Poker is as much a game of chance as it is of skill, but that doesn’t stop people trying to turn the tables with sneaky tactics. That’s right, live poker has its fair share of cheats. Scams and scandals have haunted poker halls throughout history, and here are some of the most notorious cheaters behind them.
The Borgata cheating scandal
In 2014, Christian Lusardi entered the Borgata Winter Open Big Stack NLH event with a collection of rogue chips. It didn’t take long after he’d introduced them to the table for them to be spotted. The tournament was halted, but it wasn’t until Lusardi was caught trying to flush millions in poker chips down the toilet of his hotel room that the mystery was solved.
The chopstick trick
That same year, the poker world was shocked to discover that respected poker reporter and photographer, Jay Newnum, was caught stealing poker chips at Foxwoods Resort Casino in Connecticut. And he didn’t just swipe them any old way – Newnum used chopsticks coated in a sticky substance to fish $700 worth of chips from a dealer’s toke box. Needless to say, he’s no longer a regular on the poker scene!
Ali Tekintamgac’s ‘spotters’
German player, Ali Tekintamgac, headed up a carefully-planned cheating scandal for years before being caught in 2010, by the Partouche Poker Tour. The former WPT winner used ‘spotters’ (fake bloggers and biographers) to reveal his opponents’ holdings during tournaments, using pre-determined hand signals. He was taken to trial, not only accused of cheating at the table, but heading up a sophisticated international cheating organisation! Tekintamgac knew the game was up, pleaded guilty and sentenced to three years and five months in prison.
The cheat that kind of wasn’t a cheat
Richard Marcus is one of the most notorious cheats in casino history, and it’s all because he was never caught. His signature move was the ‘Savannah’, a combination of misdirection and sleight of hand.
Marcus would saunter up to a roulette table, playing the drunk, and put down his chips. He’d angle a mere $5 chip in a way that the bottom chip couldn’t be seen: this was the one that was worth all of the money, not another $5. If Marcus lost, he’d deliberately flout etiquette by grabbing his chips, before relenting and handing them to the dealer. If he won, he celebrated like a mad man, revealing his valuable chip.
Because Marcus had legitimately placed his bet, security wouldn’t be able to find anything wrong. Plus, he effectively cheated on his losing bets, and winning bets are the ones that tend to be scrutinised.
Archie Karas’s marked cards
In 2013, Archie Karas (a player reputed to have built a stake of $50 into a $40 million fortune) was arrested for cheating at blackjack. His technique? Marking cards. Karas secretly wiped tiny smudges of dye onto the backs of jacks, queens, kings and aces during games, so he could identify their value before they were dealt. It was only a matter of time before he was caught by the eagle-eyed surveillance cameras at California’s Barona Resort and Casino.
The most dedicated cheat of them all
Some players will do anything to make a fortune. Take Soapy Smith, a historic cheat who was born back in 1860. Smith actually managed to cheat with the help of corrupt officials, making friends in the right places before being commissioned as deputy sheriff. When the local Governor ordered the closure of gambling dens, Smith took the opportunity to raid his own rigged games, arresting players who’d lost large amounts of money. He’d then let them go, leaving them so happy to be avoiding a prison sentence they’d completely forget about their loss.
Cheating at the tables might seem like a good way to make a chunk of money, but chances are, you’ll get caught, just like the rest of them!
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