The Dirty Side of Poker – Angle Shooting and How to Protect Yourself
Published on May 25, 2017
This is a MUST READ for anyone who has any plans of playing poker at any time in the future. Sorry for the clickbait-style title, but for once this is actually important, and we felt like we had to do something to get your attention. We could have made the title worse and tried to take the clickbait trophy… “Personal Trainers HATE these 10 DIRTY Poker Tips. #7 is insane!!!” Thankfully, we’re kind, and we spared you.
Since we went through so much trouble to get your attention, we should probably tell you why and explain what angle shooting is and why it should be so important to you. Angle shooting is when someone manipulates the rules or takes advantage of a loophole to try and trick you into making a mistake. In other words, it’s “legal” cheating. It’s considered dirty, unethical, and if you are an angle shooter, you’re a sh*t bag. We just needed to get that out.
For the rest of us that are not angle shooters, we need to learn the dirty tricks of these cheaters so that we can protect ourselves. Why? The problem lies in the fact that it is “legal” cheating. When someone angle shoots you, they are doing something that is technically not against the rules, but is a manipulation of the rules to try and take unfair advantage of you. Most casinos will penalize players or kick them out for angle shooting, but the problem is that they may still get away with the angle the first time by claiming stupidity and you will be forced to eat the consequences. This means you’ll be forced to lose your money and lose the pot.
The casino staff, dealers, and floors are there to protect you. Unfortunately, their hands are tied a lot with angle shooters because it can be hard to tell if it was an honest mistake or if the person is trying to take advantage of the system. Because of this, the casino will unfortunately usually side with the angle shooter the first time and give them a stern warning. This doesn’t help you at all, though, because it only takes one time to cost you a lot of money or your entire stack in a tournament.
If any of this is a little unclear still, we’re going to walk you through some of the most common and some of the most creative examples of this that we’ve witnessed or heard about from other players. The point of sharing these with you is so that you can be on the lookout for these moves and protect yourself properly. We do not want you to be a victim to one of these dirt bags. That being said, we are NOT posting these as suggestions of moves you should try and do. These are unethical, bad for the game, and should get you kicked out of most casinos or something else kicked if karma is on duty.
To add to that last remark, no matter what someone tries to tell you, angle shooting is not “being a creative player” or “exercising your creativity to win unconventionally.” If we are at the table with someone and see this, you can bet they’re getting an earful and the floor called to hopefully get them banned from the poker room or casino. There is no place for this kind of behavior in the game of poker. Period.
Now, with all of that out of the way, onto to the sh*t-baggery! Here are the 10 of the biggest angle shots that you need to be aware of to protect yourself at the table.
We’re leading off with probably the most creative one of the bunch and probably also the most costly. Here’s the situation. You’ve gone all in on the river, and your opponent is going deep into the tank thinking about calling or folding. After about a minute or two, your opponent finally says, “Alright, let’s see it,” and sits up in their chair to see what you flip over.
You turn your hand over and show a monster and then your opponent immediately folds their hand. But wait…they called already, right? You should get paid on your all in. Technically, your opponent never said they called or put chips in the middle of the pot. All they said was, “Alright, let’s see it.” This unfortunately for you does not constitute a call. Your opponent was angle shooting hoping that you would prematurely turn your hand over. If the floor were called over, you would argue that the other player called and the floor would ask if they ever said call or put chips in the middle of the pot. When you say no, the floor will rule that the other player does NOT have to pay the all in.
Angle shooters will use a whole slew of different phrases to try and get you to roll your cards over prematurely. A more common one is “I guess I have to call.” Again, they didn’t say they were calling, but just that they think they should call. If they did this and you were bluffing, they’d be able to call with the most marginal of hands because they would know they’re hand is good. In those situations, it might not even be revealed they were angle shooting because they would be sticking with the call. They would just look like an absolute hero if they had a very marginal hand.
This one goes a step further in cash games or poker rooms where you are allowed to expose your hand heads up to another player. Some poker rooms will allow you to show your cards to the other player to try and get a read when it is only you two left in the hand. Imagine an opponent doing the above while they turn their cards over. This looks SO much like an actual call that it might trick even the most seasoned of players.
The easy way to protect yourself here is to make sure that your opponent calls before exposing your hand or reacting to their action. If you aren’t sure, ask the dealer to confirm they called. All you have to say is, “Is that a call?” When the dealer says yes, you are good to expose your hand. The dealer should confirm with the player that they did in fact call before telling you yes. Honestly, sit there all day if you have to until you are comfortable that it has been correctly ruled a call. Most people aren’t angle shooters, but there are unfortunately more of them out there than you might be aware of. You may have just been lucky if you haven’t encountered one or you’ve been played by one and don’t even know it.
This one we would not believe people try if we hadn’t actually seen it ourselves. Instead of framing the situation, we’ll just tell you the story. We were sitting in a game with our cards on the table next to us. Every time we would check, and the opponent to our direct left was in the hand, they would bang the table to check. It was a little strange because the player was doing it right next to our cards, not directly in front of them. What we found out later from another player that had played with this player a lot was that they were attempting to get our cards to jump off the table to either flip over or to catch a glimpse of them. The springy felt worked as a trampoline that they were trying to use to cheat and get an unfair advantage. This one is rare, but we’ve actually seen it and can confirm it exists.
The first thing you need to do is always keep your hand on your cards or have a card marker if you like to sit in the classic Phil Hellmuth stance. The second thing you can do is what we did and ask the player to stop banging the table so aggressively. If the player doesn’t want to listen, ask the dealer or the floor to step in. There is a certain level of decorum that must go on at the table, and this is way outside of it. An important note is that every time someone bangs the table to check, you shouldn’t assume they are trying to cheat right away. Even if you do think they are trying to catch a glimpse, you’re better off just asking them to stop and getting the staff involved if they won’t. If they still don’t stop after all of that, then you can make your accusation, but expect tempers to fly.
This one also falls into the creative spectrum and also high on the scum scale. Here’s the situation. Blinds are 100/200 in a tournament, and you’re involved in a big pot on the river. There is about 6400 in the middle, and your opponent tosses out at 10k chip and says “5.” You’ve got a marginal hand and decide to fold because this almost pot sized 5k bet is more than you’re willing to call. What did you miss here?
If the floor was called over and they were asked to rule how much your opponent bet, it would be ruled 500. The bet goes to the lowest denomination that plays, NOT what you and everyone else in the room would think is logical. That being said, nine times out of 10 the person means 5,000 and no one bats an eye, and it is played as 5,000. All we’re saying here is that technically it can be ruled as 500 and players have been known to exploit this rule.
The more likely use of it is when a player does this, and you call them, and then they try and claim they only meant to bet 500. We all logically know that most people are never going to bet 500 into 6400 because it’s a fairly pointless bet, but that doesn’t matter here. This is someone angle shooting, and while they are being dirty, they are technically within the confines of the rules. There have been some changes proposed to the rules to give floors more latitude here to rule against the angle shooter, but you still should just make sure to protect yourself in case you are playing somewhere they don’t or in case you get a floor that doesn’t rule in your favor.
Like you’ll start to notice with a lot of the angles people will try on here, the best defense is to clarify things before you act. Ask the dealer or the player if they meant 500 or 5,000? If they don’t answer you, ask the dealer to ask them. They have to tell the dealer what the amount of the bet is. You’re never required to call or act on a bet that you don’t know the amount of. That would make poker the dumbest game on the planet if that were the case. Just ask, and you’ll never have a problem.
UPDATE: While writing this piece, we were actually informed of another angle shoot that falls under this category. Here’s the story. Two players were involved in a pot with about 5k in the middle on the river. One player grabs a big stack of chips and announces four, and the other player says call. Immediately after he calls, the bettor says “teen.” He was basically completing the phrase fourteen. He was most likely not trying to bet 14,000 into a pot of 5,000 (unless he’s an advanced wizard or totally clueless). The player assumed that it was going to be 4,000 and announced call. Had he taken the time to ask the dealer the correct amount, he would only have to pay the pot 4,000. Unfortunately, the floor was called and ruled the player had to pay 14,000. Gross.
This one comes in all shapes and sizes and could be one of the more popular ones on the list. There’s also an incredibly version of this from a recent EPT tournament that makes us want to vomit every time we watch it. In one way or another, opponents will “accidentally” raise the pot and then pretend that they only wanted to call. They’ll typically do this with a monstrous hand that they want to raise with, but want to trick you into thinking they have a weak hand. This will accomplish a few things:
1- They might act so terrified that they raised that you might raise again with your hand as a bluff or because you think now you have the best hand. This will be walking right into the scummy trap.
2- They might get you to call with a weaker hand that you might fold to a normal raise because you actually believe it is an accident. Here’s an example of this from a recent EPT Tournament. This player pretended that they had bad English and said Raise instead of call with a full house. You might think it was an honest mistake except this player had already done this before in the same tournament and was clearly angle shooting. We recommend getting a barf basket ready for this one.
We are a big fan of how the casino chose to react to this situation by giving the information to the other player, but he unfortunately still couldn’t find the fold. Players might do this verbally, or they might do it by “accidentally” throwing out the wrong denomination of chips. For example, throwing out a 5k chip instead of a 500 chip or something like that. Or they might move out a stack of lower denomination chips with a bigger chip hidden underneath the stack. Keep in mind, though, that players do make actual mistakes and these mistakes happen especially from new players or in tournaments where the casino is using an odd colored chip set. Don’t always jump to conclusions that the player is trying to cheat the system, but definitely be on guard.
This one is a bit harder than all the other to protect yourself from. It looks so much like an accident that it can be hard to determine the true motives of the player. The best you can do is try and gauge the player and figure out if you think they are going to be trying something like this or if they’re a brand new player that might just be clueless. If you do suspect the player of angle shooting, we definitely recommend calling the floor over. They may have information on this player doing this before or it may at least stop them from doing it in the future.
Regarding the hiding of a chip under a stack they push out, the best course of action is to always confirm the bet size before acting. Just ask the dealer to confirm the size of the bet for you if you are unsure. It is their job to do so for you when you ask. Never feel like you are slowing the game down or are out of line for taking a minute to protect yourself.
Some poker rooms are starting to come up with ways to combat this one, and some are already ruling for the victim in this one. That being said, most poker rooms probably haven’t figured out a course of action for this one and are probably still ruling for the angle shooter. To properly explain this one, we have to tell you about a new trend in poker. It’s a new way that players are using to announce that they’re calling a bet. We think the reasoning is that they think it makes them look cooler when they do it most likely. It’s also sometimes done to show the rest of the table that they’re making a “crying call,” or a call that they don’t really want to make but have to make.
The two traditional ways you would call a raise would be to say the word call or to put in the amount of chips needed to make the call across the betting line. What players are doing now is electing just to toss one chip into the middle to signal their call. If you bet 20,000 on the river, they might toss a single 1,000 chip into the middle of the table to signal their call. Usually, this goes off without a hitch, and the player puts in the remaining amount of the call if they find out they’re beaten.
The problem here is that according to the rules in most poker rooms, you are only “liable” for the chips that you put into the middle unless you verbalize your action. If you say call in the above example, you have to call the full 20,000 or all of your chips if you don’t have enough. If you toss in the 1,000 chip, though, you’re technically only liable to call 1,000 of the bet. As you can imagine, you would have to be complete scum to try and pull this one off, and there is no flying under the radar with it. The entire table will know you’re garbage and trying to angle shoot and take advantage of other players unfairly.
Thankfully, a lot of poker rooms are starting to catch wind of this and are making players make the full call if they toss the one chip in. That being said, there are still a ton of major poker rooms where this has not been addressed, and the staff will probably have to rule for the angle shooter. To protect yourself, make sure you get the dealer to confirm that the player has called. We NEVER turn our hand over in these situations until the dealer has verbally confirmed that the player has called. It only takes a few seconds and can protect a lot of your money. We’ve unfortunately seen this one way too often and don’t want to see you ever hurt by a scumbag trying this trick.
This one happens only in cash games, but from what we’ve seen and heard happens way more often than we’d like to admit. The way this angle is shot differs quite a bit, but the premise is always the same. The player tries to misrepresent how much money they are playing and have in front of them through the use of actual paper currency. In a lot of poker rooms, players can use chips as well as have actual cash on the table that also counts towards their stack. Players will often try to arrange their currency bills to look like less than they actually have to try and make you make a mistake.
For example, let’s say a player moves all-in on the river and you look over and they have $200 in chips in two stacks in front of them. You decide that you’re willing to call $200 with your hand, so you announce call. You then find out that the player has $800 in $100 bills tucked behind their stack. You’re now forced to pay off $1000 instead of the $200 you thought you were paying. The poker room is probably going to rule for the angle shooter almost every time in this situation too. The different variations of this angle are best covered by just telling you how to protect yourself. Keep reading, and we’ll talk about this.
First, ALWAYS ask how much the all in or bet is for. The player is not allowed to lie to you although they may still also try and misrepresent their estimation. If you think they are doing this, ask the dealer for an exact count of the bet. The best part about this is that the player looks like a total scumbag to the entire table even if you don’t call. If they say, “Oh I think I have like $300 back here,” and then the dealer makes them count it and they have $1600, they’re going to be outed to the table.
Second, make sure you know before you sit down IF cash plays and WHAT denominations play. If cash does not play, a player still may stick a bunch of bills there to intimidate you. If they go all in, you might think it’s a huge bet when in fact it’s only a few chips as the cash doesn’t play. You also need to make sure which denominations play. In a lot of casinos, only $100 bills play. A player could have a couple thousand in $50 bills, and it doesn’t mean anything. Not knowing a player’s actual stack size can make you make mistakes and feel shorted when you win what you think is a bigger pot.
The bottom line here is that you need just to ask how much a bet is and know the rules of the specific poker room you are playing in. Please don’t think that the rules are the same everywhere or that every player is a stand-up type of person. Always assume the worst and always confirm everything before you act. The dealer is there for a reason.
This one became pretty famous during the World Series of Poker a few years back. Let’s let the video set the scene for you.
There are two things we want you to take from this video. The first is the actual angle, but the second may be more important, so we will start with it. Anyone who has been around poker knows that this is most likely a terrible ruling. This should point out just how important it is for you to follow our guidelines for protecting yourself. Unfortunately, you can’t always count on the staff to back you up. This might not be because they don’t want to, but might be because they’re forced to follow what the rules dictate.
As per the actual angle, players will fake certain actions, especially bets, to try and get you to act. If the guy in the video wasn’t sure if he wanted to bluff or not, he could have done what he did and waited to see if Cantu folded. If he didn’t fold or said call right away, he could have pulled his chips back and just checked behind to save his money.
We may be sounding like a broken record already, but the key to protecting yourself here is confirming the action before you do anything. Don’t announce your action or choose how you’re going to respond until you have confirmed with the dealer if the other player has bet or checked, and if they bet, how much they have bet. If you see someone pull the type of Tom Foolery that was in this video, call the floor over and get a correct ruling on the situation. If the dealer tries to rule one way and you don’t think they’re right, respectfully demand the floor.
Here’s the situation. You’re heads up on the river, and you have one pair. Your opponent checks and you check behind happy to get to a showdown. Your opponent announces, “Two pairs.” Sad that you’re beat, you muck your cards. Your opponent then either mucks their hand as well or “realizes they made a mistake” and only had one pair, worse than yours. Unfortunately, you’ve already mucked your hand, and they’re forced to award the pot to the other player. While it is possible the player made a genuine mistake (we’ve actually made the mistake, but only once in ten years), it is more likely that they are trying to get you to fold your hand and then win the pot by admitting their mistake after it’s too late.
DO NOT release your hand or muck it until you have actually seen the hand that beats you. If the floor is called over in this situation to make a ruling, they will be forced to rule for the player that still has a live hand, no matter what you had. You aren’t able to prove what you had, and they are forced to push the pot the other way. If your opponent announces their hand and it is one that can beat you, you can say something to the effect of “nice hand, you win.” But, don’t release your hand until they actually show their winning cards. If they are hesitant to flip for some reason, just say something to the effect of “let’s see it, and you win.” If they’re still hesitant to flip it, you may have caught an angle shooter in the works.
Poker follows a regimented order for a reason. All actions are supposed to be done in turn to prevent any sort of collusion or unfair advantage. Unfortunately, the theme of this article permeates into this area of the game as well. Players have been known to fake actions or purposefully act out of turn to try and induce action. There are some newer rules in place to help try and combat this, but they don’t catch everything, and they aren’t enacted everywhere.
Let’s say there are four players in the hand and you are second to act. You have a huge hand and are getting ready to make a bet after player one checks. Right before you bet, the last player to act in the hand tries to make a big bet out of turn. Instead of betting, you decide to check to let them bet and disguise your hand. When the action gets to the last player, they check instead of betting.
This player was clearly trying to shoot an angle to get you and every other player to check so they could get a free turn card. Some poker rooms have written new rules to try and combat this. They say that if you act out of turn, your action will be binding if the action doesn’t change before it gets to you. For example, in our above scenario, the fourth player would be forced to bet because nothing had changed and it was still $0 to call. If we had elected to bet, that player would be allowed a fresh start to make whatever decision they wanted to.
To combat these rules, some players are counting out big bets and asking the dealer if it is their turn yet looking like they’re ready to bet. Because they aren’t actually placing the bet, they’re able to check behind and get a free card. This is extremely popular, unfortunately, because a lot of players don’t think this is angle shooting. This is up to you to determine, but we can tell you that anytime you are trying to gain an unfair advantage by manipulating the rules, you are angle shooting. Please don’t be someone who does this.
This one gets a little interesting because you’ll need to access your opponent or have had some history with them to know how to proceed. If your opponent is just a new player that constantly doesn’t know when it’s their turn, you can read this as an honest mistake and proceed accordingly. Players that like to shoot this angle tend to do this a lot, not just once. If you pay attention and pick up on a player doing this, bet your hand accordingly or read it as a reverse tell that they don’t have a very strong hand at all or maybe have a draw that wants to see a cheap turn or river card. The key here is not to let their “mistakes” dictate how you play certain streets of the game. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.
This one is an extra dirty way to finish off this list. Players will pretend they are folding their hands, but not fully release them into the muck or might try and hide them behind their stack of chips. After you release your cards and wait for the pot to be pushed, they suddenly have their cards again and are “wanting to call” your bet now. If you don’t have a live hand, the pot is there’s. Simple as that. There are a lot of variations of this, but the gist is they convince you they are folding or have folded and wait for you actually to fold before springing their scummy trap. Again, the dealer and the staff are going to be forced to award the pot to the only live hand left which is not yours. It does not matter how strong your hand was; you can no longer prove it.
This one is simple. Write this rule down if you have to or just commit it to memory. NEVER release your cards until the dealer has pushed you the pot. We like to think of it as we are only willing to trade our winning hand for the pot. If you do this, there is no way that you can be exploited. This should be your course of action in every pot you play no matter what. This also protects you in case someone isn’t trying to angle shoot and just hasn’t folded yet. This happens quite a bit, and this simple trick protects you.
Here are some quick hit guidelines to protect you from angle shooters. Sadly, these scum bags will probably always exist, and the rules and poker room staff aren’t always going to be able to protect you. If you follow the guidelines above and the simple tips we have here, you can avoid a lot of costly and painfully annoying situations.