Wednesday, January 5, 2011

If Sticking A Card On Your Forehead Seems Too Obvious, Try Hiding The Card Up Your Sleeve

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This installment of The Tribes In The Media series is a Norwich Bulletin article on an alleged swindle run by Korean citizens who hid cards up their sleeves while playing baccarat at Foxwoods casino.

Foxwoods cheater hid cards up sleeve, police say
Expert: Casino foiled by old trick
By Greg Smith
Norwich Bulletin
January 4, 2011

In just two weeks of gambling at Foxwoods Resort Casino last year, four Korean nationals walked away from the baccarat tables with more than $870,000 in winnings.

It wasn’t luck or skill, according to newly unsealed police reports, but a cheating instrument known as a holdout device, that allows a player to hold a card up their sleeve.

Young Su Gy, 50, had the device concealed on his left forearm while his partner, Wookyung Kim, 34, acted as a blocker, waving score cards to obstruct the view from other patrons and baccarat dealers, police reports show. Police said two other people were working with the couple on various dates between Sept. 8 and Oct. 20. Federal authorities are investigating a link to an international syndicate.

Baccarat is a card game in which two or more players gamble against the banker. The winner is the one who holds two or three cards whose total is closest to nine.

Gy used the mechanical device to drop a card down to fit his hand and switch it with one he had picked up, saving the card until it fit another hand, according to the arrest warrant affidavit prepared by Detective Martin Graham, a member of the state police casino unit.

Spotted on camera

Most of the activity was captured by casino surveillance, but only after the group was gone. The Foxwoods Office of the Inspector General contacted state police Oct. 22 and filled them in on the scheme. Foxwoods security determined who the players were because they had obtained Foxwoods Player Dream Cards with their Korean passports. A month later, state police were contacted by the Department of Homeland Security to report the couple were back in the country, arriving at John F. Kennedy Airport in New York on Nov. 19.

The couple were back at Foxwoods the same day, where they were served with a warrant.

Two other Korean nationals were arrested at the same time on a similar warrant issued by New Jersey authorities. A link is unclear, though federal authorities have been present at several court appearances.

Assistant State’s Attorney Stephen Carney, who is prosecuting the case, declined comment while the case was pending.

Former baccarat dealer, professional cheater and self-proclaimed cheating expert Richard Marcus said the cheating scam and use of the holdout device is nothing new.

Old West device

“It is mainly used in poker games, dating back to Mississippi Riverboat days and the Old West,” Marcus said. “It simply allows a player to stash cards removed from a game or brought with him prior to the game up his sleeve where the device is hidden. Then when he needs to enter the cards into the game, he releases them from the holdout device, which generally holds up to six cards comfortably, depending on the device.

“It is simply incredible and a shame on Foxwoods surveillance that this old trick was used to beat them for that much money,” Marcus said.

Gy and Kim remain held in prison on $500,000 and $150,000 bonds, respectively. Their passports have been seized and they have entered not guilty pleas to a host of charges that include multiple felony counts of first-degree larceny and cheating. They are due back in New London Superior Court on Feb. 7.

A representative from Foxwoods Resort Casino could not be reached Tuesday for comment.