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Gamble 103: Protect Your Ass(ets)

by Nathan Gamble |  Published: Nov 04, 2020

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This is the story about how I was kidnapped.

On Jan. 11, 2008, I was a senior in high school well on my way to graduating. I had college, and the women and alcohol-fueled parties that came with it, in my bright-eyed future. I was also still a bit clumsy, awkward, and had braces and a floppy mop of hair.

On that fateful day it was all set to change. I had a long-awaited appointment at the orthodontist to remove my braces, and a haircut appointment at the local mall. The plan was to walk back into school a brand-new man, brimming with confidence that can only be bestowed by a new look. I was ready to take on the world! The world had different plans that day.

I signed out of school at 9 a.m., successfully had my braces removed, and headed to the mall for a fresh cut. I pulled up in my dad’s old Toyota Camry, probably 13 years old at that point (it had been mine for two years and I had put more wear and tear on it than he had in the preceding years.) A few months prior I had slid into a ditch in a parking lot and there were still a couple cosmetic scratches left. Hell, even the passenger side sun visor had its mirror busted out and never replaced. It was older, it was clunky, but it was also reliable and got me safely to the mall.

As I sat in the barber’s chair, I slowly glided my tongue along my freshly revealed teeth thinking how weird they felt. I cracked a smile in the mirror and realized that change looked good. Before long the haircut was over, and I stood up and admired the work. It was shorter and more ‘surfer-esque’ than before, and I thought it paired well with my blue polo and dark jeans. I was feeling confident, like nothing could stand in my way and I was the master of my own fate.

I walked blissfully through the food court and made eye contact with a cute girl and shared a smile. Opening the doors revealed a bright and sunny world that I had to shade my eyes from in order to gain my bearings. It took a minute to figure out where I left the car, and just as I started heading into the parking lot a voice behind me yelled out, “Hey man!”

I turned around, expecting it to be someone I knew, but instead was met by a man in his upper twenties dressed in cargo shorts, a plain black t-shirt, and a ball cap resting over his short hair. He wasn’t anyone I knew.

He approached and told a story about how his car had broken down. He was waiting on a friend but for some reason wanted to wait it out at a gas station a few blocks away, maybe grab a bite to eat?

Looking back now the story obviously doesn’t add up. It didn’t make sense in the moment either. Something didn’t quite feel right and I told him no, sorry, I had to get back to school. He persisted though as we kept walking deeper and deeper into the parking lot, closer to the car. Finally, I relented. I was having one of the best days of my life, I was brimming with self-confidence, why not help someone out? It would only take me a couple minutes out of my way and it seemed proper to help share some of my good fortunate with someone so down on their luck. We had arrived at my old trusty steed and I told him to jump in and I’d take him where he needed to go.

He jumped in, I started the car, and he pulled a gun out of his pocket.

“Now we’re heading to the bank!”

We’ll continue this story in a future issue. But what does it have to do with poker?

I was confident, I was cocky, I was positive that no one and nothing could stand in my way, and I let my guard down. Not slowly or at a mid-point defense, but all the way down.

By now you’ve heard or read about Stones Gambling Hall Tournament Director Justin Kuraitis. The Stones Live stream operator has been accused of having helped Mike Postle allegedly cheat a low-stakes casino cash game out of hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Kuraitis released a lengthy statement in September discussing his claimed innocence and how the court system has exonerated him. I won’t delve too deeply into this other than to point out that Kuraitis stated he “wondered if it was possible that Mike Postle had cheated” and ultimately said he didn’t.

In reality, the overwhelming majority of reputable and trustworthy poker players that have seen the video evidence have concluded that he did indeed cheat. But what is provable by the laws of mathematics is sadly not always provable in the courtroom. We still have to say “allegedly” to avoid slander. We do not have sufficient proof that he cheated, and Mike is still free to play at any casino or poker room that he walks into, assuming he can stand the dirty looks and insults thrown in his direction. We still have to say “allegedly” to avoid accusations of slander and libel.

Any time you walk into a casino, you feel safe, secure, and comfortable. The floor is present, the eye in the sky is watching, and security has your back. Why would anyone cheat you in a casino? It would be the stupidest place someone could cheat. And yet, we know it happens.

The casinos spend countless millions setting up security systems and employing top-notch firms to ensure that they stay one step ahead of the crooks. Whether you are in a casino, on a regulated online site, playing on an un-regulated grey area site, playing in home games, or in an underground casino, you have to be aware. You can’t let your guard down.

There are a few things you can do to help protect yourself in any poker game you play:

Watch the big winner in the game, is it skill, is it luck, or is it something else?

Don’t keep your entire bankroll in one game, one site, or one location.

If it’s a new environment, pay attention to everything and listen to your instincts.

Count the rake being taken in home games. See if it goes up, or if a dealer happens to glide another chip in by accident a little too often.

Think about the motivation of someone hosting a game, are they hosting for a couple hundred dollars of rake a night or is there more that’s happening behind the scenes?

Walk into every situation, every game, alert and observant. Usually nothing is amiss, everything is on the level. But if you have the feeling that something just isn’t quite right? Walk away. Learn to say no. Learn to trust yourself, trust your instincts, and learn to listen to that gut feeling and it will help you avoid sticky situations at the poker table as well as in life. ♠

Nathan Gamble is a native of Texas where he learned to play the game of hold’em from his father. He is a two-time World Series of Poker bracelet winner, the first coming in the 2017 WSOP $1,500 PLO8/b Event, the second in the 2020 Online WSOP $600 PLO8/b event. A fixture of the mid-stakes mixed game community since moving to Las Vegas in 2019, he can often be found playing $80-$160 games at the Wynn. He is active on Twitter under the username Surfbum4life and streams mixed game content weekly on twitch under the same moniker.