Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Poker Cheating

While stationed in Corpus Christi, I got into a more or less regular barracks game, dollar ante, five dollar limit seven card stud. This is not a great game, but it's what there was at the time. When we went to Vietnam it would evolve into a pot limit game.

The very first time I played in this game I noticed something peculiar. It seemed to me that one pattern occurred much too often: the same two players would start raising and reraising each other, five dollars at a time, and frequently everyone else would drop. I thought it likely that they were "wired," and planning to split their winnings after the game. Well, it was good information. It seemed to me that if it was true and they were regulars, then everyone else must know it too.

Finally there came a hand when my two hole cards and my first up card were all queens. There was one bet by someone, called around. On the next four cards these clowns went into their act, betting and raising twenty dollars between them each time. Everyone folded but me, and I had hit a full house on the fifth card.

Now I was playing on two levels - maximize the profits, but give them a chance to fold. Even these idiots would know that everyone would figure them out if they had to show two nothing hands after all that betting. Of course everyone had already figured them out and wanted things to continue, but they weren't smart enough to know that.

Seventh card action went bet, raise, and reraise by the two of them, and I raised for the third and final time. They both jumped at the chance to fold. A nice pot for that size game, a little over $250.00.

When the game ended and most of the players had left, I got one of the other regulars aside and asked, "How long have they been doing that?" It turned out that one of them was a first timer in the game, and the other routinely recruited an outsider to cheat with him. Unfortunately for him, it never paid off, and he was simply a source of profit for the game's regulars. Naturally, when the game started, the regulars wondered which of us two first timers was the cheat.

As a footnote, during our time in Vietnam the "regular" cheater disappeared. He was carried as AWOL for thirty days, then as a deserter. He wasn't killed in action as we had seen no action at all. I suppose it was marginally possible for him to be taken prisoner somehow, perhaps in an off-limits village, but "deserter" was his official status. Certainly, he was the only guy in the outfit that I would consider clueless enough to desert in Vietnam.

I've never learned what happened to him. Every couple of years I google his name, "first, middle initial, last," "first, last" and "last, first," but have never found anything. I've been to The Wall, and he's not there either.

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