Charge: Gambler cheated Mountlake Terrace casino out of $38K

A Renton man visited the casino 38 times in 40 days to cheat at High Card Flush, new charges say.

MOUNTLAKE TERRACE — To win at High Card Flush is easy. You want more cards in the same suit than the dealer. And to break a tie, you want a hand that would be a winner in a regular game of poker.

So if you’re dealt four suited high cards — say, a King, a Queen, a Jack and a Ten of Diamonds — you’ve got a very lucky hand.

If your luck seems a little too consistent to be true, the state gambling authorities may hear about it. That’s what happened when a Renton man kept returning to the Crazy Moose Casino in Mountlake Terrace to play High Card Flush, and kept winning.

The man, 51, was charged Friday with cheating the casino out of $38,335, through sleight of hand. He’s accused of first-degree theft and second-degree cheating at a gambling activity.

An investigation began in January, when the Crazy Moose and two other casinos in King County reported possible card-switching by the same gambler. He was a common sight in the card room at 22003 66th Ave. W. in Mountlake Terrace, making 38 trips in 40 days to the tables, court papers say.

A security manager watched footage of each visit. He’d always play three different hands at the same time at a single table. He’d check the strength of the middle hand, and then, in the opinion of gambling authorities, see if his other cards could improve the odds of winning for his main hand. If so, he’d secretly make a swap, according to the charges.

The Washington State Gambling Commission used a computer tracking program to review his wagers, how much he cashed out for, and his win-loss record. A spreadsheet of his moves suggested he’d rarely try to outwit the same dealer more than twice in a night.

He was first caught cheating to win an extra $1,415 in four bets on Dec. 9, 2018, the charges say.

The next night he returned and took home $2,530 on a single bet of $50. Charging papers say he cheated three times Dec. 11, three times Dec. 20, once Dec. 21, once Dec. 27, once Dec. 28, once Dec. 30, once Jan. 4 — and 11 times on Jan. 8.

At 12:30 a.m. that day, he won $3,315 on a straight flush. He ended the day at 10:50 p.m. with another win of $3,500 on another straight flush. He came back the following evening. Another straight flush. Another $3,250.

There’s a gap in the log for about a week, until he was supposedly caught cheating twice more on Jan. 15. According to investigators, he cheated eight times in front of six different dealers starting late Jan. 17, into the early morning hours.

Reports of cheating at other casinos were forwarded to the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office. The amount of money at stake in those incidents isn’t recounted in the Mountlake Terrace charges.

The man has no felony record.

On Monday, a letter was mailed to his home, telling him he’s required to show up to Snohomish County Superior Court for an arraignment hearing Sept. 30.

Caleb Hutton: 425-339-3454; chutton@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @snocaleb.

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