Dos and Don’ts if you Suspect Someone is Cheating in Poker

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A woman picking up casino chips at a poker table.
BetMGM Dec 01, 2022, 4:32 AM

Playing poker online is a popular pastime, promising excitement, intrigue and the chance to put your strategy and mental grit to the test. While most poker games and tournaments are sure to provide a positive gaming experience, there will likely come a time when you suspect that someone might not be playing by the rules. While it’s rare, cheating in poker does happen – and it helps if you’re equipped to spot it!

Read on to discover the various methods used by many of the sneakiest culprits, along with the dos and don’ts if you suspect that someone is cheating, both when playing a game in person or online.

Cheating in poker, explained

There are a few well-known poker cheats that money-hungry gamblers are likely to attempt. The techniques used will differ quite significantly in live poker games vs online poker tournaments.

Common poker cheats in live games are:

  • Colluding: Poker is an individual game and it’s against the rules to “partner up” with another player with the goal of keeping each other “alive” for the duration of a tournament. This practice is called “colluding” and it often involves the players in question making strange decisions at the felt for seemingly no reason, such as refusing to call a short stack even when the odds are in their favor or frequently conceding a big pot to another player (their “partner.”)
  • Card marking: Card marking is extremely rare when playing poker at a casino (although there have been cases where players have marked cards with invisible ink and worn special glasses so that they’d be the only people to be able to see it,) but it is something to be aware of if you’re playing poker outside of a professional establishment, such as at a casual poker club or maybe at an acquaintance’s home. Card marking is essentially a cheating technique where some or all of the cards in a deck are subtly marked to allow a player to recognize which card is which without flipping them over.
  • Signaling cards: Colluding can be taken up a notch when the players who are in cahoots try to signal to one another which cards they’re playing with or how good (or bad) their hand is. Card signaling can happen through subtle hand or facial gestures or card placement, but the most common way that cheaters get this shady practice right is using the way in which they arrange their chips to communicate messages to their partner.

Then you have common poker cheats in online poker games, such as:

  • Bots: There’s such a thing as poker bot “rings” that put the power of Artificial Intelligence to good use – and often to the detriment of the other participating players. So, yes, it’s possible that you might one day be playing against a bot and, yes, most online casinos consider this a form of cheating.
  • Colluding: Colluding in online poker games is actually much easier than in person, as many people who Google “how to cheat in poker” come to find out. It’s a matter of joining a game or a tournament at the same time as a friend and communicating with each other regarding your cards via Skype, Zoom or another chat service. Or simply booting up your devices and playing right next to each other. Luckily, when it comes to online poker cheating, most online casinos have software and other security measures in place to detect patterns that could be associated with colluding, helping them to quickly catch the cheaters in the act.

What happens if you’re caught cheating in poker?

It depends on where you cheat! Who knows what might happen if you’re caught cheating in poker at a home game where the other players are particularly unforgiving? 

In a traditional casino setting or when playing poker online, you’re likely to be banned from the establishment or blacklisted in your state. In some states, like Nevada, you could also be charged with a felony, slapped with a hefty fine (around $10,000) and even serve up to six years behind bars. In short, it’s not recommended!

What to do when you suspect that someone is cheating

Unfortunately, many cheating techniques are hard to prove, so if you ever feel as though you’re being cheated or someone isn’t following the correct poker etiquette, it’s important to walk away from the game immediately

If at a brick-and-mortar casino, it’s always best to keep your suspicions quiet, walk away from the table and calmly alert the floor to your concerns. 

If playing a home game, take the loss, end the game and politely take your leave – and obviously don’t ever go back! 

Finally, if playing online poker, it’s important to notify the online casino’s customer service team of your suspicions, providing them with as much information as possible (like the date and time of your game, how you suspect the player(s) in question might have cheated the system, etc.)

What NOT to do

It’s never a good idea to confront someone who you suspect is playing “dirty.” This course of action just won’t end well no matter where you’re playing or with whom. If you accuse someone of cheating when playing poker at a casino or at a home game, you risk the confrontation getting heated, leading to someone getting hurt or money being stolen. Always remember that in home-game settings, even if you can prove your suspicions, there’s little chance that anything will happen to rectify the problem, especially if the cheater is a regular or a close family member or friend.

In the case of online poker, while you’ll be protected from any physical altercations resulting from your blunt cheating accusations, you might weaken the evidence against the cheater by confronting them. After all, once called out on their behavior, they’re likely to stop what they’ve been doing, making it harder for the online casino to conclusively pinpoint anything underhanded.

Play online poker safely and securely at BetMGM

Here at BetMGM, we’re dedicated to providing our players with a safe and secure platform on which to enjoy the best casino table games and live dealer casino games in the US. Whether you’re playing poker tournaments, blackjack or baccarat, you can be sure that you’re fully protected and, as a result, you can sit back, relax and enjoy the game.

Plus, we offer you plenty more entertainment than just your favorite casino card and dice games. Be sure to give our online slots, variety games, Slingo and live games a go!

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Our BetMGM editors and authors are sports experts with a wealth of knowledge of the sports industry at all levels. Their coverage includes sports news, previews and predictions, fun facts, and betting.

Our BetMGM editors and authors are sports experts with a wealth of knowledge of the sports industry at all levels. Their coverage includes sports news, previews and predictions, fun facts, and betting.