Post Your Problems/Lawrence Walsh: Was he cheated at the casino? You bet, he says

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Frizel Cager Jr. of McKeesport thought he had a winning poker hand at the Rivers Casino on April 10, 2012, but Mr. Cager said there was a bad sport at the table.

The game was Texas hold'em.

Two cards are dealt face down to each player.

Three cards are dealt face up on the poker table, after which players can either bet or fold.

Then two additional table cards are dealt one at a time, and players can check, bet, raise or fold after each deal.

Mr. Cager's face-down cards were a pair of 10s.

The face-up cards included a pair of 4s. He bet $75.

Alan Chute of the South Hills, who recently had joined the table with two racks of chips worth about $2,000, said he would see the $75 bet and raise Mr. Cager $150 more.

At that point, everyone else in the game had folded.

Speculating that one of Mr. Cager's face-down cards was a 4, giving Mr. Cager three of a kind, he challenged him by asking, "You really got that 4?"

Mr. Cager responded in kind, saying, "Let's see what you got." The dealer asked both players to turn up their face-down cards and Mr. Cager won the hand with two pairs, 10s and 4s.

Mr. Chute, who Mr. Cager described as a young man in his early 20s, protested loudly that he really hadn't bet because he hadn't pushed $225 worth of chips toward the center of the table.

And that was a problem for Mr. Cager and the dealer, David Fecko.

"A verbal agreement is a bet," said Mr. Cager, 59, a disabled veteran. "Your word is your bond. My father taught me that."

The ensuing yes-you-did, no-I-didn't commotion grew increasingly loud and profane and attracted the attention of Eric Budash, an assistant shift manager.

Mr. Budash told Mr. Chute that he had two options --pay the $225 or security personnel would be summoned.

Mr. Chute exercised a third option.

The casino said he ran, leaving approximately $1,500 worth of chips on the table. Although that would have been an ideal time for Mr. Budash or a higher-up manager to transfer $225 in chips from Mr. Chute's rack to Mr. Cager, it didn't happen.

And it didn't happen some weeks later, when a man saying that he represented Mr. Chute came to the casino to claim and cash in the chips Mr. Chute had left on the table.

A spokesman said the casino provides only a venue for poker and other card games and doesn't get involved in disputes between players.

It instead summoned an on-site state police officer.

State Trooper Ronald Vetovich prepared a report. Mr. Chute was charged with theft by unlawful taking, receiving stolen property and unlawful claim with the intent to defraud.

A non-jury trial was scheduled before Common Pleas Judge Beth Lazzara on Aug. 29.

Mr. Chute didn't show up. His non-monetary bond was revoked and a bench warrant was issued for his arrest.

Meanwhile, Mr. Cager is still waiting for his money.

Because his knees don't allow Mr. Cager to walk more than a short distance, and the closest bus stop is a half mile from his home, he has to pay someone to drive him to the Allegheny County Courthouse and wait for him.

It cost him $60 when he went to court Aug. 29.

It has been 17 months since that night at the casino, and Mr. Cager is still waiting for his money.

I contacted the casino's public relations office and asked if the casino would pay Mr. Cager the $225 he is owed. Because the casino knows Mr. Chute's identity, address and his casino player's number, it then can go after him to recover the $225.

Although the casino said Mr. Cager would have to get the $225 from Mr. Chute, it said it would give Mr. Cager a $225 food and beverage certificate as a "customer service gesture for his continued patronage."

"I appreciate that," said Mr. Cager, who hopes state police and the district attorney's office will keep him posted on all of Mr. Chute's upcoming court appearances.

yourbiz - larrywalsh

Lawrence Walsh can be reached at pyp@post-gazette.com and 412-263-1895. Please include your day, evening and cell phone numbers. Due to volume, he cannot respond to every email or phone call.


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