How to Spot Poker Cheats

Everyone knows that poker is a game that people try to cheat – any time money is involved with something, there will always  be less ethical people trying to figure out an easier way to take it from those obeying the rules. Any card game should always be played fairly, so everyone gets the most fun out of it, but we all know that’s not always the reality. Most of IHP‘s events are played for charity or for fun, so it’s less likely – but it never hurts to be aware of the signs. Below I list some of the most common methods for cheating at poker – knowing how to cheat at Poker can be useful to spot cheats at your table. If someone draws your suspicion, you’ll know what signs to look for.

The methods for cheating at Poker fall into two general categories:

  1. Methods that require specific skills and lots of practice
  2. Methods that require brashness more than skill (Most of these are considered angle shooting, which is a controversial subject, as angle shooting techniques are recognized as unethical ways for a player to gain advantage over others without technically breaking the rules of the game.)

This blog will discuss Type 1 methods. These are some of the most common ways of cheating at poker, as well as some tips on how to spot players using these techniques.

Holding Cards

When a cheat is hiding cards in his hand to later switch his hand for. Cheating at poker this way is the most effective with a team and even more so if the cheat conspires with the dealer.

How to Spot

The cheater needs to hide the held cards somewhere, and eventually switch it back into play. Look for an unnatural cupping of the hand followed by some kind of distraction, like reaching down to tie his shoelaces.

Bottom dealing/Base Dealing

This is a highly practiced sleight of hand technique in which the known and previously placed bottom card from a deck of playing cards is dealt instead of the top card. A similar but much more difficult technique is “second dealing” which involves dealing the second card instead of the top one. This is obviously not a concern when we deal, but some of you I’m sure have played or will play in home games where the deal is passed.

How to Spot

The most obvious first sign is the use of the “Mechanic’s Grip”.


Watch out for dealers who master this grip, but don’t be fast to draw conclusions, as the grip is also taught in many professional dealer schools around the world.

Also, unless the dealer is particularly skilled, the technique produces a slightly different sound from standard dealing, and the second-to-bottom card may be pulled slightly out of place.



This is also a highly practiced skill that probably won’t be a concern at an IHP event. It involves placing certain cards in a position favorable to himself or his partner. Stacking happens during the shuffling of cards and it’s definitely an effective way of cheating.

How to spot

Cards can be stacked during the riffle shuffling, however this is the hardest to master. When using the Overhand Stacking technique, the dealer tracks certain cards through the overhand shuffling. It is unfortunately almost impossible to catch if the cheater is practiced enough. Look for a pattern of cards repeatedly coming back into play in consecutive hands.


This is when a group of two or more players secretly form a team and play in a manner to benefit the teams as a whole and giving them advantage over other players. This can involve communicating folded cards, cards coming on the flop, turn, or river, or whatever pertinent information the team needs.

How to Spot

You can spot the conspirators by the signals they use to communicate with each other:  a cough, a scratch, chip placement, card placement, etc. The better the cheats are, the subtler the signs. Also, when players are colluding secretly, they tend to avoid playing pots against each other.

Marked cards

The cheat marks some cards, so he can determine what kind of hand his opponent has by looking at the back of the cards. Cheating at Poker this way is effective, but requires the previous modification of the deck.

How to spot

Watch for a player staring at the cards a disproportionate amount of the time. Players tend to look at chips, or each other, or around the room, more than at the actual cards, while a hand is in play. If you notice a player who is consistently staring at your pocket cards as they sit on the table, be wary.  Look for any idiosyncrasies of certain individual cards to the smallest detail if you’re suspicious. Try taking two cards and placing them face down, and manually riffle them back and forth. Any differences in the backs should be obvious at that point.


I hope that this blog was helpful, and not just a refresher course.   🙂
If you spot something at a game that you are in, and it makes you uncomfortable, you have every right to leave. But, before you do – alert the person in charge. It’s not your problem to stop, but it is your duty to inform.


“You don’t gamble to win. You gamble so you can gamble the next day.”

–Bert Ambrose

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