MCU poker tip: Stay out of games with cheating

Some old-time players think they should merely stay out of poker games when they know or strongly suspect scammers are seated. That isn’t enough!

You have an ethical obligation to warn management if you suspect cheating is happening in a game. And you have an ethical obligation to warn the players if you know for sure.

If you don’t do this, you’re saving yourself by not playing, but allowing others to be cheated out of their money. Honest management is always interested in information that will help them protect their games. The notion that you should mind your own business if someone is scamming a game is repugnant. It IS your business! It is the business of all ethical players to keep games honest for everyone.


A related concept is that you often should quit a game when you’re worried about cheating, even if it’s only somewhat likely to be happening. You don’t need proof.

The reason is that, even if that game is honest, you’ll be using a lot of your mental energy and precious decision-making time worrying about the possibility that you’re being scammed. You can’t play optimally under such circumstances, so leaving that game can save you money.

Also, if you’re a well-known professional poker player, keep in mind that by sitting in a game, you’re endorsing it. And you’re doing the honest poker community a disservice by endorsing a game in which you suspect a strong likelihood of cheating, even if you think you can still win. — MC

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Mike Caro

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Known as the “Mad Genius of Poker,” Mike Caro is generally regarded as today's foremost authority on poker strategy, psychology, and statistics. He is the founder of Mike Caro University of Poker, Gaming, and Life Strategy (MCU). See full bio → HERE.


7 thoughts on “MCU poker tip: Stay out of games with cheating”

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  1. I’ve encountered cheating here in Colorado and when I brought it to the attention of the poker room manager, he poo, pooed the idea and said I didn’t know what I was talking about. So I went to a fellow I know at the Colorado Gaming Commission and told him what I had observed. He pulled the tapes from the room, confirmed what I saw and fined the casino. When they asked why they were being fined, they were informed that after I had reported the cheating, they took no action. Had they acted, all would have been fine. The next time I walked into that room, I was treated like royalty. Apparently the gaming commission told them my history and now they are afraid of me. I love it..

  2. It’s disappointing to complain to management only to have them do nothing (except offer to move you to a different table in a cash game.) As Bill stated, they seem to be afraid of doing their jobs when it comes to enforcing anti-collusion rules.

  3. I've had my complaints to management ignored numerous times. Card room managers are generally unwilling to act. I've been told there are legal problems with confronting colluders in the US.
    Card rooms pretend that colluding is not problem. This is true of card rooms in the US and internet sites. Players need to insist that the games are policed. The other option is to change the rules of poker, so that poker becomes a team sport.
    There is a big difference between colluders and hard core cheats using other methods. Publicly exposing criminals can be very dangerous. It is sometimes better to walk away quitely. This is especially true in private games and 3rd world card rooms.

    1. Hi, Bill —

      The "team sport" poker concept is one I've talked about often. Here it's even applied to poker tournaments:

      From the entry: "That’s an important rule, because it puts on record the notion that tournament poker is an individual endeavor, not a team sport. Prohibited are deals where, say, two of three players decide to spit whatever they win, leaving them free to gang up on the third player who isn’t part of the deal. The rule also serves notice that you can’t make a money deal with someone who is in contention for an overall points championship in a series of events, and then take a dive."

      Thanks for making your first comment and joining our Poker1 family.

      Straight Flushes,

      Mike Caro

  4. very good topic.  I have played, dealt and traveled for many years and have seen a lot of this.  Be very careful about it.  Don't think that just because you might be playing in a big casino with a ton of tables and games that there is not any cheating going on. 
    Always tell management in a polite way and not at the table.  They will watch and see for themselves.  And in just about all places they can be banned from the room up to jail time.

  5. Good Topic Mike, I have been playing poker for 10 years now. Having played poker in 24 states an over 180 card rooms I must admit I have noticed some unscrupulous actions in games. Such as “Colusion”. I personally enjoy relieving the “Colluders”, if that is a word, of their finances. Noting players who tap and/or stack their chips in particular fashion during play. The experienced eye can pick up the obvious. As I am sure you would agree there are sooooo many different ways to “cheat” the game. They are ultimetly cheating themselves.
    Just as a side note, Do you know of anyone who has played in as many states or as many card rooms in the US? My goal is to play poker in all states where poker is legal an at least 200 card rooms. I have a chip from every room from the “Commerce” to “Foxwoods” See you on the felt someday, DC

    1. Hi, Dan —

      I don’t know if that’s a record, but it’s certainly noteworthy. I haven’t played poker in that many states. Many Americans haven’t even visited that many states.

      Straight Flushes,
      Mike Caro

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