Have you ever played poker against someone who was a little too good? Someone who always seemed to get the right card in the highest-pressure situations and eke out an improbable win when they should have already lost? If you’ve played poker for long, then you have definitely run into such a player.
When you sit with a player on an improbable hot streak for too long, you might think that person is cheating. Be careful with that kind of thinking because, in probably 99.9% of the cases, the player is just facing a hot streak and it was just not in the cards for you to win.
It’s better to cash out and let your bankroll survive another night. After all, there is such a thing as a lucky streak even if science and statistics can’t explain them.
Let’s say that’s not the case, though. Let’s say you’re convinced that a particular player is cheating. How do you know they’re cheating? What can you do to spot behavior that identifies them as a cheat? Here are seven ways to spot a poker cheater that you can use in your real-life poker games.
1 – They’ve Played Long Hours
This first hint really only applies to playing online poker, but one of the signs of cheating will be if they have been playing online for a long period of time. By “long,” I mean an amount of time you wouldn’t expect a human to be able to play for and still be able to make coherent plays (a minimum of 12 hours but more like 18 to 24 hours).
If you notice that someone has been able to play for a long period of time, it’s possible they’re a bot which is a program that has been specially designed to play the game of poker.
Weekends and holidays can affect how long someone might play, so be sure they are showing some other bot characteristics. You would probably feel pretty bad if you accused a human of being a bot and ruined their long weekend in which they planned to marathon some poker.
2 – Patterns Don’t Change
This is another good online hint that the player at the table is actually a bot. If you notice they’re constantly using the same pattern, there’s a chance they are a bot and not a human. Of course, like everything else, show some discretion before reporting someone for being a bot.
Really analyze the patterns of their play and see if they’re the same across a number of different scenarios: being on the button, having position, not having position, etc. This is even more important when the player in question makes the same stupid mistake in the same situations.
The people who design bots are smart, but programs cannot account for every possible poker combination. If you see the same mistake made over and over again, there’s a better chance they are a bot.
Still, I cannot give this advice without one more caveat. Some patterns are okay. For instance, don’t start reporting players for following basic blackjack strategies. That would be silly. The patterns need to be consistent (in that they happen every time, not just most times) and specific to a given situation. Then, you might have a bot.
3 – Players Always at the Same Table
This is an interesting sign of cheating in both online and live poker, but it’s a little more suspicious in online poker. In real life, it’s pretty common to head to a poker room with a friend or two, so sitting together and talking at the table is not a sign of cheating at poker. It’s an opportunity to see if they make similar hand gestures, eye moments, or use the same words over and over.
On the other hand, in online poker, there could be thousands of accounts registered for some of the larger sites.
Therefore, if two players are at the same table often, there’s a good chance it’s intentional. Then, given the fact you don’t know what those two players are saying outside of the game, it’s not a bad idea to assume they’re cheating and go to another table.
Unfortunately, you can’t prove anything, but you can leave to be safe.
4 – Strange Play When Two Players Go Head-to-Head
Again, this can be a sign of poker cheating online or live. In this case, if you notice a pattern of strange behavior when the same two players meet head-to-head, they might be cheating. By strange, this could mean one player always folds, always value bets, or always makes the same mistake.
In live poker, this could mean that two players are working together and plan to split the pot. In online poker, it could mean that one player is playing two accounts, two players are working together, or a player is teaming up with a bot.
Again, it’s hard to gauge if a given pattern really constitutes strange behavior, and it’s almost impossible to prove. Therefore, if you start to feel uncomfortable that someone is acting odd, move tables in online poker, or say something quietly to the pit boss in live poker.
5 – Too Many Strange Bets With the Odds Against Them
This mainly applies to online poker. If you find that one player is betting big when they should be folding, they very well could be cheating.
This was actually a major giveaway that shenanigans were going a few years ago. Hackers were able to install malware, targeting specific top online casino sites that took pictures of players hands and let them know when to go big and when to fold.
6 – You’re Playing on a Lesser-Known Site
If you’re not playing on a reputable site, there’s a much, much better chance that other players are cheating. The major sites are constantly working to find frauds and prevent them from playing the game. Lesser known sites may have small IT groups that don’t have the resources to fight cheating as effectively, or they may not care as much as the big names.
With that said, you are more likely to be cheater-free on a larger site. You are also more likely to get your money back from a more reputable site, too.
7 – Too Many Improbable Wins as the Dealer
This last cheat applies to live poker only and is as old as the Old West (or at least movies about it). If you’re playing live poker in which someone besides a casino dealer is dealing, pay attention to the player’s win percentage when dealing versus when they are not.
If you suddenly find that a player who can’t count to 21 in blackjack suddenly becomes a shark when dealing, there’s a good chance they’ve spent more time learning to stack a deck than play poker.
Also, pay attention if another player at the table gets overly lucky when there’s another dealer. This is the scenario from Rounders in which Edward Norton deals an overly sweet hand to Matt Damon and they both get beaten up.
Cheating and accusations of cheating are sensational and good for headlines. That doesn’t mean you need to worry about them happening that often.
The fact of the matter is that pit bosses, dealers, computer AI, online poker algorithms, and other players are pretty good at spotting when someone is cheating in poker. And they’re usually great at taking steps to handle it when it happens. In other words, there’s no reason to be paranoid that someone is trying to cheat.
At the same time, there’s no reason for you not be aware of some of the ways that a person might cheat so that if the situation ever arose, you could spot it. In real life poker, that means looking out for table talk and shady dealing. In online poker, it usually means finding players that act like bots or searching for strange occurrences that happen too often to be a coincidence.
No matter if you’re playing real life or online, if you think someone is cheating, your best bet is to find another room. Then, report the potential cheater if there’s an authority you can do so.