When we think of Las Vegas poker tables where high stakes cash games take place, we envision large stacks of cash mixed in with the chips. How many times have we watched live broadcasts of cash games where one poker pro or another finds himself low-stacked with a huge hand, pulling out a wad of bills to raise or cover a bet? Such scenes will no longer take place at MGM Resorts properties throughout Las Vegas.
The story broke last week, and has since been confirmed by MGM Resorts. The casino company is putting a stop to cash at the poker tables, with the change due to take effect on April 1, 2015 – and that’s no April Fool’s joke. The new policy will occur across MGM properties in Las Vegas, including Aria, Bellagio, Excalibur, Luxor, Mandalay Bay, MGM Grand, Monte Carlo and The Mirage. MGM’s Beau Rivage (Biloxi, Mississippi) and MGM Grand Detroit (Detroit, Michigan) will also stop accepting cash at the poker tables.
MGM has declined to comment on why its poker tables will no longer accept cash bets, but there are a number of reasons that could have impacted the decision. Despite being a laudable convenience for poker players, the acceptance of cash poses several potential problems.
Why Cash and Chips Don’t Mix at Poker Tables
The most notable predicament that can arise from the use of cash bills is money laundering. While it’s difficult to provide any evidence to back up how often money laundering may be occurring at Las Vegas poker tables, it’s safe to say that it’s a viable threat, not just to the casinos, but more importantly to other players at the table.
Often times, a player preparing to leave a session will trade chips to another player for cash, avoiding a time-consuming trip to the cashier cage. I don’t know about you, but I’ve never seen a poker player pull out a counterfeit testing pin or ultra-violet flashlight to ensure the bills are real. And if a dishonest player does choose to trade cash for chips at the poker tables, it’s the other player that will lose out.
In contrast, if a player attempts to launder money at the cashier cage by purchasing chips, the staff is required to check all large bill, thus preventing the duplicitous nature of laundering cash through a casino.
Another problem with using cash at the poker tables is the ease of trickery known as “going south”. An unscrupulous player could rather simply hide bills under their hand, under the rail or off the table entirely, then bring them back at their convenience. It’s possible to do the same with poker chips, but not nearly so easy due to their relative bulk.
Using cash at the poker tables can also result in erroneous counts of the pot. Let’s say one player tosses a stack of $100 bills on the table and says they are betting $2,500. The next player calls and wins the pot, never knowing that the first player lied by only tossing $2,100 in. This may not be a common practice, but unless cash is meticulously counted by the dealer every single time it’s presented, it becomes a distinct possibility.
I’m well aware of how many poker players enjoy the use of cash at poker tables, able to exchange for chips or vice versa, or increase their wagering capabilities on a huge hand, or top up their stack without returning to the cashier. But all in all, I have to agree that MGM Resorts is doing the right thing.
Caesars may soon follow in their footsteps as well, telling PokerNews that the use of cash at its poker tables is “currently under review for 2015”.