Special Situations in Poker

This site contains some topics that didn't appear to anywhere else because they don't involve strategic or tactical issues. The site sections are on cheating card games, playing for a living and on self-awareness. The common thing among the topic is a focus on awareness - awareness of your surrounding and of yourself.


Cheating in poker is widely spread. That is not a self-contradictory statement. It means that lot of cheating goes on, but most of it is so trifling or so useless that it is not going to cost you much money. Some poker players tend to cheat more than others and some forms of cheating are more dangerous to your bankroll than other.

Types of Cheating

There are types of cheating: cold-decking, hold-outs and player collusion.


"Cold-decking" is when the deck is predetermined and introduced into the game with a false shuffle. The idea is to give you a very good, but second-best, hand. You don't see cold-decks in card rooms much because the players don't get a chance to get their hands on the deck when the house provides a dealer, but this form of cheating is starting to make a recovery in jackpot games.

In a jackpot game, there is a special prize kept for bad beats. A bad beat is defined as getting a good hand (like Aces-full in most jackpot games) beaten. This special prize is awarded to the two players involved in the bad beat. Sometimes, this prize can get very large- $40000 or more. Large amount of money attracts lot of thieves. There have been some cases lately of teams of players and dealers colluding to cold-deck jackpot games.


A hold-out player holds cards out of the game. When he is dealt a card like an Ace, he will try to keep it, so that from that point on he is playing with an extra card. The correct defense against a hold-out player is for the dealer to count down the deck and make sure he's got fifty-two cards on the table. You will often see dealers counting down the stub of the deck when they are finished dealing a hand. Some dealers do it often; other dealers only do it when they suspect a hold-out player is in the game.


Collusion by good players is very difficult to win against. Player "collusion " is when two players use preset signals to deal information about their hands. They can get small edges this way by folding when their cards cancel each other in some way, for example, if they both have two Hearts. One of the advantage that colluding players get is when one of them has a very good hand and they trap you in between them while they raise and re-raise each other. However, such behavior will likely be noticed rather quickly. The actual insidious, and hard to detect, collusion is signals that allow them to fold one of the hands and play the best hand. If good players are colluding, then it is difficult to defend against it. However, most colluding cheats don't play well and don't use extra information they obtain from the signals correctly.

Defense Against Cheats

Do not make mistake of thinking that everyone who seems to get lucky is cheating. Cheating is not that rampant. If you suspect checking tell the floor-man of your suspicions. That is about all you can do. If you are fairly sure that someone is cheating, just don't play in that game.

Do not just directly accuse another player of cheating. If you have strong suspicions, you should discuss your suspicions with the floor-man discreetly.

Who Is Likely To Cheat

Most likely kind of poker player to become cheat is an average poker pro who thinks that he somehow "deserves" to win because he is a better player than others.

Let's skip the question of whether he really is a better player than others. Such a player might well reduce cheating with the same kind of thinking. He will convince himself that he is only speeding up the process not really taking something that's not correctly his.

Such kind of reduction is common in employee theft. There is a book which has given three characteristics of embezzlers:

1. They have a "hidden need." For some reason, they need money which had caused them to reveal. It might be a drinking or drug problem, it might be marital problems, or might be financial problems. Whatever it is, it's of nature that they don't feel free to share the problem with others -they don't like to talk about it with others, because of the potential for embarrassment. A financial planner facing bankruptcy could a good example.
2. They have an opportunity. They have a good job that gives them easy access to someone else's money.
3. They develop a rationalization. This is either that they are only "borrowing" the money and will put it back, or it's that they are somehow "owed" the money for some planned reason.

Further subsequent research has found these three factors to be common across number of employee theft.
This kind of situation leads to cheating by poker players. Cheating at online poker is more similar to employee theft than it is to robbery.

1. It is usual for an average poker pro to run into an extended losing streak. They feel embarrassing to talk about it. They are afraid for others to find out about it for two reasons: first, they are afraid that other pros will think they are playing with scared money and will start taking shots at them, and second reason, they realize that there is a possibility that they are having a losing streak because they don't play as well as they think and their self-esteem won't let them consider this possibility. That's the hidden need part of the above concept.

2. Many poker player pros are well aware of many methods of cheating and are good enough to do it if they want. It is not hard to hold an Ace. That's the opportunity part of the concept.

3. Most poker pros have an approach that people who they think of as bad players don't deserve to win. They look at weaker players scornfully.

Whenever you see any poker player who fits these three factors, you have found a poker player with the possibility to become a cheat. That does not mean that a player with those characteristics is likely to become a thief -it's not an analytical criminological theory, it is an explanatory theory.

This theory help you to identify poker player who are not likely to become cheats. A player who isn't shamed by losing streaks and who likes the people he plays with isn't likely to ever become a thief.

Ethics and Angles

More than cheating, you will see lot of angle shooting or a general lack of ethics. By "angle shooting" we mean an attempt to accomplish an advantage by a ploy which is precisely not cheating but close to it. An example of angle shooting would be to make an indistinct wave your hand on the river, indicating a check. Then if your rival checks and shows down his hand, you argue that you didn't check and you want to bet. This manipulation works if you careful to wave your hand in a check when the dealer is not paying attention to you.

This angle is easy to defend yourself against. If there is any indistinct at all to a player's movements, which you think might indicate a check, just ask the dealer if the other player has checked. If you become the victim to this angle, you should call. Players who pull this angle will generally only bet after they have seen your hand if they can't beat it.

Illegal Share of Information

One form of cheating is to share information about others' hands with a friend. It is a type of collusion, which is cheating but it sometimes happens all of a sudden and isn't really part of a partnership play poker . It occurs when you expose your hand to a player next to you who is not in the hand. That player may have a friend in the pot who is thinking about calling your bet. If you have a very good hand, the player you exposed it to may indicate to his friend that he shouldn't call. Perhaps he will kick his friend under that table or catch his friend's attention and glance at you, then look back at his friend and shake his head indicating no. A player who does that is cheating.

They will reduce it by saying that it's your responsibility to protect your hand and it is not their mistake that you let them see your hand. You shouldn't have to concern yourself with whether someone who does not have an active hand sees your hand. The fact is that you do need to be concerned about that. Defend your hand, even from players who are not active in the pot and from passerby who are not in the game.

Cheating and On-Line Poker

Playing holdem poker games on the Internet is also a new place of poker. Earlier in the past, there was some scandal at one of the poker sites where their random number generator sequence had been cracked allowing players to know what cards would be dealt. This is on on-line version of a cold-deck. A few cheats did run away with some money. Now the on-line card rooms have improved the randomness of the deals and it is unlikely that anyone has cracked it again.
Player collection is potentially big problem in online games. The card rooms do monitor the games and they have to access to each player's hand, so there is some defense from collusion.

Continue: Playing for a Living

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