Cheating at Poker – What to Watch Out For

online poker

There are few forms of online poker cheating that you must know; marked cards, imported chips, mechanics, and collusion. Imported chips are illegal poker chips brought into the tournament. Collusion is playing differently against one or more players at the table than you do against others. 

Cheating at low stakes poker online games is not usually a problem. Tournament play discourages cheating due to the relatively low buy in cash amount. Many tourney players are attending for the enjoyment and camaraderie rather than the need to win the money. So don’t worry too much about cheaters at your game. 

Surprisingly, the biggest form of “cheating” is peaking at other players’ cards. Seeing your opponent’s cards is sometimes inevitable due to the online poker real money. Remember that is not improper for one player to complain about another player who constantly has the opportunity to view a third player’s cards. 

Marked Cards 

Marked cards can be purchased. Brand new decks of marked KEM cards (in sealed plastic!) use a dye that is only visible to players wearing special glasses. This cheating method can be easily avoided by never using anyone else’s cards at your tourney. 

Some players may also try to mark cards by tearing or nicking them with a fingernail. This is usually a little too obvious a tactic but of greater concern is a ‘punched’ card. A punched card has a little indentation punched into the card in a specific location. You can view a punched card here. A dealer can feel the punch as he deals the card and an observant player can view the punches on everyone’s down-cards. 

Imported Chips 

You must be on guard against players who might try to bring their own poker chips into your tournament. This is particularly true if you use one of the more common types of chip that is readily available. If you use a customized chip with your name printed on it, you don’t have to worry about a player having an identical chip, but if you are using the plastic Bike chips – what’s to stop a player from bringing extra chips into your tourney? 

If you must use common poker chips, try to modify them in some unique way. One easy method is to place little stickers (labels) of a certain color or shape on each chip. Just make sure they don’t come off, you don’t want to make false accusations against an innocent player. You might also use an unusually colored felt marker to permanently mark your chips. 

Always pay attention to the chips in play. If you’ve owned your set of chips for ten years but all of a sudden one or two shiny, new Purple (500) chips appears. You’ve got a problem. Make sure your account for your entire chipset at the end of the night. Chips do occasionally get lost under carpets or down ventilation grates. Ensure that you know the exact number of chips you have in your set. 


You should pay specific attention to the dealer always as this is where the cheating can occur. Your worries will be greatly lessened if you have a dedicated dealer you can trust. 


Collusion is extremely difficult to prove and caution must be used when dealing with the issue. It is best to simply walk away from the game when you suspect collusion. Unfortunately, walking away is not an option when you are in your own house hosting 20 guys for a night of best online poker! 

Some common forms of collusion are: 

Dumping chips: Purposely losing to a partner, perhaps someone you are backing monetarily or with whom you have traded a percentage stake. 

Hand-mucking: Switching or altering hands. Couple of players sitting next to each other might effort to switch hands or alter them in some way. 

Hot-seat:fresh player is requested to play a game, only to play against a team of players all stealthily working together. 

Signalling: Trading information between partners. Signals can take many forms, from the placement of the chips on the cards, to coughing, to Morse code tapings on the table. The key ingredient in all signalling systems is the ability to be repeated without being noticed. In a game where folks are always watching each other, this can prove tricky. When a cheater is signalling the value of his hand to his partner, he is also signalling the value of his hand to everybody else at the table. 

Implicit Collusion 

Let’s say there are three players left in the pot and one of those players goes all-in. There is now a good chance that the remaining two players will “check it down”, meaning that they will both check, rather than bet or raise, until the showdown. This is known as “implicit collusion” because the two players are now, in effect, teaming up against the all-in player. There are several legitimate reasons why implicit collusion is somewhat tolerated: 

The chance of a successful bluff is much lower since there is a guaranteed card showdown with the all-in player. 

Eliminating online poker players players is an important objective in a tournament and both players have a vested interest in seeing the all-in player eliminated. Two hands have a better chance of beating the all-in player than one. 

Players not in the pot also have a vested interest in seeing the all-in player eliminated. 

For these reasons, don’t be surprised to see many checked-down hands in these situations. It is not considered to be cheating unless done by verbal agreement. 

Happy playing!