The unwitting accomplice in the split stake corners scam
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About 20 years ago a friend of mine described this rubber bridge scam to me. I found it interesting, and over the years I have described it to a few friends. When I told one of them, his face went white and he fell back in his chair. He exclaimed “Oh no, I can see that I was part of that scam. I never knew”. A little later I told another well-known player. He also said he’d been asked to take part, as an unwitting accomplice, but declined after working out the ramifications.

The scam pre-requisites

1. The scam needs 2 people to form an agreement to later, privately, share wins and losses. The villain strongly encourages his unknowing accomplice to never reveal the agreement.
2. One set of oppo play at a different stake (eg North and East play for 1\$, South and West for \$2). In some clubs this is called “corners”.
3. The villain in the scam plays at the lower stake at a mixed stake table.
4. The unwitting accomplice is willing to play at both stakes.

Scam in action

Let’s call Bob the villain, and John the unwitting accomplice.

At rubber bridge there are several tables in play, and the various stakes in rooms are \$1, \$5 and \$10.

Bob and John normally play at \$1, but the \$5 game needs 2 players to join Jane and Steve. Bob tells the host: “I don’t mind playing in the \$5 game, but the stake is a little too high for me. How about I play for \$3, I think John won’t mind which stake”. John says he’ll play for \$5. So Bob & Jane play at \$3, John and Steve at \$5.

In the pivot, when they are partners, Bob plays to his best ability. When Bob is not partnering John, he throws games, and goes one extra off in contracts, exclaiming that he’s having an off day, and some other nonsense. So, let’s say Bob loses a 6 point rubber (partnering Steve), he hands over \$18 to Jane. But John is winning \$30 (from Steve).

Later that day, he gets half of the pooled net win: so here, for the example game above, he gets his \$18 back, plus \$6.

So, in the pivot, when there are three changes of partner, in two out of three cases he plays badly and makes almost a guaranteed win. Of course, whenever he partners John, playing at his best ability, he is on form.

A true story….

John (decades) later told me that as the weeks went by, he noticed that the arrangement served him well. He wasn’t paying that much attention to the overall situation … as they settled up every so often, but there was no reason for him to wish to discontinue the arrangement.

When I described the scam to him that he realised that he was part of it. He felt really bad about it all.