In the early 1990s poker was very different. In particular, almost any behavior was tolerated: players threw cards at the dealer, said enough to bring a dealer to tears, "accidentally" burnt a dealer with a cigar (and i heard about card throwing that one dealer suffered eye damage from this).

I guess as poker got bigger, they started to institute penalties (anteing while sitting out for a few rounds was a great idea) which were very effective although some players got away with more than others.

Anyway, in the early 1990s, I was at the final table with 3 other players and two of them, one of whom was well-known player and the other I forget his name, never got into hands against each other. If one was on the small blind and his "partner" who was sitting next to him was thus on the big, if neither I nor the 4th player was in, he would simply fold.

I complained to the tournament director and he said, verbatim iirc, "what do you want me to do about it?" and indeed nothing happened. this was for that time and place a fairly decent-sized event, first place was over 30k.

So my question is, even today, how is that sort of thing dealt with? The rules about verbal abuse/card throwing are enforced but how does one prove this kind of collusion and if proven, what is the penalty?

3 Answers 3


The WSOP has rules against collusion and card throwing, the collusion rule is as follows

b.Collusion is defined as any agreement between or among two (2) or more Participants to engage in illegal or unethical acts against other Participants. Collusion includes, but is not limited to, acts such as: chip dumping; soft play; sharing card information with another Participant; sending or receiving signals from or to another Participant; the use of electronic communication with the intent to facilitate collusion; and any other act that Riodeems inappropriate.

1.Chip dumping is defined as any agreement between or among two (2) or more Participants for one or more of the Participants to bet chips with the intent of increasing another Participant's stack.

2.Soft play is defined as any agreement between or among two (2) or more Participants to not bet or raise each other in order to minimize the number of chips lost by those Participants participating in the agreement.

and the possible penalties are as follows:






As far as enforcement of these rules, it is usually up to the discretion of the tournament director. If a player is verbally abusing the dealer, throwing cards, or colluding with another player, the tournament director will be called over and evaluate the situation and make a decision.

These rules are specifically for the WSOP, but other tournaments and casinos have similar rules in most cases.

  • wsop.com/2019/2019%20WSOP%20Tournament%20Rules.pdf you can look at all the rules here
    – Clarko
    Commented Dec 2, 2019 at 19:18
  • @releseabe I think that is exactly why it started getting enforced more, players like yourself did not want to put up with it.
    – Clarko
    Commented Dec 2, 2019 at 23:20
  • I dont think its possible to 'prove' soft play unless theres evidence of a discussion/agreement though. Esp if the players deny it, im sure there are a bunch of plausible reasons they can give as to why the are 'coincidentally' folding against each other.
    – sakon
    Commented Dec 3, 2019 at 6:25
  • 1
    @sakon I agree, as long as they are not making it super obvious. For example if they fold a premium like aces or kings then that would be pretty solid evidence. In most cases there would be no way of knowing what their hand is so that is not applicable in all situations.
    – Clarko
    Commented Dec 3, 2019 at 19:09

The problem with collusion is that it is extremely difficult to document, especially in live poker.it is even difficult online were one has full access to the hand histories. the Tournement director's comment of "what can I do about it, is a very good question. The main problem is that the TD can only come up with a penalty based on a guess that he players are collluding, you cant guess someone into a severe penalty based on speculation with out risking a S,,t storm while standing on very thin ice. Mike Caro used to talk about catching people colluding. think that most of it was in his cardplayer magazine articles. some might be online nowdays, i found a little of his stuff at


Unless the people involved are actively talking about acting together, you can only infer that collusion is taking place.

For example: 4 people remain in a tournament. The short stack goes all in preflop, and two players call. Neither of the non-all in players bet after the flop, turn or river. When the cards are turned up, we can see that both of the non-all in players made good but non-nut hands on the turn and river, and yet, neither bet.

Clearly, the two non-all in players are silently acting together. It was more important to knock the all in player out of the tournament (guaranteeing a higher prize) than to make a bet where the potential winning hand must fold.

This type of collusion takes place in every tournament. And, is unprovable unless one or the other player makes a comment about it.

  • No collusion in the case you describe, just a standard application of the ICM.
    – J.-E. Pin
    Commented Apr 25, 2022 at 16:30
  • There is more than one way to describe it the scenario above. While it sounds better to call it an ICM or a Game theory based decision, the fact is that both players are implicitly working together against a third, making it collusion.
    – RobW
    Commented May 5, 2022 at 1:25

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