When watching a magician perform some card tricks, it's a legitimate question to ask: "Would you be able to cheat at a card game?" Most performers will smirk and wink, implying they could. Truth is: they probably can't. Sleight-of-hand with cards for conjuring and entertainment purposes is one thing; gambling techniques to cheat at cards is a whole other story. Sometimes these two domains overlap, in that liminal zone of the so called "gambling demonstrations." However, the gamblers' "real work" entails a very different skillset from that of a magician—while true gambling techniques are among the most fascinating and difficult to master.
The gambling expert
In the realm of gambling techniques with cards, one name immediately commands undivided admiration and respect. That name is Steve Forte. It's no hyperbole to say that what Forte can do with a pack of cards borders the unbelievable; his skillful handling is the closest thing to perfection in terms of technique. Here is a taste of his smooth and classy dexterity:
Steve Forte's career spans over 40 years within the gambling industry. After dealing all casino games and serving in all casino executive capacities, he shifted gears to a spectacularly successful career as a professional high-stakes Black Jack and Poker player; shifting gears again, he later became a top consultant in the casino security field. To dig deeper into Forte's adventurous and shapeshifting life, the go-to place is the enduring profile penned by R. Paul Wilson for the October 2005 issue of Genii Magazine. Read the rest
"Vegas Dave" Oancea is a bit of a celebrity bookie for sports betting; or at least, that's how he's been described by my friends who care about such things. But with so many leagues canceling or postponing games in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis — and in the wake of his own recent legal problems — Vegas Dave is particularly desperate to keep the cash flowing.
And that's why he's now offering serious bets on things like curling. Badminton. Cricket? Checkers. Even UNO! (Yes, really) If you're lucky, there could be some bets on spelling bees and hula-hooping, too.
Let’s f–king go. Forget about March Madness, forget about the NBA, forget about baseball being delayed for a couple of weeks. I’ve got the curling whale play of the day. I’ve been studying curling all fucking day. Also the $99 badminton package, $99 cricket package.
Read the rest
How the fuck do I do it? Curling whale winner. Badminton package cashes three parlays and the fucking cricket package? Perfect 3-0 clean sweep. Tomorrow, we got archery, checkers, and an UNO tournament. We’re also trying to get into the spelling bee contest, the over/under of every other sport in the world that’s still going on.
Writing in Marker, David Gauvey Herbert gives us an extended-play version of China's legendary bank-robber, Ren Xiaofeng, a bank official in a small industrial city who tried to make ends meet by stealing cash to buy lottery tickets, planning to return the money out of his winnings -- but instead lost, and kept on losing, until he'd stolen literal tons of cash.
Read the rest
Seems a pro-poker player, Mike Postle, has achieved impossible-seeming results. Other players have put hours upon hours upon hours into analyzing his baffling play. It is like watching someone play with perfect information, they claim!
While nothing definitive has been found, Stones Gambling Hall, a live poker site where the questionable Postle has spent a lot of time live streaming, has stopped using RFID chipped playing cards and hired an investigator.
Spying isn't just for governments!
Read the rest
It’s not just that Postle is winning, it’s how he’s winning, that is drawing suspicion. Ingram, Berkey and others have spent hours reviewing hands Postle played and found several times where Postle made a fold or a call that wouldn’t seem “right” but happened to work out in his favor.
Berkey said Postle made plays no pro would ever make, and he did them often, and they worked. Poker is a game of incomplete information. Berkey said Postle played “as if he had perfect information.”
Stones Gambling Hall said it has hired an independent investigator to look into the accusations.
In a statement Stones Gambling Hall said: “We temporarily halted all broadcasts from Stones. We have also, as a result, halted the use of RFID playing cards.”
Brandon Presser managed the high-roller suites in Las Vegas's Cosmopolitan. They're reserved for players who front more than a million in the hotel's private casino.
Read the rest
MIT's How to Win at Texas Hold 'Em is a CC-licensed open course taught by Will Ma in 2016 and now free to watch online; the game is the perfect combination of psych and stats, and learning to play is a great way to improve your basic reasoning skills. (via Kottke)
Read the rest
Video slot machines pull a lot of tricks to make it hard to tell how fair the game is; one of them is to ring up "wins" that are actually losses (you put in $1 and get $0.75 back, say), with a lot of fanfare and hoo-rah. These tricks are calculated to hook players into the game by stimulating their reward centers with intermittent stimulus, a powerfully addictive combination. Read the rest
Claude Shannon is one of the great, heroic titans of the computer science revolution, a brilliant scientist and Feynman-grade eccentric whose accomplishments fill several excellent books. Read the rest
UK betting site Paddy Power is taking bets on a number of Trump related possibilities, including suspending the 1st Amendment (40-to-1), repealing Obamacare (1-to-2), banning abortion (3-to-1), re-opening Alcatraz as a prison (14-to-1), outlawing the theory of evolution (50-to-1), and banning stairs (500-to-1). Read the rest
In 2009, then-PM Vladimir Putin engineered a Russian ban on slot machines in a bid to starve Georgian mafiyeh of funds, the resulting glut of used slots gave Russia's own criminal gangs cheap testbeds to use in a project to reverse-engineer the machines and discover their weaknesses -- now, Russian gangs roam the world's casinos, racking up careful, enormous scores. Read the rest
In a first, an artificial intelligence named Libratus has bested top-tier players at no-limit Texas Hold 'em. This is especially notable because imperfect information games are notoriously challenging to program. Read the rest
In July 2012, professional poker-player Phil Ivey won $4.8M from the baccarat tables at Atlantic City's Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa in 17 hours; on other occasions, he took a total of $9M out of the Borgata: he did it by asking the house to deal Gemaco Borgata cards, whose backs contained minute asymmetries in their patterns. By asking the dealer to turn some cards upside down, Ivey's partner, Cheng Yin Sun, was able to track them as they moved through the deck. Read the rest
Katrina Bookman was excited when her slot machine hit the jackpot: $42,949,672.76. Resorts World Casino in New York was happy to take her money while she was putting it into the machine, but weren't as happy about giving her the prize. MACHINE R BORKED, they told her. Read the rest
“The Fantasy Sports Gamble” is a must-see Frontline documentary investigated with The New York Times about fantasy sports and online sports betting. Read the rest
Somebody will win the $1.3 Billion Powerball lottery, but it won't be me and it won't be you. Read the rest
In 1913, George Julius installed a building-sized, all mechanical odds-calculating computer at Auckland, NZ's Ellerslie racetrack, powered by huge iron weights that slowly pulled down bike chains over sprockets, driving the clockwork device as it "totalised" all the bets laid on horses at the track, keeping the odds in constant balance so that all the bettors were effectively betting against one another, in a system called "pari-mutuel" betting. Read the rest
Apropos of Rob's post yesterday about the plight of card counters in casinos, Mental Floss has a number other methods for improving your odds at a casino. They interviewed Bill Zender, a former professional card counter, dealer, and casino floor manager. I think Zender's most useful tip is finding a sloppy, drug-addled dealer who regularly flashes their hole card. This probably doesn't happen often, but when it does, you can rake it in.
Zender estimates there are fewer than 100 professional blackjack card counters in the world. If you happen to be one of them, you might nab a 1.5 percent advantage. So save your energy, Zender advises; instead keep an eye out for the sloppy blackjack dealer who will accidentally flash the face-down card. Zender once made a living exploiting this, keeping a notebook of 35 weak dealers from 16 different casinos. The strategy is called “card holing,” and it can give you a 6 to 9 percent edge over the house. (That’s like standing in front of an ATM that spits out twenties!) The best part? “It’s totally legal,” Zender says. “They may throw me out of the casino, but they’re not going to arrest me.”
Image: Daniel J. Prostak Read the rest