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!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Gambling With an Edge - Surveillance Agent Jay

Agent Jay has been working in Las Vegas surveillance rooms for over 20 years. He is our guest this week to tell us what surveillance people are looking for when watching for advantage players.

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Saturday, December 13, 2014

How Casinos Cheat

Many of you may have read James Grosjean's blog posts entitled How Casinos Cheat. If not you can find his excellent blog here, Beyond Numbers. I very much agree with JG that the danger of being cheated by a casino is not them dealing you seconds, or hitting you with a cooler. They have a much bolder, and more effective way of cheating. If you lose, too bad. If you win, they just refuse to pay.

Recently I was told one of the most egregious cases I have ever heard of. The Playboy Club in London stole the money of two players for counting cards. The two players played in the casino for 3 or 4 nights, and left their money on deposit with the casino. On the last night they went to withdraw their money, and the casino told them they would not give them their deposit money back because they had been counting cards, and card counting was against the rules of their club. The money stolen was over £30,000 or approximately $50,000. They weren't accused of cheating, just counting cards. I know nothing of British law, but I can only infer that there has never been a court case testing the legality of counting. Now maybe they know they will lose the case, but want to harass people from another country who will have to fight a court battle from overseas. Or maybe they were emboldened by the awful decision in the Phil Ivey case.

I grew up reading stories of the old "road gamblers". Doyle Brunson told me, "First we had to win the money, then we had to collect the money, and then we had to get out of town with the money." Between the casinos stealing from players, and then the police and their asset forfeitures, I can't say much has changed.

Did I mention that the Playboy Club is owned by Caesars Entertainment? Stay classy Mr. Loveman.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Gambling With an Edge - guest Jake Jacobs 2

Our guest this week is backgammon professional and author, Jake Jacobs. We talk to Jake about his new novel, The Battered Butterfly, as well as about some of his many gambling exploits.

 podcast 
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Thursday, December 4, 2014

Gambling With an Edge - Rick Blaine author of Blackjack Blueprint

Our guest this week is Rick Blaine, author of Blackjack Blueprint. This is a terrific book for counters, newly updated in May, 2014.


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Thursday, November 20, 2014

Gambling With an Edge - guest David Switzer

The guest this week is David Switzer. David just received two masters degrees from UNLV, and we will be discussing his professional paper, “Casinos can increase table games revenue by properly training employees and adjusting many of the procedures currently used on their games that are aimed at stopping advantage players.”


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Friday, November 14, 2014

Gambling With an Edge - guest Jake Jacobs

Our guest this week is backgammon professional and author, Jake Jacobs. We talk to Jake about his new novel, The Battered Butterfly.

 podcast 
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Thursday, November 6, 2014

Gambling With an Edge - guest Phil Hellmuth

Our guest this week is poker professional Phil Hellmuth, aka "The Poker Brat."

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Thursday, October 30, 2014

Gambling With an Edge - No guest this week

No guest this week. Bob and I discuss reader emails, as well as current gambling in the news.

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Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Mr. Marty

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

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Gambling With an Edge - guest Bob Nersesian #11

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.


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Thursday, October 16, 2014

Gambling With an Edge - guest Ken Adams

The guest this week is Ken Adams. Ken is a prolific writer about the gambling industry. You can read his work at cdcgamingreports.com. 
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The Phil Ivey case

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.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Gambling With an Edge - guest Richard Marcus on poker cheating.

This week our guest is Richard Marcus. Richard was a casino cheat, and tonight we will be talking about his book Dirty Poker. 


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Saturday, October 4, 2014

Help from the media

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.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Gambling With an Edge - guest Mike Shackleford G2E 2014

The guest this week is Mike Shackleford . This week is the largest gaming conference of the year, G2E. Mike and Bob attended, and will discuss the new games they saw.


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Thursday, September 25, 2014

Gambling With an Edge - guest Mike Shackleford

The guest this week is Mike Shackleford. We talk about the recent sale of his website The Wizard of Odds for $2.35 million..


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Thursday, September 18, 2014

Gambling With an Edge - guest Adam Tanner

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.


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Wednesday, September 17, 2014

What happens in Vegas?

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.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Gambling With an Edge - guest Jimmy Jazz 2 on low roller strategies for comp hustling

The guest on the show this week is Jimmy Jazz. Jimmy talks about strategies for low rollers to get everything free in Las Vegas.


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Thursday, September 4, 2014

Gambling With an Edge - guest Daniel Negreanu

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.  


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