Card Pulling Revisited – Gambling With An Edge

I was asked to answer a Question of the Day sent to The Las Vegas Advisor. My answer was “too long” for a QOD, but appropriate for one of my blogs. Since LVA hosts my blog and they have plenty of QOD questions “in the hopper,” I was allowed to answer this question here.

Is card-pulling at video poker still an effective way of minimizing wins?

Card pulling was never an effective way of minimizing wins. It was done to disguise wins. That is, to make a casino (and possibly the IRS), believe you have won less than you really have.

In the good old days, the player tracking systems tracked your wins and losses when the card was inserted and didn’t do so when it was not. If you were playing dollar Deuces Wild and were dealt four deuces, for example, if you pulled out the card after the deal but before the draw, the $1,000 would not register on your card, but it would still register on the video poker machine itself. At the end of the year, a player who had won $20,000 on the year could easily make it look like he had lost $50,000 or more by strategic card pulling.

For the most part, this doesn’t work anymore. With today’s player tracking systems, if you pull your card mid-play (such as after being dealt a four of a kind but before you play it off), the tracking system will still know that the $1,000 jackpot belonged to you. There will often be a message such as Carded session still in progress. On such a machine, card pulling won’t help you.

On games such as the original Ultimate X, you can effectively card pull — although it’s a little different and there is a cost associated with it. Let’s say you’re playing quarter Ten Play Double Double Bonus Ultimate X and are dealt a full house. You keep your card in while you draw. But after the hand, when you have 12x multipliers on all ten hands, you can pull your card BEFORE you play that one hand. You won’t get credit for the $25 coin-in on that hand (because your card wasn’t in), but if you get any kind of a good hand, multiplied by 12 on all 10 lines, you won’t have that “charged” against you either.

Dealt straights and flushes (8x and 10x on each line, respectively) have a similar effect, although slightly smaller.

Keep in mind it is really obvious when you pull out a card. It is easily seen by others watching — including by the eye in the sky. Some casinos have a policy of removing players who are trying to defraud them. A point can be made that disguising wins and losses (which are data points casinos use to reward players) is a form of fraud. Whether you think it is fraud is largely irrelevant. In most jurisdictions, it’s the casino’s privilege to remove you for almost any reason.

There are also loss rebate programs. Some players use Ultimate X games to rack up massive imaginary losses. They then have collected on these rebates. Others have been kicked out of casinos for doing exactly this. If a casino wanted to document your actions before they decided to not give you the rebate and withdraw your welcome from the casino, it’s relatively easy to use the eye in the sky digital tapes to create a record of on exactly what you were doing. Seeing such evidence, it probably wouldn’t be too difficult to convince a jury that you were cheating.

Reporting doctored data to the IRS is definitely fraud. Using Win Loss statements that you have doctored by card pulling is a felony if caught. You probably won’t be caught, but who knows? 

Many IRS auditors don’t accept casino-generated Win Loss statements because they are easy to manipulate. (Even if you don’t pull your card, if you play at five casinos and only turn in Win Loss statements from three of them, it is simple to present misleading information.) IRS regulations all require players to keep their own records. 

Even when the casino is not actively looking for you pulling your card, sometimes you will get W-2Gs when your card is out. A casino manager could well ask how you can be racking up casino points when your card isn’t in the machine? If they didn’t know you were trying to defraud the casino before, they do now.

Bottom line, the move is well known by most casino managers. It is easy to detect when you’re doing it. It works only on a few machines. The penalties for getting caught at it can be severe. Are you sure this is what you wish to be doing?