Pai Gow Poker Cheat in Washington State Finally Pays the Piper

For a Pai Gow poker player in Washington State who wasn’t content to wait on good luck, several acts of cheating have resulted in a particularly unlucky array of criminal allegations.

Per a report published February 13 by the Daily Herald, the as yet unidentified 43-year-old man – who works as an aerospace engineer and resides in the Seattle suburb of Lynnwood – is likely to face 13 counts of second-degree cheating related to repeated violations at the Pai Gow poker tables.

The report reveals that the man was apprehended at his home back in December by agents of the Washington State Gambling Commission, before being released hours later on bail.

Commission investigators then forwarded accumulated evidence of the aforementioned cheating violations, as well as five counts of misdemeanor theft, to the Snohomish County prosecutor’s office.

That office did not immediately file charges against the suspected cheater, pending review with neighboring King’s County, where several of the alleged crimes were committed.

Under the state’s gaming laws, second-degree cheating is also classified as a misdemeanor.

According to the Daily Herald report, the incidents in question occurred between March and September of last year. Based on video surveillance footage provided to authorities, the man frequented several casinos located between the cities of Seattle and Everett and played a variant of Pai Gow poker known as Fortune Pai Gow.

His targets included Royal Casino and Great American Casino near Everett, Crazy Moose Casino and Red Dragon Casino in Mountlake Terrace, and Silver Dollar Casino near Mill Creek.

After making use of a public records request to obtain the agents’ reports to the prosecutor, the Daily Herald published an excerpt written by Special Agent Danny Lisa which describes the specific cheating methodology observed via surveillance footage:

“(He) furtively switched cards between each hand to improve one or both hands. This gave him an unfair advantage over the card rooms.”

The investigation into the man’s proclivity for Pai Gow poker – a seven-card game based on arranging two distinct hands to play against the house – began in March of 2016 at the Royal Casino. There, a dealer reported that the man in question whispered the words “don’t say anything” to her in Vietnamese. When the dealer alerted casino management, security personnel began a review of past surveillance footage to identify prior instances of suspicious behavior.

As the investigation spread, several local casinos began sharing photographs of the man which labeled him as a suspected cheat. By September, a dealer at the Silver Dollar Casino had caught on to the man’s behavior and attempted to alert his superiors, before the alleged cheater absconded with $2,950 in uncashed casino chips.

All told, investigators believe the man pocketed more than $6,600 during the seven months in which he was under surveillance.

That figure could be much higher, however, as the Gambling Commission reports evidence of the man playing Pai Gow poker on more than 200 occasions at the Great American Casino dating back to 2007.

Additionally, the man has been linked to formal accusations of cheating levied last year by a Las Vegas casino.