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Poker News | PokerWorks Op-Ed

Poker Plus - Risks and Rewards

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Few things in life can be attempted or accomplished without an element of risk. When engaging in sports, there is the risk of physical injury. And, don’t think Golf is exempt from that either because a good friend broke his leg on the golf course. Then there are the legions of heart attacks that have occurred on the fairways after a hole-in-one. Whether poker is a sport or not is still the subject of hot debate among poker players and athletes. It certainly involves components of a sport, including competition and skill, just without the physical perils of more traditional sports. While it is possible to fall victim to health issues like heart attacks, fatigue and a wide range of emotions while playing poker, the biggest threat of harm comes from the financial side.

In every walk of life there are those who will try to beat the odds, pull a shot, angle shoot and take every advantage they can, both legal and illegal to insure they win. Couple the need to win with financial gain, and all forms of gambling presents a strong attraction for cheaters. No one form of gambling is safe from those who aim to win by cheating. From Riverboat gamblers holding out cards in poker to sophisticated gadgets used on slot machines, everything has been tried and all of it has been foiled eventually. This doesn’t seem to deter these aspiring thieves however, as they are in the news regularly, plying their illegal underhanded schemes on unsuspecting victims. And, don’t think this problem is specific to any one country, it unfortunately happens all over the world.

The latest case is a new twist on an old scam, the marked cards trick, and comes out of Korea. Although the scheme has nothing to do with gambling in that country, it does show to what lengths some people will go to in order to profit from those wanting to cheat. South Korean prosecutors reported recently that they arrested three men for making and selling marked playing cards. The cleverly marked cards were made to be read with specially designed contact lenses. The three suspects allegedly manufactured and sold 26,400 sets of the cards over the past year, exporting their technology mainly to China for huge sums of money. Their product was so popular that a set of 12 decks of the marked cards sold for over $700 dollars. One order was also found to have come from the USA.

The suspects are also accused of smuggling 2,000 pairs of specially designed contact lenses from China. The contact lenses are necessary as that is the only way their marked cards can be read. The suspects tried to improve on one of the oldest card scams in the book, by using new methods they mistakenly thought would pass scrutiny. The backs of the cards were marked with patterns and figures printed in special fluorescent pigment. The markings could only be read with the special contact lenses and were invisible to the naked eye by anyone else. Special instructions for deciphering the markings were included in the bargain price of about $88 a deck.  It wasn’t clear if the contact lenses were included or sold separately.

To think of what may be happening in a poker game where these decks are being used doesn’t take much imagination. In the hands of cheaters, these decks are fleecing an untold number of poker players, mainly in private and home games. The good thing is these cards will never grace a table in any legal poker room given the strict security policies they all adhere to. If you play in private games and don’t know all of the players - beware. If all of a sudden you notice that many of your opponents are suddenly wearing contacts and cracking open decks from China or Korea, I would advise you run like hell.

Cheaters all get caught
eventually and the reason is simple – greed. Once they have successfully pulled off their cheating scam, they keep at it until they are caught. The more easy money they get, the more they want. That is the common denominator with all thieves; their greed keeps them coming back for more until they trip up and fall. Many thieves never do get caught by law enforcement because they ply their ugly trade in home and after hour’s games. Since these games are illegal in themselves, when the cheat is found out he is normally dealt with by the other players and the host. If you watched the movie Rounders and remember the scene where the boys get beat up by the players, you get the picture of what can happen in real life. Of course a thief has to be pretty dumb to try and cheat a bunch of cops in their weekly poker game. Get the stuffing beat out of you and you really have no one to call in that situation.

Years ago I dealt to and played poker with a man named Bob, who was a good friend of the owner of the poker room I worked in. He was an older guy and had played poker for years, making the transition from Lowball to Hold’em when flop games became all the rage. Bob played tight and you wouldn’t find him in a pot with anything less than a premium hand and since he was a grinder, he usually walked away a winner. Bob seemed to be doing well; nice home, family and a wife who ran the family vending machine business. One day I heard that Bob had gone to Oregon for awhile to play at one of the new Indian Casinos that had opened up. We all figured he wanted to play where no one knew he was a rock and he was looking for easy money.

Little did we know just how Bob planned to make that easy money. Imagine our surprise when we learned he was in federal prison for cheating at Blackjack. As far as the law goes, in Oregon at least, Indian Casinos are on federal land, get caught cheating and you are in boiling firewater facing a felony. No wrist slap or misdemeanor charges here boy, go straight to the federal pen and do not pass go.

No one ever understood what he did, how he did it and most importantly why. Of course those that had played with him had to wonder if he was always a cheater and had used his underhanded tactics in the old self deal Lowball games. Most cheaters have a history and don’t just morph into a thief overnight. Once Texas Hold’em came to town, so did the dealers, and it wasn’t long before Lowball died. If Bob had been cheating, any chance he had to stuff his pockets with ill gotten gains flew out the window.  Seeing the demise of the self deal games and dealers that counted down the deck and used new set-ups must have been like swallowing a rock to Bob.  The last I heard of him, he had died in prison and I have to admit, I have no sympathy for thieves of any sort so his passing was just the fate of a criminal.

There are no guarantees in life and that most certainly includes poker. Honest people give their all to try and make sure that poker games are fair and on the up and up for all. But as long as there is money to be made, there will be those few idiots who can’t win any other way so will try to cheat.

Yes there have been scandals in online poker as well, but again the sites have tried to do right by the innocent players involved and prevent it from happening again. When playing online, if you suspect something, contact support immediately. Online poker sites all have a staff trained to spot any abnormalities in the games, so let them investigate it. I, for one, don’t believe cheating online is widespread or a big problem on the reputable, big poker sites. If I did, I wouldn’t play there, and I do play, every chance I get. The only way my stack has ever been cheated is by my own bad play.

*Not only will you feel safe and secure playing at PokerStars, but for a limited time you will receive free money to play there!*

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