Forum Archive : Cheating

Collusion in Monte Carlo

From:   Kit Woolsey
Date:   13 August 1995
Subject:   Re: Scandal in Monte-Carlo

There has been much discussion about possible throwing of matches in
backgammon tournaments where money incentives may make it more profitable
for a player to lose the match.  I thought it would be interesting to
relate an incident I was indirectly involved in at Monte-Carlo over 15
years ago.  For obvious reasons I'd rather not mention the names of any
of the people involved, but the story is quite true.

For those of you who are not familiar with backgammon tournaments and
calcutta auctions, a calcutta is an auction where the players are
auctioned off to the highest bidders.  The money from the auction goes
into the calcutta pool, which is distributed to the owners of the winners
or high finishers in the tournament.  Often the players are grouped into
fields, and a field is auctioned off as a package deal (i.e. if you buy
the field, you own all the players in the field and if any of them
finishes in the money you will get something back).  In addition, the
players are permitted to buy back a portion of themselves, thus
increasing their stake in the event.

At the Monte Carlo tournament, I was in a field which had been purchased
by a couple of good friends of mine.  I had bought back a percentage of
the field, which meant that if someone in the field did well I would
profit as would the owners of the field.  One of the players in the field
(I'll call him Joe -- not his real name) was rolling through the
consolation event.  When Joe reached the money round, he came to my
friends who had bought the field with the following proposition:  He said
that he was playing a friend of his in the money round, and that the match
would not actually be played.  If my friends gave him X percent ownership
in the field he would report himself as the winner; otherwise he would
report his opponent as the winner.  Obviously the X percent was chosen
such that it would be to my friends' financial advantage to accept his

So, what should my friends (who are extremely ethical and honest people)
do in an extortion situation like this?  They asked me about it, but I
really could give them no decent advice.  Note that I happened to be
indirectly involved even as an innocent bystander, since I had bought
back a percentage of the field.

Eventually, my friends agreed to the deal.  Joe was reported as the winner
of the match, and he then went on to win the consolation.  My share of the
auction pool for his winning was about $3000 and I only owned 10% of the
field if my memory is correct, so you can see that there were some decent
sums of money involved in this crookedness.  My friends did report what
happened to the tournament director and there was a committee meeting,
but as expected Joe denied everything and the matter was dropped.

Now, here's the really interesting part.  As it happened Joe and I had
become pretty good friends during the tournament (this friendship had
developed before the extortion incident).  After everything was over, he
came to me and in all sincerity said: "What was everybody so upset
about?  All I was doing was making everybody some money."  In my opinion,
he fully meant this.  In his mind he had not done anything remotely
unethical -- he was just doing the financially profitable thing.  And of
course he did make money for himself, his opponent in the unplayed match
(who was obviously in on the deal), my friends who had bought the field,
and myself since I owned a portion of the field.  The fact that he had
totally screwed the owner or owners of the field which his opponent was
in meant nothing to him.  It should be noted that Joe is not a sleazy
hustler -- he is a quite respected professional in his field (once again
I'm not going to be more specific since I don't want the people involved
to be identified).  In his mind, what he did was perfectly ethical and

I'm not saying that this sort of thing is common.  In my experience in
American tournaments over the last several years I have come across
virtually no dumping of matches for financial profit.  I haven't been to
European tournaments for a long time so I can't say much about them;
hopefully the ethical standards are higher than what occurred in the
incident I described.  However this does show that when large amounts of
money are at stake as they often are in calcuttas and side betting there
is opportunity for unscrupulous activity, and innocent bystanders can get
screwed without realizing anything is wrong.

Did you find the information in this article useful?          

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Advantages of online play  (Donald Kahn, Nov 1999) 
Avoiding loaded dice  (Gregg Cattanach, June 2000) 
Collusion in Monte Carlo  (Kit Woolsey, Aug 1995)  [Recommended reading]
Dealing with live-play cheating  (Gregg Cattanach+, May 2006) 
Dice magicians  (Paul Weaver, July 2010) 
Dice manipulation  (Paul Epstein, Nov 2005) 
Dice manipulation  (Kit Woolsey, Jan 1995)  [Recommended reading]
Gamesmanship vs. cheating  (Albert Steg+, May 1994) 
How to tell when somebody's cheating  (Michael Halpenny+, Feb 2001) 
How to tell you're playing a computer  (Douglas Zare, Dec 2003) 
Premature roll and late pick-up  (Ian Shaw, Feb 2002) 
Taking advantage of computer players  (Matthew J. Reklaitis, July 1997) 
Using computer to aid online play  (Paul Weaver, July 2006) 
Using computer to aid online play  (Ken Arnold+, Mar 2006) 
Using computer to aid online play  (Patti Beadles+, Jan 2003) 
With a baffle box  (Joe Russell, Aug 2009) 

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