How to Host the Perfect Poker Home Game: Protect Your Game from Cheaters

11 May 2012, Created By:
How to Host the Perfect Poker Home Game: Protect Your Game from Cheaters

How to Host the Perfect Poker Home Game is a 13-part series on how to run the superlative poker night for all your friends and coworkers.

We’ll cover everything from what game of poker is easiest to play, what hand beats what and even what drinks and food to serve. Follow this guide and people will be reserving their seat at your table weeks in advance.

In our ninth article we’re looking at a most unsavory topic, cheaters at your home game.

It’s important to accept that the possibility of cheating always exists, even if you’re not playing for money.

Some people are just wired to cheat and do it regardless of the cash, others are simply trying to exploit you for financial gain.

As the stakes get bigger and your familiarity with the players go down, the more you need to be on the lookout for would-be charlatans.

The good news is the people you’re looking for will rarely be accomplished card mechanics, and there are a few easy things you can do to seriously limit their opportunities to cheat.

Follow these steps to protect yourself and the players in your game.

Layla Kayleigh
Former WPT Hostess Layla Kayleigh

Assert Yourself as the Host

Step number one for running a smooth home game is making sure the other players know who’s in charge, and it’s the number one way you can deter cheating.

Announce the rules we’re going to cover in this article and impress upon your players that you understand poker rules in general and that you will be enforcing them.

A good host is looking out for all his players, and that includes making sure they’re not being taken advantage of.

Assert Yourself as the Cashier

Why cheat at cards when you can take cash directly out of the pot, or take chips without putting in money?

Keep the money in a secure place and make sure everyone understands they must go through you to either buy chips or cash out.

It’s helpful to keep a small float of bills and coins to help make correct change.

Chips and cards

Cards Stay on or Above the Table at All Times

Unless you’re committed to dealing every hand of your home poker game you’ll have to trust the other players to take their turn handling the cards.

Depending on the players’ levels of experience you might see some questionable shuffling techniques. But again, unless you’re willing to hire a dealer or do it yourself you just have to accept it.

The only thing to really worry about, however, is if the deck come off the table and is getting shuffled in someone’s lap. It’s easy to look at or rearrange cards if no one’s paying attention.

The same thing goes for hole cards. Players should keep their cards on the felt, and protect them when they look, but if they must pick them up, under no circumstances should they end up below the table.

Use Two Decks and Shuffle Behind the Dealer

By using two decks you’ll not only get more hands per hour, you’ll cut down on players’ opportunities to cheat.

Make sure to use two different colored decks.

The player behind the dealer should shuffle for the next hand. That means when you’re done dealing a hand, you just shuffle the cards while the player to your left is dealing.

This will stop players from setting up the deck over the course of the preceding hand while they’re dealing.

It’s acceptable for the new dealer to cut the cards before dealing.

copag cards

Be Prepared with New Decks of Cards

It’s very important to have a good supply of cards, and to be vigilant about the condition of the cards with which you’re playing.

Expensive KEM or Copag cards have a long life span if no one tampers with them, but that doesn’t mean they’re safe from players marking them with dents, creases and crimps.

You should also count down the deck regularly. Banking cards is the art of hiding key cards and substituting them into your hand when appropriate.

It’s one of the easiest ways to cheat but you can effectively limit it by always making sure you have the correct number of cards.

Use a Cut Card

Cut cards are incredibly affordable and they’re one of the most effective ways to limit your opponents’ opportunities to cheat when they’re dealing.

A cut card is a simple plastic card that sits at the bottom of the deck when dealing and it makes it impossible to base-deal (dealing a predetermined bottom card).

It will also stop inexperienced dealers from inadvertently flashing the bottom card.

Choose a cut card that contrasts sharply in color to your playing cards so you’ll know where it is. White or bright yellow is perfect.


Use Unique Cards and Chips

If you use the most common varieties of chips and cards you’re giving potential cheaters an easy way to reload their stack without buying in, or to swap in high-value cards during play.

Ideally you should order cards online and buy chips you know are hard to find.

For many it won’t be feasible to track down unique cards and chips. Focus on the first two rules in this guide to make up for your commonplace equipment.

Shorting the Pot

Shorting the pot is when a player pays less than he owes, disguising the shortfall by throwing his chips directly into the pot or someone else’s bet, taking more change than he’s owed or simply hoping no one will notice

One of the easiest ways to get away with it is by splashing the pot. By throwing a bet or call into an already large pot, cheaters can play for a discount without anyone noticing.


Collusion is when two or more players at the table are operating as a team and it comes in all shapes and sizes.

Common forms of collusion to watch out for at your home game include:

  • Soft-playing: When a player does not bet or raise with a very strong hand, usually to save their team-mate money.
  • Whipsawing: When two players raise and re-raise each other to trap other players’ money in the middle.
  • Dumping: Usually in a tournament-style game, a player will intentionally lose chips to his teammate to keep him in the game.
  • Signalling: When two players trade information about what they’re going to do, or what cards they’re holding.

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