The Definition: The Poker Scam requires some sleight of hand, but nothing so difficult that a small gang of determined hustlers couldn’t pull it off with a moderate amount of practice. When a rigged deck of cards is smuggled into the game, the odds against you go off the charts. Then your chips go off the table – right into the scammers’ pockets.
The Mark: Anyone that likes to sit down for a few hands of cards with a bit of high wagering could be a victim. If you’re not suspecting anything, and our hustlers have a deft touch, you haven’t got a chance.
The Scam: Our scammers have taken what is called a “cold deck”, and set it up so that it deals a winning hand to the player of their choice; this is done in secret, before the other players arrive. First, the hands are created, face up, around the table. The cards are carefully arranged to achieve the desired result, with certain players dealt bad cards so that they will fold, and others dealt cards just good enough to keep them in the hand and betting generously. Of course, the winning hand is reserved for one of the two scammers sitting at around the table. The cards are then restacked to achieve the desired result and placed in the possession of a female “smuggler” – this can be done with more than one deck, but not so many as to raise suspicions.
Our two scam artists play their regular brand of poker for the better part of the evening; maybe winning a bit, maybe losing a bit, but all the while angling for the fantastic run of “luck” that they know is yet to come. Our female hustler is playing a role too, most frequently as a cocktail waitress, regularly walking into the poker den with her notepad in hand to take orders. It is imperative that the players become quite comfortable with her movements in and out of the room, since she is also playing the role of the aforementioned “smuggler” – and special attention is the last thing she wants.
At a pre-ordained signal, when it is one of our scammers turn to deal, the smuggler secrets a rigged decks of cards under her notepad and enters the room.
Under the guise of taking an order, she bends over the table, and while writing busily with one hand, surreptitiously drops the rigged deck into the waiting hands of the dealer – under the table and out of sight. At the same time he is receiving the cold deck, he is pushing back his chair to create some movement, and to conceal the fact that he’s making a switch.
The bit of commotion ends, and the smuggler, having performed her task successfully, retires from the room. The dealer then proceed to use his sharp skills to make it appear as if he’s shuffling the deck, but every move he makes with the cards is offset by a counter-move which serves to bring the deck back to it’s original, stacked, configuration.
Even the cut is a well-practiced ritual. Our dealer carefully marks the spot (usually by leaving a single card ajar) where he wants his partner-in-crime to break the deck, and then calmly re-cuts it to bring the cards back to their original positions.
As play begins, our dealer quickly folds out of the action with his pre-set bad hand; as does one or two of the other marks. The scheme depends on the hand following what would appear to be a natural progression in a legitimate game of poker. Too many good hands, or too many bad hands, could well arouse suspicion – as could too many players folding or calling.
Each of the suckers left in the game continues to believe that he has an excellent chance of winning the hand, and by the time the final card is ready to be dealt, at least two of the marks feel that they are in such a favorable position that they can bet heavily.
Of course, with that final flip of a card, our scammer barely ekes out a victory over the other players unlucky enough to still be in the hand. Perhaps it’s a slightly higher straight, or flush. Or a full house with aces instead of kings up, or tens instead of nines. Or maybe a low three-of-a-kind beating two high pair. Whatever the margin, our marks find themselves out more than a few pounds, damn the luck!
But we know that luck had nothing to do with it – because our gang of well-seasoned hustlers made sure they had the deck stacked in their favor. It seemed to be a game of chance, but the marks never, ever, had one.
The Lesson Learned: Only one thing can reasonably prevent you from being the victim of The Poker Scam: know the individuals with whom you are playing. Getting involved in a game with strangers, especially a high stakes game, could put you where you never want to be – in the shoes of a mark!