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Subject: "If you aren't cheating, you aren't trying" rss

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Mark Tyler
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Sadly, the subject line seems to sum up the philosophy of the partnership I've been playing Tichu against for the past four months.

If you are like me you play games to have fun, to socialize, to relax, to challenge your mind, etc. You likely don't often encounter players in your group who play games seemingly to see how much they can get away with.

Why am I mentioning this in a session report? Well, during today's session I finally confirmed what my partner and I had suspected for the past few weeks, that our opponents are cheaters.

Four months ago I taught them Tichu during our lunch hour at work. I suggested that each of them should pair up with an experienced player to balance out the teams, but they insisted on being a partnership. My partner and I usually won (as would be expected with our experience versus their newbiness). We gave them pointers and they gradually improved their play.

Both of them play poker on occasion and they were able to use some of their card counting skills and "reading" the opponent to their advantage.

Eventually, they were winning just as often as we were. The progression was so gradual that neither my partner nor I realized the specific point during our months of play when they started winning most of the time.

One thing we did realize was that they seemed to get more bombs than the law of averages would allow. When I play Tichu with my family bombs are a fairly rare occurrence, one showing up maybe every third hand. These guys seemed to be getting bombs almost every hand. At one point we started keeping track of our bombs versus their bombs and the count was 24 for them and 4 for us.

At this point you are probably wondering why we didn't immediately realize they were cheating. Problem was we figured out that we were giving them a large number of those bombs during the card pass. If I have a pair of 4s and a pair of 5s and lone 7, I would not think twice about passing the lone 7 to an opponent. Every so often the opponent will have three 7s and I just gave him a bomb. On the other hand, their passing strategy was largely to avoid passing a bomb to us. Therefore they would split the pair of 4s and pass one to each of their opponents rather than pass a lone card which could result in an opponent's bomb.

So just for fun, my partner and I adopted their passing convention to see if that would even up the bomb count. We found that their bombs became less frequent but they still seemed to be getting more bombs dealt to them and seemed to occasionally get a needed card to complete a bomb from their partner.

At this point we were left with the conclusion that either they were much more lucky than us or they were somehow signaling to their partner which card they needed to complete a bomb. We would ask them if the bomb was dealt to them or if their partner passed it to them. To their credit, they would occasionally say that their partner passed it to them. Any concern on our part that the card passed was an "unusual" choice, was always answered with something along the lines of "it was a single card and not part of a set so I thought maybe my partner could use it."

So how do you catch a cheater? By cheating of course.

Despite being card sharks, these guys are a bit lax in insisting on cutting the deck before the deal. In fact, to speed play, they have no problem with me dealing out the first hand before they arrive at the table. You can probably guess where this is going.

I setup up a "sting" operation to test whether or not they signal to each other. I stacked the deck so that my left hand opponent had three Jacks and the Dragon. I gave my right hand opponent a 10, J, Q, K, A straight plus another Ace just for fun. How many of you would ever break up that straight to pass the Jack to your partner?

Sure enough, they took the bait. Somehow my left hand partner ended up with a Jack bomb and had no problem making his Tichu call.

We haven't told them about the sting operation and that we know they are cheating. I can envision how that conversation would go and I'm not sure it would be fruitful. They may wonder tomorrow when we suggest playing a different game, one that is cheater-proof.
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Chris Johnson
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No, no, it's just good conventions and partnership play.

The fact that it's a partnership game makes it OK. Really.

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Eugene van der Pijll
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m_r_tyler wrote:

Both of them play poker on occasion...

Don't forget to let their regular poker opponents know that these two can't be trusted to follow the rules.
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tim Tim TIm TIM TIMMY!!
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sounds like any team games they will cheat at.

I so hate this game anyways and that is just another reason not to play it
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It'll be funny as all hell if one of your opponents joins BGG and reads that post.

I'm wondering why you haven't caught them signaling, however. Can't be that difficult.
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Blorb Plorbst
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Oh, you know you're going to tell them. How can you not?

It should really be an off hand remark during play and really enjoy watching them squirm.

Say to the guy with the straight: "Hmmm. I've got a straight here, do you think I should break it up on the off chance my partner has Jacks? What would you do?"

Or start making really obvious, silly signals during play until they ask what's going on.

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lotus dweller
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Co-workers who cheat.
Whatever you do make sure that you'll remember it with pride for the rest of your life.

You probably don't need to go this far.
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Edward
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Another avenue of cheating: unlike just about every other deck of cards, the Tichu card backs are asymmetrical, and accordingly the orientation of the cards allows for passing of additional information. I've never heard of someone using this to their advantage, but it's yet another frustration with Tichu production values:
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Mark Tyler
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markgravitygood wrote:
It'll be funny as all hell if one of your opponents joins BGG and reads that post.

I suppose it could happen but currently they don't know about BGG and they don't play board games. We have played a handful of card games during the lunch hour but now I know why they would rather play Tichu more than all the others.

markgravitygood wrote:
I'm wondering why you haven't caught them signaling, however. Can't be that difficult.

First of all, my partner and I are naive with regards to this type of cheating. Now that we know for sure it is happening, we could look for it. But our sudden lack of interest in playing with these guys makes it unlikely we will bother to find out. I am kind of curious how they do it but my partner just wants to be done with these guys. If I do happen to find out I will post it here.
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Mark Tyler
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CrankyPants wrote:
Oh, you know you're going to tell them. How can you not?

You are probably right, but it is kind of fun to have this knowledge without them knowing that we know they are cheating.

For example I was chatting with one of them later in the day. I made the observation that the two of them seem to do much better together than the occasional times when their partner is out for the day. For some reason when they have to play with someone else they lose their edge. His response was along the lines that they know each others tendencies, how they structure their hands, their body language, etc.

Then I made the comment that I wish my partner and I could develop the same type of synergy. If only there was a way I could read my partner's mind and know what card to pass him. He seemed to ignore that comment.
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Curt Carpenter
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m_r_tyler wrote:
We haven't told them about the sting operation and that we know they are cheating. I can envision how that conversation would go and I'm not sure it would be fruitful.

I'm surprised you didn't tell them on the spot. I can't imagine what "fruit" you're expecting (or afraid of) from the conversation that would warrant not having the conversation.
 
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Mark Tyler
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curtc wrote:
I'm surprised you didn't tell them on the spot. I can't imagine what "fruit" you're expecting (or afraid of) from the conversation that would warrant not having the conversation.

My partner and I are of the opinion these guys would deny any wrongdoing. They would demand proof. Once we presented our "proof" they would likely try to turn the tables and say that we were as guilty of cheating as they were by stacking the deck.

I know it sounds a bit like discovering your child has something he doesn't want you to see hidden in his room. When you find it, you confront him, and demand an explanation. He throws a fit saying he can't trust you to stay out of his room.

BTW, my wife agrees with you and recommends we tell them what we know and never play with them again.

I am curious if there are other suggestions for how to deal with this.
 
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Aram Schvey
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If you feel absolutely confident that they are cheating and can maintain an absolutely convincing bluff (since your BGG icon is the Bang! Renegade, you may be good that!), you could speak to one of the players alone (say, Player A) and say something like, "I spoke to Player B a little while ago about your amazing 'luck,' and he/she admitted that you guys cheat." Player A is reasonably likely to admit it, or try to shift the blame (i.e., it was Player B's idea, it was only a joke, etc.). Cops use that technique all of the time (i.e. separate two suspects and then tell Suspect A that Suspect B has already confessed, even if he hasn't, to get Suspect A to confess).

Just an idea. Let us know what you end up doing and what ends up happening.
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Kevin Nesbitt
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The simplest idea is to mix up the partnerships. Don't let them play together for a while.

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Matthew Fisk
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Dang - I better remember to cut the deck next time we play a game together and you are dealing my friend... ;)
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Curt Carpenter
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otrex wrote:
The simplest idea is to mix up the partnerships. Don't let them play together for a while.

He already said they insist on playing together. But I guess there's nothing stopping you (Mark) from insisting that they DON'T play together.

aschvey wrote:
If you feel absolutely confident that they are cheating and can maintain an absolutely convincing bluff (since your BGG icon is the Bang! Renegade, you may be good that!), you could speak to one of the players alone (say, Player A) and say something like, "I spoke to Player B a little while ago about your amazing 'luck,' and he/she admitted that you guys cheat." Player A is reasonably likely to admit it, or try to shift the blame (i.e., it was Player B's idea, it was only a joke, etc.). Cops use that technique all of the time (i.e. separate two suspects and then tell Suspect A that Suspect B has already confessed, even if he hasn't, to get Suspect A to confess).

I'm not so sure lying is really a great approach among co-workers. I'm also not so sure cops really use this technique, outside of movies. In any case, this is a setup, but they're ALREADY done that and got the proof they need. Attempting a confession only runs the risk that they don't take the bait, in which case you're worse off.

Mark wrote:
My partner and I are of the opinion these guys would deny any wrongdoing. They would demand proof. Once we presented our "proof" they would likely try to turn the tables and say that we were as guilty of cheating as they were by stacking the deck.

Well, see, if you would have exposed the experiment for what it was, at that moment, then this wouldn't be an issue. Obviously stacking the deck in their favor is hardly cheating.
 
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Eric Brosius
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m_r_tyler wrote:
I am curious if there are other suggestions for how to deal with this.


I'd stop playing with them.
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Mark Tyler
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Here is the amazing conclusion to this story:

Just as I was talking to my partner about how to resolve the situation, one of our opponents happened to come by and announce he was ready to play some more.

For whatever reason, I decided now was the best time to confront him. I told him we didn't have any interest in continuing to play Tichu with them. In so many words I explained that we knew they were cheating.

Later that day this opponent sent me the following message. (I changed their names). I wouldn't typically share an email message but I think it paints my opponent in a very positive light and gives some insight into his motivations.

My opponent wrote:

Mark,

For what it’s worth - I am sorry. Please know that while it started because we were tired of being demolished every game for weeks, it became something that just added a level of complexity and excitement to the game. It was nothing personal, it wasn’t about needing to win every time or even most of the time. It was just something strictly for entertainment because let’s admit, playing a bomb is fun and David’s expressions after a second or third bomb played are hilarious. While I can’t speak for Steve, I would occasionally call for a card because it would heighten the level entertainment of a game that while otherwise fun, would have become too routine to play regularly. I saw it as another variable, another angle of strategy to play and I enjoy the variables almost as much as I did the game itself.

Bottom line though is that it was cheating, it was dishonest, it was wrong, and I am sorry. It is something that I hold unacceptable in all other facets of life and I greatly admire your courage to call me on it. I imagine that doing so was not easy and I hope that you feel good having done so, as you rightly should. I greatly regret losing your and David’s trust and friendships as you two have been one of my favorite parts of working here. Thanks for sticking to your guns, your example of, and passion for integrity is one I will not forget.

Tom
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Mark Crane
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I guess Mü & More isn't going to hit the table any time soon then.
 
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Frederic Bush
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Speaking as a professional poker player -- if they play poker, for money, with other acquaintances of yours, you should tell the others about the situation as soon as possible.

If they just play for beer money, then you'll probably just get them banned from playing rather than risking a physical assault, but if they play for meaningful stakes, you should be aware that this could get ugly. Still, I think it's the right thing to do.




 
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joshua g
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At least he had the balls to admit it and apologize.

I don't understand how he thinks that it would have been too routine to play without cheating, but I would probably offer to play with them again if the partnerships are switched, given that the apology seems sincere.
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Mark Crane
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joshuaAN wrote:
At least he had the balls to admit it and apologize.

I don't understand how he thinks that it would have been too routine to play without cheating, but I would probably offer to play with them again if the partnerships are switched, given that the apology seems sincere.



It sounds like it quit being fun a while ago:

Quote:
Please know that while it started because we were tired of being demolished every game for weeks, it became something that just added a level of complexity and excitement to the game.
 
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