Riviera poker cheat used infra-red contact lenses

A court near the glamorous French Riviera city of Cannes this week handed a jail term to a daring and sophisticated poker cheat, who used infra-red contact lenses to count cards marked with invisible ink in a scam described as "the first of its kind in Europe."

Riviera poker cheat used infra-red contact lenses
A French court convicted self-styled "cheat of international renown" Stefano Ampollini, for using infra-red contacts to cheat a Cannes casino. Photo: GambleRomaniaCheats/Youtube

A court in the southern town of Grasse this week convicted an Italian stud poker player, who described himself as “a cheat of international renown,” for using infra-red contact lenses to count cards at a casino in the chic Côte d'Azur resort of Cannes.

The elaborate and daring strategy impressed even the presiding judge, who called it “the first of its kind in Europe,” and “a combination of old techniques and high-end technology,” according to French daily Direct Matin.

The court heard how Stefano Ampollini, 56, took to the “Les Princes” casino in the Mediterranean city of Cannes in August 2011, armed with some invisible ink, and a set of infra-red contact lenses purchased online from China for €2,000.

Standing across from him at a stud poker table was a secret accomplice, who sniffed or snorted or sneezed at opportune moments, allowing Ampollini to know which cards to mark with invisible ink.

Watching everything through his contacts, the hi-tech shark was then able to keep track of the game, while his opponents looked on in bemusement and frustration.

A still image shows cards visible to the naked eye (left), and cards marked with invisible ink, seen through infra-red contact lenses (right). Photo: Cheng Fan/Youtube

On that occasion, Ampollini and his partner in crime walked away with €70,000 between them, and when the Italian returned alone two months later, he won €21,000 for himself, but was then arrested by police as he left the casino.

It’s not clear how exactly casino management got wind of Ampollini’s scheme, although in a similar case in Las Vegas last week, a suspect was seen on CCTV, “dipping” his fingers under the poker table, and pressing them into certain cards – an action consistent with marking the cards with invisible ink.

Ampollini smiled as presiding judge Marc Joando marvelled at the ingenuity of his infra-red contacts racket, according to Direct Matin.

For all his cunning, however, the court didn’t hesitate on Wednesday to slap Ampollini with a two-year prison sentence, and €100,000 fine.

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Cannes Film Festival postponed to July due to Covid

The Cannes Film Festival has been rescheduled for July 6th to 17th - postponed by around two months due to the ongoing virus crisis, organisers said on Wednesday.

Cannes Film Festival postponed to July due to Covid
The 2018 Palme d'Or winner Japanese director Hirokazu Kore-Eda posing for the cameras at the Cannes Film Festival, is an annual highlight for movie lovers in France. Photo: AFP

“As announced last autumn, the Festival de Cannes reserved the right to change its dates depending on how the global health situation developed,” they said in a statement.

“Initially scheduled from 11th to 22nd May 2021, the Festival will therefore now take place from Tuesday 6th to Saturday 17th July 2021.”

The festival was cancelled last year, while rival European events in Berlin and Venice went ahead under strict health restrictions.

The Berlin Film Festival, which usually kicks off in February, said last month it would run this year's edition in two stages, an online offering for industry professionals in March and a public event in June.

France has closed all cinemas, theatres and show rooms alongside cafés, bars and restaurants as part of its Covid-19 health measures and the government has pushed back their reopening date until further notice due to rising levels of viral spread across the country.

The Cannes festival normally attracts some 45,000 people with official accreditations, of whom around 4,500 are journalists.

It had only been cancelled once before, due to the outbreak of war in 1939.

Its Film Market, held alongside the main competition, is the industry's biggest marketplace for producers, distributors, buyers and programmers.

Last year, the festival still made an official selection of 56 films – including the latest offerings from Wes Anderson, Francois Ozon and Steve McQueen – allowing them to use the “Cannes official selection” label.