Fixing the Game
Every animal has within its brain a system that helps it figure out how the world works. Once you learn how to do something, it fires off dopamines that make you feel good
. Even pigeons and rats have the ability to figure out "push button, get food".
Some systems can't be beaten. The randomness at their core defeats the ability of even the smartest animal to figure out cause and effect. There's no cause, just the Random Number God
. That's why we love gambling; it feels so good when you win. It's also why some people get addicted to gambling; it feels so bad when you lose.
Nevertheless, people have figured out as much as they can about gambling. The odds are very well known. One party's going to win, the other party's going to lose. Eventually. Face it, the casino wouldn't play the game if they weren't going to make money off of it. If you gamble, you're either lucky or a loser.
Some people Take a Third Option
. They don't like to lose, and they don't like to gamble. If you cheat, you're not gambling and you're not losing. This is a trope that covers the many different ways people have found to not
to Two-Headed Coin
. See also Throwing the Fight
Works that feature cheating at gambling:
- Played with in Gintama by having a man gifted with the ability to see the flow of luck, which turned out that he lost that ability a few years back and has been cheating at games since then.
- Cards games are such a Serious Business in Yu-Gi-Oh! that cheating tends to happen a lot. Those who don't have supernatural abilities need to use more mundane methods to rig the game. (In almost all of these cases, it ends with the cheater losing.)
- Jonouchi seemed to attract a lot of cheaters, which was ironic, as he was a gambler who did not cheat. Mai was the first, and tamest case, who simply tried to psyche-out her opponents by guessing what her cards were by not looking at them. (She actually used perfumes to do so.) After that, he dueled quite a few guys who played dirty, like Bandit Keith (kept his copies of 7 Completed concealed in his wristband), Haga (paid a kid to sabotage Jonouchi's deck), Espa Roba (had his younger brothers peek at his opponents' hands using a telescope and communicate with him using an earpiece), and Big-5 member Johnson, who used the technology of Noah's virtual world to manipulate Jonouchi's dice rolls and coin tosses. (This guy was a lawyer. Go figure.)
- Yugi had his share of folks who rigged the game too, mostly Rare Hunters. His unnamed first opponent in Battle City used counterfeit Exodia cards that were marked with invisible ink that only he could see using special contact lenses. Also, there was Arkana, a stage magician, who in the anime boasted - to himself - that he knew over a hundred ways to cheat at cards. For this duel, he trimmed the edges of certain cards, making them slightly smaller than the others, so they'd wind up on the top of his deck easier.
- In Yu-Gi-Oh! GX, their was the Duelist Assassin Titan, who used an Archfiend Deck, using monsters who depended on die rolls. It was edited out of the dub, but his custom-made Duel Disk was actually rigging the rolls. (He lost when the cursed magic of the Abandoned Dorm turned the duel into an actual Shadow Duel. Such technology doesn't work in that type of battle, and as a result, his final die roll missed.)
- In Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D's, there was Clark Smith, the member of Yliaster who murdered Sherry LeBlanc's parents (although Sherry does admit that he didn't do it himself, but simply "allowed" it to happen). When Yusei confronts him, he challenges Yusei to a Concentration Duel, a special duel with house rules with elements of the game Concentration. It's rigged; the cards are all spread out face-down on the table, and Clark knows what his are due to marks on them that only he can read due to his special glasses. Yusei realizes he's cheating and wins anyway, and Clark pays dearly after he tries to kill Yusei and Sherry, something that defies the orders of his masters - they erase him from existence, literally.
- Daniel J. D'Arby of JoJo's Bizarre Adventure is a known gambler who has managed to hoard a number of souls, but the heroes discover that he's more than willing to cheat ("Not Cheating Unless You Get Caught" is his motto) after he captures the souls of Polnareff and Joseph. Jotaro manages to defeat him by psyching him out: D'Arby has a seemingly random little kid (who actually works for him) deal the cards and give Jotaro a crap hand. Jotaro gives a subtle demonstration of his Stand's incredible speed and keeps raising the pot his bet higher and higher, making D'Arby wonder if he'd used Star Platinum to change his cards faster than the eye could see. When the stakes get too high for D'Arby (Jotaro says that if he wins, D'Arby has to tell them about DIO's Stand), the strain is too much and he "admit[s] defeat in his heart" — and then it turns out that Jotaro didn't change his cards at all and still had the same crappy hand.
- This also comes up against D'Arby's younger brother Terence, who uses video games instead of games of chance. Terence's Stand allows him to mentally ask yes-or-no questions and read the answer in his opponent's soul, which allows him to outflank Kakyoin in a racing game. Jotaro pulls the psych-out again while trying to suss out D'Arby's Stand power, placing his Nice Hat so it blocks D'Arby's view of his face, but when that doesn't change the outcome he gets a good idea of what D'Arby is capable of. So he has Joseph use his Stand Hermit Purple to input entirely different commands — so even though Jotaro intends to throw a fastball (and thus that's what D'Arby's Stand tells him), Joseph changes it into a curveball, rendering Jotaro completely unreadable and leading to his victory. And just to add insult to injury, Jotaro even delivers the elder D'Arby's motto after his trick is revealed.
- In the Mad Magazine story "Religious Promoter of the Year", an immoral preacher tells the reporter that they have a casino in the church. When the reporter asks him if games of chance aren't sinful, that's exactly the Loophole Abuse he needs to argue that since the games are rigged so that the house always wins, that takes the sin out of it.
- In Lucky Luke, cheating at cards is the rule rather than the exception. A poker game in a Lucky Luke comic will rarely result in getting anything else than either aces or twos at your hand.
- Laff-A-Lympics #13 (Marvel, January 1979) tells that Dread Baron and Dick Dastardly are brothers. In a flashback it shows them playing poker as kids, each trying to out-cheat each other by pulling out and displaying endless aces. Dread Baron pulls out a box with a million aces ("Acme Aces—for the discriminating cheat").
- In Hallelujah!, Hotshot has a pair of loaded dice that he uses to cheat Zeke out of his bankroll.
- Casino was set in a casino, a few people tried to cheat. The results were unpleasant.
- At that time, the The Mafia still ran a few casinos in Vegas, so their method of dealing with cheaters is no different from how they normally do things.
- Rounders features gambling and two best friends. One is a Professional Gambler. The other is a cheat.
- Ocean's Eleven is a heist movie, but more than one person is a cheat. Danny finds Rusty teaching poker to celebrities. As soon as Danny sits down, the two of them rook the kids for a couple grand. Just for fun.
- The third film shows what happens when you try to cheat at one of Willy Bank's casinos. Although, Bank's not as imaginative in this regard as Terry Benedict.
- Brick Top likes to run crooked boxing matches in Snatch.. Turkish doesn't which is the reason people like him. Then he ends up in debt to Brick Top. Unfortunately, Mickey doesn't know how to take a dive. And he ends up betting on himself, reversing the fix.
- Qui Gon Jinn in Star Wars Episode I The Phantom Menace uses the power of the force to cheat at dice.
- The die used was loaded in the first place, so it's more of UN-fixing the game.
- The Polish film Wielki Szu is a story of a young man who becomes an apprentice to a cheater. It contains a quote that might serve well here "We played fair. You cheated, I cheated, the better man won."
- In Bad Lieutenant Port Of Call New Orleans, the main character catches a star college quarterback buying pot and blackmails him into shaving points on his next game. The quarterback can't go through with it and fakes an injury to get out of the game, but his team fails to beat the spread anyway.
- In a flashback of Sgt. Bilko, the titular character (played by Steve Martin) is known for rigging games and fights. He makes a deal with one of the fighters to take a dive, but his assistant screws up and pays the wrong fighter, who assumes that the payoff means that he should take a dive. The other guy then assumes that he'll be paid after the fight. The result is both guys circling each other for half an hour, afraid to land a punch. Finally, one of them punches the other out of habit... and both fall down. When Bilko's superior Thorne starts investigating, he finds the payoff in a locker belonging to the second fighter and confronts him about it. Just then the reporters burst into the locker room and take a picture that makes it look like Thorne is the one paying off the fighter. Thorne gets Reassigned to Antarctica and comes back bitter and itching for revenge.
- Naturally, since the movie is about Sergeant Bilko, he's portrayed as a good character, even though he does many illegal things for fun. Meanwhile, Thorne is merely trying to show Bilko for what he really is. Obviously, the film has to show Thorne going overboard and performing even more illegal acts than Bilko in order to establish him as the villain.
- In The Hangover, Alan reads up on card counting while they're driving to Vegas. When they quickly need a large sum of cash to rescue their friend, Alan suggests they win it at the casino. He starts counting cards and ends up winning the money. When the security is moving to get him, his partners fake a health problem to divert the guards' attention, allowing Alan to get away.
- The Road to El Dorado: The plot is kicked off when, after winning a map from a suspicious man who insisted they use his dice, Miguel and Tulio are revealed to be using loaded dice and subsequently arrested and put on a boat to Cuba to work the sugar plantations.
- Diggstown has a bet between the main character (a con man who just got out of prison) and the Big Bad, who owns the titular town. The bet involves the main character's friend, a former professional boxer, who is supposed to fight ten opponents one after another in a day. Naturally, both guys try to rig the games in their favor. The main character pays off two of the boxers (brothers) to take a dive, while the Big Bad brings in the only boxer who ever beat the main character's friend and also convinces his son to not step in the ring, meaning the good guys think they won an easy fight, when, in fact, the Big Bad has an even tougher fight planned. Unfortunately, one of the brothers is too obvious about it, and the Big Bad quickly figures out the truth. He forces the other brother to fight for real or "bury [his] brother". It doesn't end well for the brothers. At the end, the Big Bad brings out a tough-as-nail prison inmate to the fight... except the main character was previously in the same prison and gets the inmate to throw the fight in the most obvious way possible.
- In Save Your Legs, Mark deliberately throws the match against the toymakers.
- The Hunger Games aren't precisely rigged... but, yeah, they're rigged. They're a start-to-finish popularity contest in addition to the "survival of the fittest" angle. Mentors can have supplies (new weapons, rations, etc) dropped on the tributes at various points, depending on their situation and what they can afford. The more popular the tribute, the more sponsors pitch in. Most infamously, Finnick made himself so popular he earned a trident and soloed the rest of his Games. Of course, the people in charge are just as creative at endangering tributes who get too comfortable.
- In Things Change, Gino convinces a mobbed-up casino to let his friend Jerry win a game of roulette so that the old man gets a thrill before going to prison. Unfortunately Jerry inadvertently lets all his winnings ride and earns a huge jackpot that Gino will have to find a way to pay back.
- Unsurprisingly pops up in the poker tournament in Maverick, with Coop going around pulling players' hidden aces out and then throwing them overboard. Then it comes up in the final round when Maverick notices the dealer drawing cards from the bottom of the deck, and demands a new deck, dealer and shuffle.
- This turns up quite a bit for James Bond:
- The titular character in Goldfinger loved to fix games. When playing cards at a resort, he has an employee in a nearby balcony using binoculars to read the opponent's cards. Later when playing golf with Bond, he has Oddjob cheat so lower his score. Both times, James turns the tables (first by seducing the employee, then by cheating even harder at golf). This goes a long way to help establish Goldfinger's character; he's already extraordinarily wealthy, but is still greedy and petty enough to cheat to win (ultimately rather minor) sums of money in friendly bets.
- In Diamonds Are Forever we discover Q created a ring that allows him to win at slot machines; it contains a magnet that stabilizes the tumblers in such a way that every machine always brings out a jackpot. Since Q doesn't hand this device over to James, or even collect his winnings when he does this to various machines, he appears to have just created it for his own amusement.
- Octopussy has Bond noticing an exiled Afghan prince named Kamal Khan taking a British gent for all he's worth in backgammon. He quickly figures out that Khan is using loaded dice that always come up double sixes (how nobody else caught on is a mystery). He offers to play him for double-or-nothing. Khan agrees. Bond invokes the "player's privilege" and uses Khan's dice to win. Instead of letting his Sikh dragon beat up Bond (and cause a scene), Khan pays Bond but warns him to spend the money quickly.
- In Licence to Kill, Bond is cleaning up playing blackjack in Sanchez's casino. Sanchez sends Lupe in to replace the dealer. After Lupe expertly shuffles and cuts the deck, Bond asks if he is going to lose. Lupe replies yes, but not much. Bond quits the game.
Live Action TV
- In Harry Potter, Ludo Bagman pays his debts with Leprechaun Gold, which disappears after a few hours. When that fails to get him out of his high number of gambling debts, he uses his position as a judge of the Triwizard Tournament to give Harry information he didn't have or give him inordinately high numbers of points.
- Skeeter Jackson from Time Scout loves to gamble, and he's not exactly an angel. After his Heel–Face Turn, he ends up in a beautiful Victorian casino and plays a few rounds of craps to "keep his hand in". After he walks away from the table, he says that he threw three sets of dice and all three were loaded. One with heavy paint, one with a mercury tumbler, the third with shaved edges. The person he's with is astonished and appalled. Then Skeeter sits down to play poker and relates an amusing anecdote about a guy with a device up his sleeve.
- In Aubrey-Maturin, Jack Aubrey plays some whist in the second book of his series. He accuses the people he's playing with of cheating. As one is a Smug Snake, The Gambling Addict, and a traitor, that's not implausible.
- In Wheel of Time, Mat Cauthon occasionally gets accused of cheating. But he's just very, very lucky. On one occasion he runs up against someone who actually is using loaded dice, but his Born Lucky power is so strong he still manages to get a winning roll out of them that should have been nigh-impossible.
- In Harry Harrison's Deathworld series, the protagonist Jason dinAlt is a professional gambler, who uses his weak telekinetic ability to cheat at dice. He claims he can cheat at the roulette as well, but stopping a big wheel is more difficult than a small die. At the beginning of the first book, Kerk Pyrrus asks him to win 3 million for him. Unfortunately for them, the casino owner has connections in the planet's corrupt government. When Jason is on a big winning streak, the dealer keeps requesting new dice, hoping Jason's luck will change, culminating in him using dice that are obviously heavier on one side. With some quick thinking, Jason exposes the dealer by using a magnetic ashtray to reveal the rigged dice (the heavier side has metal in it). A security guard tries to intervene, but Kerk breaks his arm. Finally, when Jason has won all he can, they barely manage to get off-world by getting aboard a ship from a planet whose people absolutely hate the local Wretched Hive. Jason isn't shown gambling again.
- In Walter Jon Williams's book Angel Station, the protagonists are down-on-their-luck brother and sister named Ubu Roy and Beautiful Maria (that is her full name). Maria is an "electronic witch", genetically-engineered with an ability to manipulate electrons with telekinesis. As a way of making money while they look for a contract, she plays a game (with a decent payout) that simulates navigating a ship through a field of black holes. Using her ability, she's able to win consistently by intercepting and altering computer signals before they appear on the screen. Ubu then suggests going for a big score and cheating at the roulette at a big casino on the titular space station. By that point, all casino games are electronic in nature, so Maria feels she has a good chance. She ends up winning a lot, but both are then taken to a back room, where it's revealed that the casino monitors all machines and detects any attempts at hacking them. Their only curiosity is the fact that Maria doesn't appear to have any equipment with her. They start beating on both of them. Even when Maria admits her ability, the casino owners don't believe her. They are thrown out the back of the casino badly beaten and without their winnings.
- In a Star Trek Expanded Universe novel, it's revealed that Quark bans telepaths from his establishment, as they would have an unfair advantage at gambling.
- As with so many things, goes meta in the Discworld books. The Guild of Gamblers regulates things like marked cards and loaded dice. It doesn't ban them, though, it standardises them. Therefore, any contest between two Guild members becomes a matter of skill and luck, since they have exactly the same advantages. Any contest between a Guild member and a member of the public ... well, that's their look-out.
- In Witches Abroad, a card shark tries to play Cripple Mister Onion against Granny Weatherwax, and several unfortunate accidents later is trying desperately to remember how you play Cripple Mister Onion without fixing the game.
- In E.E. Smith's "Masters of the Vortex" (set in the Lensman universe, but outside the main story arc), the main characters team up to destroy a mob boss's casinos across four separate solar systems, knowing the three on which he isn't located will send an interplanetary distress signal to the fourth, enabling the Galactic Patrol to seal the system and trap him. The methods involved include telepsychic card reading and card counting, with hints fed telepathically but anonymously to ordinary gamblers on the floor in such a way as to create improbable but untraceable winning streaks. No matter what the mobsters do - switch systems, shift them, even remove cheating entirely - they get utterly destroyed and are forced to inform their superior, who is eventually caught.
- It doesn't hurt the Patrol that the people in charge of the operation are a mathematical savant and a cybernetic engineer, both of whom are telepathic. At one stage, they break a crooked croupier's system, openly tell him what they're doing, and offer to sacrifice a thousand-credit note to prove which one of them has broken it correctly.
- One short piece in the Gaunt's Ghosts novel Ghostmaker features a thoroughly rigged guessing game that Sergeant Varl, the regimental piper Milo, and a few other Ghosts use to fleece other regiments of their money: Varl plays the crowd to hype things up and convince them that it's legit (by convincing them that he was rigging it but has lost control), the troopers act as shills to get the bets going, and Milo brings it home by playing, at first to lose and then, in the final, highest-value round, to predict a perfect win. Trouble arises when one of the other regiments starts a rumor that he's using unrevealed psychic powers to rig the game and an Inquisitor shows up.
- At the beginning of the James Bond novel Moonraker, Bond is asked by M to look into another member at M's club who is suspected of cheating at cards. Bond figures out how the man is rigging the game, and conspires with the club's management to rig it better, serving notice to the cheater that he's been caught out without embarrassing the club with a public accusation. Hugo Drax turns out to be the villain of the novel, and his behavior at the card table reveals his defining character flaw: he hates to be beaten at anything.
- In Marianne, the Matchbox, and the Malachite Mouse by Sheri S. Tepper, Marianne's sorcerous husband goes into a high-stakes game armed with a pair of dice he's enchanted to throw any number he requires — even if the number he requires is 1.
- One episode of Psych featured a Professional Gambler who got cheated at poker. Shawn then figures out that the game must be rigged, then he figures out how.
- Angel accidentally lost his destiny and got stuck at the slots, feeding in money. Cordelia gave the machine a psychic nudge and Angel won.
- On The Mentalist Jayne is a skilled cheater though he usually just prefers to use mind tricks to win. In one episode he is banned from a casino for counting cards and later tricks the murderer into implicating himself by beating him in a poker game. When the guy asks how Jayne did it, Jayne says "I cheated".
- Unlike the Casino example and many others, when Jayne is caught memorizing cards (which he's very good at doing), the head of security politely tells him that he may keep his winnings, but that he is no longer welcome at their establishment. After all, there's nothing illegal about remembering things.
- Unforgettable: the lead character has an Eidetic Memory; in an establishing moment she gets in trouble at an illegal casino for counting cards. She is presumably banned from all the legal casinos on the East Coast.
- The Dukes of Hazzard: One time the Dukes took on a crook with a Travelling Casino in the back of a semitruck. They rigged the roulette wheel and had Uncle Jessie play when they blew the horn.
- Mash: Klinger gets in a craps game in the back room at Rosie's bar and discovers that the dice are loaded, causing a fight to break out.
- An earlier episode had Hawkeye in a poker game playing against a soldier who had an indentured national whom Hawkeye was trying to liberate. Hawkeye had an earpiece in which Radar (from a distance and with a telescope) was relaying the soldier's hand via radio.
- Only Fools and Horses:
Boycie: Where did you get those four bloody aces from?
Del: Same place you got them kings. I knew you was cheating, Boycie.
Boycie: Oh yeah? How?
Del: Because that wasn't the hand that I dealt you.
- Leverage features a poker game involving this in the episode The Two Horse Job as the team cheats a corrupt horse owner out of the only horse that he had left after burning down his own stable for the insurance payout.
- In Tracker 'Eye of the Storm', Nestov uses his natural alien intelligence to do mathematical analysis and use it to cheat on the game he was playing.
- In the episode of Monk where he goes to Vegas, he is able to consistently win at Blackjack at the suspect's casino, despite the dealer using multiple decks. Finally, the suspect declares him a card-counter and has security drag him out. Of course, Monk is naturally this observant, which is the reason why he's such a good detective.
- In the Star Trek: The Next Generation:
- In the episode "The Royale," Data determines that the dice on the craps table are loaded and manually reweights them. He then throws winning rolls until he, Riker, and Worf can successfully pose as the foreign investors the situation calls for. Earlier, he also easily calculates how to win at Blackjack with only rudimentary knowledge of the game (and not knowing that the means he's using to do so are usually frowned upon).
Patron: Hey... You ain't onna them card-countin' folks, is ya?
Data: (Genuinely confused) The number of cards and their relative values remain constant. What purpose would there be in counting them?
- In Time's Arrow, Data is stranded in the 19th Century and finds a group of card-sharks who take him for an easy mark. Since he needs currency to get by, he agrees to play. Unfortunately for the card sharks, Data's CPU is more than advanced enough to both count cards and stack the deck quicker than the human eye can detect. Data promptly cleans them out.
- An episode of NUMB3RS deals with a card-counting ring made up of college students. Then one of them ends up dead. Naturally, the feds suspect the casino manager. Turns out, they were laundering drug money with the casino manager being in on the deal, only two of the students decided to come clean, and the third one wanted to get rich.
- Hustle: In "Clearance From A Deal", the gang stage an elaborate con in order to fix the outcome of a roulette game.
- On Arrow, Felicity gets caught counting cards at a casino. Subverted in that getting caught was part of the plan to infiltrate the casino and plant a bug on the owner's computer.
- An early Mission: Impossible episode has the team break the bank at a casino owned by a dictator (who is forced to pay their winnings with money he'd set aside for an arms deal) using various cheats to rig the games in their favour, including a device that can measure where the ball on a roulette wheel will land before bets are closed.
- The Doctor Blake Mysteries: In "Against the Odds", a bookie attempts to fix the results of the Ballarat Cup by arranging for the jockey riding the favourite (who is Trapped by Gambling Debts) to throw the race.
- The Leonard Cohen song "Everybody Knows" starts "Everybody knows the dice are loaded/Everybody rolls with their fingers crossed."
- Guys and Dolls: Big Jule has his own set of dice; he had the numbers taken off of "for luck." Fortunately he remembers where the spots formerly were, so when he rolls he tells people what his point is.
- In Mass Effect 1, you have the option of helping a salarian develop a cheating module for Quasar. Of course, cheating is illegal, so he has no intention of using it himself, just selling it to others.
- In League of Legends, Twisted Fate's passive is Loaded Dice, which grants him 1 to 6 gold for each kill. True to his character and the nature of loaded dice, he has a higher chance to roll high numbers.
- "Never lost a fair game of cards. Never played one either."
- In Futurama, Bender is an inveterate gambler and has no compunction against cheating. Hell, he even has a cheating unit, though it's prone to malfunction. He's fixed horse races, used x-ray specs, stacked decks...
- Of course he is still an idiot. He once gave away that fact that he used X-ray specs by revealing that a player had an internal problem.
- An episode of Batman: The Animated Series centered on a plot by the Scarecrow to raise a lot of money gambling on sporting events (guess how). He even drops the title "I fixed the games."
- Chode in Tripping the Rift tries to pull this on The Devil to buy time but Satan, being, well Satan, anticipates it and demands they play a variant of poker where the lowest hand wins.
- In The Simpsons episode "Lisa's First Word", Krusty Burger becomes a sponsor of the Olympics, and runs a promotion with a scratch-off contest where customers win a free burger when America wins a Gold Medal. To be safe, his agent rigs the game so that the events on the tickets are the ones "Communists never lose." Unfortunately, the Soviet boycott of the Olympics means he loses a fortune because of it. (This is actually a Shout-Out to an actual McDonald's Olympic promotion which was just as ill-conceived.)
- As a joke: the Rocky and Bullwinkle story arc "Wossamotta U." has Boris Badenov (as usual) plotting against the Wossamotta football team, of which Rocky and Bullwinkle have been recruited:
Boris: (to Natasha) You know how I'm always breaking things, destroying things, blowing things up?
Boris: Well, this time I'm going to do the opposite.
Natasha: You don't mean...?
Boris: Yes. I'm going to fix a game!