Poker Cheating

Cheating in poker is more common than most people believe. Poker players usually mistakenly separate cheaters into two categories the bumbling amateurs who are easily detectable and highly skilled card mechanics or professionals capable of performing undetectable sleight-of-hand maneuvers.

Contrary to popular belief, most successful cheats fall into neither of these categories. Usually they only cheat when necessary to gain an edge over other players. How does an amateur poker player protect himself from the modern, usually undetectable, cheater? What are the secret techniques of professional cardsharps, grifters, and con men being used today in public and private games?

To find out I consulted magician R. Paul Wilson, technical advisor for a variety of gambling-based movies and television programs including "Mondo Magic" and "Shade," and one of the world's leading experts on gambling and poker scams said.

"Amateur cheats are much more prevalent or widespread now than they were ten years ago," said Wilson. "Anyone who knows how to play poker can easily figure out a few simple advantages to gain over other players at any given situation." Cheating can be accomplished in a variety of ways, by means of collusion meaning when two or more people at a poker table are working together to win more money from other players, card manipulation (culling, bottom or second dealing, false cutting and riffling, or crimpling), or the use of cheating gaffs such as marked cards.

"For the honest poker player, collusion has to be the most common and dangerous scam in poker today. It is used far more often than any card manipulation or cheating," said Wilson. "Any idiot can set up a signaling system or an organized pattern to identify high or low hands or how many cards of a particular suit still remain in the deck." For example, if you have two hearts and two are in the flop, anyone can calculate that there are nine left in the deck. If you know another player has two, this decreases the number left in the deck to seven. In a regular cash game this can be a huge advantage.

Professionals sometimes use what is referred to as "playing cousins," where out of courtesy to other professional players they are signaled that the other player has a better hand. These kinds of collusion tactics are really poker's dirty little secrets," said Wilson. "Players and casinos know that it goes on but it is very hard to prove, even when it is obvious."

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