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The Videos Speak: Balicki - Zmudzinski
(Page of 2)

Carefully study the two videos in the following links.  These take place shortly after the dummy comes down:

Let them run for about 10 seconds. In each of them you will see Balicki briefly put his right hand on the table with all fingers and thumb outstretched.

This struck me as an unusual gesture. In addition, I hadn't noticed him making this gesture at other times. I saw this gesture occur in a couple of other matches just after the dummy came down. I formed the following hypothesis: Balicki is signaling something with this gesture. What he is signaling I did not know at the time.

In order to test this hypothesis, it would be necessary to look through several matches to see if the gesture is repeated at other times. If it almost never occurs except just after the dummy comes down, that is strong evidence that something is being signaled. However, if it is a common occurrence then it just might be a natural gesture for Balicki.

I got several volunteers to look through the following 10 matches from the 2014 EBTC:


Poland - Estonia

Poland - Monaco

Poland - Norway

Poland - Germany

Poland - France

Poland - Bulgaria

Poland - Italy

Poland - Romania

Poland - Turkey

Poland - Israel


Here were the instructions I gave them:


Please examine the following videos closely:

You will see that Balicki spreads his right hand wide upon the table for a few seconds. Learn this gesture, so you will be able to spot it when it occurs.

The link to the match I wish you to observe is here:

(here I filled in the link to the specific match I was assigning to the person)

What I want you to do is as follows: Watch the entire video, every second of it, and see if you find Balicki making this same gesture. Don't look for it at any particular time in the bidding or play of the hand. Look for it at any time throughout the entire video. That is all.

I warned you it would be tedious and boring. If you decide you don't want to do this, just let me know.

If you see him make this gesture, log the time on the video. When you have finished, send the results of your log to me. You might see it happen a few times. You might not see it at all. It doesn't matter.

Please do not speculate on why I am asking this, as such speculation may bias your observation. Do not check what the hand is at the time you spot the gesture. Just be an impartial observer who is looking for something without having any idea what it is all about.

Most important, please do not tell anybody what this is about.

Thanks very much.


I assigned 3 observers to each match. The observers did not know there were others looking at the same match. This seemed sufficient. If the gesture occurred, it is almost certain that at least one of the observers would spot it. There figured to be some false alarms, but these could be dealt with.

As one might expect, there was far from universal agreement on many of the observations. Sometimes the gesture might simply have been missed. Also, it often wasn't totally clear whether the gesture was being used. This isn't a static signal such as with Fantoni-Nunes, where the card led was stationary on the table for at least several seconds. It was a quick action, which makes it more difficult to confirm what actually took place.  Were all Balicki's fingers on the table? Was his hand flat, or were the fingers curled? Also some of the observers were more liberal than others as to when they thought the gesture occurred. As you can see from my instructions I did not attempt to influence them as to what to include. I left that open to their judgment.

My basis for accepting that the gesture had occurred was as follows:

  • If all 3 observers found it, I accepted the gesture regardless of my opinion.
  • If 2 of the 3 observers found it, I accepted the gesture unless I had a strong opinion that they were wrong.
  • If 1 of the 3 observers found it, I accepted the gesture only if I was quite convinced he was right.


I defined the gesture to be after the dummy comes down if it occurs within 30 seconds of the display of the dummy. Anything later than that is likely to be either random or related to something else.

I examined all of the times the gesture occurred after the dummy came down especially carefully, since these were the ones which would really matter. I did not know what the actual hand was. I just wanted to make sure about whether or not to accept the gesture if it was a close decision. For gestures at other times it wasn't too important whether they were real or phony, since those are used just to determine how often Balicki makes the gesture under other circumstances.

The totals for the appearance of the gesture are as follows:

  • After dummy appears: 12
  • Later in the defense: 29
  • Other times: 33

Total: 74

What do these results mean? Clearly it is a relatively common gesture for Balicki. About 1/6 of the occurrences were after the dummy appears. If you consider that a 30-second time slot and the average time on a hand to be 7 1/2 minutes, then just by the numbers you would expect a specific type of gesture to occur after the dummy appears about 1/15 of the time, so 1/6 looks way above normal. But this is not a totally fair way to analyze frequency of gestures. He is probably less likely to give the gesture during the middle of the hand, as he is busy playing cards as opposed to sitting and waiting for the opponent to play. Also, in the bidding one tends to lean back away from the table as opposed to being closer to the table (since you actually have to play a card) during the play. Thus, while it was interesting that the occurrence was relatively high after the dummy came down that was by no means convincing evidence by itself.

The obvious question is: If the gesture is a signal, what might the gesture mean? I examined a few of the hands Balicki held when he made the gesture, and noticed that they all had 5-card suits. Not the same 5-card suit, and sometimes 5-5 (not 6-5). So, I examined the hypothesis: When Balicki makes this gesture after the dummy comes down, he has a 5-card suit.  

This made some sense, since if were signaling length with fingers that would be the way to show a 5-card suit. Note that the converse definitely was not the case. There were plenty of hands where he had a 5-card suit and didn't make the gesture.

These results were more interesting. On the 12 times the gesture occurred after the dummy came down, Balicki always had a 5-card (and no longer) suit. 

The probability that on a given hand one's longest suit is a 5-card suit is 44.34%.  The odds of having the longest suit be 5 cards on 12 straight hands is roughly 1 in 17,000.

If the hypothesis is accurate, there are plenty of questions one might ask:

  • Why is the signal given on only some hands? Perhaps Balicki chose not to signal if he thought it didn't matter. Perhaps they have some algorithm by which they only signal on certain hands. There are many possibilities.
  • How can it be determined which suit is being shown? It might be any of the suits. And it would be silly to just show possession of some 5-card suit without specifying which suit. There would have to be some pattern, but I was unable to detect anything. Others may well find a pattern, and if such a pattern is found the evidence will be far more convincing.
  • What other information is Balicki signaling? I'm not sure, I couldn't definitely prove anything else. Logically this wouldn't be the only thing of interest. Others may find other patterns, particularly with the clue about how 5-card suits are signaled.
  • Is Zmudzinski signaling anything to Balicki? That is also possible.

We do not need to determine the answers to these questions. If it can be determined that Balicki is illegally signaling any specific piece of information, that means he is cheating. Whether or not there is other information being signaled doesn't matter.

Is this solid proof? It looks very convincing. There is always the possibility that my analysis is flawed, either by some error in reading the results or by some unintentional bias on my part. But there is a way to find out.

The true test of a hypothesis is the ability to predict.  If the hypothesis can predict accurately, it is valid.  If not, the hypothesis fails.  I intentionally did not include 3 matches in my analysis so there would be something to test a hypothesis against.  These matches are:

Poland - Denmark

Poland - Latvia

Poland - Russia

All the necessary data from these matches can be found from Nicolas Hammond's excellent web page:

This page also has the data which I used for my analysis.  It has start times on the videos as well as other important information which saves hours of work.

Also, there are several matches from the Polish Premier League which are on video.

I have not looked at these 3 matches from the EBTC nor the matches from the Polish Premier League as far as this hypothesis is concerned, so I have no idea what is there. If the pattern continues, the hypothesis predicts accurately and that is solid evidence. If the pattern doesn't continue, the hypothesis is discredited. I do not plan to look at these, since I might be biased. Without knowing the hand, look through the videos and find the hands where B-Z are on defense, and Balicki makes this gesture within 30 seconds after the dummy comes down. When you find this gesture, check if Balicki's hand has a 5-card suit as its longest suit.  The results of these observations will either validate or discredit the hypothesis.

Links to the matches not yet analyzed and all data from this analysis are on the second page of this article.

While several people have helped me in this endeavor, there are a few I would like to especially thank:

Cornelia Yoder first alerted me to the possibility that this might be a signal and the infrequency of the gesture otherwise.

Robin Krigsland-Hansen has been extremely helpful with his observations. It was his suggestions which put me on the track that the spread fingers might be signaling distribution.

Nicolas Hammond has done an unbelievable job collecting and formatting the data in a user-friendly format. He wishes to thank his group of crowd-sourcers for gathering the data he needed.

The people who sat and watched a boring video for 2 to 3 hours were invaluable. Without them, there would be nothing.

Regardless of the results here, I believe my approach demonstrates that it is possible to catch cheaters even if they are using a complex code. We might not be able to break the code, but we can still demonstrate that they are cheating by observation of the cheating gestures which do not occur normally.

Gestures within 30 seconds of dummy coming down

The video for these starts when the dummy is starting to put his hand down. 

For each match, I provide the link to the BBO records.  For each relevant hand, I provide the link to the video, the board number, and Balicki's actual hand.


Poland - Estonia

Note:  Board 17 is incorrect in the BBO records.  The actual hand can be found here:

Board 17 65 KJ873 54 KQ107

Board 23 92 J9432 AJ105 K7

Board 25 Q AQ1042 A10 AJ873

Board 28 A4 Q9654 9653 A4 


Poland - Monaco

Board 15 J2 AJ4 J10542 543


Poland - Norway

Board 32 Q106 A10975 A109 92 


Poland - Germany


Poland - France

Board 32 5 Q764 1094 J10876 


Poland - Bulgaria


Poland - Italy


Poland - Romania

Board 20 Q75 862 Q9743 72

Board 24 J10764 A109 J10987 -- 


Poland - Turkey

Board 28 96 KJ976 95 QJ94 


Poland - Israel

Board 17 109 1042 A87 108652

Board 19 QJ1095 93 J84 J96 



Gestures later in the hand

Video starts about 5 seconds before the gesture 















No relevant hands.








Gestures at other times

Video starts about 5 seconds before the gesture


Poland - Estonia