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Ungentlemanly Conduct

There are also methods of cheating called “coffee-housing” or ungentlemanly conduct. These methods tend to take advantage of factors not ordinarily considered proper in playing to win any gin rummy game. The term emanated from the back rooms of many coffee houses in Austria and Hungary where the most disreputable characters got together to play cards back many years ago. Their conduct while playing cards was so ungentlemanly that they were not permitted to play cards anywhere else. Most clubs and tournaments nowadays consider coffee-housing out and out cheating. Although it is called ungentlemanly conduct, there has been an influx of women who are also considered to display this kind of behavior at the card tables around the world. Any player using these methods is not accepted into any card clubs or tournaments.

Most people consider there to be a very thin line between cheating and coffee-housing. Most people believe that taking any undue advantage is definitely a form of cheating and that is where coffee-housing falls into play. One of the ways to coffee-house is to “hustle”. This is the expert player who sits down as a new player and proceeds to play poorly in order to induce higher stakes, and then suddenly starts getting lucky and playing well. They are not just getting lucky, they are hustling you. Gin rummy takes a long time to master and no one all of a sudden starts playing certain cards over the others just on a whim. If this happens in more than one game, it is time to call it quits and take your loss for what it was, and learn what you can do differently next time.

At most card and country clubs, one of the prime examples of ungentlemanly conduct occurs in partnership games. In every group of gin rummy players you have top players, average players, and poor players. Handicapping each individual player is no problem usually so that you can get a more even game. For example, in a group of six, in most social games among members you will have players of different levels. Since the basis of club play is determined by throwing out three blank and three red cards for every game for the selection of partners, there will be many occasions when the best of the six players are on one side and the poorest of the six on the other side. The man who will look for the maximum bets when he is on the side of top players and will take only the minimum required when he is on the other side is one prime example of “coffee-housing”.

Another time is when, since the established rule in partnership games states that a player can never advise his partner on his play, the player insists on grunting, or grimacing. This is indicating his displeasure at a particular discard. It is a way to let the partner know that a card was good or bad for his hand, and will give him information on what he is holding.

It is also considered “coffee-housing” when a player tries to deceive or impart false information to an opponent. For instance, suppose a player, after picking a card from the stock starts reshuffling his hand around. This action indicates to his opponent that he is determining what he has and what he can safely discard. If he is rearranging his cards merely to lead his opponent to believe that he has problems with his hand while he is in reality, sitting with nine melded cards and has a safe card to discards, then his actions would be considered ungentlemanly conduct.

There are several types of cards that will be picked up in the ordinary course of play from an opponent’s discards. There are also occasions when thought is required as to whether or not to pick up an opponent’s discard. The picking of a stiff for either offensive or defensive purposes is a good example of this. There are also times when thought is required as to whether or not to pick a card that would be the fourth card on a run. There are times during a game when thought is required as to whether it would be advisable to pick a very small card and discard a larger valued one, either in preparation for a knock or merely to reduce a hand for a count. But if you are sitting with two Kings when your opponent discards a King and you hesitate and then pick it up to give your opponent the impression that you do not really need it for a meld but are picking a stiff to try to induce him to knock on the next card, figuring you are holding two Kings instead of a meld, it is “coffee-housing”.

When playing cards at a gambling casino or against professional gamblers it is considered perfectly proper to deceive an opponent or give him a false impression or even to take advantage of any opportunities offered short of out and out dishonestly. However, when playing gin rummy in a social manner, either at home, in clubs, or at resorts with people you know, you must play and expect them to play at all times in the same way you conduct yourself. It has been said that playing cards with somebody is the simplest and quickest way of determining character.

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The Conspiracy Theory

In addition to be cheated in play by an opponent, you can also be cheated by outsiders or people who observe your hand and inform your opponent’s of what you are holding. Furthermore, there can also be a conspiracy among players in a partnership game.

Obviously, you can protect yourself against the first type of cheaters by not letting anyone observe your hand or the hand of your partner. Unfortunately, in higher staked games, this does not protect you completely, since there have been reported cases of observers using high powered binoculars to read the cards and then the person using the binoculars will alert your opponent of what you have.

Outsiders though also work in other more subtle ways. They may come up to you as a “stranger” and after watching the game for a relatively long period of time, suddenly want to bet with you or against your hand. You may see this as a side bet, but then they pull up a chair next to you and you find yourself strangely losing all of a sudden. After you eventually lose a good deal of money, and everyone pays up what they owe, you later see them together talking. It hits you like a ton of bricks; that “stranger” was working with your opponent to get a chance to see your cards. At the time it may have seemed like a natural observer, but really, they are thieves trying to get your cards known to your opponent.

In some of the bigger money games, especially in resort areas in Europe, there may be several outsiders involved. The cheating player may higher several people to watch the play and signal to him as to your holdings. The purpose in having several helpers moving from place to place around the table is to prevent suspicion being directed towards just one of the outsiders helping.

In playing in partnership games, no matter how many players, it is always possible that an individual can be conspired against. It may be that only two of the other players in the game are doing it, in which case they are concerned with having more money bet on the one side than the other, so long as they are on opposite sides. The player playing on the side that is betting the most money will dump his hand so that at the end of the game the larger sum of money passes to the proper side. Also, you may be conspired against by all the players in a partnership game so that, no matter who your partner is, he will automatically dump his hand and cause you to lose every cent you have.

This is very hard to prove, because there is a chance that some of the “signs” of conspiracy are completely accidental. But, if you find yourself losing much more money than anyone else at the table, it is a good indication that you should not be playing with these specific people again.

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Cheating the Money Card

The money card is another place where a dishonest scorekeeper can cheat. The money card is employed to keep track of the winnings and losing of each player in the game. If the players in the session do not examine the money card carefully at the end of each game, a dishonest scorekeeper can at any time put a winning score in a losing column or a losing score in a winning column.

While doing this, he can reverse his own two balances to balance it off. Trying to remember something that happened two or three hours before so that they can ascertain whether a game was entered correctly is an impossible task. If the money card is kept in pencil, a dishonest scorekeeper can go back at any time and reverse figures that were written in the two or three hours earlier. A player that does not check the money card at the end of each game would have no way of protecting himself against this, and one reversal of any figure on this card could cost him a great amount of money. Since the bottom columns will always balance, even when a score is reversed, there is absolutely no way to catch such alterations. To prevent the changing of figures, both the game score and the money card should always be kept in ink. Also, at the end of every game, when the dollars and cents scoring is then transferred to the money card, the card should be passed along to each player in the game for verification as to his own money score.

While not involving the scorekeeper, there is something else to remember. When playing at resort areas where gin rummy is played in bathing suits in front of a cabana as so often done for “fun”, a player may often lose a good amount of money. Since he does not have a wallet with him, he says he will see you in the locker room or at dinner. That is sometimes the last you will see of him. Also, where games are continued over several days, the amounts won and lost are kept on money cards carried by each player. For example, the game begins on Friday night and at the end of the session, the money that is won and lost is listed on the money card with the understanding that the players will keep adding and subtracting to these individual player’s totals after each session. They will then settle up on Sunday evening. The reasons given for this are usually to avoid having to carry large sums of money with you every day or to have to write numerous checks to cash. The major disadvantage in such an arrangement is that the person who has every intention of paying his normal losses can come up with what he considers to be an abnormal loss by totaling three day losses. This might create the temptation not to pay. In other words, a man who might lose $70.00 in a Friday night session would never hesitate to pay his losses, but if the next day he loses $90.00, which also is a reasonable amount to pay by itself, added to the $90.00 he might lose on a Sunday then adds up to $250.00 which might seem completely unreasonable for him. Not willing to part with this amount of cash, he may refuse to pay up or just skip out on you completely. The way to avoid this is to avoid weekend games, and plan on playing those types of games only with people you see on a regular basis, or pay up each evening before leaving the game.

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Protection Against Cheating on the Score

The most obvious protection against incorrect score keeping is for each team to have their own scorekeeper, or failing this, to have the opposing team double check all of the scoring, not only at the completion of the game, but at the end of each hand. In gin rummy, it must be remembered that the scorekeeper, even though a member of a playing team, has no obligation whatsoever as to the accuracy of the information that he gives regarding counts. For instance, if his opponent were to ask during the play of a hand what his safe count is and the scorekeeper replies 14 and the player later brings his down to 13 points and after losing his hand by that count finds that the scorekeeper gave him the wrong count, it is no ones responsibility but his own. The scorekeeper is not responsible for this misinformation. A dishonest scorekeeper could deliberately misinform his opponent for the purpose of keeping him over the count. The only protection against this is to ask for the scores yourself and verify your own count.

This is true even in a six-handed partnership game. If, when after two of the players complete their hands and the third partner asks for his count to protect the score already won by his partners he is misinformed by the scorekeeper, the responsibility is his own. Along these same lines, another trick a dishonest scorekeeper may use is to furnish unwarranted advice to his own partner by misinformation as to a count. For example, the scorekeeper’s partner has nine melded and must choose between two discards, such as a 10 or a 5. The scorekeeper is aware that his partner has a safe count of seven, but he has a particular reason for wanting his partner to discard only the 5. To accomplish his purpose, he may deliberately tell him that he has a safe count of eleven in order to induce him to hold the 10 in his hand rather than discard it.

Obviously examples such as the ones described are used only at the most opportune times, primarily when schneids are involved. If any of these stunts were done on more than one or two occasions during a gin session, the dishonesty of the scorekeeper would be quite evident. However, a single occurrence of any score keeping “error” could still prove very costly.

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Cheating On the Score

There is one particular type of cheating which, although it has no bearing on the actual play of a hand, can be very costly. This is cheating on the part of the scorekeeper. The person who does this as a scorekeeper will usually keep a fair score of tabulation until the score gets too close for comfort. Then such a cheat will resort to one of the following. They will either miscount the number of boxes at the completion of the game and then continuing on either up or down, depending on whether the scorekeeper’s side has won or lost the game or they will add incorrectly either high or lower. They can also add or eliminate a number of boxes when scoring, or incorrectly write the appropriate score when a hand has been completed, adjusting it either upwards or downwards. Last but not least, they can indirectly misinform the other players as to the counts.

For example, a sheet shows a four-handed partnership game with all three games having been won by Team A on a schneid. According to the official methods of scoring the true winning number of points on the sheet is 6796 which, being more than 6500 is considered 7000 points. If, for example, the game was being played at $.01 per point, this would mean that each winning team would get $70.00. In the first column, Team A has a total of 14 boxes, in the second they had 18 boxes, and in the third column they had 16 boxes. If the scorekeeper was a dishonest member of Team A, he could have counted the boxes as 15, 19, and 17 respectively. This would mean an additional total to their score of 25 points more in the first game, 25 more in the second game and 100 more in the third game, since the third game is doubled for not only for the fact it is the third game but also for the schneid. The 150 points in this case would not affect the overall scoring. However if you assume that there were one box less in the third column on the original score, then the total would be 6696 instead of 6796. The addition of the one extra box in this game by the scorekeeper would mean an additional $5.00 to each player. On the other hand, if the scorekeeper were a member of Team B, all he would have to do would be to keep the score correct in the first and second columns and miscount by one box in the last column to save his side $5.00 per player.

Another example of cheating by the scorekeeper is when winning 28 points, a scorekeeper in a singles game can write down 38 points. The same goes if he is losing, he can write down 18 instead of 28, and unless his opponent watches him carefully, this certainly cannot be picked up later on when looking at the score. He can also write an extra bonus if he is entitled to one. He could also leave an empty space between these scores and insert a bonus box later in the game if he finds himself losing. In a partnership game he makes a little notation of winning or losing scores at the end of each notation of winning or losing scores at the end of each hand and, when all the players have finished their hands, he could total these scores and insert them on the score pad. If he is a cheater then he can vary his notations as to each hand to his own benefit. In addition, the scorekeeper, in adding the total of three games, could write down 7796 rather than 6796. This littler error, at $.01 a point would mean a $10.00 difference to each player. Unless his opponents actually go over all of his arithmetic in detail they will be cheated. Also, there is the bonus of the fact that if the discrepancy is picked up on, they can simply say it was human error.

Most scorekeepers follow a procedure of showing the bonus boxes before the numerical score of the hand. In the event that his side was to win a hand that did not involve any bonus boxes it would be a relatively simple matter for the scorekeeper to insert a figure for box bonuses after the score was written in and before the next hand. Then, if the next that was won included boxes, he could reverse the procedure and put in the point score first and then the boxes. Without a very careful checking by his opponents, this system almost defies detection.

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The Counterfeit Meld or Count

A person who has a counterfeit meld or count rarely does so on purpose, and most of the time it was an accident and he truly believe in what he had.

For example, a player declaring gin puts down a hand which he believes is the correct hand, such as:

3♠, 3♣, 3♥, 7♠, 7♦, 7♥, 10♦, J♦, Q♦, K♦

However instead of the Q♦, the player has a Q♥. The error was an accident and he honestly believed he had a gin hand. Although again, it is rare, it does happen. Unfortunately such situations are at times deliberate, even so far as to have the Q♥ laying in such a manner that everything is covered except the red Queen. Your only protection in either case is a careful examination of your opponent’s hands when laid down.

In a partnership game, the partners also have the privilege of examining your opponent’s hand and calling attention to any discrepancies. Keep in mind that, in a singles game, a hand is considered dead once the loser has acknowledged his loss and the cards are picked up and reshuffled, even if a discrepancy is recalled after that. However, in a partnership game, the hand is considered dead when the same condition occurs if it is the last hand being played in a partnership group. Though, if it is not the last hand, the hand is considered dead when one of the other teams has made a play against the specific score that has been acknowledged in a completed hand. If any discrepancy in that hand is subsequently discovered, such as a false run or false knock, the score that had been established stands.

Frequently, after losing their hands, some players have the habit of just stating the number of points lost and then pushing their hands together and throwing them into the deck. This practice is wrong since the rules of gin rummy clearly state that a losing player must open his hand completely to the winner and the winner has the right to verify the actual losing count. In a partnership game, the partners of the winning player also have the right to verify the losing count of his opponent.

When counting an opponent’s losing points, make certain that you are seeing his complete hand and that he is not trying to pull the hidden card trick. That is, sometimes a player will very casually place a down card directly behind another one so that you would actually be counting only nine cards rather than ten. In this manner, he can frequently conceal an unmatched high card. Therefore, always verify that you are looking at a full hand. It is always the responsibility of every player to carefully examine his opponent’s hand when looking at either a winning or losing hand.

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Illegal Hands

It is true that on occasion a player may, accidentally, have an extra card in his hand. For instance, he may have been dealt 11 or 12 cards in error. He may have picked a card from the stock and forgot to discard, or sometimes two cards may be stuck together. In such cases, the rules of gin rummy specifically state that if either player’s hand is discovered to have an incorrect number of cards before that player has made his first draw, there must be a new deal.

After the first draw however, if it is discovered that both players have incorrect hands, there must be a new deal. But if one player’s hand is incorrect and the other player’s hand is correct, the player holding the proper number of cards has the option of either having a new deal or continuing play. If play continues, the player with the incorrect hand must correct his hand by discarding without drawing or by drawing without discarding, and may not knock until his next regular turn to play. That is, if one player has a card too many, he does not select a card from the deck when it is his turn to pick, but simply discards a card from his hand. If on the other hand the player is short a card, he may, in his regular turn, pick the last card discarded by his opponent or select a new card from the stock as in ordinary play, but he does not discard.

The choice of whether or not to continue play usually depends on the stage in which the game is in at the time the error is discovered. When it is discovered fairly late in the course of play that a player has an illegal number of cards, it generally means that his hand is nearly read for a decision such as a knock or a gin. Usually an irregular hand is not noticed until a player has at least six melded cards. Therefore, unless you are reasonably sure of winning the hand no matter what happens, you should have the hand replayed. Of course, if after your opponent has actually won the hand through a knock or gin it is found that he has an illegal number of cards, you should have the hand discarded or replayed.

The player who is deliberately cheating by dealing himself an extra card or by palming one can be a problem. This extra card will greatly enhance his opportunities for melds and the chances are a little better than average that he will win his hand before you discover that he has the wrong number of cards. In which case, he gets full credit for the value of his win.

To protect against a player who deliberately plays with an extra card in his hand, when knocking or ginning a hand make certain to follow the rule that requires that the entire hand must be turned face up as well as the card that is discarded. In fact, the hand and discard should be kept away from either the balance of the unused deck or the previously discarded cards. The loser of the hand must also lay his cards face up on the table. The most obvious way to protect yourself against this is to simply count the number of cards you are dealt as well as your opponent’s and to make sure to check them again during play to make sure you and your opponent both have a legal hand.

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Card Manipulation

Card manipulation is another technique that a cheater may employ in the game of gin rummy. It is relatively easy for someone to do with the proper amount of practice and perfection.

For example, it is considered to be card manipulation if after a hand has been played, as the cheater scoops the cards to himself after the previous hand has been finished, he can leave an entire meld on the bottom of the pack. He gives the pack a little shuffle so as not to disturb these bottom cards. Most of the time, no matter how the deck is cut, this four-card meld will be together and in the course of the deal or play, each of the players will receive two of the four cards. Since the cheater now knows two of the cards in your hand, he of course, will be able to play around them until you either break your pair or he utilizes his two cards in other melds. Your best protection against this or other types of stacking the deck is to shuffle the cards thoroughly when they are given to you to cut. Because cheating was so prevalent in the 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s this is now been established as one of the prime rules of the game.

Another action of a card manipulator is the removal of a card from the deck. This may be done by leaving one card in the box when opening and removing a new deck. It may also be done by inadvertently dropping a card on the floor while shuffling or handling the deck. It can also be done by palming a card and putting it in their pocket. The advantage that can be obtained by the cheat is unbelievable. With his knowledge of the missing card, he first has the benefit of not trying to establish a meld in his own hand around that missing card. He also has relatively safe plays around the missing card, since he knows that his opponent does not hold it.

The 51-card deck play is usually good for only one or two hands at a crucial moment since many gin rummy players at the end of a hand will glance at the unused deck to see how close they got to the card that they were looking for. Obviously, it would not take more than one or two hands for them to realize that a key card is missing. Since the rules of gin rummy establish that once a hand is completed, it stands, even though the deck was bad. The damage then has already been done, even if you do suspect a player cheated.

There are two ways to protect yourself against a “short” deck. The first is to count and verify a deck before it is put into play. Second, when a hand has been completed, glance through the remaining cards in the deck to verify that the cards you needed to complete your hand are still in the deck.

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Cheating at Gin

No matter how skilled you are or may become in the game of gin rummy, you stand no chance against dishonesty. Granted, there are certain specific rules of the game that, if followed, give you a certain level of protection against cheating. There are other procedures that if used consistently will give you even more protection. The most important thing is to know that you have the utmost confidence in the integrity of everyone in the game. There are times, especially when the stakes increase, the temptation to be dishonest grows. There are certain people who will take that dishonest advantage for the sole purpose of winning and satisfying their own egos. It is important to be on guard for both the person who is trying to win for money, as well as simply winning for pride.

Mechanical cheating is one of the ways to cheat. The items that are used by professional card cheats include shiners, embossing devices and marked cards. All of these are most effective in Gin, as in any other card game.

Shiners are mirror devices, usually concealed in a ring or similar piece of jewelry, which enables a dealer to read the actual cards that he is dealing out. Embossing devices, which are used to mark cards, can also be concealed in rings or bandages. It is easy to purchase marked cards which will permit the user to tell the rank of each card. Usually a small geometric figure is lightened, enlarged or darkened, or a line is thickened here or there. It could be anything that helps a player distinguish it, without being obvious to the non-cheaters. At one point there was even a marked deck that made it possible to identify the suits of each of the cards.

The most prevalent form of mechanical cheating is card marking. This does not by any means mean that an entire deck is marked. A player who is able to identify any one card in the deck has a tremendous advantage. If he is able to identify two or three cards, then this advantage is almost impossible to overcome. In order for an expert cheat to identify a particular card, all that he needs to do is to place a tiny nick in a card with a fingernail, an embossing device, or any other identifying mark. The only real protection that you have against this type of cheating, other than knowing who you are playing with, is to change the decks used as often as possible.

Detecting a player who is using mechanical cheating techniques requires expert knowledge and vision. Specialists in this field have produced clearly illustrated books which fully explain these tricks, and if you are going to play gin rummy competitively, you may want to read up on them, and the many gambling articles on the subject of card cheating. If you have any suspicions that cheating is going on you should leave the game immediately, because your focus would then be on the cheating, and not on the game at hand. Again, it is of the utmost importance, that you are well aware of who is playing in the game, and that you can trust them completely.