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New California card-room rules still generate conflict

July 28th, 2016 · Blackjack News

By Greg Moran, The San Diego Union-Tribune (TNS)
Tuesday, July 12, 2016

New guidelines issued by state gambling regulators for how card rooms in the state can conduct some high-stakes card games don’t satisfy Indian gaming officials, who say the new rules still allow card rooms to illegally have Las Vegas-style games.
The June 30 guidelines issued by the Bureau of Gambling Control, a division of the Attorney General’s Office, were aimed at quelling a simmering dispute between tribal casinos, card rooms and state regulators. But it didn’t.

Two trade associations representing the card room industry said they were concerned the new rules would cut into their business. And tribal casinos, who under the state constitution have the exclusive right to conduct Las Vegas style gambling, said the new guidelines solve nothing.

The tribes have complained for several years that regulators have allowed card rooms to get around a state law requiring the deal at a card room table be rotated among the players “continuously and systematically.” The rule is supposed to prevent a house-banked game, in which one player is the dealer paying off winners and collecting losses — like a casino game.

In 2007, the state’s departing chief gambling enforcement regulator quietly issued a letter to the card room industry reinterpreting the law and allowing card rooms to comply simply by offering the deal to another player — whether the deal ends up rotating or not. That has benefited the industry by allowing for higher-stake and more exciting games that attract players.

In February the bureau rescinded that letter, and said it would consider new guidelines. Those now say that the deal should be offered after every two hands.

They also allow for one player to hold the deal for a maximum of one hour. After that time, there has to be a two minute break if no new dealer steps forward. After that interval, play can resume.

Tuari Bigknife, the attorney general for the Viejas tribe in San Diego, said tribes were “disappointed” with the new guidelines. He said that the hourlong standard would allow for as many as 50 hands of some games like blackjack or baccarat to be played before the deal was moved — and that does not comply with the law’s requirement that the deal “continuously” rotate.

“We’re disappointed with the actions the bureau has taken,” he said. “We don’t think what has been put out complies with the law.”

He said the tribes are evaluating what their options are going forward.

Kyle Kirkland, a card room owner and the president of the industry lobbying group California Gaming Association, said in a statement card rooms were “very concerned about the substantial adverse economic impact these changes will have on our industry’s ongoing operation.”

The card rooms have said that they have followed the guidance from the 2007 letter put out by the state’s chief gambling enforcement agent, Robert Lytle. After issuing the letter, Lytle soon went on to a career as a card room consultant.

Lytle has since surrendered his license after being administratively accused by the bureau in 2014 of a conflict of interest involving his state connections and his consulting business.

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Why you should consider surrender when playing 16 in blackjack

January 22nd, 2015 · Blackjack News

By Matt Villano

To stay or to hit on 16 against a dealer 10, that is the question. It’s an issue that has vexed amateur blackjack players for decades, a point of conversation at just about every table in the Bay Area (and beyond). Heck, your faithful gambling columnist struggles with the problem from time to time.

Most players think the odds don’t really matter, that consistency is key, that so long as you hit or stay consistently, you’re playing the game correctly and your moves won’t botch the hand for anyone else at the table. Unfortunately, this might be one of the biggest misconceptions in the casino (at least it’s up there with the notion that you must split 8s, which also is false).

The truth: When you have a 16 and the dealer shows 10, the best move is not to make a move at all. Put differently, if the casino offers “surrender,” in this scenario you should take it every time. By surrendering, you literally are surrendering half of your bet for the chance to keep the other half and lay down your hand. When you surrender, you can’t win. But when you surrender, you also can’t lose more than half of your bet — which, over time, isn’t nearly as damaging as a total loss.

Allow me to explain with some very basic math: If you have hard 16 (7-9, 8-8 or 6 with a 10) and you hit against a dealer 10, there are 29 cards of the 49 left in a 52-card deck that would bust you, about a 60 percent chance. If you have a 16 and you stay (against a dealer 10), the dealer will show 17 or higher a little more than half the time.

The odds also suggest you should surrender with a 16 against a dealer 9 or ace. If the casino doesn’t offer surrender, the odds say to hit 16 against a dealer 10 — about 40 percent of the cards in the deck can improve your hand. Few rushes are as intense as the one you get when you hit a 16 against a dealer 10 and spike that golden 5.

Of course, other factors might influence how you play the hand, including the number of decks you’re playing, the other cards showing at the table and general trends in the game. The first two issues affect the odds; the latter issue is more of a “feel” thing but can simplify a tough decision if the dealer is running hot or cold.

The bottom line: In blackjack, unlike in battle, there’s no shame in surrendering. Why not cut your losses to bet another hand? Every gambler should be so fortunate.

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Tunica casino officials may help investigate roulette scam

November 11th, 2013 · Blackjack News

(WMC-TV) – Gaming commission investigators say a crime ring is creating fast and experienced cheaters.

More than four dozen suspected cheaters are now behind bars, and authorities are still looking for dozens more.

“I can believe it. People are always trying to get money and scam people out of their money,” said casino patron Torica Randle.

Investigators say four men were arrested in Ohio and convicted on charges that they are part of a roulette scam inside casinos in 18 states.

Investigators say it is a color-up scheme. Here is how it works:

  • Player one starts it.
  • He or she buys $1 chips. The other players on the crime team join the same table and distract the dealer and keep an eye out.
  • Player one ends up pocketing the chips and meets player number two handing over the chips.
  • Player two heads back to the table and buys in at a much higher amount with the same color chips. He or she ends up putting the lower dollar chips back into play, which will turn $1 chips into 25 dollars making it a loss to the casino and the state.

So far 13 people have been arrested in Ohio, but only four showed up in court. This group hit Cleveland, Toledo, Columbus and Cincinnati where they were eventually caught. They were arrested on the gaming floor after casino staff realized what was going on.

Mississippi Gaming officials have offered Tunica casino officials with assistance in the investigation. The people arrested so far have all been from the Bronx, other parts of New York, or New Jersey.

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Gambler who had $40 million Las Vegas hot streak in ‘90s runs out of luck

October 1st, 2013 · Blackjack News

By Ed Komenda

Archie Karas arrested for marking cards at Indian casino in California

Archie Karas carved out a name for himself as the legendary gambler who stumbled through Las Vegas casinos in the early 1990s on a two-year streak of extraordinary luck, turning $50 into $40 million.

But the world-famous gambler’s luck ran out last week when Nevada gaming agents arrested him at his Las Vegas home for allegedly marking cards at a California Indian casino and walking away from the blackjack tables with $8,000 in swindled cash.

Prosecutors say surveillance video cameras caught Karas — born Anagyros Karabourniotis — putting “subtle but distinguishable” marks on the backs of playing cards at a Barona Casino blackjack table so he could determine card values before the dealer revealed them with a flip, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune.

Karas, 62, now stands charged with burglary and winning by way of fraud. If convicted, he could spend up to three years behind bars.

The Barona Gaming Commission eventually caught on to Karas and alerted the California Department of Justice Bureau of Gambling Control, which then opened an investigation.

A regular on the World Series of Poker, Karas notched his legendary gambling streak between 1992 and 1995, earning $40 million only to lose it all to gambling.

An extradition hearing is set for Thursday. Until then, Karas remains in the Clark County Detention Center without bail.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Serial card cheater tries to scam L’Auberge

September 25th, 2013 · Blackjack News

By Jim Mustian

A gambler who has tried to cheat casinos in Las Vegas and beyond is accused of using invisible ink and infrared contact lenses in a sophisticated card-marking scheme during a poker game at L’Auberge Casino in Baton Rouge.

State Police have issued a felony warrant for Bruce Koloshi, 54, of Summit, N.J., on counts of cheating and swindling and simple criminal damage to property. The scam, uncovered after Koloshi had left the casino, is the first of its kind that local gambling investigators have encountered, authorities said.

“We’re taking steps to locate him,” said Capt. Doug Cain, a State Police spokesman.

Koloshi, who remained at large Monday, denied wrongdoing when reached on his cellphone. He said during a brief interview that security officials were “overzealous” in detaining him on suspicion of cheating. He added that he has spent little time gambling in Louisiana’s capital city and has no intention of returning to the casino.

“That’s ridiculous,” Koloshi said of the accusations. “Nothing happened, and that was it. There’s nothing else to talk about.”

The alleged scheme was detected the afternoon of Aug. 26 when Koloshi was flagged for suspicious behavior while playing Mississippi Stud poker at Table 410. Surveillance footage showed him reaching his right hand under the table before he was dealt his cards, according to court filings.

“Once Mr. Koloshi was dealt the cards, he could clearly be seen using his right index and middle finger to push down on the card,” Senior Trooper Jason Evans, of the State Police Gaming Enforcement Division, wrote in an affidavit. “The actions by Mr. Koloshi were consistent with the actions used by most card markers who are attempting to ‘dent’ the card.”

State Police Sgt. Matthew Sinanan was reviewing footage of the suspicious behavior when Koloshi “colored up,” meaning he asked the dealer to consolidate his chips into larger denominations, and then left the table, according to the affidavit.

Security confronted Koloshi as he was leaving the casino, and he was interviewed by Sinanan, who released him due to an initial dearth of evidence, records show.

“They let me go and that was it,” Koloshi said Monday, apparently unaware that he was being sought by authorities.

Before he was allowed to leave, Koloshi was asked to empty his pockets, which contained a cellphone, cash, a contact lens container and more than $3,200 worth of casino chips. The arrest warrant says Koloshi “voluntarily gave his winnings back to the casino,” a move one expert described as deeply incriminating.

The cards in question were taken out of play after the incident and placed in a plastic bag in the casino’s surveillance room. Jerod Emrick, the casino’s director of surveillance, continued the investigation the following day and noticed some markings while he was reviewing the cards under an infrared lens.

“The markings were small finger pad markings made from invisible luminous ink,” Evans wrote in the warrant. “The markings were invisible to the naked eye and could only be seen when viewed with the infrared filter.”

Investigators found the location of the markings corresponded with the value of the card; for instance, aces were marked at the same location and 10s were also marked in a certain spot, the warrant says.

Authorities began researching the markings and found a number of luminous ink and infrared contact lens kits for sale online. These websites boasted that “use of these kits would allow the user to mark cards without being caught,” Evans wrote in the warrant.

While state investigators said they had not previously seen a case like this, it is not the first time the allegations have been levied against a casino player. A group of Italians, winning at a conspicuous rate at a casino in France in 2011, was accused of wearing treated lenses to see otherwise invisible markings on the playing cards.

Bill Zender, a well-known casino gambling consultant, said the use of a contact lens would be “kind of an overkill.” He suggested Koloshi might have been merely “daubing” the payoff cards, or applying a light adhesive matter that a trained eye can spot.

“I could walk in with regular daub — red, blue, sliver or gold — and mark the cards and you wouldn’t be able to see it unless you knew what to look for, and I wouldn’t need lenses,” Zender said. “Even if the dealer looks down at the deck, he’s not going to see it.”

In the Koloshi case, investigators reviewed the playing table under an infrared light and noticed the spot where he had been sitting had luminous ink on it. The felt was removed and, along with the cards, submitted as evidence to State Police headquarters, records show.

Investigators noted the deck of cards had been put into play about 12:45 p.m.; Koloshi played between 1:02 p.m. and 3:18 p.m.

Kerry Andersen, a casino spokeswoman, declined to discuss specifics of the case because the investigation was continuing.

“Protecting the integrity of our games is a top priority for L’Auberge Baton Rouge and Pinnacle Entertainment,” she wrote in an email response. “Our skilled team works closely with Louisiana State Police and other law enforcement agencies to apprehend and diligently prosecute any and all suspected cheats to the fullest extent of the law.”

The allegations are not the first Koloshi has faced. According to court documents, he has convictions for cheating in Las Vegas, Reno, Nev., and Black Hawk County, Iowa.

Karl Bennison, chief of the Nevada Gaming Control Board’s enforcement division, said that Koloshi was arrested in 1998 in Reno in a “general marking and bending cards case.” A jury later convicted him at trial.

He was arrested again at Harrah’s Las Vegas in 2004 in a daubing case and later pleaded guilty, Bennison said.

“Sometimes they use just ink and bare vision with no enhancement,” Bennison said of cheaters. “They try to put the least amount on there that they can still see.”

Koloshi was also arrested for cheating in Iowa in 2009, but the state’s Division of Criminal Investigation did not immediately provide details surrounding the case Monday.

Koloshi has a long list of aliases. His name has been spelled as Kaloshi in several public records, but State Police provided the spelling of Koloshi, which has also appeared in some court filings. State Police asked that anyone with information regarding Koloshi’s whereabouts call investigators at (225) 224-4291.

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