To Catch A Poker Thief: Outting a Cheating Dealer

When I walked into the poker room after work, I expected to be given a table, deal out cards, and make my money...the standard operating procedure. What actually happened was an under-cover surveillance to catch someone skimming money off of the poker table. Unfortunately, the suspect was someone I enjoyed working with.

After only dealing an hour at my table, I was given a break. Soon after, the owner of the poker room pulled me aside.

"I need you to do me a favor, Vito," he asked of me. "Are you up to playing some poker tonight?"

I sadly informed him that I had very little money, and I was working to make some extra money on the side, not to blow it all playing poker. (FYI: I have absolutely no problem playing poker, as long as I have the money and the time to play.)

He reached in his wallet, pulled out a $100 dollar bill and handed it to me. "Go get some chips. I need you to watch a dealer. I think he's stealing from the rake."

In most charitable gaming establishments, the dealers are volunteers who can be paid a minimal sum for their time. They are not screened, there is little oversight, and there are no cameras to record what is happening. Because of this, dealers are hired on their word.

I bought my chips and sat down at the table. The usual response I get is: "You're playing this time? You didn't have to deal?" I really wasn't playing, but watching the dealer, the chips, and what was happening.

It took 5 minutes to figure out the strategy of the dealer to pocket chips off the table:

The dealer flipped out the cards, and play started as usual. Eventually, a player would put a red chip in play, but only "call" the initial bet of $2. Rather than give change out of the pot, the dealer reached in the rake, gave five green chips to the player, then set the red chip just next to the rake tray. After the stack reached $25 (5 chips), he would deal out the cards as usual. After the the cards were dealt, he'd point to the person "under the gun," then lean back. To the casual viewer, it looked like he was stiff and just needed to stretch. In reality, the move allowed his hand to slide over the stack, palm it, then let his arm drop to his side, depositing the chips into a side pocket in his shorts.

When I first saw it, I couldn't even believe it...the move was flawless.

He stopped dealing before the poker room closed at midnight, giving him time to go to another table and play. Presumably, he took the money, put it on the table, and tried to make even more money. At the end of the night he cashed in all the chips, pocketing $200ish dollars that should have gone to the charity.

I was sick. I didn't know what to think. I'd known this guy ever since I started dealing, and he was a great guy. I played poker at his house. He's let me borrow money on occasion. To catch him doing something so wrong was a violation of that friendship I had for him.

I told my boss at the end of the night who had the same feelings. He didn't even want to deal with the situation, but he knew that the thief had to go right away, lest the players find out and spread word about how "Westgate's dealers steal" or other rumors that would hurt business.

This morning, as I spent my second to last day at the old dealership, I got a call:

"Hey Vito, there's been schedule. Is there any way possible for you to come in sooner than Seven?"

I could tell they'd fired that dealer. Will he still come to the room and play? Will I never see him again? I'm still not sure how I feel about the whole incident. Either way, he'll leave ahead, since my boss will probably not press charges.

On a side note, I not only paid my boss back, but I made $96 for myself on top of my standard money for working. =)

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1 Response to To Catch A Poker Thief: Outting a Cheating Dealer

August 10, 2007 at 11:36 PM

that's rough. sounds like you did the right thing though. God Bless.