Author: Larry Cohen
Date of publish: 04/02/2004
Level: Intermediate

Spades 7 WBF

Spades 7 regular

Do you see any difference between these two ?7's (aside from the bar code, which is used for the automatic dealing machine)?

The right one is from a normal deck. To prevent cheating, the World Bridge Federation developed the left one.

Cheating, you ask? Do you see how asymmetrical the right image is? If you were on defense and played the ?7, you could place it on the table so that the extra pip is pointing in any direction. Such a placement could be a signal. Meanwhile, the left ?7 is completely symmetrical. No matter how it is placed, there is no top or bottom.

Yes, all of this assumes that anyone who would even think of such a thing is a crook to begin with. I suppose that these symmetrical cards won't really stop anyone determined to cheat (for example, you could still place them on the table either vertically or horizontally, or somewhere in-between). However, it at least takes away one option.

There have been several cheating scandals in top-level bridge, most notably the Buenos Aires affair. The books "Story of an Accusation" and the "Great Bridge Scandal" told the "for and against" sides of the story. Reese & Shapiro were accused of signaling how many hearts they held by the way they held their cards during the bidding. Such issues are now rendered moot by the use of screens.

After the toe-tapping of the "foot soldiers" in 1975, the screens were extended all the way down to the floor.

I don't expect any of my readers are cheaters. I sure hope not! Rather than discuss blatant cheating, I prefer to talk about "unintentional" cheating. Next month, please be sure to read my important article regarding "breaks in tempo," or some might call it, "hesitation disruption."

Meanwhile, here are a few more pictures of the "anti-cheating" cards. In each case, the symmetrical cards are on the left side (note--these were from the days when bar codes were needed--now, the dealing machines no longer need the bar codes to deal out the cards).

Clubs 5 WBF

Clubs 5 regular


Hearts A WBF

Hearts A regular


Next month -- more on "the Lone Wolff" (which will expose some cheating scandals) and ethics.