Academy of Magical Arts Inc., more
commonly known as the world famous Magic
Castle, awarded this year's 2009 Special
Fellowship to gambling expert Steve
Forte "in recognition of his remarkable
talent and expertise at gaming
artifice." This award also acknowledged
his books and videos as the "finest
studies of their kind."
Special Fellowship was created primarily
to honor non-magicians who contribute to
the art in some way. Steve is
particularly deserving of this award due
to his outstanding contribution to the
field of gambling-related sleight of
hand and the impact he has had on
sleight of hand enthusiasts everywhere.
It was also appropriate that the award
point to his "generous sharing of his
skills and knowledge." For anyone who
knows Steve, or who has met him, they
will all tell you the same thing: He's
one of the most gracious, generous
people you will ever meet and has always
been giving of his time to anyone with
an interest in the field.
year's event was held at the Avalon
Theater in Hollywood, CA. In a short
acceptance speech I'm told that Steve
acknowledged the many wonderful
friendships he has made in the magic
world. Other recipients to receive this
prestigious honor include Orson Welles,
Ed Sullivan and Johnny Carson to name a
of you might anticipate, news of Steve's
award sparked several inquires about the
status of the New Jersey cheating case
and his alleged involvement.
Surprisingly, the case has been over for
some time and Steve was cleared of all
charges, but the details were never
widely circulated. Back in September
2009, the Press of Atlantic City
reported that Superior Court Judge
Michael Donio sentenced three defendants
to suspended sentences after they plead
guilty to single counts of attempted
theft by deception for an amount greater
than $500 while all charges were
dismissed against the fourth defendant,
Steve Forte, back in July. It's
interesting how the press was all over
this case in 2007 with Steve taking most
of the heat due to his reputation as an
expert only to have the charges
dismissed with little or nothing
reported about the resolution.
called Steve to offer my congratulations
for the award and asked him if he wanted
to talk about the case now that it was
behind him, but he refused. Simply
it's not my place to comment on the
case; besides, the dismissal speaks for
talked with Jason England, a highly
respected card technician and game
protection expert. Jason was brought on
as one of several expert witnesses for
the defense (a list that included
several prominent names from gaming and
law enforcement) and he was the only
defense expert to review the discovery.
This was required before he submitted an
expert opinion regarding an informant's
statement. As it turned out the
attorneys viewed Jason's certification
as "too strong" to be included in a
pre-trial motion, so it was saved for
trial which never came to pass. Jason
agreed to answer a few questions.
MagicTimes: Jason, thanks for answering
Just let me say at the onset that Steve
asked me to leave it alone, but I feel
strongly that some things need to be
said for the record so he agreed under
one condition: that I not mention the
names of anyone involved.
MagicTimes: Okay, can you tell us what
the case was all about?
It's actually easier to tell you what
this case was not about. It was not
about the casino industry or any casino
games, it had nothing to do with cardrooms, the WSOP or any other
tournament for that matter. In fact,
regardless of what you may have heard,
this case had nothing to do with poker!
was a personal matter between the
principal defendant and a police
informant. According to this defendant,
and witness corroboration that was to be
presented at trial, the informant had
cheated him on several occasions,
bragged about it, and then invited the
defendant back to AC to gamble in his
suite at the Borgata. This is what the
case is all about.
2007 this defendant flew to A.C. from
the West Coast. Three other men joined
him including Steve who drove up to A.C.
from Boston where he was visiting his
sister. While in another hotel room with
three of the defendants–not the
informant's suite–the authorities
knocked down the door, raided the room,
put guns to everyone's heads and made
the arrests. It was a setup!
MagicTimes: But what about the game?
There never was a game. It's probably
the biggest misconception in this entire
case for a variety of reasons, but the
truth is that there was no game, not a
single card was ever dealt, nor a single
die ever cast.
indictment consisted of a single charge:
attempted theft by deception. There was
no charge of cheating, possession of
cheating equipment, or conspiracy. The
legal definition of attempted theft by
deception can also encompass the
planning stages of a crime; you don't
have to be "in progress," so to speak.
MagicTimes: Are you saying the arrests
were made based on what the police
believed to be the planning stages of a
Yes, that was the position of the
MagicTimes: But why would the police
make arrests before there was even a
That's a good question and one we'll
probably never really know the answer
to. The defense believed that the police
made the arrests because they knew that
one or more defendants were leaving and
they wanted to cast the largest net
possible. Though this is not the place
to expound on this, I'll just say that
this information came from a government
source and could have caused all kinds
of problems for the prosecution.
MagicTimes: If there never was a game,
how could there be a victim?
Well, in the strictest sense, there was
no victim. The indictment referenced a
single person with the initials J.H.,
alleging that he was to be the target in
a future game.
Steve Forte and Meir Yedid
MagicTimes: Can you tell us who J.H.
I could, but it isn't important for the
sake of this interview. I can tell you
that he was previously an acquaintance
of the principal defendant, and that
they met and talked after the arrests (a
fact not known to the authorities).
Another interesting thing regarding J.H. is that over a period of
approximately 26 months, the New Jersey
authorities never met with this person.
Not once! According to the discovery,
the police had a single, short phone
conversation early in the investigation
and that was it.
MagicTimes: Can you tell us anything
about the informant?
Only that he is a convicted con man who
was sentenced to 15 years for bilking
investors in a stock scam some years
back. His claims regarding this case
were preposterous and in many cases
technically and literally impossible.
All of these claims were shown to be
ridiculous in my certification to the
MagicTimes: And this was the state's
Yes, he was the star witness and only
witness, and the D.A. obviously knew
that he was a serious liability because
they never even had him appear before
the Grand Jury. Instead, they had a
detective read parts of his statement.
Based on what I read and learned about
the informant during my review of the
discovery, the attorneys would have
destroyed this guy on the stand. Aside
from being a loose wire and the only
person to ever talk with J.H., what the
defense had on this informant including
witnesses who had agreed to come forward
and testify against him would have had
to be very damaging to the prosecution.
not all. When interviewed by the
authorities about Steve's alleged
involvement the informant stated, "I
don't know Steve Forte. I never met him
and I don't know what he's doing here."
MagicTimes: The police informant never
even met Steve?
That's correct. Steve never met or
talked with this guy, nor was he ever
present in the informant's suite.
MagicTimes: Then how could New Jersey
have a case against him?
I don't believe they ever did. In my
view, though brutally unfair, this case
found legs for one reason and one reason
only: Steve's reputation. He dominated
most comments, articles and blogs. In
many instances there wasn't even a
discussion about the facts of the case
or the other defendants. It was like the
actual case was secondary.
MagicTimes: Okay, many of the newspaper
and internet articles reported the case
as a high-tech scam with hidden cameras
and computer programs. Was this
Not really. There were two miniature
cameras confiscated from inside an
air-conditioning vent in the suite were
the game was alleged to take place later
that day, but they were cheap, nanny-cam
cameras. They can be purchased by
anyone, anywhere and there was nothing
high-tech about them at all. Some early
reports stated that the cameras were to
be used to peek the player's hand from
behind, but this is not true. The
cameras did not have the positional or
technical capacity to do so and proof of
what I'm saying would have been
presented at trial.
MagicTimes What about computer programs?
Three personal laptop computers were
confiscated, none of which belonged to
Steve. One of these computers contained
a few commercially available programs
for playing various games. They were not
proprietary programs, nor were they
designed to have anything to do with
Steve Forte demonstrating
his skills on the Hidden
Secrets Of Magic television
MagicTimes: Weren't there also
references to marked cards?
England: The authorities alleged that
part of the plan included using a card
marking system that consisted of cutting
into the backs of the cards with a knife
and filling the cuts with a daub which
would disappear shortly thereafter. The
system they described was technically
impossible, and I'm not sure how they
arrived at their conclusions.
MagicTimes: Most of the news articles
reported that the case was about poker,
yet there was no mention of poker in the
No. As I mentioned earlier, the case had
nothing to do with Poker. Three games
were listed in the actual indictment:
Chess, Backgammon, and Chinese Poker.
Chinese Poker isn't Poker in the
traditional, American sense. There are
no antes or blinds, no vying for the
pot, no raising or bluffing, etc. It's
called Chinese Poker simply because it
uses traditional poker hand rankings in
a partitioned, comparison format. The
game is generally known as "Good, Better
and Best," depending on the locale.
MagicTimes: Then why did virtually every
report I read point to poker?
It seems the poker connection started
with statements from the D.A.'s office.
They apparently just didn't know any
better. Naturally, when it was picked up
by the various media outlets, poker
became the focus simply because it was
the only game everyone understood. All
of the news outlets jumped on the poker
bandwagon until the actual indictments
came down. Once they were made public
and the actual games at issue were
cited, many people were left scratching
their heads and the case began to lose
its credibility. From that point on,
many found it difficult to believe
anything that was reported.
MagicTimes: I'm still not sure what the
specific allegations were against Steve?
Neither am I. The details are not clear,
but it appears that had this case gone
to trial the prosecution would have
tried to prove that Steve helped in some
MagicTimes: How would they do that?
I don't know. There was no charge of
conspiracy and the state's own "star
witness" described a plan that required
three people and then described the
roles of these people, yet never even
hinted at a role for Steve.
was one odd moment during the grand jury
testimony when one of the detectives,
after acknowledging and complimenting
Steve's extraordinary career, stated
that his book, Poker Protection,
provided a "blueprint" to what this case
was all about. I have no idea what they
were thinking here. Poker Protection is
clearly a book designed to help people
prevent poker cheating and it's in no
way written to the fidelity required to
orchestrate a scam. But then this same
detective is on record, giving testimony
to a grand jury, stating that Steve
worked for the C.I.A.
MagicTimes: Working for the C.I.A.?
Apparently, when he's not watching his
sons play lacrosse or showing me cool
card moves, he's a master spy. Kidding
aside, many aspects of this case would
be comical if the potential consequences
weren't so serious.
MagicTimes: Okay then, here's the
question that comes up over and over
again: What was Steve doing there?
That's a question you'll have to ask
him. I've always felt that Steve should publically respond to this question, but
he doesn't see it the same way and
doesn't feel the need to apologize or
explain his actions to anyone. What I
can tell you is that he was prepared to
take the stand and answer that question
for a jury. Had that come to pass the
jury would have listened and believed
him, because the facts in the case
supported everything he had to say.
MagicTimes: I'd heard a rumor that he
might have been there doing research for
a movie or a new book.
That rumor is untrue, though it
certainly could be true. He's generally
regarded as the most aggressive
researcher on the planet when it comes
to this field and his knowledge didn't
come from routine visits to the library.
MagicTimes: How about those who will say
that he got away with something?
Got away with what? With all the hype
and threats by the authorities and a
multi-state investigation that lasted
just under three years, do you think for
a second that the authorities would've
dismissed the charges against him had
they had in their possession a single
piece of incontrovertible evidence
against him? Do you think that the
authorities dismissed the charges out of
the goodness of their hearts?
MagicTimes: Just to be clear, Steve was
never involved in any plea bargain?
None. Early in the case Steve was
offered a deal that would have had him
testify against the others in exchange
for no jail time. He immediately
rejected the offer and pressed his
attorney to move to trial as quickly as
possible. There was no plea bargain of
any kind. All charges were dismissed.
MagicTimes: Let me just back up a bit,
what happened after the arrests, how did
He hired the best law firm in New Jersey
(Jacobs and Barbone) and he was the only
defendant to initiate any pre-trial
motions. The first was a motion to
dismiss based on long delays which
forced the D.A.'s hand. In my opinion
this was a brilliant move on the part of
his attorney, Stephen Funk, as it forced
the D. A. to come back with a very weak
one count indictment. The second motion
attacked a number of other issues and
although the court ruled against these
motions -- as was expected – they laid
the groundwork for future appeals. One
issue of particular interest asked the
question: How could the authorities
grade a crime based on dollar amounts in
a gambling contest that never took
MagicTimes: How close did the case get
to going to trial?
It's hard to say. The prosecution seemed
to be stalling at several points during
the pre-trial period and may have never
had any intention of going to trial; I'm
not sure. I know that Steve was ready
for trial, that he had submitted a list
of experts, and that he was actively
working on trial strategy with his
MagicTimes: Okay, the other defendants
eventually entered into pleas; how did
that all come about?
One of the defendants was dealing with
serious health issues and almost missed
a mandatory court appearance. Seeing no
end in sight to the delays at that time,
he pressed his attorney for a deal and
accepted one to testify against the
principle defendant in exchange for no
jail time. At the same time, a second
defendant accepted the same deal. The
position of these men was that they did
nothing wrong and only wanted to move on
with their lives without the risk and
expense of a trial. Also, they couldn't
testify to anything that the authorities
didn't already know so these deals were
made with the blessings of the principal
defendant. I believe it was 2-3 months
later when the D. A. offered him a
similar deal with no jail time which he
also accepted to avoid the expense and
risks associated with a trial.
Remarkably, this came after the state
first offered him 7 years, then 3-5
years, then 1 year, and then 180 days.
The principal defendant not only refused
every one of these offers, but during
one court appearance he actually sparred
with the Judge over the other deals
stating that he didn't care who
testified against him because he didn't
do anything wrong! During all of this,
Steve stood his ground and refused to
take a deal or testify against anyone.
MagicTimes: That's amazing.
It is. Especially when you think back to
all the hype and threats of being
charged with 1st degree felonies, which
carry mandatory 10-year sentences, only
to see the case end with suspended
sentences and no probation for three
defendants, and a dismissal for Steve.
It just goes to show you how blown out
of proportion things can get. But it's
also a classic case of the legal system
grinding its wheels and wearing down
defendants over time -- although it
didn't wear down Steve.
end all three defendants in this case
stood up before the judge and exculpated
Steve. Combine that with the lack of a
single, incriminating statement from the
prosecution's star witness--who claimed
to know everything--and the dismissal
against Steve shouldn't come as a
surprise to anyone.
MagicTimes: This whole ordeal had to be
a costly, emotionally draining
experience for Steve?
I'm sure it would have to be a nightmare
for anyone, but Steve was always 100%
confident that it was just a matter of
time before he was vindicated, and he
believes to this day had the other
defendants hung in there and called New
Jersey's bluff (my words), the whole
case would have been dismissed. He also
had plenty of support from family,
friends, casino associates, players, and
even some folks from law enforcement.
Most who viewed the story objectively
realized that something wasn't right.
know how you always hear about the
so-called "stand-up guy," well here it
was playing out in real life. Steve got
heat for his friendship with the
principal defendant but he stood up for
the guy -- I've seen some of the emails
to prove it. He was offered a deal with
no jail time and he said NO. He was
looking at 5–10 years and never agreed
to testify against anyone under any
circumstances. The fact is he was
prepared to go all the way and I think
the prosecution realized it. Although I
can't tip the details, I believe that
some of the evidence I reviewed would
have completely exonerated Steve at
trial. Either the authorities overlooked
it, didn't know any better, or they
always knew that they had no case
against Steve. I'm not really sure.
books and DVD Set that Steve
Forte released to gamblers and
MagicTimes: Just a few more questions,
can we go back to poker for a second? What about the allegations of tapping
into hole-card cameras used at a
televised Borgata tournament?
You can thank George Knapp,
investigative reporter for Channel 8,
Las Vegas, for that absurdity. He aired
a piece about the arrests on or about
the last day of the 2007 World Series of
Poker. Obviously his timing was designed
to be as sensational as possible. In his
story (and that's precisely what it
was), Knapp claimed that "according to
his sources" authorities believed the
men were tapping into hole-card cameras
used in a poker tournament at the Borgata. But the Borgata officials
publically stated that there was no
poker tournament at the time of the
arrests, and that neither prior or
future tournaments were scheduled to be
televised! Knapp had to backpedal and
publically acknowledge his "mistake."
MagicTimes: What about a lawsuit?
All I will say is that Steve hired a
civil attorney and the possibility of a
lawsuit against Knapp and Channel 8 was
seriously discussed but Steve's criminal
attorney advised against it until the
criminal case was over. But you only
have one year to file such a lawsuit,
and with Knapp eventually retracting his
original statement and the case dragging
on for months, the possibility of a
lawsuit lost its steam.
suspect that Knapp would have had some
explaining to do had the lawsuit gone
forward. Think about it. If Knapp's
"sources" were in law enforcement he
would have known what was going on; if
they were in the poker world he would
have known that there was no tournament
at that time. Clearly, Knapp never made
an effort to confirm any part of his
story. Steve has always believed that he
fabricated it, and he still has the
emails from Knapp that support his
contention. As an interesting aside,
just a short time ago the governor of
Nevada was threatening to file a lawsuit
against George Knapp for fabricated
MagicTimes: Most of the stuff I read was
Me too, and interestingly, the one year
time period for filing a lawsuit doesn't
work the same way with online
statements. Each day a libelous
statement is posted or remains in the
archives, the one-year period starts all
MagicTimes: How did Steve react to the
articles and blogs?
He understood the nature of the beast;
it was a story that quickly got out of
control and there was no way to slow it
down. He also understood the harsh
criticism, surprise and disappointment
expressed by some and once told me, "You
can't blame them given what they've been
exposed to in the media."
know that he refused to waste one second
of his time addressing the remarks of
those who didn't know him, who didn't
know anything about the case, and who
were quick to judge because they didn't
have the brains to see through the hype.
When it comes to derogatory public
statements, he sees the web as a
breeding ground for cowards.
I generally agree with him, I see some
things a bit differently and this is one
of the main reasons I agreed to answer
some questions for you. Like every other
story, there were those who responded
responsibly. One noted poker authority,
when asked about the case in a public
forum responded, "There are two sides to
every story." That's an intelligent and
then you have those like the reporter
for the Las Vegas newspaper who wrote an
article about how Steve's consulting
career was in jeopardy, yet was
completely oblivious to the fact that
Steve has been retired from the
consulting biz since 1997. That's not a
typo. At the time of the arrests Steve
had not been a consultant for over a
decade! The article also mentioned a
1982 arrest in Reno while Steve was
playing blackjack professionally, but
took everything out of context and never
said that the case was resolved with
Steve pleading guilty to a trespass --
the equivalent of jay-walking -- or that
the casino returned all of his money. In
the same story it was also reported that
he was forced to sell his interest in a
shuffle machine company, but
conveniently failed to mention that he
was a co-owner, the concept for the
shuffler was his idea, and that nobody
could "force" him to sell if he didn't
want to do so. This article, like many
others, were a joke, all written by
people who didn't know Steve and didn't
know the first thing about the case.
MagicTimes: One guy was especially
Let me stop you right there and say a
few things about Richard Marcus,
obviously the person you refer to.
Richard Marcus was way out of line and
the extent to which he lied about the
case should shock you or anyone else
reading this. To any casino, cardroom,
organization, conference, magazine,
newspaper or website that has ever
considered spending 10 seconds with this
guy, I ask you to listen very carefully.
Marcus, who currently bills himself as
the "world's greatest casino cheater,"
wrote two articles about the case that
appeared in at least two legitimate
industry magazines. One was in Poker Pro
magazine titled, "Dirty Poker – Inside
Story of Crooked High-Stakes Game," the
other was in Casino Enterprise
Management titled, "The Scam of a
Lifetime." Let me read you a few
excerpts from both articles.
eight high-rollers could not resist...
the game was open to those select
players who had both the requisite
bankroll at least $500,000 cash and the
good sense to keep their mouths shut."
three rotating dealers hired for the
game were legit"
two crooked players wore special contact
lenses that allowed them to see the
played loosely, as they could afford to.
They knew that the more hands they
played the quicker they'd get their
hours, the two cheats were ahead
"bottles of Cristal champagne arrived
with the chime of the suite's majestic
player even enjoyed a champagne bubble
bath with a pair of lovelies that came
to the suite during a break."
just as one of the scammers was raking
in packets of $5,000 and piles of gold-flecked
$500 chips, the cops hit the door...
sweeping piles of gold-flecked $500
chips and $5,000 packets of cash."
go on and on, but here's my point.
Though some may find the following hard
to believe, it's absolutely the truth.
Richard Marcus was also completely
oblivious to the facts of the case so
what did he do? He fabricated his own
story and presented the details of a
game that never took place! There were
no high-rollers, no $500,000 in cash, no
dealers, no contact lenses, no
champagne, no lovelies, no gold-flecked
$500 chips, no nothing. THERE WAS NO
GAME! Nothing but complete,
unadulterated lies were presented and
published in respected magazines as
Marcus tried to pass off these stories
as some sort of authoritative "inside
articles really put Marcus's books into
perspective for me. When I think back to
Dirty Poker, a book that was so full of
hype, inaccuracies and contradictions to
be staggering, it all makes perfect
sense now. Here's a guy that will
obviously stop at nothing to promote
himself, and is willing to say or do
anything to help his cause.
Steve's case is just the tip of the
iceberg of what this guy is all about.
He has knocked so many people with one
lie after another and burned so many
bridges, his words and actions were
recently addressed at the World Game
Protection Conference in Las Vegas in
front of hundreds of industry people.
MagicTimes: I get the feeling you don't
like this guy very much. Sorry I brought
What's to like? He took a news story
that started with lies and half-truths
and took them to all time lows, trying
to paint himself as an expert all the
while. Perhaps the most repulsive
statement I have ever come across
attributed to him was following a
decision by Casino Enterprise Magazine
to ban him from ever writing another
article for them. He didn't like the
negative comments hurled at him so he
had the audacity to publically make the
broadcasting their opinions should do so
in a way that conveys them as fact."
believe this guy? It's funny how people
like Richard Marcus have to wake up
everyday and knock someone to make
themselves feel better, to get
attention, or to try and convince
everyone how smart they are. I've known
Steve for several years and I don't ever
recall hearing him pat himself on the
back or say a bad word about anyone. Do
you know why? He has nothing to prove.
Steve has been vindicated, Richard
Marcus has been proven guilty beyond all
reasonable doubt to be an imbecile, a
liar, a wannabe, and unquestionably the
industry's number one source of
Steve Forte with Jason England
taking a tour of
MagicTimes: What's next for Steve?
That's another question you'll have to
ask him. He's the kind of guy who always
has several projects on the shelf and he
always seems to be busy. Despite the New
Jersey ordeal he's still sought out by
gamers, companies, and players for his
expertise. He regularly talks with
consultants. The day after the
indictments hit the papers he was on a
conference call with a noted gaming
company trying to help them with a
security system. The last time I visited
him he was writing some code and
conducting a study for two well-known
poker players who may have stumbled on a
loophole with the popular poker
continues to make progress with the
development of a one of a kind gambling
website where his hope is to make the
research available to friends,
associates and "invited guests" which is
unfortunate in many ways because whether
you're a fan or not, you will never find
the quality or depth of his research
Steve Forte's Collection of
MagicTimes: What kind of research are
you talking about?
I'm talking about things like the finest
collection of marked decks and related
documentation in the world, all scanned
and photographed in high resolution
pictures; his 3000 book gambling library
including hundreds of rare antiquarian
titles along with his files, catalogs,
newspapers and related ephemera, all
digitized and searchable; the largest
collection of gambling moves and
surveillance video clips ever assembled;
and so much more. He recently released a
few drafts of a 400 page, full-color
treatise featuring thousands of rare
gambling collectibles that
chronologically illustrate the history
of dice, playing cards, chips, tables &
layouts, games, cheating, and gambling
literature. Nothing like it has ever
been seen before. People are begging for
it. But instead of publishing this
amazing research, he has decided to have
100 copies professionally bound,
numbered and signed as gifts for
friends. I know Steve well enough to
know that nothing will stop him from
pursuing his passions. And if you know
him, you know what I mean. The New
Jersey case changes nothing.
MagicTimes: I have certainly learned
more about the case than I understood
previously, yet a lot of this is still
puzzling to me.
It should be. All I can tell you is that
things are not as they appear, and had
this case gone to trial it would have
become even stranger, I assure you. The
authorities would have ended up on
trial, the informant would have ended up
on trial, the legality of the so-called
plan would have ended up on trial. There
is a backstory to this case that I won't
go into, a story that appears to be
completely unbeknownst to the New Jersey
authorities to the best of my knowledge,
that would have probably flipped this
case upside down and how a jury would
have interpreted everything is anybody's
MagicTimes: Had the case gone to trial,
care to speculate?
My personal opinion is that there was
never a case against Steve, but I also
believe that a jury would have acquitted
the other defendants. From an outsider
looking in, I understand why many would
disagree. But from someone who had the
opportunity to review the discovery,
statements, consensual phone recordings
between the principal defendant and the
informant, investigative reports, and
much more, the case doesn't look at all
like it was reported and I have yet to
come across a single source that
accurately presented what the story was
really all about.
MagicTimes: Thanks Jason…very, very