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Marked Cards in a Casino or Cardroom Near You

In September a player named David Whitehill uncovered a marked cards cheating scam in one of the California Indian Reservation casinos. The blackjack games at the casino in question are played in a format where the bank passes from player to player. The casino generates revenue from a mandatory ante paid for each hand played.

In another recent incident, a professional poker player found marked cards in use in a major Las Vegas casino poker room.

A number of players have expressed concern that casino and poker room cheating of this nature may be widespread, and that casinos and poker rooms are either too incompetent or too corrupt to stop it. They fear that the lack of regulatory oversight may make the blackjack or poker games in some venues too dangerous to play.

Here is a different perspective that I hope will provide some insight on the controversy while offering possible solutions to the problem.

As a general rule, marked card cheating scams in casino poker rooms or on face-up blackjack shoe games start with a loophole in the casino's card control. Inadequate card control is not a California Indian gaming problem but a problem with casinos and cardrooms worldwide.

For example, New Jersey is considered to have exceptionally tight card control which continues even after the cards are used. All decks are sealed in bags and picked up by the Division of Gaming Enforcement. Marked cards, however, have surfaced in every New Jersey Casino.

In the last month marked cards have been discovered in two major Las Vegas casinos and one in Reno. A closer look at the card controls suggest that the cheating scams may have been going on for some time. Virtually every cardroom, including those in and out of California, has had to deal with this cheating scam at one time or another. I have also seen systems of card control used on California Indian reservations that parallel those used in a more "regulated environment," and even some that provide more accountability.

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