19 July 2006


    Today: July 19, 2006 at 7:40:31 PDT
    Jeff Haney

    Jeff Haney on the best way to handle three stooges trying to cheat

    After watching how well a floor supervisor handled a potentially inflammatory situation this week at the Rio, I’m convinced officials with the World Series of Poker are doing everything they can to stamp out the form of cheating known as collusion.

    Collusion occurs when two or more players work together as a team to win more money from their opponents . It’s costly and unfair to the honest players.

    Only a smart aleck would suggest things were better in the old days when poker players brought .357 Magnums to the table and colluders ended up beneath a Joshua tree in the desert. Still, colluders should be dealt with harshly by the authorities when they’re caught.

    In this case, they were. And World Series officials deserve credit.

    The incident took place at a one-table, 10-player no-limit Texas hold ‘em “satellite” – a minitournament where the winner earns cash or chips that can be used to enter bigger tournaments at the World Series.

    Each player started with $1,000 in tournament chips. Early in the satellite, one of the colluders raised $950, and everyone folded around the two other teammates, who both went all-in for their $1,000.

    The original raiser then folded – a bizarre play that would never be made unless something was fishy.

    The two all-in players then each revealed a “junk” hand. Obviously, the three were working together, attempting to “dump” chips to one of the two players who stayed in the hand. In a one-table satellite, a stack of $2,000 or $3,000 is far more powerful than two or three separate stacks of $1,000 working together. That’s why cheaters collude to dump chips to a teammate.

    The table’s honest players (full disclosure: I was one of them) immediately protested and called for a floor person.

    After giving all the players their say and analyzing the situation, poker supervisor Bob Dunning ejected the three from the satellite and the entire World Series of Poker. Then he summoned security guards, who told the three colluders they were permanently barred from all properties owned by Harrah’s. Finally, he essentially restarted the satellite , giving everyone their original $1,000 and allowing three new players to buy in .

    Later, Dunning told me that Harrah’s, parent company of the Rio and owner of the World Series, has no black-and-white policy on dealing with collusion. It’s left to the discretion of the supervisor on duty, he said.

    “We’re not going to take any of that kind of (garbage),” Dunning said.

    Unfortunately, collusion is not always so easy to spot.

    The three lowlifes at my table were running their little scam with all the grace and subtlety of Moe, Larry and Shemp (I wouldn’t dare insult Curly by bringing him into this).

    Surely there are more polished cheaters out there plying their detestable trade. It’s up to honest players to be vigilant and inform the floor supervisor when collusion is afoot.

    Not every offbeat play indicates collusion. Friends often play at the same table, and they’ll often play hard at each other, whether it’s for a personal side wager or just for bragging rights. Sometimes when the reraises start flying, there’s nothing we can do but duck away from the crossfire and ride it out.

    But if they cross the line into collusion, it becomes a serious matter.

    If you bust out , it should be because the other guy got lucky , or because you made a mistake, or because your opponent outplayed you. (Not that I’ve ever met a poker player who would admit to the latter two.) It shouldn’t be because you were cheated.

    Dunning demonstrated that collusion won’t be tolerated at the World Series.

    Nicely played, sir.

    Jeff Haney can be reached at 259-4041 or at haney@lasvegassun.com.

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