If you can’t hack the machine, you have to hack the players. To do that, you need to team up so you can share information about which cards are available for draws, who has the best possible hand, and how to get the most money from the unsuspecting players. With the advent of cheap or even free long distance phone calls, cheaters can phone a friend and get a lifeline on which cards are out there and how to approach the hand. Players who want to form teams of three or more need to go through instant messaging (IM) services to avoid conference call charges, but there’s always the danger that someone will type “8s 9d” in the poker software’s chat box instead of the IM client software. Oops!
Surrounding the Sucker
When does a team really get a sucker in their sights? When one of the cheaters has the nuts, or close to it, and the other cheater has a hand they can claim they were either play- ing aggressively or bluffing with. For example, consider the following $10–$20 Hold ’em hand, shown in Figure 7.3, where the cheaters have a made flush and top pair, respec- tively, and the victim has top pair and the nut flush draw. There is $60 in the pot after the flop, and the dealer just put up the turn card.
Normal play in this case might have Cheater1 bet, the victim call, and Cheater2 raise, after which both Cheater1 and the victim call. However, if the cheaters both raise,
the victim must now call an additional $20 ($40 total) to draw to the nut flush. Here’s how the action breaks down.
Status: $60 in the pot after the flop
NonCheater1: $20 bet
NonVictim: $20 call
NonCheater2: $40 raise
NonCheater1: $20 call = $160 ($20 for the victim to call)
Status: $60 in the pot after the flop
Cheater1: $20 bet
Victim: $20 call
Cheater2: $40 raise
Cheater1: $40 raise = $180 ($40 for the victim to call)
The victim will probably realize in both cases that the player who raised on the turn al- ready has a flush, which means there are at least two additional cards of the flush suit gone from the deck. With that knowledge, the victim can determine that there are only seven outs in the deck, instead of the regular nine (knowing the suit of two unseen cards is sufficient to discount them in this case). By that reasoning, there are 44 unknown cards, seven of which make the victim’s nut flush. The odds of drawing one of those cards is 37 to 7, or about 5.3 to 1 against. If the cheater without the made flush has an- other card of the flush suit, then the odds are 38 to 6, or 6.33 to 1 against.
Now look at the pot odds with and without collusion. Without collusion, the victim must call $20 with $160 in the pot: 8 to 1 odds. With collusion, the victim must call $40 to have a shot at the $180 in the pot: 4.5 to 1 odds. Because the odds of making the flush draw are greater than the ratio of the cost of the call to the money in the pot (5.3 versus 4.5), it is not mathematically correct for the victim to call.
To avoid attracting any more attention, Cheater2 should only call the second raise (perhaps claiming to be in fear of a higher flush), but even that added $20 only makes the odds 5 to 1, which is still short of the 5.3 to 1 odds required to make the call mathematically correct.
A far simpler scenario, of course, is where the cheaters raise and re-raise to drive the other players out and capture a small or medium-sized pot. Smart cheaters will play most of their hands straight and only put the squeeze on their victims when they have a near lock on the hand and a reasonable second-best hand with which to push the action, so be on the lookout. Of course, if you suspect you’re caught in the middle of two cheaters and you have the nuts, call all bets and take your share of the pot. There’s very little that’s bet- ter in life than letting two miscreants buy you and your sweetie a nice dinner.
Correcting Odds on Draws
Knowing when there is enough money in the pot to make a draw worthwhile is one of the most important skills in limit poker. Of course, you have to figure the number of cards that help you and do a little quick math, but cheaters’ jobs are made easier when they know that one or more of the cards they need are out of play because their partner folded them before the flop. As an example, consider the hand shown in Figure 7.4.
In this case, there are three colluding players at the same table, but two of them folded before the flop after the remaining cheater called with 8♥ 9♥. The flop of 6♦ 7♣ A♠ is pretty good, giving the cheater an open-ended straight draw, but when a non-teammate raises after another player bets, the cheater must figure they are either up against a set, two pair, or an Ace with a good kicker. Four players each put $20 into the pot before the flop, for a total of $80. The first player bet $10 and the second player put in $20, for a total of $110. The cheater at this point can draw to his possible straight or fold. Under normal circumstances, the player would be drawing at eight cards: all of the Fives and all of the Tens. In this case, however, one of the other colluding players folded T♣5♦ before the flop, and the other threw away K♥5♠. That means three of the cards the remaining cheater needs for his straight, which he figures he needs to win, are out of play.
If the cheater thought he was drawing to eight out of 47 unseen cards, the odds of com- pleting his straight on the next card would be 39 to 8 against, or just under 5 to 1. He will have to call $20 to win the $140 in the pot, which is 7 to 1 odds on his money. If he miss- es, he gets another shot on the river. Assuming there is $200 in the pot after the turn and the board has not paired, the cheater will be getting 10 to 1 odds on what is essentially a 5 to 1 draw. Calling on the flop is correct, and calling on the turn would also be correct so long as the board didn’t pair.
If the cheater knows he is only drawing to five out of 47 unseen cards, though, the math changes. It will cost him $20 to call after the flop, which means the $140 in the pot gives him 7 to 1 odds on the money. Because the odds against him completing his straight are 42 to 5, or 8.4 to 1, against, he knows he should fold.