Cheating in poker

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Cheating in poker is any behavior outside the rules that is intended to give an unfair advantage to one or more players.

Cheating can be done many ways, including collusion, sleight-of-hand (such as bottom dealing or stacking the deck), or the use of physical objects such as marked cards or holdout devices.

Cheating occurs in both friendly games and casinos. Cheats may operate alone, but also may operate in teams or small groups.

Following is a list of terms used to categorize specific card cheats:

  • card mechanic: A card cheat who specializes in sleight-of-hand manipulation of cards, a card sharp.
  • base dealer: Also called a bottom dealer, or a second dealer, this relies on two related methods that manipulate the dealing of cards.
  • paper player: A card cheat that exploits the use of marked cards.
  • hand mucker: A card cheat that specializes in switching cards.
  • machine player: A card cheat that uses mechanical holdouts.


Minimal-skill methods

The easiest and most common types of cheating require no ability of manipulation, but rather merely the nerve. Such methods include shorting the pot, avoiding house fees, and peeking at other players' cards. However, it is very difficult to prove because when confronted, at least the first time, the cheat often calls the cheating an honest mistake.

One minimal-skill method that occurs in non-casino games happens when a player who has folded appoints himself the tender of the pot, stacking chips, counting them, and delivering them to the winning player. Check-chopping is when such a "helpful" player palms a chip. Odorless adhesive can be used for this purpose.

Another minimal-skill method is going south (also known as "ratholing"), where a player covertly removes a portion of his chips from play while remaining in the game, normally in order to preserve the winnings as profit, or prevent a major loss in "big bet" games.

Skilled methods

A cheat may hand-muck, that is, switch their hand with one they have secretly hidden. This may also be done with a confederate.

A skilled cheat can deal the second card, the bottom card, the second from bottom card, and the middle card. The idea is to cull, or to find the cards one needs, place them at the bottom, top, or any other place the cheat wants, then false deal them to oneself or one's confederate.

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