I have two distinct lives. One in the trenches of low-budget film and television, the other in professional gambling. Because of the feast-or-famine nature of show business I need a reliable income... gambling. So here you will read about both worlds. Enjoy!
In 1986 I got a phone call from a friend named Alan. He told me there was a really great blackjack game at Walker Hill casino in Seoul, S. Korea. I forget all the rules, but the game had early surrender vs. 10, and 6 cards was an automatic 1/2 win. All in all the player had an edge off the top without any counting of cards.
Alan recommended I stay at an inexpensive locals hotel called the Kaya, and get in touch with an American card counter named Marty Itzkowitz. Marty was an ex-New York cop, who had moved to Vegas, dealt craps, became a craps boss at Sam's Town, discovered card counting, quit his job, and somehow ended up in Korea. Marty had the answers. He knew where to change money on the black market, where the illegal underground casinos were, which ones cheated, and where the girls who liked Americans hung out.
I made a few phone calls, and heard rumor that Marty might be staying in the same hotel. I went to the front desk, and asked if Marty Itzkowitz was staying there. The front desk clerk took a step back and I saw fear in his eyes. "Oh, Mr. Marty is in 302." You see, Marty was the quintessential "ugly American." The first thing you noticed was his bulging eyes.
Imagine a 300 pound, loud, frothing, Marty Feldman. He hated everything, and everybody. But he said things that were so outrageously over the top that it was hard to take him seriously. He claimed to hate Korea, and Koreans, yet he managed to marry at least a couple, and spent years living there. Then at some point he changed from blackjack to poker, and from Korea to the Philippines, at which point he switched his loathing to all thing Filipino. Any blackjack player who spent time in Korea in the late 80s will have some Mr. Marty stories.
Well now there is a new mystery by Jake Jacobs, The Battered Butterfly. It takes place in Manilla, and the lead character is a professional gambler named Lefty Markowitz. "Lefty, an ex-New York cop turned professional gambler, is two hundred and eighty pounds of misanthropy on the prowl in Manila. All he wants is to be left alone." The dedication is to Marty, so this isn't all a coincidence.
Lefty finds himself the prime suspect in a murder. It seems a bar girl was murdered after Lefty spent the night with her. (Marty was fond of bar girls.) At the same time Marty is much more interested in tracking down a German named Carl that ripped him off in a poker game.
I read a lot of mysteries, and one of the things that separates the good from the bad is a sense of place. Here is the opening paragraph of the book.
"The rain came, and should have washed down the streets. Falling, it should have captured the particles of dust, the fog of auto exhaust, the reek from stray fires smoldering in piles of garbage, tackled them all, and dragged them to earth. It should have washed the grime and peeling paint down the walls of the buildings. It should have swept all the discarded newspapers and crushed cigarette butts and rotting banana peels from the sidewalks, swept everything into the gutter, so the city was clean and fresh, renewed. Instead, the rain came too fast. The streets filled with water faster than the antiquated sewers could cope. They backed up like a plugged toilet, so that pedestrians could expect wet tissue paper and dog turds plastered to their calves. In Manila, even the rain didn't work right."
Jake is a former professional blackjack player (played on the Hyland team among others) and a perennial on the Giant 32, a list of the 32 best backgammon players in the world. He has written two other book, both on backgammon, and contributes a monthly column to Gammon Village. We plan to have him on Gambling With an Edge in a few weeks to talk about the book, Marty, and some of his crazier gambling exploits. Here is his book on Amazon. The Battered Butterfly
The guest this week is Bob Nersesian. Bob is a frequent guest to the show, and always entertaining. Bob is the lawyer who advocates for the players against the casinos, and has successfully sued many Vegas casinos on the behalf of players. He is also the author of Beat the Players. This week we discuss the Phil Ivey decision in London, and asset forfeitures.
For those not familiar with the Ivey case let me give you a brief recap. In August of 2012 Phil Ivey, and a partner named Cheung Yin Sun played Punto Banco at Crockfords in London. He won 7.7 million pounds over 2 days. (Spoiler alert - he was edge sorting.) Crockfords said they would wire him the money, and then stiffed him. He sued to get the money he won, and on October 8 the judge ruled that Crockfords did not have to pay because Ivey cheated. A few facts about the case:
The casino used new cards for each shoe. Ivey played 4 shoes before asking to keep the same cards. Since Ivey and his partner were not touching the cards the casino agreed.
They were using a brand of cards called Angel. (Not Gemaco)
Ivey asked that the casino use a machine to shuffle the cards.
At the end of the first night's play Ivey asked if he could continue the next day with the same cards.
Here are a few choice quotes from the judgement:
"There is a complete dearth of authority on
cheating at common law, at least in the civil context. This is unsurprising. Although
at common law gaming contracts were enforceable in principle, though sometimes not
in practice on particular facts, section 18 of the Gaming Act 1845 provided that all
contracts or agreements by way of gaming and wagering shall be null and void. No
suit could therefore be raised by or against a party to a gaming contract alleged to
have cheated. There is, therefore, no case law on what amounts to cheating." "This is, as far as I know, the first case in which the question
whether or not the conduct of a party to a gaming contract amounted to cheating has
had to be determined in an English court." "There is no commonly accepted view
amongst those who play Punto Banco about whether edge-sorting does or does not
amount to cheating. David Mills, a levelheaded and experienced English expert in casino gambling
considers that it does. Towards the end of 2013 he conducted a survey amongst seven
of the eight biggest casino operators in the UK. He found that four out of the seven considered that it was cheating and two out of seven considered it was not a legitimate practice. The remaining one considered that it was not cheating, nor illegitimate. Dr. Jacobson, to whom I have already referred, who has extensive experience in the USA of casino gambling both as a consultant to casinos and, between 1997 and 2005, as an advantage player himself, considers that it is not cheating. His informal survey, as he put it, of "hundreds of people" has provided the answer that the general but not universal view is that it is not cheating. I have not found these expressions of opinion to be helpful. Mr. Mills did not canvass gamblers and, as far as I can tell, Dr. Jacobson's survey was unsystematic. Neither establishes a generally accepted view."
RWM: Really? This is the way they approached this? The casino expert went and asked a bunch of casino operators what they think, and the other side did an informal survey of hundreds of people?
"Crockfords maintain that the claimant practised (sic) deception upon them by pretending to
be superstitious when he was not, for example, by making a fuss over lucky
Crockfords hats, which he and Ms Sun wore, and by asking for "lucky" cards and for
a Chinese croupier on the ground that he got lucky when playing with Asian women."
I can go on, but below you can read the judgement for yourself. We will be discussing this with Ken Adams on tonight's Gambling With an Edge, and again next week with attorney Bob Nersesian.
I get calls or email occasionally from people in the media. They want to know something about card counting, or they are writing a story about Phil Ivey or some other aspect of gambling. I've always felt that the media could be a tremendous asset to players, but no one has really figured out how to crack that nut.
This particular call was from a show called Inside Edition, and they are doing a show about how card counters get barred from casinos for simply using their brain. Imagine that? This producer was particularly interested in getting video footage of casino security physically abusing players. Unfortunately I don't have any of this footage, and recommended he call Bob Loeb, and Bob Nersesian since they are both attorneys that handle these types of cases, and get copies of video footage in discovery. The bad news is that most of these cases are settled, and the casinos make it a condition of the settlement that it can't be discussed. I have to give major props to David and Kyle who sued Virgin River Casino in Mesquite Nevada. They were offered a sizable settlement that included a non-disclosure, and they refused saying that a non-disclosure was a deal breaker. You can here them interviewed on GWAE here. Anyway, the Inside Edition people did contact a high profile AP, and did film some barrings with hidden cameras, so I look forward to seeing the show. It should be good fun.
But before I hung up I said to the producer - you know, there is an even worse problem that modern APs face. He asked what that was, and I told him that police forces around the country have literally become Highway Robbers. I pointed him to a case that was just in the news. Watch this video. He was really excited about this story, and said he was planning to do an upcoming episode about this very thing. They plan to put hidden cameras in cars and try to capture this on tape. I recommended he drive I 40 through northern AZ as a particularly egregious spot. If you know other spots they should hit, maybe leave them here in the comments. The producer did say he would be getting back to me when it is time for them to film.
Next time we have Bob on GWAE I plan on having him watch this video, and we will discuss exactly what the poker players did right, and wrong, and what exactly they should have said in answer to those questions.
The guest on the show this week is Adam Tanner. author of What Stays in Vegas. The book looks at how casinos and other businesses gather information about each of us in order to help them make more money off of us.
We've all heard it right? "What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas." I'd rather it didn't stay in Vegas. I'm starting a new podcast series where I will interview people about the craziest things that have happened to them in Las Vegas. So if you have a crazy story, email me and I'll set up a time where I can interview you via skype. These interviews will be audio only, and they can be done completely anonymously. There is no compensation.
I have only 2 requirements. The story should be true, and it has to have happened to you. Not some friend of a friend. If your friend of a friend has a great story have them contact me and tell it themselves. Let the games begin.
Our guest this week is Daniel Negreanu aka "Kid Poker" although he has now been playing so long he may have to change his moniker to "Middle-Aged-Man Poker." Daniel is the author of Power Hold'em Strategy which outlines his "small ball" tournament strategy.
The guests this week are gaming attorneys Bob Nersesian and I. Nelson Rose. Bob is a frequent guest to the show, and always entertaining. Bob is the lawyer who advocates for the players against the casinos, and has successfully sued many Vegas casinos on the behalf of players. He is also the author of Beat the Players. I. Nelson Rose is the coauthor of Blackjack and the Law, and his latest book is Gaming Law in a Nutshell.
Our guest this week is Erin Rynning. Erin is a sports handicapper, sports blogger, and radio personality
who provides handicapping both for free and for a fee through his website SportsMemo.com. He
has done well in several handicapping contests.
About 2 years ago I interviewed surveillance expert T Dane. You can read that interview here. T Dane wrote a book called, Behind The Black Dome: An Advantage Player’s Guide to Casino Surveillance, which is well worth picking up. Well the man is at it again. He has started blogging at Eye and the Grinder. He says it is a blog about Advantage Players and the Eye in the Sky. The blog is relatively new, but check it out. There is some interesting stuff there.