My posts are devoted to advantage play, but proprietary games seem to be drawing cheats like never before. I have no particular objection to advantage play. Though I am clearly on the side of game protection, advantage players have every right to try to get away with it. Advantage play is not cheating. Cheating is not advantage play. Advantage players should be politely backed off and the problem should be fixed from the casino side by education, safer equipment and improved procedures. Cheaters should be put in jail.

Recently, there has been a spate of cheating going on with the game of Mississippi Stud (MS). In a recent case,  a player hit a jackpot hand (the last thing he wanted). He fled rather than staying to collect his big payout. It wasn’t a matter of just catching hole-cards or edge sorting. There was cheating going on: the player was marking the cards.

One of the reasons that players cheat at MS is the incredible potential advantage from perfect information. The hole-card player will usually see one card and may have imperfect information about that card. The player who is using sorts may be able to distinguish three cards into one of two subsets, but the subsets form a rough gradation. The shuffle tracker may know that the unseen cards are likely to contain certain cards. The card marker is seeking perfect information — the rank and suit of each unseen card. In this case he will either fold or go all-in. He will either lose 1 unit or win 10 units times the bonus multiplier for his hand. Of all the commonly available proprietary games, MS has the greatest upside for the all-in cheater.

The following table shows that the cheater with perfect information has a 279.02% edge over the house:

Mississippi Stud Perfect Play

To put this in perspective, for each $1 wagered, the cheater hopes to earn $2.79 in profit. At a reasonable game pace of 40 rounds per hour and with a $100 maximum bet, the cheater has a potential pot of gold of $11,161 per hour awaiting him.

Bill Zender recently sent out an e-Blast where he stated:

It appears that there are cheaters attacking the game of Mississippi Stud poker.  I have received information from two different sources on the East Coast that their games were reportedly attacked through the marking of cards on the table, and the marked cards were used to determine whether the players stays in the hand and wagers the maximum bets (3X).  Eliot Jacobson and I have been experimenting with ways the cards can be marked to give the cheater an advantage.  Right now the information I have is still incomplete, but when I do have a better picture of the cheating scam, I’ll pass it along to everyone on my e-Blast list.  As of now, be very skeptical of unknown players wagering maximum bets, and staying in on hands they would normally desert in Mississippi Stud.

Mississippi Stud performs exceptionally well for most casinos. It may hold 25% or more with a high drop. Its immense profitability creates a stream of income that may mask the insidious liabilities of the game. Because it is doing so well, many casinos leave it alone. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Mississippi Stud may be broken at your casino. Watch your Mississippi Stud. It may be the number one target on your floor for advantage players and cheats alike.

Received his Ph.D. in Mathematics from the University of Arizona in 1983. Eliot has been a Professor of both Mathematics and Computer Science. Eliot retired from academia in 2009. Eliot Jacobson