A researcher from Google has found a sophisticated poker cheating device that allows people to know what cards you are holding by using a specially adapted mobile phone and a deck of cards.
I used to appear in a local poker game in a pub across the road from where I used to live. There were six of us who were hardcore, the type of people who would turn up on Christmas Day. Then there were another six or seven who would frequent the game on an irregular basis. That’s a small sample size of poker players living in a small Welsh Valley of 3,000 people, and yet we still had problems with cheating in the game.
You could break our problems down into two categories.
People would angle shoot, mainly the older players. They would short change the pot and use all manner of speech play tactics to gain an edge. It was tolerated to a great extent, mainly because it was a moral/ethics issue more than a straight up rule break.
A straight up rule break.
We only ever had one instance of a straight up rule break. Two kids came to the game regularly for some months. They were both talented poker players, and one of them had spent time inside for GBH.
One night, when we were playing Dealers Choice (DC), I noticed they kept playing ‘Deuces Wild’ type games where they would nominate the wild card, and they never lost.
During one hand they announce that jacks were wild and I looked down to see two of them in my hand. I eventually ended up heads-up with one of the kids. We both went all-in, and before he turned over his cards, I said, “I bet you have two jacks,” and he did.
I went mental, and the two lads quickly vanished from the game never to return. After this has always left me scratching my head. How did they do it?
Can This Happen in a Home Game Near You?
A few days ago, I stumbled across this video, found on Jason Koon’s Twitter Feed.
Elie Bursztein post it. He works for Google in the anti-fraud and abuse research team. If you don’t have time for the 30-minute video, then read on.
Imagine being Superman. It would be pretty cool. You could fly, shoot shit with your laser eyes, and sit down at a poker table and see everyone’s cards with your x-ray vision. Well, Bursztein bought a cheating device online that enables you to do just that.
The Google employee paid $1,300 to acquire the equipment from China. It’s a mobile phone equipped with a digital camera and LED lights that allows the device to read lines of codes inked onto the back of specially tailored packs of cards that you can also buy.
You put the phone within scanning range of the deck, plug in some earphones, and the device will tell you what playing cards your opponent has. It’s incredibly accurate, and it’s like you are playing poker with your opponent’s hole cards face up.
If the game you are playing in bans the use of mobile phones then there is also a specially adapted set of car keys you can purchase containing the same digital camera and LED lights system. It also comes equipped with a small metal disc that shows the logo of a variety of different car models.
Where Are These Devices Being Used?
Bursztein was impressed with the technology and believes a lot of time and effort has gone into making them. At first, he thought they were being used primarily in the Asian market, but after his Defcon talk now knows cheaters use them throughout America, including Las Vegas.
What Can You do to Protect Yourself?
It’s a tough one.
The juiciest games are often the home games, but this is where you are more likely to find a device like this. A home game organiser could purchase this device and specially modified playing cards, and you would be none the wiser because the rules for keeping mobile phones away from the table, like in pro tournaments, would be a lot more lax.
It wouldn’t be a bad idea, to always have this video available on your phone to show people in home games, as you may get more buy-in from the rest of the players to ban all devices from the table. If you are playing at a local card room and the rules on having devices on the table are also a little loose then you could bring this problem to the attention of the card room manager.
Finally, circulate the video as far and wide as you can. The more eyeballs it flies under, the more cautionary the poker community will be moving forward.