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        It is an unfortunate attribute of human nature that money brings out the darker side in some people. Big-bet poker is usually played for sizable sums, which can attract the attention of unscrupulous persons. A player of this kind of online poker need to know how to protect himself against the bad element that may become an unwelcome presence.
        Who may be cheater? Almost anybody. Here is a letter that was printed in advice columnist Abby Van Buren’s column back in1977:

        Dear Abby: What do you think of a grown man who cheats at cards, and when confronted, throws the cards up in the air, runs to his room and broods for the rest of the evening? Abby, this man has a Ph. D. in nuclear physics and holds a high paying job.

        Even though a cheater is more likely to be some type of lowlife character, nobody should be totally exempted from suspicion simply because of holding a high social position. While the chance of being cheated on a given occasion is quite slim, the odds are heavily in favor of encountering this problem at some point in your poker career. As is said at the start of a boxing match, “Protect yourself at all times.”
        There are four basic kinds of cheating. The first is cheating by the dealer in collusion with a player, the second is cheating by the dealer acting alone, the third is cheating between poker players, and the fourth is by a player acting alone. The most dangerous kind is that by the dealer, although collusion between players is the most common form.        

Let’s talk first about cheating by the dealer. We are referring to a public cardroom or other game site where the dealer is there to deal the cards and does not play in the game himself.  This type of cheating is rare because the dealer usually would not want to take the chance of losing his job and getting barred from the industry, but it still occurs once in a while.
        If you do encounter a cheating dealer, he or she is likely to be very good at it. Don’t expect to be able to see the cheating itself. An adept dealer can use a false shuffle and deal seconds dealing the second card instead of the top card without detection by the naked eye, even a trained one.
       Your first line of defense against a cheating dealer is having good procedures by the house to prevent this sort of thing. For example, the most damaging form of cheating is the “cold deck.” A deck that is stacked ahead of time and then run into the game. To stop this, the house procedure should be that any new deck must be fanned out faceup on the table for inspection and then turned facedown and thoroughly scrambled before being used. If the deck has been previously in use and is being switched back in, it still must be scrambled before using.


Of course, the deck must be cut before dealing. This should be done with one hand only, using a clean release by the other poker hand. The dealer should never be allowed to leave the deck half-cut in two piles on the table while the dealer performs some other operation such as taking in antes. This would allow a player to locate a card, and there is some order they came apart, nullifying the cut.

         The dealer cannot give a confederate a made-up hand unless he knows where the cards are. Therefore, at the end of every deal, the player’s discards should be intermingled with the remaining stock of the deck in a random manner. If the dealer puts discards on top of the unused cards in a manner that a card can be located, this is at the very least a faulty procedure. If you see the dealer picking up discards in a deliberate manner and putting them on top of the new deck being made up, fold next hand and see which player winds up with those cards.
        To use a crooked deal, the dealer must select the cards he wants to give his confederates and put them on top of the deck before he starts his shuffle. One he start shuffling, you won’t be able to detect anything improper, so the time to catch on to a cheater is the way he assembles discarded cards.

        This is a good time to point out that cards should be faced away from the dealer when he picks up discards and squares up the deck at the end of a deal. Many British poker dealers, in an effort to make sure the players do not see and locate any cards, face the deck toward themselves. This is bad. Frankly, the dealer is in far better poker position to damage you if he knows where the cards are than any player would be. Once again, the house should require procedures that protect the player in the best way.

       Occasionally someone, either the dealer or player, will try to palm a chip and remove it from the pot. Playing poker where there is a surveillance camera helps deter this type of thievery. We recommend the use of a “betting line,” an oval line that demarks the pot area. This line must be crossed by chips going into the pot for it to be a legal bet. This line encourages the players to put their bets where the dealer can easily reach them and makes it more difficult for the player to retrieve any chips from the pot.
       I am only aware of one dealer who stole chips from the pot on a regular basis. { Lucky Bob; I’ve known more. ST} He was a heavy sports bettor, and apparently not too successful at it. The man was finally caught and barred from the industry. I suppose the house could refuse to hire dealers with a sports-betting habit, but undoubtedly this would  cut down too much on the available labor pool. Actually, it is hard to catch this type of thief, so we are fortunate that he is so rare.  
      In most home games, and sometimes even in a casino, the players themselves deal the cards. Cheating is much more prevalent in this type of situation. The American method is to have a player shuffle the cards, get the deck cut by the player on his right, and then proceed to deal. This inferior system of letting the same player shuffle that is going to deal asks for trouble. Much better is the English method of having the player to the left of the dealer shuffle and the player on the dealer’s right cut the cards.

       One of the more dangerous types of cheaters is the holdout artist. This fellow is adept at palming a card, moving it to game to make a winning hand at the opportune moment. Do not expect to see anything funny if the player is adept at this maneuver. And only in the movies would you ever find a mechanical holdout machine being used. A cheat wants to be in a position to deny accusations, so he is not going to endanger himself by using a contraption whose discovery would leave no room for doubt about his guilt. Rather, the way to defeat him is for the house to have the dealer regularly count the deck stub at the end of the deal. You won’t know who is doing the cheating for sure, but at least you’ll know id any monkey business is going on.
      Perhaps the best-known cheating method is marking the cards. A type of daub can be used for this which is only visible through special contact lenses. (You don’t even need glasses these days.) The only way this can be detected is to have the deck of cards tested at a laboratory.
      Fortunately, this type of cheating is not as deadly as one might assume. The cheater does not know what cards will be coming, because the dealer burns the top card first. You should hold your cards in a manner that only a corner of them is peeking out. (It is unethical to completely conceal your hand.) Far more common than daub-marked cards are nail-marked cards. Nail marks may either be purposeful or unintentional. And often a manufacturers defect such as a small white circular area will be visible on the cards. For these reasons the same deck of cards should not be used for an excessive length of time in the game.        The most common type of cheating is when two players in the game are partners. One of them signals when he has a good poker hand, and then slowplays it. The other one puts in a modest-size raise and sends the whole field into the jaws of death. For this type of cheating which is much more effective in pot-limit than limit play it is easy to become suspicious and hard to prove anything. It certainly helps a lot to know your players. Make a mental note when this type of play happens in the game and see if it is frequently the same two particular players involved.
       You all too often see a couple of players who refuse to bet each other when they are heads-up in a pot. Likely they are not cheating. Cheaters would be making an effort to disguise what they are doing. Rather, the players are pals who have a misguided idea of how friends should act when they play in the same game. I suggest the “soft-players” be informed that they must either change their ways or not play in the same game at the same time. Such behavior builds an us-and-them feeling that creates a bad gambling atmosphere.
       When you think you’re discovered cheating of any kind, here is how to act. Do not get confrontational. The cheater of course denies everything, and will try to make you out a quick-triggered paranoid that is the real culprit in the act. You might even get in a fight. If you are so tough this thought does not dismay you, keep in mind that there are such things as knives and guns. A cheater may well be armed in anticipation of trouble.
       The right way to act is to simply quit the game. Warn your friends in private about what you’ve seen.  Frankly, there are some players (myself included, though it was in the distant past) who have on occasion decided to play in a game even after finding out there is some cheating going on. Something the poker game is so good and the other players including the cheaters so bad that you would be hurting your pocket book too much to quit. I, of course, hesitate to recommend continuing in such a situation to you, but quitting is not the only option.
       To sum up, remember to play in place that have good procedures to protect you against thieves. The house having proper anti-cheating procedures is your most important defense against a thief. And do not flex your muscles or start wagging your finger when you run into cheating. Be discreet. Don’t get beaten up, sued for slander, or create a lifelong enemy.


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