around.

So, how does this machine work?

The machine is capable of handling up to six decks of cards. The idea is to keep the cards in circulation, continuously. Well, "continuously" is really a misnomer, here, because that's really not how the machine works.

Let's imagine the machine is being used in a blackjack game. The minimum number of cards that will be used up in a 7-player blackjack game is 16 cards. So, in this case, the dealer starts with the machine full. The dealer then deals out the cards and at the end of the round a minimum of 16 cards have been removed from the machine. At the conclusion of the round the dealer scoops up the cards and puts them back into the feeder and the machine starts pulling them into its "gut." While the machine is doing it's thing the dealer invites the players to place their bets and soon begins to deal a new round. And here comes what I'm getting to...

The cards that the dealer deals on each consecutive round cannot possibly be the actual same cards that have just been played on the previous round. That's because the cards have to go through three stages, inside of the machine.

The first stage is the placement of the cards into the feeder, at the back of the machine. The second stage is the "random" distribution of the cards throughout the carousel (which you see on the picture). And the third stage is the front compartment; and that's where the machine has one minor flaw, which makes the word "continuous" a misnomer, technically speaking.

The entire front of the machine is a compartment into which the machine spits out "randomly selected" cards form the carousel. So, at the moment when the dealer places the cards that have just been played out, into the machine, the cards for the next round are already inside of the front chamber; no longer inside of the carousel. So, if one would have a way of knowing which cards are there, this machine would become worthless. But at this point in time, this possibility is purely theoretical.

This is one of the ways in which advantage players are trying to beat this machine. What it means is that if the cards that have just been played out cannot possibly be dealt out in the next round, the players have one piece of information to work with, because the machine is not really a continuous shuffler, in the true sense of the word. But how much of an edge can one get form this?

Well, certainly not as much as a deep penetration of a conventional 6-deck shoe. But if the players notice a round where not a single ace or 10-value card has been dealt out, then the remainder of the cards are a bit more rich in 1os and aces. Also, if no 10s were dealt out there is a good chance that more hit cards were dealt (depending on what up card the dealer was showing) which means that the penetration was a bit deeper than in the 16-card minimalist scenario I described above. Certainly not much of an edge by any stretch of the imagination.

In any event, the one2six machine is generally a very good piece of casino equipment. The machine has one bad security flaw that is only relevant if it is being used in blackjack games that utilize dealers' hole cards. But let's talk about that some other time.