Dealing with Suspected Collusion at the Table

Going through these steps will help you to identify and remedy suspected collusion at the table.

Posted May 16, 2021


Bart Hanson BW2

Bart Hanson

Owner and Lead Pro

If you’ve seen the movie ‘Rounders” you’ll likely remember the scene where Mike McDermott and his sidekick Worm attempt to cheat a group of police officers at a private poker home game. It's difficult to blame the police officers for being angry after catching the duo in the act. Collusion is difficult to pinpoint at the poker table, and it can take many forms. Sometimes it’s unintentional soft playing or players just don’t understand the rules of the game--but in other situations it's straight up cheating. Dealing with suspected collusion can be a tricky task, so here are a few simple steps to take when you feel like something fishy is up at the tables.

Step 1: Do They Know What They’re Doing?

When you suspect there may be some soft playing or some other form of collusion at the table, the first question you want to ask yourself is if the players involved even know what they’re doing. Are they regulars, should they be familiar with the rules of the game? Are they new to live poker and maybe just ignorant of proper behavior? Is it a husband and wife situation, where they perhaps just naturally want to avoid putting money in against each other? Answering these questions first will allow you to approach the situation in as non-confrontational manner. Tensions often run high at the poker table and sometimes avoiding conflict will increase your chances of reaching a quick and easy resolution.

Step 2: Ask The Dealer

If you are in the hand and you think that the suspected collusion affect you directly, it’s your right to pause action and notify the dealer at any point during play. If you are completely removed from the hand taking place, it may be best to wait until the end of the hand at least (unless someone is very obviously and intentionally breaking the rules), since you don’t want to accidentally influence the action.

If the dealer addresses what happened or issues a warning, that’s great and you can let the situation be. If they don’t address the situation, call the floor over and explain what happened. Lastly if you are dealing with a case of blatant soft-playing you can move on to step three and use this anti-collusion poker rule to gain a better understanding of the situation.

Step 3: Ask To See The Cards

If you suspect two players are purposely betting other people out of the pot, soft playing each other, or otherwise trying to gain an advantage you can always ask to see their cards at showdown. Although this rule is mostly used improperly to try and gain an understanding of an opponent’s game, it is actually meant to help prevent collusion. If two players both didn’t have to show their hands at showdown, it would be easy for them to bet and raise very aggressively to get heads-up in a pot, just to check the action down and split the money after the game is over. This is why in a tournament all hands are flipped over when all-in. Ask to see the cards and if the action makes sense just move on. However, if something does not look right call the floor over again and explain this new information.

Step 4: Talk To The Floor Away From The Tables

If the dealer won’t do anything and the floor person rules against you, you only have a couple options left. You can either just cash out and never play with the players in question again, or you can try talking to a higher authority. Talking with the floor away from the table allows you to address the situation without being interrupted by irate players allowing you to have more time for a thorough explanation without offending anyone in the game.

Let the floor know what you’ve seen and ask them to watch out for it in the future. At the very least they should be willing to listen to you and hopefully they will ask their dealers to keep a watchful eye on the situation. If they handle it professionally there’s no reason why you shouldn’t continue to play there, but in the worst-case scenario you can simply stop giving the room your business.

Dealing with collusion can be tricky, and the situation will naturally be a bit tense (when was the last time you were happy when someone accused you of cheating?). Try and see the situation from the other player’s point of view first instead of just accusing someone of blatant cheating from the start. Hopefully going through these steps will help prevent any unnecessary conflict and will allow you to peacefully resolve most situations. In most cases the players in question are not intentionally colluding and there is some misunderstanding of the rules. With some clarification and reinforcement from a higher authority like the dealer or the floor the situation tends to resolve itself.

If you’d like to listen to Bart’s recommendations for a specific case of reported collusion, where a player was faced with blatant soft playing that caused him to lose a massive PLO pot, you can check out his YouTube video by clicking on the link here.

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