An Interview With Steve Forte
by Vic Taucer
An Interview With Steve Forte
Poker Protection—Cheating and the World of Poker a great new book and training tool
Vic Taucer is president of Casino Creations, a Las Vegas-based educational, training and consulting company, which specializes in table game evaluations, customer service training, dealer training and managerial training for table games operations. A former professor of casino management for the University & Community College System of Nevada and a long-time casino manager at many resorts, Vic can be reached at (702) 595-7800 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
I was recently asked to review a new book on casino game protection titled Poker Protection: Cheating and the World of Poker. The author is renowned game protection expert: Steve Forte. I have known Steve for many years, we are both of the generation of young people who broke into the gaming business in medieval times—you know the 70s!
When we talk of the subject of game protection in poker operations, Steve is the person that gaming people “in the know” recognize as the expert that knows this subject better than anyone. Steve is not just an expert on this subject but he is the definitive expert on casino game protection.
I decided to interview Steve to get the details, but before we begin, let me first state that this book will play a major role in the game protection field in poker for years to come. With over 300 pages, some great photographs, dozens of tables and charts, and most of all, hard-hitting quality content, this book is truly one-of-a-kind!
Poker Protection: Cheating and the World of Poker will quickly supersede anything ever written on the subject. It’s a must-read for any gamer with any connection to table game operations!
The following are a few questions with Steve Forte:
In early 2005 we talked about your tome, Casino Game Protection—A Comprehensive Guide; at that time you didn’t think that writing books was in your future and now we have Poker Protection—Cheating and the World of Poker. What happened?
Poker Protection—Cheating and the World of Poker is, quite simply, the result of circumstances. The poker world was exploding and I’d received numerous requests to publish the poker chapter in CGP under separate title. Yet that chapter, less than 40 pages, only overviewed cheating at casino poker, it did not address the unique differences between casino poker and the pit games, or delve into the history of cheating in the card rooms, or discuss tournament play (a popular marketing tool for casinos everywhere), and so on. In short, I needed to address many other areas of the game not included in CGP, and Poker Protection is the result.
Who is the target audience for Poker Protection?
Poker Protection was written for anyone involved with the game on any level. This includes players, operators, industry executives, card room personnel, authors and all those involved with security-related fields such as the gaming control, law enforcement, surveillance and game protection consultants.
If you had to pick the most dangerous scam in the poker room, what would it be?
Of course all scams are dangerous, but there is one that always ranks in the top few “most difficult casino scams to detect,” and that is the collective genre of scamming known as “collusion,” or the signaling of information between players. As an example, assume that you and I are partners; you’ve two kings and I pickup two aces. After signaling the information to each other, you muck your two kings so only the best hand plays. With this arrangement we never have to give up 2 to 1 on our money. Even if another player wins the pot, he has been cheated since he should have won twice as much money. Further, once your two kings hit the muck, all evidence is gone, which makes this scam (known as “playing top hand”) virtually impossible to detect.
How about the impact of shuffling machines to the scammers?
As to be expected, automatic shufflers have proven to be a welcome innovation to the world of poker. In addition to the obvious increase in productivity they stop many scams, such as those employing culling techniques, false shuffles and slugs, and coolers. But they don’t solve all of the problems. Collusion, marked cards (from both the inside and outside), and other scams are still possible. In this regard, it’s important that we don’t let them create a false sense of security.
When you compare poker to the pit games, they differ in so many ways. How about game protection philosophies?
Poker is not a game that lends itself to constant, direct supervision in the same way we see with other casino games. Nothing is more uncomfortable to a poker player than to have someone looking over his shoulder. The old-timers use to call out, “It’s raining” which was a request to bosses to get rid of all the sweaters. Should a floor person stop to watch a hand, you will inevitably see the player turn to see who’s standing behind them. This situation often results in a “no words spoken” awkwardness. Although the floor person has the right to stand where ever he likes (the best stand behind the dealer), they will often stand far enough back so as not to invade a player’s immediate space. Unfortunately, trying to find a small viewing angle through the backs of players’ heads is not the best perspective for observing the action, and although bosses might watch a hand or two, it’s unusual for them to sweat any game over any length of time. This leads to the obvious question: “How much substantive, ongoing supervision can we really expect?”
In conclusion, the card room is clearly considered an entity apart from the pit with its own unique set of priorities and practices. And it should. It’s different.
Staff does not evaluate the skill of poker players as a means of identifying suspect play. Suspicious play within the course of a hand doesn’t prompt a closer look. Staff does not provide a direct and constant supervision of the games—not when compared to the pit games. And very few clubs pursue game protection training for its dealers or staff as is commonly seen in the pit. But as you can see, adhering to the same philosophy as used in the pit is not always practical, and in some case, downright impossible.
On this subject of poker game protection, I am thrilled that there is finally a text published that is the definitive guide to this subject. I have more questions for Steve and may be able to do a second interview later this year. I recommend Steve’s new book Poker Protection highly and it is a must for your library!