A Card Cheaters Exclusive: Johnny Hughes’ Texas Poker Wisdom


Card Cheaters (CardCheaters.com) was a news source about gambling cheating and scams which was run by Gambling Incorporated (GamblingIncorporated.com) from January 2005 through February 2017. Although it continued to offer a newswire through December 2022, none of that was archived. Their archives are now available here.

Johnny Hughes, who is the real deal as far as being an experienced player and historian about the game of poker, has just published a novel titled “Texas Poker Wisdom.” The story is about Matthew “Slick” O’Malley, a Texas road gambler of fifty years who wants to teach his nephew, Dylan, everything about poker: its strategy, culture, language, history, pitfalls, songs, movies, books, gambling joints, and web sites.

While reading this entertaining novel you too will learn about the ins and outs of the poker world and poker life while improving your game with the insights throughout the book.Mr. Hughes has graciously allowed us to excerpt a portion of the book that discusses cheating at poker. For a taste of his writing style and accurate information about the subject read the below excerpt and don’t forget to buy the book.

An Excerpt From Johnny Hughes’ Texas Poker Wisdom:

The Scene: Starbuck’s outside the Golden Nugget, Las Vegas, December, 2005

“Okay, look. A lot of the dealers out here shuffle the same way.” Matt put a couple of red aces on the bottom of the deck face up. As he began to shuffle, a middle-aged Japanese man and woman stopped a few feet away to watch.

“They often flash the bottom card, maybe two. I keep my eyes on these cards and try to count. They will shuffle a few times leaving the bottom card somewhere from the 48th to the 52nd card. Then they start cutting little groups of cards about ten at a time off the top. This is the key part. Your bottom card ends up 8th to 10th. Then they cut one last time near the middle of the deck. Now your card may end up out of play. If he cuts anywhere past the middle, it could be on the board. You know I am talking totally just between us as family members. I wouldn’t show anyone else this. Not one sun-burned, son-of-a bitch anywhere. Do you follow this?” Matt said.

“I can do that a little. It rarely ever comes up. It usually takes more energy than it is worth. I look for two or three cards together and work in thirds of the deck. The flashed cards are dealt to a player or the board or out of play. Burn cards make this even less effective. I work at it all the time and it rarely wins me a pot. I’ll know an ace is gone and represent having it sometimes. That has just gotten me in trouble,” Dylan said.

Matt was shuffling the deck. The Japanese man began to video tape him from a few feet away. Matt acted as if he didn’t notice, but he whipped ’em and popped ’em and made the deck sound like the Chattanooga Shoe Shine Boy making music with his rag.

“To see your hand or know your hand, folks have to gaff the top of the deck through marks, nicks, bends, crimps, paints, and daubs or see the bottom with shiners or mirrors. You don’t need to worry so much on that but keep checking the tops of your cards. Never take your eyes off the deck. What you really have to watch out for is shiners. I hate those cell phones or CD players with the tilted mirror edges,” Matt said. “There is one hustler out here who throws this giant set of keys and shiny crap about half way across the table.”

The Japanese had been joined by three more Japanese. There were three video and two digital cameras and one cell phone photographing Matt and Dylan. Matt took off his green fedora and waved it at the cameras. He held his pony tail by his shoulder and shook it much to the orgasmic delight of the giggling Japanese. He began to cut the cards over and over with one hand. He fanned the deck out face down and then flipped it over with one card back and forth a few times. The Japanese moved closer.

“What do you do if you think you are being cheated out here?” Dylan asked.

“I don’t know. Usually just leave the game. You can ask to change decks without saying why, if there are bent corners or something. Moody would always say, ‘Don’t knock another man’s prop.’ There’s some scary people hustling around here. I don’t want to piss them off. If you have a partner or friend, you go behind their seat and run your thumb across the middle of their backs to sign them something is wrong. You have to expect to be playing against partners. I can show you who the gars are around these downtown joints. We’ll go case the game. These Japanese get more of a kick out of a camera than Rush Limbaugh gets from hillbilly heroin and Viagra,” Matt said, still mugging for the camera. He gave them the O.K. sign and the peace sign. A tour group of some forty Japanese with a hundred and twelve available cameras of different breeds joined their co-religionists in photographing the O’Malley boys having coffee with a dollar deck of  cards. Fuji stock rose five points. Matt started his fancy shuffling over.

“They shoot movies and commercials on this corner all the time. Florida is in this movie they shot at Binion’s Horseshoe with Robert Duvall. I am willing to bet it will be a dynamite hit.” Matt said.

Then Matt addressed the Japanese crowded around the waste high iron rail of the Starbucks. “Being a gambler, I’m betting y’all are from Japan. You probably never heard of Texas. That’s where me and this boy are from, Texas.” “Texas!” There were echoes and all their heads bobbed like apples at Halloween. Matt smiled graciously, making eye contact with as many Japanese as possible. He nodded to each one.

The tour guide operator interviewed Matt and a reluctant Dylan as his flock took picture after picture. “You Texas cowboys?” he asked, predictably. “No. We are poker players. Two of the best out on the road. Binion’s Horseshoe right there is a shrine for poker, the birthplace of modern poker. Take them into the poker room to shoot some pictures,” Matt said. He knew that photographing people in cash games was prohibited. Recent advances in technology had castrated another rule.

Just then a diminutive Elvis impersonator shuffled along across the street. The Japanese deserted Matt hastily. Several wished them “good luck” in Japanese. The obviously bipolar Japanese Prime Minister’s fascination with Elvis was contagious. The group moved compactly and in sync like a herd of sheep. “Look at that slack-jawed midget,” Matt said. “I call him Downtown Elvis. That guy doesn’t weigh a hundred pounds soaking wet. There’s nothing about him looks like Elvis except those incredibly dirty white pants and that ol’ big collar shirt. He’s purt near bald. He looks slow. See those Japs are all giving him a dollar or two. He’s twice as smart as us. Each and every one of them will have an individual picture made with him.”

“Call them back over. I’ll dance an Irish jig and sing an Irish song if there is any money in it,” Dylan said. The semi-fresh outdoor air and the heavy French roast coffee were promising revival.

“I should have asked them to hand us a little something. There’s this fellow sits up his spread at night with about fifty bright colored parrots and macaws and all. You can get photographed with them sitting on your head or shoulders. There’s these two big tittied show girls that are ever bit as tall as that Chinese basketball player. They have on six inch heels to boot. A covey of eighty or ninety of those Japanese will be photographing away. It’s just like with Elvis. They will dart out there and have their individual picture taken standing between these gigantic show girls. Their bright happy eyes are about belly-button high. We ought to dress up like cowboys and put a sign around our neck that says TEXAS POKER WISDOM. Hot as poker is, we could sell some photos out here,” Matt said. “Dress up like Amarillo Slim and copy his act. We’d send him a royalty.”

“I wish I had a camera last night,” Dylan said. If he had, Molly Golihugh would have stolen it, too.

Then Matt pulled off three cards and held them above his eyes toward the light above filtering through the Fremont Experience canopy. He shifted the angle back and forth until the diamond pattern disappeared in the glare. “This in one of the ways you check for marks or daub or paint. You can buy decks of paper or pre-marked cards,” Matt said. “A paper player wears a hat where you can’t see his eyes and him studying up on the backs of your hole cards. He may be moving the deck around funny to catch the glare on the marks. Let folks see you checking the deck and that will slow them down. You ought to have a hat from Binion’s. Do you want me to buy you a hat?” Matt asked.

“My hair is way too pretty to wear a hat,” Dylan said. “I wear one sometimes.” Matt took the deck and ran his thumb from the bottom to the top of the corner of the deck where all the cards would fly by in a loud second. He was checking for marks.

“It’s like those old timey picture shows where each frame is slightly different. The patterns are supposed to stay the same. A change or mark will jump out at you. Each of these decks of diamond back Bees are cut a little different or the edge is different. You can buy five decks and make a deck of sorts with different edge patterns for the high and low cards. Most cheating is good for seven-five low ball and this is too,” Matt said.A heavily tattooed biker with a Harley shirt and a vest of colorful patches was talking about poker at the next table with a Sikk from India with a blue turban. Then Matt picked up the deck and dealt as if in slow motion from the bottom. Then he dealt seconds. Then he picked up the pace until the cards were a bit of a blur. Dylan wasn’t sure where a dealt card came from.

“Never take your eyes off the deck and the dealer’s hands. Now I am dealing seconds. If you can’t see ’em, listen. Hear that little swoosh sound? You are pulling a card from between two cards and it makes a noise. A second dealer or a bottom dealer will start making chin music to cover. A paper player or a locator will mum up because he is probably thick-headed or he wouldn’t be a cheater. He is having trouble remembering. To deal seconds, you have to peek or have marks. No reason for a dealer to roll over the deck except to peek. A good blackjack dealer will pick up the last hand and get a five on the bottom. Then he has a small move to roll over the deck when he needs to hit a five. Put your right arm across as a screen and roll the deck over.”

“You move both your hands in a kind of funny way,” Dylan volunteered. “I can’t see what you are doing, but I would be very suspicious even if I didn’t know you.”

“That’s good. Something smells funny, hop the game. There’s poker in motels, car lots, and Richie’s houses all over Texas. There’s games all over Vegas. Find another game but don’t cause a scene or knock another man’s proposition,” Matt said. “If you have a friend or partner, walk behind their chair and run your thumb across the middle of their back. That’s signing them to cash out and catch the breeze. The big hat laws are coming or there is some wolfing going on or there is a hot score brewing, just thumb sign your partner and do the old heel and toe. I can smell trouble coming better than any man that ever walked in shoe leather. There is always another game tomorrow. Keep a clean reputation but any trick you don’t know, somebody can play on you. Here’s another sign.” Matt cleared his throat loudly and continued, “That means I knocked off your move. Quit your wolfing. You can’t cheat me. If they know me, that will pull them up.”

© Copyright 2007 by Johnny Hughes.

To buy the softcover book from Amazon.com click: HERE.
To buy the hardcover book from Amazon.com click: HERE.
To visit Johnny Hughes’ official website click: HERE.
To read some of Johnny Hughes’ poker articles click: HERE.

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