Mississippi Stud Hole-Carding Case Sides with Players By Eliot Jacobson December 12, 2015 at 3:50 pm At the Golden Nugget Casino in Las Vegas on November 22, 1983, Steven Einbinder and Tony Dalben were caught hole-carding at blackjack, with Dalben signaling the dealer’s hole-card to Einbinder. In short, these players found a dealer who, through lack of skill, exposed his down or hole-card. This allowed Einbinder and Dalben to change how they played their hands, gaining a huge edge over the house. Their legal problems came when they were caught using signals to secretly communicate this hole-card information with each other. The case was resolved when the Supreme Court of the State of Nevada found that: Dalben was lawfully seated at his position at the blackjack table, that he did not use any artificial device to aid his vision, and that he was able to see the dealer’s hole card solely because of the admittedly sloppy play of the dealer. Respondent Dalben then communicated his information to respondent Einbinder. The district court ruled that respondents’ conduct did not constitute a violation of the cheating statutes. We agree. The conclusion was that in Nevada, a team of advantage players can legally sit at a table game with one of the players (the spotter) viewing the hole-card or acquiring other unintended information. The spotter is then free to communicate that information to his confederates at the table, using whatever means of communication he chooses, including hand or chip signals. A recent case testing this situation in Illinois just concluded. On November 30, 2013, Christopher Yaldo and Isam Kejbo were hole-carding Mississippi Stud at Hollywood Casino in Joliet, Illinois. They were both legally seated at the table. One of them was able to spot the dealer’s hole-cards. The spotter then communicated this hole-card information to his teammate via hand signals. As reported in the Joliet Patch on December 2, 2013, Yaldo and Kejbo were arrested and charged with the felonies of cheating at a gambling game and burglary. They each faced the prospect of up to three years behind bars if convicted. In Mississippi Stud there are three hidden cards placed in front of the dealer. The player is required to make wagers on three different streets as these cards are revealed. Among advantage players, Mississippi Stud is considered the holy-grail of hole-carding opportunities. Knowledge of one of these three hidden cards allows a player to get at least a 50% edge over the house (see this article at APHeat.net). As stated in The Herald-News on December 8, 2015, According to prosecutors, the men sat apart from one another, but arranged signals when one was able to see the card the dealer took from the shuffling machine on the table … the two men were only taking advantage of a “sloppy” dealer who wasn’t hiding cards properly. After the prosecution presented their case, Judge Edward Burmila halted the trial and gave a directed verdict of not guilty on all counts. Judge Burmila found that no reasonable jury could reach any other verdict. As stated in The Herald-News on December 10, 2015, Judge Burmila concluded that, prosecutors did not prove the signals influenced their bets. Regardless if the information these players communicated to each other influenced their bets (it certainly did), the judge made the correct decision with his directed verdict. These players did not mark the cards, did not collude with the dealer or any other casino employee, did not switch cards with each other (so-called “card mucking”) nor did they do anything else commonly associated with cheating at gambling. They simply exploited a sloppy dealer by signaling each other while both legally seated at the table. As a form of advantage play, hole-carding goes on all over the world, with hundreds of instances taking place on a daily basis. Team hole-card play is a mainstay in the advanced advantage player’s arsenal. Regardless of the ethical or moral implications of exploiting sloppy procedure, in jurisdictions worldwide, it has been affirmed that the burden rests with the house to make sure their dealers are well-trained and that procedures are followed. Nevertheless, many in the casino industry believe that if a game is conducted in a fashion that is not in the spirit of how it was intended, then that behavior constitutes cheating by the player. Whatever moral objections there may be, cases like this one prove that the spirit of the game is irrelevant when determining if cheating has taken place. After the Phil Ivey edge-sorting judgment came down in favor of Crockfords last year, the fear among advantage players was that the momentum in this Mississippi Stud case was squarely on the side of Hollywood Casino. Whatever momentum there may have been, it was halted in place by the force of Judge Burmila’s quick rebuke. Ivey’s appeal of the Crockford’s decision was heard December 10-th. If that decision is overturned on appeal, the momentum will swing back to the player’s side. The competence of casino professionals must be held to a higher standard than the deviousness of those who legally use skillful play and gamesmanship to beat their games. To put it another way, when smart players take advantage of weak policies or procedures, a lawsuit to protect the casino’s interests should not become the standard recourse. The courts are not meant to be a safety net for casinos that operate their games in ways other than the spirit in which they were intended. Judge Burmila’s ruling sent the right message to the industry.