Did you know that there is cheating in poker? If you read my articles, is that the dumbest question I have ever asked? Don’t answer that! While we already knew there was cheating in poker, the Mike Postle incident at Stones Gambling Hall showed us that cheating is alive and well in the game of poker.
There were many other cheating events prior to this one, but the poker cheating techniques always seem to change, which makes it difficult for us to figure out when cheating is taking place.
Hold on a minute, though. Read that last sentence in the paragraph above one more time. Did you read it again? If so, did you notice something? Look at this part of the sentence: ‘the poker cheating techniques always seem to change.’ The key phrase there is ‘seem to change.’ In other words, nothing has changed. People just take different approaches to the same poker cheating techniques.
How to Spot a Cheat
If you play poker, then I’m sure you have no interest in being the victim of a poker cheat. I’m going to write about many different poker cheating techniques below so you know how to spot them. I’m always on the lookout for these poker cheating techniques when I play poker, and in some instances, I actually found them! I will include a few stories.
I’m going to cover live and online poker cheating techniques because I don’t know which form of poker you play, and it’s possible that you play both. There are also sometimes subtle differences in poker cheating techniques between traditional poker games and Texas hold’em poker tournaments. You should be aware of those as well.
Let’s get to those poker cheating techniques so you can be one step ahead of the bad guys.
Poker Cheating Techniques
I’m starting with collusion because it’s one of the most common poker cheating techniques. It can be used in both live and online poker games. In case you’re wondering, collusion is against the poker rules. I know most of you know that, but some of my readers are new to the game, and I want them to know so they don’t get themselves into a situation.
In live poker, collusion takes on many different forms, but I’ll stick to the basics. In cash games, it’s when two players are working together. Most cases, you won’t even be aware that they know each other because they will avoid talking to each other. They don’t want to give anything away. The most common form of collusion is to raise a third player out of a pot. They will do this over and over again and then split the winnings at the end of a session.
Using Cell Phones
Up until recently, with the Stones Gambling Hall incident, you could use your cell phone at almost any cash game while you had a hand. I don’t know how many poker rooms have changed their policy on this, but I know BestBet no longer allows any cell phone usage at the table.
Prior to this, and at poker rooms where cell phone usage is allowed while holding poker hands in cash games, two players at the table could simply text back and forth about their poker hands. This would be tricky, but I can assure you that has been done, and it’s possible it has been done to you without you knowing.
This also relates to online poker. It’s much easier for people to collude with online poker because there is no way for anyone to prove that two players are communicating about their hole cards. They’re not going to use the chat feature. They’re going to use their own cell phones, Skype, Messenger, etc.
Collusion in Live Poker Tournaments
Getting back to live poker, collusion is different in Texas Hold’em poker tournaments. It’s actually going to be easier to catch a poker cheat here because the play is easy to catch, and I have seen it several times. The bad news is that there is nothing you can do about it.
The play is that two people enter a poker tournament and end up at the same table. They get involved in a big pot and one player goes all-in and the other calls. This is all intentional and it doesn’t matter who wins because they’re splitting the money at the end if one of them cashes. The idea is that one player will automatically double-up, which gives them an advantage over the rest of the field.
This is called punting, and if you see it, you will usually see it earlier in poker tournaments. From that point, the player who wins the pot now just needs one more double-up to be way ahead of the average stack. If that happens, that player can tighten up his play and coast to the money.
I have seen this on the WSOP Circuit several times. I have never seen it anywhere else. What I don’t like is that most people laugh about it because it was obvious. I think it hurts the integrity of the game and is not cool. If I see someone do it, I make a mental note not to trust that person, which is usually two people because it requires two people to pull it off.
Defense Against Punting
What stinks is that you can’t call out someone for cheating because they called an all-in with king-high on the river. Their defense could simply be that they thought they had a read.
Punting will never go away. The only thing you can do about it is make a mental note of the people involve and remind yourself to never involve yourself with them in any way. They fall into the poker cheat category.
Always be on the lookout for collusion in poker. It’s the most common form of cheating.
If you’re a dealer, please remain calm. This isn’t a blanket statement. I would say that about 95%-99% of poker dealers are fair and honest. Also, I respect poker dealers a ton because they are hardworking and have to put up with a lot of nonsense. I was going to use a different word than ‘nonsense,’ but I chose the nice route.
There is really no difference between the poker dealing world and any other world when it comes to cheating. There is going to be cheating in any ‘world’ or industry. It’s just a numbers game. You’re going to have the good guys and the bad guys.
I’m not going to reveal the name, but I have a friend in the poker industry who is a reformed card mechanic. He told me some crazy stories! Based on what I have learned, I’ll start by saying this: NEVER play in underground poker games. You literally have no idea what you’re up against. The best card mechanics can run up the deck without you having a clue. This means they’re pulling the cards needed for their accomplice.
Bottom dealing is the most common form of cheating for a card mechanic, but according to my source, that’s rookie stuff. This dude memorized entire decks and knew what card would come out when, which he could change without anyone having a clue. When he dealt in underground poker games, he was making money hand over fist! He is not proud of this now, and he’s one of the nicest people I have met. He’s one of those found-God dudes now.
You have no chance against a dealer like this. I highly doubt there are dealers like this in regulated poker tournaments, but I wouldn’t be shocked if there is one. The good news is that it’s definitely not something dealers would want to risk. They make more money than you think. Their leak is their expenses, but if they’re strategic, they can cut those expenses to a large degree and make bank.
Dealer Too Comfortable with Certain Players
There is another type of crooked dealer, and it’s one that I don’t particularly like because I have been the victim of it more than once–at the same poker room! This happens to be a small poker room where the dealers and players go to barbecues together on the weekends.
So … I’m a bit suspicious after the turn card was dealt too fast when I was all-in with the lead on more than one occasion. Both times, the Floor came over and ordered a shuffle and re-deal, and both times my hand went from the winner to the loser.
I’m not going to mention the name of this poker room because I don’t have proof of anything, but it rhymes with one of the words in this sentence: She Milks the Cow.
Some people might say that angle shooting isn’t cheating. It’s close enough. I just watched a video of a nasty angle shoot. It was during the WSOP in Vegas. A player with a pair of aces went all-in on the flop. The villain moved his stack forward (past the betting line) to call but held his chips slightly over the felt so his chips never touched the felt.
The good guy showed his pair of aces, assuming it was a call. The villain moved his chips back and told the dealer, “My chips never touched the felt. I was never all-in.” The Floor came over and ruled that the villain was correct because that was the rule. This is a dick move. The WSOP should also strongly consider changing their ruling on this.
I’m not going to go into other angle shoots because it’s not literally cheating, but I wanted to tell this short story to protect you. If you see an opponent do this, where he moves his chips forward to call your all-in but his chips never touch the felt, DO NOT table your cards! It’s an angle shot and he’s looking to gain information prior to making a decision.
This is a common form of cheating. It can be done anywhere, even at the bigger tourney series. The decks in those tournaments will be legit, but a player can casually mark a card without anyone else noticing.
The key to catch this is to watch a player who has some kind of substance on their hand for any period of time. It will often be disguised as a snack or drink, and they will go right to their cards without wiping their hands, which is so they can leave a small mark somewhere on one of the cards. This will likely only be one card.
One way to kind of protect yourself is to always make sure your cards are on top of each other when you’re playing a hand. This won’t fully protect you because the top card might be the marked card, but at least it cuts your chances of being the victim by half (marked card underneath your top card).
I wouldn’t recommend calling someone out on this unless you were 100% certain. You would run the risk of looking like an ass and holding up the game.
The Lean Back Peeker
I witnessed this at a cash game at Harrah’s Cherokee a few years ago. The player directly to my left was implementing an interesting poker strategy. Whenever he had cards and one of the players next to him had cards (including me), he would lean back in his chair to watch the player next to him look at their cards, which would sometimes give him a clear view of those cards. He was a mini-Postle.
I caught on to this because I noticed him doing it to the player on the other side of him. Once I picked up on that, I covered my cards well and ducked down to look at them. I considering calling him out, but the player on the other side of him beat me to it.
After being called out, the poker cheat looked guilty as sin. He denied it, but then left the table within five minutes. He couldn’t take the pressure. I haven’t seen him since that day.
Poker Cheating Techniques
Online Poker Cheats
I already covered collusion in poker, but there are so many more ways for people to cheat online than there are in live poker. The most common is a poker bot. The biggest danger here is that poker bots drive rake.
Therefore, not all online poker rooms are going to shut them down. These poker rooms run the risk of being found out, but so did many other cheats in the poker world. Greed is what keeps them going. They can’t help it.
Poker bots are 100% mathematical. They will be highly effective against average players, but they will fall for deceptive tactics, and they will be easy to move off hands. However, this is why most poker bots go for volume at smaller stakes–easier prey.
There are ways to detect poker bots. Look for players that spend incredibly long hours at a lot of tables. If they’re not sleeping, they’re not human. Also be on the lookout for strange and consistent patterns in their betting/calling patterns.
Another problem with online poker is Hole Card Bandits, as in programs that allow opponents to see your cards. You might think this wouldn’t happen, but I can assure you it’s happening in some online poker rooms. Hackers are smart, often much smarter than online poker rooms. If there is a way to make money in a shady world, they will take advantage of it.
How to Protect Yourself
In order to catch this type of cheat, look for consistent God-like plays. You should also never let anyone watch you play. This is usually their way in. And don’t open any files from ‘poker coaches’ you met online. They are trying to hack you so they can see your hole cards. They will then play against you under a different name.
Multi-accounting is yet another online poker cheat. People will sign-up using different IP addresses and IDs so they can play two hands at the same table. This is a huge advantage for them.
As if that’s not enough, many online poker rooms will set up the cash-out process so it’s difficult to get your money. Either there is a long wait time or you will be charged a large amount of money relative to the amount you want to withdraw. So, you keep your money on the site and continue to play. The online poker rooms do this because they want to keep that poker rake going.
Have you figured out that I don’t play online poker anymore?
These are only the most common poker cheating techniques. Fortunately, cheating isn’t as rampant as people think in the live poker world. There is just too much risk for cheaters in that environment.
Unfortunately, I believe cheating in online poker is way more rampant than people think. I wouldn’t go anywhere near it unless I lived in a regulated state. I hope the information above will help you detect people implementing poker cheating techniques. If you stick to live poker, follow the poker rules, and implement an effective poker strategy, you should be fine.
♠ pokerjournal.org / Tyler Nals
A: Yes. There are many ways to cheat at poker, but none of them are recommended because you will be ostracized from the poker community.
A: Rarely, but it does happen. This has been proven by the The Stones Gambling Hall incident. I have also seen dealers cheat, but it’s very rare. You are much safer in the bigger poker rooms.
A: Yes. Collusion in poker is illegal. It’s a form of cheating.
A: I highly recommend reading about the poker cheating techniques above and how to detect them. Also, if you stick to live poker, opposed to online poker, and play in the bigger poker rooms, the odds of cheating go way down.