Poker cheats' winning run ends in prison sentence

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The Independent Online

A team of card cheats used a spy camera and a hidden earpiece to con casinos out of an estimated £250,000, a court was told yesterday.

The Chinese gang were caught red-handed carrying out the elaborate "sting" at a gambling house in London. Police said that the poker cheats used a system never seen in Britain before. It involved the gang leader, Yau Yiv Lam, 45, hiding a miniature camera up his sleeve to film cards dealt by the croupier. The footage was beamed to Fan Leung Tsang, 41, in a van equipped with video monitors.

The images were played by Tsang in slow motion so the cards could be identified as they were laid face down on the table, Southwark Crown Court was told. The information was then relayed to a hidden microphone worn by a third gang member, Bit Chai Wong, 39, an experienced poker player at the table. Police believe they targeted six of London's 25 casinos, making £38,000 in one week alone.

Lam, a former chef, was jailed for nine months. Tsang and Wong, who, like Lam, pleaded guilty to one count of "cheating at play" under the 1846 Gaming Act, were also given nine-month prison sentences but suspended for two years. They were ordered to do 150 hours' unpaid community work and forbidden from entering casinos or gambling clubs for two years.

Staff at the Mint Casino in South Kensington, became suspicious about Wong's apparently extraordinary run of luck at three-card poker during one night in September 2005. Out of 44 "plays", she lost just 10 - well above statistical odds.

When staff realised they were being cheated and then spotted Tsang's white van parked outside the casino's Silver Room bay window, they contacted police who arrested the gang.

Judge Geoffrey Rivlin QC said: "The crime of cheating at play may well be over 150 years old, but, as has been demonstrated in this case, it is still alive and kicking. The offence you committed was obviously a carefully planned and executed crime."