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Working the Telegraph

What is ‘Working the Telegraph’?

Working the telegraph is a form of cheating used in land-based casinos. Drawing reference to old communication technology that utilised Morse Code, it refers to subtle movements and gestures that signify what cards other players are holding. It requires one player to be in the game, and at least one other person to be near the table with a view of other players’ cards. To pull off such a feat requires immense amounts of subtlety and guile.

‘Working the Telegraph’ Explained

As explained, the term working the telegraph comes from old methods of communication that involved minimalist sounds which were translated into symbols, and then into written messages.

The gestures used by people who try to pull off the dishonest technique can include:

Tapping on the table
Fiddling with specific items of clothing
Coughing
Scratching specific areas
Yawning
Dropping seemingly innocent words or phrases into the conversation.

There are many other ways to transmit signals that will give the player an idea of what kind of hand their rival players are in possession of. It would be very, very difficult to come up a system that would conveniently describe every card to the cheating player in a subtle manner, but people will try. More often than not, such players will just want to know the threat level of certain players – how many regal cards they’re holding, if they’re close to a flush etc.

While such activity was used in earlier years of the sport, well-managed establishments would hire people who had the sole job of keeping an eye out for such unsavoury characters. With advancements in modern technology, such as CCTV, it’s now even easier for houses to keep a close eye on each game, using only a few members of casino staff.

Such tactics will likely get a player banned from a casino and reported to the authorities.