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D. Collusion Cheating trough Partner Crossfire Betting

That evening, John Finn entered a major casino on the Strip. The casino had a large poker area. The action was heavy. In addition to many low-stake and intermediate-stake games, several highstake stud games ($30-$60 games of high stud, low stud, and high-low stud) were in progress. John began in a $5-$10 game, moved up to a $10-$20 game and then graduated to a $15-$30 stud game before encountering professional cheating.

The cheating was simple collusion between two professionals who signaled the strengths of their hands to each other. The cheater with the strongest hand or position would indicate to his partner when to check, bet, or raise. Their collusion entrapped or drove out players and increased or decreased the betting pace--whatever was most advantageous to the cheaters at the moment. The collusion partners increased their investment odds by either sucking in or driving out players to improve their betting position and their odds for winning. They entrapped players and then generated bets and raises to build larger pots whenever either cheater held a strong hand. They consistently bilked the tourists and transient players . . . at least until John Finn entered their game.

He promptly detected collusion cheating by the illogical patterns of checks, bets, and raises between the partners. Since the dealer was not involved with card manipulations or flashing, John easily turned the collusion to his own advantage at the expense of the cheaters. He beat the cheaters because their collusion actions markedly improved his accuracy in reading their hands and intentions. When either partner held a strong hand, John read their strength more quickly and folded sooner--thus saving considerable money. Moreover, when the cheating partners revealed a strong hand and John held a stronger hand, he quietly let them suck him and other players into the pot. He let them build the pot for him with extra bets and raises. On the final bet, John would end his passivity with a maximum raise.

Also, the colluding partners doubled their losses to John whenever they bet as a team into pots that John won. If they had not colluded, normally only the player holding the strongest hand (rather than both players) would have been betting into John's winning hand.

To further increase his advantage, John Finn manipulated the readable hands and intentions of those cheaters against the other unsuspecting players. But John reaped his most profitable advantages from the cheaters when they bluffed. (Most collusion cheaters are overconfident and often can be lured into bluffs.) John would keep calling with a mediocre or even a poor hand as the bluffing partners kept betting aggressively to drive out players who held superior hands. John would then simply call the final bluff to win the pot. Or when necessary, he himself would bluff by stepping in with a raise after the final bet to drive out the bluffer and any remaining players to win the pot with a busted or a poor hand.

In three hours, John Finn converted the two professional cheaters from substantial winners into the biggest losers at the table and drove them from the game. With a $600 profit, he left that table to explore other games. He sat down at a table where four professional players were operating as two separate teams of colluding partners, cheating each other as well as the other three players. John assumed the role of a slightly drunk, wild-playing tourist--an ideal fish. He promptly broke the game open by playing all four cheaters against one another and against the other three players. In an hour, John ripped $900 from the game and then abruptly left the table. As he walked away, some of the players mumbled about his "unbelievable hot streak" and his "dumb luck."

John walked over to the highest-stake game in the house--a fast-paced, $30-$60 lowball, seven-stud game (razz). As he studied the action, he wondered about the unusual house rule that allowed five raises instead of the standard three. The five raises greatly increased the flexibility and advantage of collusion cheaters over their victims. John also wondered about the much higher proportion of professional players and collusion cheaters he observed in this casino. Was the management aware of their collusion cheating, he wondered. Did the management establish the five-raise rule to accommodate the cheaters? Or were the professional collusion cheaters drawn to this casino because of a five-raise rule innocently established by management to increase the betting action? . . . John assumed the latter to be true.

Standing behind the dealer, John Finn continued to watch the high-stake game. For nearly an hour, he studied the two biggest winners. From their conversation and style, he knew they were professionals, yet neither seemed to be cheating or colluding. Still he noticed that in spite of the large pots, the dealer was not being toked (tipped) when either professional won a pot. John Finn studied the dealer more closely: Gathering the face-up cards in a routine left-to-right order, the dealer made no attempt to rearrange the cards. But as players folded, the dealer would make a pile with their face-down discards and then gather their face-up cards and flip them on top of the discard pile. He would then flip the later-round face-up cards directly on top of the discard pile while slipping dead hole or face-down cards beneath the pile. If the hand ended with fewer than fourteen up cards being exposed, the dealer would casually glance at several face-down discards and toss them on top of the discard pile.

Although John could not actually see any blind shuffles, false riffles, or false cuts (or verify any illogical cheating patterns[ 42 ]), he speculated that the dealer was memorizing everyone's hole card and then signaling the best moves to one or both of the professional players ... in a way similar to that used by the dealer who was colluding with the casino manager and his friend two days earlier in the downtown casino. And, as in the downtown casino, John Finn concluded that with his current knowledge and experience, he could not beat that kind of dealer-collusion cheating. He therefore left the casino without playing in the $30-$60 game.

E. Amateurish Collusion Cheating with Sanction of House Dealer

Traveling south on the Strip, John Finn came to another major casino with a large cardroom. He observed the various poker games for thirty minutes. After considering the higher-stake games, he sat in a medium-stake ($10-$20) seven-card stud game because more of its players looked like losers. All were out-of-town gamblers and tourists, except for two women players sitting together across from John. Although their conversation revealed they were experienced local players, both women played poorly. Nevertheless, they were winning moderately because of their collusion cheating, which was crude and obvious. They blatantly showed their live hole cards to each other and then coordinated their betting to produce a collective advantage. The other players either did not notice their collusion or were too indifferent or timid to object. By quietly taking advantage of their much more readable hands, John converted the two women from winners to losers.

John then lost a fairly large pot to the women cheaters. During the hand, they had flashed their hole cards to each other. Then in a crude and visible manner, they actually swapped their final hole cards during the last round of betting, allowing one woman to win with a full house. After she turned her hole cards face-up, John Finn stuck his arm over the pot when the dealer started pushing it toward the woman. John then silently removed all the chips he had put into the pot. "Any objections?" he asked, looking at the two women and then the dealer. No one objected. John had his information. He picked up his chips and left for a higher-stake game.

F. Unbeatable Collusion Cheating through Dealer-Player Partnerships

John Finn entered the casino farther south on the Strip that normally offered the highest-stake poker games in Las Vegas. For twenty minutes, he watched six players in a $100-$200 seven-card stud game. He detected two professional players in the game and studied them (one was apparently losing slightly, the other was winning heavily). They were working over four out-of-town gamblers, all of whom were losing. While the two professionals did not seem to be in direct collusion with each other, when winning a pot neither player toked (tipped) the dealer. And while the dealer never glanced at face-down cards when gathering cards for the next deal, he did riffle and shuffle the cards several extra times whenever the previous hand produced fewer than twelve face-up cards. Without seeing anything else, John speculated that when the dealer was riffling the cards he was also memorizing the hole cards of every player. As before, John knew he could not beat collusion cheating involving a house dealer who knew everyone's hole cards. So he left without playing.

After three days in Las Vegas, John Finn realized that professional collusion cheating was well ensconced in higher-stake casino poker. He also knew that the alert good player could subvert and beat most forms of professional cheating in public poker. And most important, he identified those collusion situations that he could not beat.

In theory, even collusion cheating involving all-knowing house dealers can be beaten by the good player with superior strategy and better money management. Yet to beat such cheaters, the good player needs to know what the cheaters know ... he needs to know the concealed or hole cards of every opponent through near perfect card reading. But few if any players can achieve such perfection. Therefore, essentially all players, no matter how good, will lose money in games dominated by well-executed dealer-collusion cheating.

In any case, justice prevails in poker. The honest good player will generally win more money from poker than will the professional cheater. Furthermore, as a professional player becomes increasingly dependent on cheating for his support, he will become increasingly entrapped in an unproductive career and a limited future. The honest player, on the other hand, retains his independence and freedom to seek more creative and profitable opportunities, both inside and outside of poker.

Nevertheless, because of the cosmopolitan and dynamic nature of public poker, it is often a harbinger or indicator of what will eventually occur in private poker. Indeed, today the new and subtle, yet simple and invisible, cheating techniques (Neocheating) that are spreading throughout public poker are already infiltrating private home games.

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