Bench trial begins in alleged Joliet casino scam

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JOLIET – Court group exhibit 1? A stack of chips. Exhibit 2? A deck of cards.

If Judge Edward Burmila didn't know how to play poker before Tuesday afternoon, he got a front row seat for lessons from casino employees.

Burmila began hearing a bench trial for Christopher G. Yaldo, 31, of West Bloomfield, Michigan, and Isam Y. Kejbo, 41, of Commerce, Michigan. Both men are charged with cheating at a gambling game and face one to three years in prison and a lifetime ban from Illinois casinos if convicted.

On Nov. 30, 2013, Yaldo and Kejbo were playing Mississippi Stud at Hollywood Casino. According to prosecutors, the men sat apart from one another, but arranged signals when one was able to see the card the dealer took from the shuffling machine on the table. Defense attorney Robert Loeb said the two men were only taking advantage of a "sloppy" dealer who wasn't hiding cards properly.

When questioned by gaming board agents, one of the suspects allegedly said they'd been operating in several casinos, but Will County assistant state's attorneys Jeff Brown and Sondra Denmark told Burmila they would not make a motion to admit other crimes.

Casino Operations Manager Albert Sikirdji testified dealers are trained to keep the cards flat as they're dealt and are expected to monitor "table talk" where it's permitted.

"There's no rule [listed that says] a player can't look at a dealer's hand as he takes cards out of the shuffle machine?" Loeb asked.

Sikirdji confirmed there is not.

"Where in the rules does it say you tap your left pinkie to show [other players] you have an ace or your right thumb to show you have a six?" Brown asked later.