Cheating at Poker with Infrared Contact Lenses (and smartphone keylogging)

An Italian was arrested for cheating at poker using infrared contact lenses in France. (Fun fact: in a Europe-wide poll, the Italians rated *themselves* as the least trustworthy people in Europe, I think even trusting their fellow countrymen less than other Europeans.)

In a nutshell, confederates had arranged to mark the cards with infrared-reactive ink. The contact lenses contained IR-pass filters that filtered out most “visible” light, so that the eye’s natural but slight infrared sensitivity could come to the fore. (Hope he didn’t try driving at night with those things on!)

Apparently these things are quite popoular in China:

They even sell pre-marked cards, as well as some remarkable devices called “poker analyzers.” (

The idea with “poker analyzers” is that, when the deck of cards has been marked on the edge, a high-resolution camera scans the shuffled deck and identifies — based on the order of the cards — who on the poker table will get the winning hand.

Acoustic keylogging with your smartphone: I’ve covered this technique before, but it looks like some researchers managed to duplicate it… so have a handy reminder: whenver your smartphone’s in the room, and particularly when it’s on the desk next to your keyboard, your keystrokes ARE NOT SAFE.

Given the sophistication of the research, here’s an idea.

“The court in Grasse heard how Stefano Ampollini, 56 – code name Parmesan – turned up to “Les Princes” casino in the Mediterranean resort in August 2011, wearing a set of infra-red contact lenses purchased online from China for 2,000 euros.

Opposite him on the other side of the stud poker table was a discreet accomplice, code name “The Israeli”, who sniffed or snorted to help Ampollini choose the right cards. Two corrupt casino staff members had already marked the cards with invisible ink.

Thanks to his special contacts, the Italian shark was then able to keep track of the game, racking up 70,000 euros between them without being caught.

“Casino security found his behaviour rather strange as he won very easily and, above all, because he folded twice when he had an excellent hand, suggesting he knew the croupier’s cards,” said Marc Concas, lawyer for the Groupe Lucien Barrière, which owns the casino.”

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