Poker Tips by George: Flashers and Ethics

By George Epstein
June 25, 2021

Did you know that flashers play poker? There are several definitions that describe a flasher, including a person who exposes his body. That’s not quite the case at the poker table; here, we consider a person a flasher if they shows their hole cards so that other players can see them. Knowing your opponent’s hand is the best information you can hope for. One of the great poker skills is reading your opponent’s hand. It is not easy; often it is a best guess.


Cards can be exposed by either the dealer or a player

It is not uncommon for the dealer to accidentally expose a card as he/she is dealing from the deck. We’re talking about in live poker, of course; not online. If you’re on a site like, you can rest assured the cards will always be dealt out properly.

If it is one of the first cards dealt out, the dealer will reshuffle the cards and start over. If the dealer is laying a down-card on the board, the flashed card is used as a burn-card; instead, the next card is dealt from the top of the deck. But dealers are not what we would term “flashers”; it is only the players with whom we are concerned.

Players may unintentionally expose the cards dealt to them face-down as the game progresses. These are their down cards (the hole cards in Texas hold’em). I have seen it happen – especially in low/middle limit games frequented by recreational players. Poker pros and others playing for high stakes are much more careful. It often happens when a player has a vision – i.e., an eyesight –  problem. They lifts their down-cards off the table to better study them. At that moment, one or both may become visible to an opponent to their side.

It can also happen when a player is folding their hand and is careless as he tosses it into the muck, so that one of the cards is turned face-up. The dealer will quickly grab the card and turn it back down while placing it into the pile of discards – and cautions the player to be more careful.

On the other hand, an emotionally upset player – with a scowl on their face – may actually throw their cards at the dealer, angry because they were not dealt a winner. Perhaps they suffered a bad beat and feel the need to blame someone. Who else but the dealer!

My Experience

Many years ago, when I first started playing in casinos, I observed a player to my side flashing his hole cards. My first reaction was to turn my head away. I felt it was the ethical thing to do. Discussing the matter with other players, it was pointed out to me that it is the player’s responsibility to protect his cards. That includes preventing exposure of his down cards to others. On that basis, I no longer avert my eyes If the cards can be seen without craning my neck. I am not cheating and am pleased for the information. I pondered the issue for quite a while. My decision: If you take active steps to see an opponent’s hand, you are cheating; that is unethical and is a no-no in my book. Interestingly, over the years, my eyesight has deteriorated; so I visited my optometrist to get eyeglasses specially designed to help me see the cards better.

Chances are that anyone so careless in viewing their down cards is so poor a player that they are bound to lose their chips anyway.

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George Epstein

After a long and productive career as a leader in the aerospace industry, upon his retirement in the 1990s, George Epstein chose poker as his “second career.” George has been widely recognized for his many significant accomplishments and contributions to our society. These include pioneering and innovations in various materials, testing and manufacturing technologies for […]

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