Tuesday, 12 March 2013

The elegant theft...

Non-artwork related post ahoy! (However, it is somewhat related to the Sharp Edges project I suppose):

Reading the legendary poker forums at 2+2 I stumbled across this thread: Poll: How much have you been scammed for?
The thread relates to poker players being scammed, some for considerable amounts (it’s worth a read). The scams in question take many forms such as other players asking to borrow money which they never return, doing deals in tournaments which they don’t honour, using other players online accounts – the list goes on but never is being “scammed” or cheated in an actual poker game mentioned. There’s an interesting dynamic (to me anyway) at play here which is that many members at 2+2 will have been cheated at poker without knowing it. The fact that these players, some of the most proficient and studied in the game, are not even mentioning the possibility speaks volumes.

If someone regularly plays poker, 21, backgammon, etc especially in a self-dealt private game scenario then they are likely to have been in contact with, if not worked by, individuals capable of “exerting a manipulative advantage”. If this someone plays for serious stakes in said games then the probability of practitioners of “the elegant theft” being involved in the game escalate exponentially – the more blood in the water, the more likely the shark’s presence.

When considering this, it’s important to appreciate that I’m not referring to the stereotypical model of a cheater perpetuated by film and TV, the reality is much more subtle and clever than anything you’ll ever see on screen. In fact, the amount of thought and analysis that square players put into manifesting an edge is equalled by adept cheaters when considering the application of a clandestine advantage. Let me be clear here, I’m not talking about some clown trying to peek hole cards, I’m talking about professional, premeditated sharps who are not attending the game for entertainment or an interesting evening out but rather with a single minded drive to get the money by employing methodology which is sometimes in direct conflict with the rules of the game in question – the rules aren’t important, winning the money is all that is important, doing so without arousing suspicion is paramount.

The idea of the calculated cheater is often dismissed as nonsense because it’s difficult to imagine for the uninitiated but I can tell you it’s not nonsense. I can also tell you that the DVDs that came out in abundance a few years ago about protecting yourself from cheaters are about as useful as an inflatable dartboard – almost everything in all of them is outdated and/or never used or not used in the way they present it. The fact is, if you are unfortunate enough to end up with a really capable cardsharp in your game, the likes of old Lucas from Sharp Edges, then I’m afraid the uncomfortable truth is that you are effectively defenceless. No DVD or book will help, you are defenceless against the completely unseen and unsuspected threat, which remains unseen and unsuspected even after it has fully manifested itself and extracted your currency. You are defenceless not least because the methodology employed is undetectable but also due to the fact that if you are dealing with a professional then there is a tremendous amount of carefully laid groundwork put in (termed getting “built in” to a game) before the act which means that they sharp is considered well known, even trustworthy and wouldn’t be suspected in the least – “Old Lucas? No, he wouldn’t cheat, he’s my friend, he let me borrow some money just last week, he’s a great friend and a nice person!” of course he is, he’s investing in you – the money he let you borrow is, in his mind, no different to all the money you have – it’s his too, you are merely holding it for him until he relieves you of it. Getting built in to games is one of the greatest skills of the accomplished sharp, it facilitates the trade, opens the doors and the wallets of the unsuspecting opposition – break bread with the enemy.

The only comfort that can be taken from all this is that sharps generally pick their meat and don’t tend to want to play particularly good players or particularly astute individuals so just being a switched on player is a reasonable defence in itself. Finally, the biggest comfort to take here is that the likes of old Lucas are few and far between.

When they're really good, nobody ever realises how good - therein lies the elegance of the elegant theft.

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