January 2007
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Derek Kelly Guilty

Apparently.  So far reported by two unregistered posters on Gutshot forum, and a call from someone who knows a guy who says he was there.

A few minutes later, the BBC agree:

Casino Poker Cheats Banged Up

There has been a story in the news about some crooks being jailed for, apparently, cheating at poker.  I first heard this in a brief report on the radio so my first thought was exactly what they’d been done for – even in a fully licenced casino, the house pretty much can’t (or wont) do anything about a poker cheat, on account of it being a game that’s played only against other players.  If they’re not stealing from the casino, the worst that will happen is a swift ejection from the premises.  They usually want to keep punter-worrying stories quiet, especially when they don’t have to worry about getting their money back.

The crime in question took place in September 2005, but with the story breaking less than 24 hours before a verdict is expected in the Gutshot case, and showing the public – and the jury, if they are allowed to watch TV – that a licenced casino is a very safe place to be, the timing is impeccable.  I may very well say more about the Gutshot defense and their shocking definition of gambling and expert witness who does not understand conditional probability after judgement has been served later today.

Footage of the scam taking place confirms that the three men had actually been caught cheating at three card poker.  Just having the word poker in the name of the game will help to carry the story in the media, but really this is just a poker-style carnival game, played against the dealer and featuring a juicy house edge.

According to the ITV news report I saw last night, they got away with "three and a half (pause for effect) thousand pounds", suggesting that these guys were stupid enough to not only hang around long enough to be seen repeatedly winning at a game with horible odds, but also that they only got away with a little more than one month’s minimum wage each.  The BBC coverage, however, suggested a much more respectible figure (although only a guestimate) of £250,000, won over a four month period. 

Yau Lam and his partners in crime – Fan Tsang and the fabulously named Bit Wong – used a lipstick camera concealed in his sleeve, positioned to see the faces of the cards as they were dealt.  The pictures were transmitted to a nearby van where his accomplice could speak the relevant information to a hidden earpiece.  Sky News has pictures of the kit.

As only 26% of hands in three card poker are decided by a pair or better, even seeing just one of the dealer’s cards is very valuable indeed.  After placing an initial ante bet, the player has the choice of "raising" – doubling the bet to find out if he beats the dealer’s hand – or "folding" and forfeiting his bet immediately.

The basic strategy is to raise if you hold a Q64 or better, otherwise fold.  However every time you have a queen-high hand but see that the dealer was dealt an ace or king, you can save a bet by playing opposite to the normal strategy because you already know you are beaten.  Quite clearly though, if you are only investing more money on winning hands, the casinos is soon going to notice.

In case you’d somehow forgotten, it was actually the World Poker Tour that invented fucking tiny cameras (not Noel Edmonds or Timmy Mallett as I believed in my younger days).  If the police didn’t get these guys, WPTE’s lawyers would have done, and that’s a much scarier prospect than a few years of porridge.