How to Spot Cheating at the Live Poker Tables

cheating at poker

Live poker is arguably more fun than playing online. The table banter and soul reads you can do make it a unique and fun experience. Whilst cheating is rare, it does exist and something to be way of when you venture into live games. That’s why I’m going to share the well-known cheating techniques that are around. By knowing how to spot cheating at the poker table, you’ll be able to protect yourself from it.

Leaning Back

This is a really sneaky one and often not detected by regulars too. It’s where a player makes a habit of leaning back when players are looking at their cards. This allows the player to see the hole cards of the player to their left and/or right. By knowing other cards, they have a massively unfair advantage to the other players at the table. Unfortunately, a lot of recreational players hold up their cards when they look so it’s very easy for a player to execute this cheat.

To protect yourself against this cheat, we recommend always protecting your hand and covering it from being seen. You can use one hand to peel the hole cards and the other to cover so it can’t be seen from other angles.


This form of cheating is where players conspire together for mutual gain. It’s not as easy to detect as you may not know what they hold. This is something that is less common in games today but was probably quite prevalent in the old days of live poker. If you ever see the movie Rounders, Worm, played excellently by Ed Norton plays a cheat who is giving tells to his friend that reveals his cards. He also was stacking the deck and outright cheating, giving his buddy (Matt Damon) the best hand and himself weak ones.

The best way to protect yourself against collusion is to avoid games which don’t have professional dealers. Underground games are more likely to have this kind of cheating. This doesn’t mean all underground games are full of cheats, it just means you have to be on guard and watch the action closely.


The innovation of mobile technology has changed the scope of live and online poker, mostly for the better. However, there is also scope for players to potentially cheat. Some cardrooms are vigilant against the use of mobile phones being used at the table. Why? It presents the opportunity for players to text each other their holdings. Or, if someone is railing the game, they could be trying to peek to see other peoples’ hands and then message the information to their “friend”.

The most effective way of protecting yourself against this form of cheating is to notify the cardroom manager if you suspect foul play at the table. Players who cheat will get banned from playing there in the future. You could also stick to cardrooms that prevent the use of mobiles at the poker table.

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Marked Cards

This is an interesting form of cheating. In live cardrooms you have loads of player handling the cards, in their own ways. This can result in cards getting marked. This is all above board and often genuine but on the odd occasion it could potentially be a player purposefully marking cards to gain an advantage.

A cheater would mark key cards (usually aces or kings). With these the most valuable cards in Texas Hold’em, you can use the information to your advantage. For instance, if all four aces are marked and you a see few discarded before the flop and an ace flops, a player could bluff this easily.

To protect against cheating of this kind, just ask the dealer for a new deck whenever you notice cards are marked. In most cardrooms, dealers are very happy to change the deck at the request of a player. Some even do this for luck!

Final Thoughts

It doesn’t matter what you’re playing, cheating is a despicable act. Thankfully, most of the cheating techniques in this article are not possible at brand new casino sites that offer poker. So you have less to worry about when playing online as you won’t find cheating at the top Australian casinos.

Unfortunately, cheating is present in every game or hobby and isn’t unique to poker. Sadly, there are bad apples regardless of the sport. The best we can do is to condemn it and put in measures to stop it happening. Hopefully the tips in this article will help you spots cheating in the future so you don’t become a victim.

Narciso Baldo is the Director and Head Coach of Texas Hold'em Questions. He has been playing poker for over 16 years. After spending many years as a professional, he now runs UK poker training site Texas Hold'em Questions. Narciso regularly writes poker articles sharing tips, strategy, news and experience with gambling enthusiasts. Narciso also writes for reputable gambling portal Casino City Times, (bio here). Contact: