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CHEATING

Poker is a game of deceit, and while that usually means bluffing and trying to trick your opponents, it can also include blatant cheating by unscrupulous players. We’ll go over several ways a player can cheat at poker – knowing what to look for will help you catch a cheat in action and maintain the integrity of your session (and embarrass the fool who thought they could get away with pulling a fast one on you!). All of these occur in live play online and not online, with the exception of collusion.

MARKED CARDS

Knowing what their opponents’ cards are gives a cheater a huge advantage as it lets them know when to fold or bet. Cards often have elaborate designs on the back, giving the cheater the perfect opportunity to hide a little, imperceptible mark that lets them know what the card is. They can do this by shading a small area, drawing a little dot or making a line wider than the rest – unless you were looking for it, you wouldn’t notice there was anything wrong with the cards.

Don’t be tricked by someone taking out a sealed pack of cards – if they’re serious cheats, they will have marked the cards beforehand and resealed the deck, which isn’t hard to do. You can even buy professionally pre-marked cards, so scrutinize the deck when you first begin – especially the corners – as this is where most marking is done so it’s visible when the cards are being held.

Also keep an eye on the cards during the entire game as people may deliberately mark them (or it might happen by accident) – either way, the game suffers if people can tell what the cards are. Pay close attention to the high cards as these are the most important cards in the deck and people don’t usually bother to mark low-value cards. If you find marked cards, throw out that deck and get a new one.

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BETTING LIGHT & PALMING CHIPS

This is the easiest way to cheat in poker: when a player drops their chips into the pot, they hide a few chips in their palm so they don’t wager the full bet. If they’re really good, this is hard to spot: you see them pick up the right amount of chips to make the bet, but it’s hard to notice if they palm a few chips and not deposit the full amount. When everyone turns their attention to the next player, the cheat discreetly returns their chips to their pile. Another way a player can bet light is to bet so quickly that people don’t notice they didn’t pick up and wager the correct amount of chips.

COLLUSION

As already mentioned, you’re not supposed to know what your opponents’ hands are, but there is a way to cheat when two or more players work together by having a secret signal to let the other know what they’re holding so that the player with the weaker hand folds and doesn’t bet against the player with the stronger hand. This is called ‘collusion’ and can be difficult to identify. The signals can be anything: holding a cigarette in a certain hand, taking a sip of a drink and putting it down a certain way, touching their ears – you name it. Their goal is to play the best hand and not waste chips betting on weak hand. This is next-to-impossible to spot online, which is the best forum for collusion since the players can easily communicate with each other through instant messaging or over the phone, which you wouldn’t see. Online poker sites, such as PokerStars.com, take collusion very seriously and have high-tech ways to prevent it. Read our page on collusion for more information on how it works and how online poker sites make it very difficult for people to cheat this way. 

DEALER SCAM 1: CUTTING THE DECK

To reduce the chance that the dealer cheats when cutting the deck, it is done by another player. The dealer can get around this by bending a particular card lengthwise in the middle, which increases the chances of that card being at the bottom of the cut as it’s difficult to grip cards below the bent one. This gives the dealer an advantage because they know the cards will be cut in a particular place in the deck. Test this for yourself and you’ll see that you probably cut the deck at the bent card. Although it isn’t guaranteed that it’ll work all the time, when it does, the dealer has a much greater chance of winning.

DEALER SCAM 2: TECHNICIANS

Another way a dealer can cheat in Texas Holdem is through manipulating the cards when they deal; someone who is skilled at doing this is called a ‘technician.’ The dealer can easily glance at the bottom of the deck when he’s shuffling, and with practice, he can put the cards he wants at the bottom of the deck and sneakily deal himself the hand he wants while dealing the rest of the players’ cards from the top of the deck.

Alternatively, they could notice a good card when they’re shuffling and put that card on the top of the deck. The dealer then deals everyone else the second-from-the-top card and leaves the top card for himself.

Lastly, the dealer can make an indentation in desirable, high-value cards with a spiked ring or some other object that they can feel when dealing. Using either technique above, they can deal themselves a great hand or keep track of who was given the best cards.

HOW TO REDUCE OR ELIMINATE CHEATING WHEN PLAYING TEXAS HOLDEM:

SHUFFLING & DEALING

The best way to make sure the cards are shuffled thoroughly is to use more than one type of shuffling method. It is recommended you place the cards face-down on the table and mix and spread them around in front of you, followed by a riffle shuffle. A riffle shuffle is when you split the deck in two, put a side in each hand and use your thumbs to rifle the two decks into one. The over hand type of shuffling (when a few cards from the back are placed at the front of the pack) is not recommended as it’s easy for a technician to keep particular cards in order.

You should also alternate players to cut the deck while making sure that nobody sees the bottom card. When dealing, also be very careful to make sure none of the cards are exposed (especially the bottom card). If players see cards, they can use that information to their benefit: if somebody sees that the bottom card is an ace and they have three kings, they know that the odds are reduced that they’ll be beaten by three aces.

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BURNING CARDS

One way to reduce the dealer’s ability to cheat is by burning (removing a card and placing it in the muck pile) the top five cards. However, a very good technician can work around this, so it’s not a guarantee to eliminate cheating.

The best way to avoid cheating in live poker is to play in a casino. New decks are used daily and the dealer will eliminate decks if they notice the cards are showing any sign of wear. The dealer is mindful of every player’s bet, so light betting is eliminated. Also, there are cameras watching both the players’ and dealer’s every move, so if you suspect either of cheating, you can bring it to a floor manager’s attention and the video tape can be examined.

You can avoid cheating dealers if you play Texas Holdem online. PokerStars.com takes their security very seriously: every transaction and your account and password are fully encrypted so that nobody can hack into your account and look at your private information. It’s also a lively, active site that’s a lot of fun to play at, so it’s no surprise it’s the biggest online poker site in the world. And with over ten years of experience, this is one savvy, entertaining poker site!

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