Poker cardsharpers: the real prospect or endangered breed?


Money attracts different kinds of swindlers – that’s a common law. Casino, poker clubs and cheaters have been doing the arms race for decades already.

It is believed that cheaters are always one step ahead of those they footle around. Hackers, swindlers, hustlers belong to the same group, but gaming industry is full of surprises and zigs so poker cheaters are always closely watched.

Poker cheating industry in its turn surpassed a long way from the easiest tricks like dealing cards from pack bottom or holding cards up one’s sleeve to highly expensive pack analyzers. And this way is not finished yet.

So let’s name the technical ways to cheat during live poker game and methods of dealing with them:

1. «Aceholders»

Swindlers used this technique more than a hundred years ago, but it is still working. The only thing which has been changed is holders’ “construction”. They may be located in sleeves, belts, overclothes and even pants! Sometimes swindlers fix the cards behind their finger rings.

The main goal for them is to take at least one card out of gaming process. In most poker varieties (the very same Holdem) even this unnoticeable change may give a great priority for a cheater.

Such tricks require special skills, so a mere player won’t be able to use holders.

How to avoid this: carefully watch all the players at the table and pay special attention to those who sit at 1st and 10th boxes. Also you make sure that a dealer checks the cards after each pass – there must be 2 (4 for Omaha) cards discarded.

2. Crooked card dealing (dealer collusion)

Most common thing for this cheating is dealing of the cards from the bottom of a pack and taking a second card from the top. In each case a dodgy dealer knows the kind of a top card and he controls the dealing process. His duty is to prize a cheater with strong hands and leave the opponents with scruff.

For achieving this a dealer should be skilled, the cards should be marked and there must be at least one accomplice.

How to avoid this: the required procedure of top card burning is unlikely to help as a dealer may just pretend to take it. Pay attention to the back of the cards – the sharper their skirts are, the harder it will be for a cheater. Don’t forget about repeating change of cards packs – they should be stored in a reliable safe and given to the dealer personally by a manager. A dealer should shuffle the cards and cut them through the table: everything should be clear and traditional. Watch a dealer to perform this with his two hands; that will eliminate any chances of false cut.

3. Marked cards

There are many ways how to mark the cards: transparent inks, barcodes, tiny cuts, etc. Besides, one can buy a prepared card pack with special symbols that correspond to their values. These symbols may be seen by a person wearing special eye lenses.

The last method described is the easiest as it doesn’t require any special skills – you just need to spend five minutes on the Internet.

How to avoid this: keep changing the card packs and chose reliable suppliers. Cheating lenses differ from the ordinary ones, that’s the reason why cheaters often wear sun glasses.

4. Cardpackanalyzers

This is the most innovative way that informs a cheater of the following dealing winner. It consists of:

  • a barcode marked card pack (all 4 lateral sides are marked),
  • a little microphone,
  • a smartphone (which analyzes a pack),
  • a scanning device.

The last thing is the main problem as a scanner should “see” a card pack. It can be embedded into a lighter, bag or other accessory, which is not prohibited to be brought with.

The scheme is the following: a scanner is installed in an appropriate position, cards are monitored, this information is transferred to an analyzer (with special software installed), an analyzer transfers signals to a microphone. All this wouldn’t take more than a second.

Sometimes both scanner and analyzer are combined in a smartphone. It may be an ordinary smartphone without any specific properties.

How to avoid this: carefully watch the table – there should be no alien things on it or near it. A dealer should deal the cards by hand and that will prevent gamblers from glancing or scanning.


Most of the modern casinos and poker clubs are equipped with their own security systems. This is not just about square-shouldered husky fellows, but also about ingenious techniques.


A PTZ-camera is a right hand for every cheaters struggling.  Such cameras are embedded on the ceilings and look like tiny dark spheres. A camera itself is inside, but no one knows what sector it is controlling. These nimble cameras may be driven manually and automatically –  they are able to slew at any angle, both vertical and horizontal.

Just hang this little one above a table and no cheater will go unnoticed.


In some cases, for example in high-priced cache games there is an extra mixing rule. Example: two players are displayed at the flop. One of them may ask to mix the cards properly before the turn (this should destroy all cheating activities). If his opponent “analyzed” that the dealing was a win, he may stay at a loose end.

This rule takes time, but using it will assure that there are no cheating.

So, the innovative technologies have given cheaters new ways of crafting.  Surely there are “legends” who are invisible for cameras and whose skills are godlike. Poker clubs and casinos spend sacks of money for their security systems. A cheater’s success is a question of time, but this may be very short-lived period. Once a cheater is got on the hook he is put to the black-list. In most cases the black-listed cheaters will never be able to get into a reputable establishment.


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