Are you being cheated at the poker table?

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All I’ve been consuming lately is information about an alleged cheating scandal in a California cardroom. Whether it happened or not, what can you look for in your games to prevent this happening to you? The quick answer is cheating is extremely unlikely in a casino environment, but stay vigilant anyway.

LOOK WEIRD PLAY: Many times, it’s the correct play to call a bet on the river. Someone who knows the hole cards would have no reason to just call if their opponent has money behind. They’re either winning and should get more money, losing and should fold, or they’re losing but are fairly certain a bluff will win the hand so they bluff. Obviously if their opponent went all-in first they could call, but otherwise look at someone who never calls.

LOOK FOR SAME PLAYERS IN MULTIWAY POTS: During my time in the casino industry, I was able to identify two players who were colluding. I watched hours of their hands and noticed they often would end up in three-way hands with the biggest fish at the table. One would bet and the other would raise. This play traps a fish, who is likely to call, in the middle. We paired this with other evidence and took action.

TRUST YOUR GUT, ESPECIALLY AT HOME GAMES: Home games are tricky. There are a few ways a home-game organizer could cheat and you have little recourse. If the game seems like something is off, you should just go play somewhere else. I’ve never found out that I’ve been cheated at a home game for sure, but I’ve left home games that just didn’t feel right. Marked cards, mechanics, collusion and anything else you might be able to imagine are possible and no law enforcement or security measures will be able to help.

Poker is an adversarial game, but it should be played on fairly. For many people, especially losing players, the temptation to cheat to become a winner would be too great. Always be skeptical of the game you’re playing and if you think there’s a slight chance, you need to change the game where you’re playing immediately. — Brent Philbin

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