In the days of the Old West those caught cheating at games of chance were run out of town on a rail or sometimes even shot on the spot. For three people accused of cheating at blackjack at the Turlock Poker Room, it has resulted in a litany of criminal charges.
After a lengthy investigation, the California Department of Justice arrested three people — one an employee of the poker room — on allegations they used marked cards to rack up winnings of $24,000 in 30 minutes.
Robert Younan, 46, a Turlock Poker Room floor supervisor, Gabriel Urbieta Rodriguez, 71, and In Cha Say, 58, were scheduled for an arraignment Friday in Stanislaus County Superior Court. The three are charged with a total of 11 criminal counts including burglary, conspiracy, grand theft and winning by fraudulent means. If convicted, they could each could face a maximum of three years and eight months in prison.
"These people wanted to ensure they would win big at blackjack so they rigged the game, putting hard-to-detect grease marks on the outside edge of the King, Queen, Jack and 10s as well as marks on other cards," Attorney General Jerry Brown said. "They won $24,000 in 30 minutes, but today face felony charges for their actions."
Agents with the state's Bureau of Gambling Control arrested the suspects last month for crimes that took place on July 12 at the Turlock Poker Room, which operates 12 tables of card games 24 hours a day.
In two hours, Rodriguez played at a blackjack table where players bet a minimum of $25 and a maximum of $2,500 per hand.
Initially Rodriguez lost more than $6,000. But then, playing two or three hands at the same time, he began to win, but his style of play raised red flags with the employees at the Turlock Poker Room. Sometimes, when his cards added up to 17, Rodriguez would ask for another card, or "hit" — the opposite of normal strategy. Other times, he would "stand," or decline another card, when his cards totaled 11 — also contrary to usual play. In a span of 30 minutes, he won more than $24,000, according to the DOJ.
After poker room employees introduced new cards to the table, Rodriguez immediately cashed out his chips and left the table.
Agents with the Bureau of Gambling Control later found the cards Rodriguez had played showed grease marks indicating their value. For 10s and face cards, there were marks on the outer edge, while 7, 8, and 9 cards were marked at the center. Other cards — aces, 2s, 3s, 4s, 5s and 6s — were not marked.
A review of surveillance video before Rodriguez began winning showed Say placing a large yellow bag behind Younan, the card room floor supervisor. Younan walked to the bag and minutes later, swapped out the cards in the six deck "shoe," a container that held the three decks of red-colored cards and three decks of blue-colored cards on the blackjack table where Rodriguez was playing.
Turlock Poker Room Operations Manager John Silveira said the arrest of the three should serve as an example to others.
“Unfortunately in the past some card rooms have let this kind of thing go, but we run everything on the up and up here,” he said. “If you cheat in here you will inevitably be caught.”
To contact Sabra Stafford, e-mail email@example.com or call 634-9141 ext. 2002.