One of those tales that's too bizarre to make even a half-assed decent movie is unfolding as we speak. And movies? Did we mention movies? It seems that a consultant to one of the most famous poker movies of all time, Rounders, is the central figure in the tale.
The events in this one transpired in recent times at the Borgata, one of the big poker destinations in Atlantic City. According to several local newspaper reports, a long-running high-stakes poker game held in at least one of the Borgata's private suites turned out to be a very crooked game indeed, with hidden cameras and other forms of electronic surveillance, marked and/or otherwise altered cards, and even computer programs capable of pattern recognition and odds computation all used on the fly by hidden accomplices with the results communicated back via hidden earpiece to the "in" guy at the table.
Four people were arrested after the scheme was uncovered, but one of them happened to be Steve Forte. Who's that? Forte is --- or rather, was --- one of the most highly regarded independent consultants in casino security and card scams and the like, and if the charges are true, he just couldn't resist from trying to make a little extra green from his chosen field of expertise.
Despite the fact that the hidden cameras and such recall the early days of Vegas, when accomplices peering through holes in the walls at unsuspecting players down cards was an every day fact of life, the fact is that this was very real, and, according to the reports, for very high stakes. "They were big players," said Peter Aseltine, a spokesman for New Jersey's Attorney General's office.
Along with Forte, 51, the arrested/alleged cheaters included Joseph T. Ingargiola, 50, of Playa del Rey, CA, Stephen Phillips, 52, of Las Vegas, and James C. Harrison, 41, of Duluth, MN. But Forte is the big catch here, the president and very public face of International Gaming Specialists, the security/consulting firm specializing in these matters. Forte has consulted on several movies and TV shows, has authored books and videos on the subject, and, one would presume, had been making a very comfortable living from his preferred market niche. That's Forte in the photo on the right, as it appears on the IGS website.
More's the mystery. To give you a full sense of the perspective, read this "partial list" of corporate clients, from IGS's casinogameprotection.com website:
U.S. clients include: MGM Grand, Mirage, Treasure Island, Golden Nugget (Las Vegas), Golden Nugget (Laughlin), Caesar's Palace (Las Vegas), Caesar's Tahoe, Hilton International, Flamingo Hilton, Flamingo (Reno), Circus Circus (Reno), Harrahs (Las Vegas), Harrahs (Laughlin), Harrahs (Shreveport), Luxor, Binion's Horseshoe (Las Vegas), Horseshoe (Shreveport), Horseshoe (Bossier City), Imperial Palace, Palace Station, Sunset Station, Eldorado (Reno), Peppermill (Reno), Horizon Resort (Lake Tahoe) and Resorts International (Atlantic City, New Jersey).
Overseas and Caribbean clients include: Casino Windsor, Northern Belle Casino & Casino Niagara (Canada), Casinos Austria International (70 Casinos worldwide), The Brent Walker Group, Stakis Casinos, Crockford Club, A&S Entertainment Ltd., Grosvenor's Clubs, London Clubs Limited, City Clubs (England), Loutraki Club Casino (Greece), the Dominican Republic, El San Juan, Condado and El Con Quistador (Puerto Rico), Hyatt Regency (Aruba), Atlantis Resort (Bahamas), Genting Highland Resort (Malaysia), Adelaide Casino, Burswood, Sydney Harbour, Conrad/Jupiters, Crown Casino (Australia), Walker Hill Casino (South Korea) and Sands/Venetian (Macau).
Law enforcement agencies include: United States Attorney's Office (New Mexico), New Mexico Indian Gaming Task Force, United States Attorney's Office (Arizona), The Federal Bureau of Investigation, District Attorney's Office (Las Vegas), District Judges of Las Vegas, Sheriff Moran's "Anti-Cheat Squad" (Las Vegas), Mississippi Gaming Commission, Wisconsin Gaming Commission, Oneida Nation Gaming Commission, New York Racing & Wagering Board, New York State Police, Yavapai-Apache Gaming Commission (Arizona), Cow Creek Gaming Commission (Oregon), Great Britain Gaming Board, Victorian Casino Control Authority (South Melbourne, Australia) and the Canadian Royal Mounted Police.
Casinos on Indian reservations and cardrooms include: Foxwoods Resort (Connecticut), Mohegan Sun (Connecticut), Grand Casino & Hinkley Casino (Minnesota), St. Croix Casino (Wisconsin), Barona Casino (San Diego, CA), Eagle Mountain Casino (Porterville, CA), Gaming Palace (New Mexico), Turning Stone Casino (New York), Cliff Castle Casino (Camp Verde, Arizona), Spirit Mountain Casino and Seven Feathers Casino Resort (Oregon), the Bicycle Club (Bell Gardens, CA), Artichoke Joes (San Bruno, CA), Hi-Desert Cardroom (Adelanto, CA),
Gaming programs include: the World Gaming Expo, Clark County Community College, "Strip" Casino Manager's Meeting (15 Strip Casinos represented), Circus Circus Corporate Employee Program, The William F. Harrah's Gaming Institute for the Promus Corporation, Harrah's Supervisor Program (Laughlin), Executive Development Program sponsored by the Institute for the Study of Gambling and Commercial Gambling (University of Nevada, Reno), Protection Strategies for the Gaming Industry (University of Nevada, Reno), Advanced Gaming Regulator & Enforcement Seminar (UNLV International Gaming Institute), International Gaming Business Exposition, Annual International Conference on Gambling and Risk Taking (sponsored by the Institute for the Study of Gambling and Commercial Gambling, UNR), World Poker Industry Conference, California Cardroom Association, Las Vegas International Hotel/Restaurant & Gaming Show, Gaming Law (sponsored by the University of Denver/College of Law), Workshop on Surveillance & Gaming Security (sponsored by California State University), the Annual Australian/Asian Security, Surveillance & Government Agencies Conference, and the United States Playing Card Company.
Now ask yourself this: Why in heaven's name would a corporate consultant with a client list longer than Ron Jeremy's pecker have need to run a fixed poker game? Down times are one thing, sure, but come on. Why throw it all away?
Mainstream outlets have been quick to note that Forte has been producing a new show called "Gambling's Invisible Thieves," and was perhaps doing a bit too much practicing of what he preaches. The Borgata was quick to distance itself from the episode, noting that they helped authorities in the case, that the crooked game was run in a private room, and that it was entirely unconnected to a recent high-buyin tourney at the casino. It is, nonetheless, an embarrassment.
And a head-shaker of the first order.