Collusion: This is by far the easiest, and therefore most dangerous, manner to cheat. It is virtually impossible to catch players in collusion, and even more difficult to prove it.
The danger of collusion can not be emphasized enough. Collusion requires minimal skill and minimal preparation, but poses a great danger to the honest players at the table.
Collusion involves any number of players (usually two) silently working together at the table. Working together, these players can perform the following maneuvers:
- One uses a signal to identify the strength of his or her hand to the other.
- One distracts the table of players while the other (designated as the next dealer) manipulates the deck.
- Signals are exchanged to carry through a betting scheme.
- All profits between the two are divided evenly and privately in the end.
- One quickly flashes their hand for the other to see. One manner of performing this works as follows. After the deal of a Draw game, for example, one player picks up their cards from the far side of them. Doing so quickly exposes them to any player who is looking at the perfect moment.
- The partners speak to each other in a language not understood by the rest of the table. This is likely more prevalent in private games and casino games than home games.
- Sandwiching: This is the tactic used when two colluders remain at the table with a third player. Under the assumption that the two colluders will be splitting all profits after the game, it benefits them to continually bet back and forth (“sandwiching” the third player), forcing the third player to either see all bets or fold. As long as the colluders are betting maximum, they will most likely intimidate the third player out of the game.
Collusion is used to describe any cooperation between two or more players, for the purposes of: pooling and splitting money after the game, revealing any of their cards to each other, using table talk, using gestures as signals, using betting schemes, etc.
This “Rounders”-like activity is most prevalent when two strangers have joined the game, or if one acquaintance has introduced a stranger to play at the table.
Angling: This is characterized as any acting out of turn. It is considered angling when any player folds out of turn or signals to bet when it is not that player’s turn. Angling is considered by some to be more immoral than outright cheating. Some House rules may even allow for it.
Two examples of angling are as follows:
1) It is not a player’s turn to act, but nevertheless, that player throws their hand away as though to fold. That player is holding a strong hand, but because of the ‘fold’, other players to the angler’s right remain in the hand. When the round reaches the angler, the angler reclaims his or her hand, announcing that they are not going to fold after all.
2) It is not a player’s turn to act, but nevertheless, that player signals as though he or she is going to bet. Other players to the angler’s right react by not betting or perhaps even folding. When the round reaches the angler, the angler announces that he or she is not interested in betting after all.
A player who uses constant angling is known as an “angle shooter”. This may, however, be permitted by the House rules, in that a player may be allowed to reclaim his or her hand if having folded out of turn (hence, the fold did not count), or to change one’s mind about a bet before the round reaches him or her.
Marked Cards: Depending on how professional a cheat is, cards can be marked as outright obvious, noticeable up close, or not noticeable at all.
In many cases, these cards will need to have been obtained by the cheat prior to play, which means that it is the cheat’s deck, or the cheat had sufficient time and privacy with the deck beforehand. There are ways, however, to mark cards during play. Markings typically do not penetrate the entire cross-section of the card, as this would allow light to peer through and this would be noticed by the card’s holder.
Markings, therefore, consist of small cosmetic alterations to the backsides of cards. This includes surface scratches, a bend in the corner, or a minute change in design.
The cheat will mark cards as it helps the cheat’s game. In other words, high cards will certainly be marked for generic gameplay, or game-specific cards (such as high Spades for when High Chicago is played, or Two’s for the cheat to call Deuces Wild when dealing).
Shading: The cheat using a very fine ink to manipulate the design on the card of certain cards. The mark is too small to be noticed by anybody not specifically looking it, but to do so requires minute precision.
Daubing: This techniques requires a special ink in the form of a small dauber and special sunglasses. At an opportune time, the cheat daubs the back of a card with the ink. This special ink is invisible to the naked eye, but clearly visible through the special sunglasses. This type of paraphernalia is available at novelty or magic stores.
Corner Crimp: The cheat who is holding the deck peeks at the top card of the deck or glances at the bottom card of the deck. The cheat then slides this card slightly away from the rest of the deck and bends the corner of the card slightly with his thumb or index finger. This physical marking can later be spotted by the cheat, who will remember the card. A more complex corner crimping involves shuffling all Aces, for example, to the bottom of the deck and crimping all four of them.
Thumbnailing: The cheat who is holding the deck peeks at the top card, and then subtly drives the sharpened nail of his or her thumb into the back of that card. It may then remain unnoticed to the untrained eye for the remainder of the playing session.
Misrepresentation of a Hand: A more simple tactic, but one potentially used with a trusting enough group, is the misrepresentation (or bad calling) of a hand.
This is the act of a cheat revealing his or her hand at showdown, and calling it something better than it is; for example, throwing down an all-red Straight and calling it a Straight Flush. If nobody notices the cheat’s ‘mistake’, then the cheat could very well win the entire pot on a lie. If somebody notices the cheat’s ‘mistake’, then the cheat claims that it is just that…a mistake.
Pot Interaction: Through interaction with the pot of money in the center of the table, the cheat can perform a different sleight-of-hand maneuver, one that has nothing to do with cards. Moving money into -or taking money out of- the pot allows the poker cheat to either not put enough in or take too much out.
A player opening, seeing, or bumping is putting their hand over the pot and dropping a sum of money. It is each player’s responsibility to ensure that each other player is placing the expressed amount of money into the pot. Dropping two nickles into the pot instead of two quarters saves the cheat money that everybody else is paying.
Some home games allow players to make change in the pot. When this is done, a player should be watched like a hawk. Any player with their hands in the pot has the potential to remove more than they are supposed to, and should be watched for good measure.
Prepared Deck: This is a simple maneuver with a one-time use. It involves little more than a doctored deck being used or introduced part-way into a playing session.
The prepared deck will contain a certain number of cards in the right places, either before they are shuffled, or used by the cheat who may claim that the deck is already shuffled. Anglers may also use this trick as one angler may pass the prepared deck to his partner to use.
The most elementary version of a prepared deck is one that has a one-way design on its back that is not symmetric (ex. a deck with a picture of birds on its back instead of a design). Because the design on the back is not symmetric, all of the cards can be turned ‘in the same way’, so that the picture faces the same way on each card. In this manner, certain cards can be singled out by the cheat who turns these cards so that the picture on the back is ‘opposite’ to the rest of the deck. Obviously, this trick has only one use; after the deck is handled by another player, this method of cheating is disturbed.