Many years ago I read in a book by Scarne (title not sure of and there might have been different content in different editions) where one of the players in Rothstein's last game confesses to having cheated by playing "best hand" against him. This I think could simply be that two or more colluders would not only avoid being in the same pot against a third player but they would communicate which should drop out based on hand quality.

This would seem to me to be an insurmountable advantage, similar to one player being dealt two hands that he could choose from against an opponent headsup who only was dealt one hand.

A counter argument is that the two colluders are both anteing or blinding but it seems to me that in no-limit especially, the antes/blinds are a small percentage of the most pots. And at a large table, many times neither player has put up a blind anyway.

So how big of an advantage is this cheating strategy and how prevalent?

Note that extra advantage would be derived by communicating what the two players had to each other.

I wonder also if more than 2 colluders have an even larger advantage or if above a certain point, the profit being split outweighs the added benefit of the extra colluders.


2 Answers 2


This I think could simply be that two or more colluders would not only avoid being in the same pot against a third player but they would communicate which should drop out based on hand quality.

This does not make sense as a rule, its not this simple. The players attempting the collusion would want to be together in the same pot against a third player to begin the hand, and then access what happens.

Then they should signal each other what they want the other player to achieve. Sometimes its in their best interest to both stay in the pot, increasing the likelihood that the third player will be forced to give up, or to signal the other player to drop out when the other cheater has an enormous equity strength. But even then it might be in their best interest to keep both cheaters in, giving the third villain better pot odds to call.

The hand quality doesn't matter per say when two players are cheating like this, they can both have garbage and go into a raising war, forcing the third player out of a significant pot and then split the profits, or use the previously discussed tactic to keep the player in under nutted circumstances. This can obviously backfire but obviously any external communication that other players can not understand is a significant edge if used wisely in the long run, which is why its considered cheating.

There's a reason why you're normaly not allowed to talk a foreign language at the table unless everyone at the table understand it. Same applies here. You're not allowed to signal another player using a made up language in order to achieve an edge over your opponents.

  • No, it is that simple: in a 3-handed game (as the extreme case) against two colluders who simply only play the best of their two hands, it's clear that the cheaters have the advantage described. Signaling is a refinement but even without it, I think the cheaters who only play best hand will end up with the third player's money.
    – releseabe
    Commented Nov 29, 2019 at 19:04
  • @releseabe The scam you're referring to is very limited and as a single purpose that's very limited and not the most advantage. If both scammers have a set for instance, then what? If both scammers have garbage, then what? They should try to get the third player to give up against their garbage.
    – Jonast92
    Commented Dec 9, 2019 at 14:06
  • if both have a set then it is obvious that the lower set would drop out.
    – releseabe
    Commented Dec 9, 2019 at 15:36
  • In order to do that you would have to create a pretty advanced language.
    – Jonast92
    Commented Dec 9, 2019 at 15:40
  • in holdem they would not have a set but each just a pair since i think they would not stay both to the flop. perhaps this strategy is not optimal but a simple way for a team to do better than they would without it. anyway, i think, based on Scarne, this has been happening for a long time. there are probably more effective strategies that would yield more to cheaters. Dealers flashing cards to confederates would be really effective.
    – releseabe
    Commented Dec 9, 2019 at 20:23

"Best Hand" is the most common "scammer" strategy in poker. It is the principal technique advanced cheaters use to make money. 100% of high stakes games that last over one week are cheated this way.

Here is the skinny for advanced players:

It's harder to play in a scam crew and win than it is to win on your own. Only the BEST players are successful scammers. Most top pros either cheat routinely, or have cheated in the past. It's not that profitable, and it's a LOT more work.

My guess is that, all things being equal, you can make about 20% more money scamming than playing straight up. You have to pay a LOT more attention, and you have to trust your partners. All poker players play at their "peter principal" level. That is, they play at the level where they start to lose [otherwise they'd move up]. Most scammers could make more money if they quit the scam, and dropped down a level.

In NL, you make more money on your own in anything less than $10-$20NL. The minimum scammed game in limit is $20-40, but even that is poverty level.

I saw Roger King playing $1000-$2000 8 handed. All 7 of the pros were colluding. This is routine.

"Whipsawing" is not a thing. Play against whipsaw crews and take all their money. If you can't figure out why, you can't be a poker player.

  • Team Member 1: AA
  • Team Member 2: KK
  • Sucker: 55

The pre-flop play is for the KKs to simply FOLD. Thus halving the profit when a 5 spikes. Whipsawing just makes the 55s fold.

Best hand is undetectable and unbeatable. Well, it's detectable if you are a pro.

Signals - You don't need a very complex set. You only need to communicate 1-13 and "pair", "connectors" and "one gap".

Pro cheater catcher's tip - Scammers need to "get the office". That is, they need to signal each other, and receive the signal. This will usually occur a few seconds after the deal. Good scammers will be aware of where their opponent's are looking - where their eyeballs are. It's very easy to catch this as an observer away from the table. Watch where they look after the deal.

Super pro tip - The best "office" I know of consists of a technique of laying your cards on the felt in relative positions that communicate information. This signal is just the way the cards are laid on the felt. It doesn't require your partner be actually looking at you when you make the signal. You make the signal by laying your cards down, and your teammate can get the office any time they want.

Stop playing poker. You have no shot. :)

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