The Top Poker Cheating Methods – And How You Can Spot Them

Posted on August 17, 2016

[toc]One of the reasons online poker is so popular is that you can play online from the comfort of your own home and be assured that no one at the table has an ace up their sleeve or any other dodgy plans. The security of playing at a regulated site like Bet365 means you’ll not be the victim of any of these cheats.

Of course, sometimes even the most die-hard online poker fans want to sit and socialise at a home game. Cheating is fortunately rare, but it never hurts to be vigilant. Here are some of the most common methods that unsavoury characters might try to get away with.

Bottom dealing

Bottom dealing is the practice of dealing from the bottom of the deck. Usually, the cheat will have stacked the deck by putting good cards at the bottom during a shuffle.

They will deal as normal, but when it comes to giving themselves cards will use sleight-of-hand to deal themselves a card from the bottom of the deck while looking as though they are dealing from the top.

How to spot this cheat

Watch the deal closely. However, a skilled card mechanic will be as skilled with cards as a member of The Magic Circle and be very difficult to spot bottom dealing even if you are looking at their hands.

The best thing to do is to use a card protector on the bottom of the deck; this is an opaque card-sized rectangle that covers the bottom card. Not only does it make bottom dealing impossible, but it means no one can accidentally glimpse a card on the bottom of the deck.

Marking cards

Marking cards is exactly what it sounds like. Players will literally mark the back of a card in some subtle way so that they know what it is without seeing it face-up.

Typically, a small indent with a fingernail is subtle enough to go unnoticed by anyone who isn’t looking for it. Scratches, small dabs of ink or even slight bends in the corner of the card could also be marks.

How to spot this cheat

Cards are often accidentally marked through routine wear-and-tear. It’s easy to have a card somehow disfigured, and you should change decks or request a deck change when you spot even one card marked, simply in the sake of fairness.

However, multiple cards being marked, particularly high-ranking ones such as aces and kings (or deuces and threes in lowball games) is indicative of someone cheating. A deck change should of course be requested, and you’ll need to keep an eye on players in future.

Switching cards

This is the classic poker cheating method – a literal ace up the sleeve. In the famous portrait of the dogs playing poker, the sneaky bulldog in the foreground has a sly ace in a paw beneath the table.

This cheat would involve having a high-value card on one’s person and switching it for a card in one’s hand at the right time. The player may palm the card during a shuffle, or even have purchased an identical deck for the purpose of cheating.

How to spot this cheat

Simply being observant is the only way to spot this. If someone puts their cards beneath the table, out of sight, at any point then this is a big red flag. In fact, most casinos force players to keep their cards on the table for this reason.

If you are suspicious, you can ask for the deck to be changed for one with a different-coloured back – a cheater’s blue-backed ace of spades will be useless when playing with a red deck.

Simply being ballsy

Some people don’t need to have sleight-of-hand skills to cheat at the poker table. Sheer nerve can take a cheater quite far.

For example, at a self-dealt game, a player may call a bet and “accidentally” only throw six chips into the pot instead of seven. If caught, they can say it was a simple mistake; of course, it often is as most people do not actively cheat. However, someone who consistently makes a lot of “mistakes” should be cautioned.

How to spot this cheat

Again, you should probably give the benefit of the doubt to isolated incidents, or you may prove unpopular at your home game!

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Matt Perry

A veteran of the online gambling industry, Matt Perry has worn a number of hats since he first began working in online poker and iGaming in 2007. He currently writes for a variety of publications focused on legal online gambling, and in the past has served as an editor, copywriter, content manager and reporter.

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