Poker Tips By George: Dirty Poker (Part 2) – Collusion

By George Epstein
April 10, 2018

My previous column on Dirty Poker introduced you to a book about cheating in poker, and provided a rather thorough overview of the art of cheating. In this column, we’ll go into further detail regarding what the book describes, specifically with regard to collusion.


Collusion – The most common form of cheating

The most popular form of cheating is the “art” of collusion, where two or more players team up to cheat their opponents at the table. One way of executing this idea in live poker games is when a person uses chips – not one’s facial expressions or body language – to communicate with collusion partners to let them know when he holds a powerful starting hand. Here’s a good example of this technique in Texas hold’em:

  • A chip placed on the upper left corner of one of his hole cards indicates pocket Aces;
  • A chip on the top center of the card tells his buddies that he has pocket Kings.
  • A chip on the upper right corner indicates pocket Queens.
  • Likewise, a chip along the middle of one of his hole cards, from left to right, announces J-J, 10-10, and 9-9.

A similar system is used to inform partners when holding non-paired premium and other attractive starting hands, like A-K, A-Q, A-J, A-10, K-Q, K-J, and K-10. They’ll use two chips, one precisely atop the other, when the cards are suited, while slightly displacing the top chip from the bottom chip if the cards are off-suit.

As the hand progresses, when one partner makes a big hand, the others colluding at the table will know it and, accordingly, help build the pot. In all cases, the other partners will muck their hands before the showdown, thereby concealing the cheating underway.

Cheating in Home Games

I hate to say it, but virtually all forms of cheating can be executed in home games. Overwhelmingly, much like safe online casinos and poker rooms that have proper security, licensing, and audited payouts, home games are fun poker outlets for recreational players. Occasionally though, especially if the stakes are high, you’ll get a bad apple or two among the bunch. If you’re in a home game where you happen to notice any of the following types of collusion taking place, head home and don’t ever go back:

  • “Marked cards” are easily created. Just look or feel the back of the card.
  • “Stripped cards” are shaved on one side, so adjacent unshaved cards protrude ever so slightly, and can easily be drawn out of the deck.
  • A “card mechanic” can use his fingers to slide back the top card in the deck and then deal out the next.
  • “Palming chips” is a way to sneak chips out of the pot.
  • “Anglers” play the angle, and may not actually cheat; they use opportunities to gain information to gain an edge over their opponents. (Note: Some might say that the Esther Bluff is a method of angling – to get into your opponent’s mind so as to influence his decision.)
  • “Misdeclaring” a hand is a form of cheating that some players sometimes try to use. At showdown, the cheater incorrectly declares his hand as much higher than it actually is; and his opponent obliges by mucking his cards, putting his hand out of play – one that would have taken the pot. Of course, the victim would have been wise to wait to see his opponent’s hand before rendering his own hand out-of-play by tossing his hole cards into the muck.
  • And, of course, there are unfortunately also other home game collusion scams in addition to the ones we’ve described above.

Moral of the Story

Keep your wits about you at all times whenever you play live poker, especially if you’re not playing in an established brick and mortar poker room. Be aware and be prepared!

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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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