A Royal Dumb Flush is a Losing Hand

In the 21st century, poker has become big business.  It is played online, in casinos and in free standing poker rooms.  Poker has been played in this country for a very long time. Poker has had a checkered past; it has been legalized and banned, it has been commercially successful and it has been a backroom, private game only.  In the 1970s, poker was a mainstay in Nevada casinos, but with the advent of poker rooms in California, casino poker in Nevada lost much of its audience.  However, when it became possible to play poker online, poker regained its popularity and profitability in casinos, not just in Nevada, but around the country.  Playing poker online has been a training ground for a new generation of enthusiastic, dedicated and talented players.

The annual poker tournament at Binion’s Horseshoe Casino in downtown Las Vegas never lost its luster.  The tournament drew the best players in the world.  In time, it came to be called the World Series of Poker.  When Harrah’s – now Caesars – bought the Horseshoe casino chain, it separated the World Series of Poker (WSOP) from the casino company and created a separate brand and identity for the WSOP.  It is now the premier poker tournament in the world and has spawned dozens of smaller tournaments where players compete for a chance to go to Las Vegas and play in the WSOP.  In 2003, Chris Moneymaker won the WSOP; he was only 28 years old.  Moneymaker represented a new generation of players who learned their trade playing online.  Playing online, players can get a great deal of practice; they can play as many hours a day as they wish and the speed of the game is much faster than the traditional game. Veteran online players are simply more experienced regardless of their age than traditional players. All of the winners since Moneymaker have been young, but true veterans, hardened by the intensity of playing poker online.

Wherever it is played, poker is a cerebral game; good players think about the game, analyze the probabilities and attempt to confuse their opponents.  Good blackjack players have to know the game, know the probability of each hand and they need to track the cards that have been played.  Poker players need all of those abilities and the ability to act at the same time.  It is a frequent argument of poker players that poker is not gambling, but a game of skill.  It is a hard argument to refute.

In the world of poker, skill and intelligence are taken for granted by everyone.  Well, almost everyone; Christian Lusardi of Fayetteville, North Carolina does not seem to agree; Lusardi must have thought he was the only smart guy in Atlantic City recently.  He was entered in a high-level, big prize poker tournament typical of tournaments that have developed since online poker’s phenomenal popularity.  The tournament at the Borgata had 4,000 registered poker players competing for a guaranteed $3 million in prize money.

Being the really smart guy that he was, Lusardi had a plan.  He brought $2.7 million in counterfeit poker chips.  He must have thought it was enough to guarantee him a seat at the table in the championship round.  Brilliant!  Except the Borgata employees and state regulators recognized the counterfeit chips and suspended play in the tournament.  At that point, no one knew who had introduced the counterfeit chips, but here again Lusardi demonstrated his superior intelligence – he flushed the chips – a true royal flush – down the toilet in his room and then fled Atlantic City.

The New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement canceled the first event of the Borgata Winter Poker Open. It had suspended the game Friday after suspicions about the use of fake chips arose…The 18-day series of tournaments is a regular feature at the Borgata. The casino’s website said the championship event, which starts Sunday, Jan. 26., would include a $3 million prize guarantee. Wayne Parry, Associated Press, 1-18-14

Workers clearing a clogged sewer pipe at Harrah’s Resort and Casino last weekend discovered $2.7 million in counterfeit Borgata poker chips…An investigation revealed that Christian Lusardi, 42, of Fayetteville, N.C., was staying in the room in Harrah’s where the pipes were clogged…a warrant was issued, and he was charged with rigging a publicly exhibited contest, criminal attempt and theft by deception…He was apprehended and taken to the Atlantic County Justice Facility in lieu of $300,000 bail. Jennifer Bogdan Press of Atlantic City, 1-24-14

The story is amusing, except for the other players in the tournament, the regulators and Borgata; to them it was an insult and an injury.  Lusardi demonstrated an age old adage – never underestimate your enemy – he underestimated the other players and failed to respect their skills and intelligence; he disrespected them.  Did he really think no one would notice the discrepancy in his chip count?  Maybe while he is in prison he can hone his poker skills and learn a little respect for his opponents.  Do you think he will try to cheat in a prison poker game?


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January 2014
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