Angle shooting is a controversial part of poker. While not quite cheating, in some cases, it is essentially finding ways of exploiting ambiguous or weak areas of the rules in order to gain an advantage over other players. This is more than just pushing rules to their limits – it is travelling to the outer edges of fair play. For the most part, the spirit of the angle shooter is that of a cheat, but even the fairest of poker players may try to find an angle when in dire straits.
Live poker offers many more opportunities for angle shooting than online poker. Here are a few examples of common live poker angles:
The incomplete call
This is a really underhanded one that should have you walking away from the table if you come across it. Let’s say you’re playing someplace where a bet is not considered complete until enough chips have been put in for a player to call. We’ll assume you raise by 100 chips. The angle shooter isn’t completely convinced he has a good enough hand to win on showdown, but he puts in the chips to call – or so you think. He’s actually put in a slightly smaller amount, and made no further action. You assume he’s called, and you show your cards. If you won, the angle shooter will point out that his bet wasn’t actually completed, so he didn’t really call. If he won, you’ll likely never know anything untoward has happened, as the angle shooter will collect the pot directly.
An easy example of this is someone making a hand gesture that suggests a check on their action, only to claim that they want to raise once it has been established that everyone else is checking. Another example is someone showing their cards on the river and acting as if they’ve lost, only for you to assume they’ve folded. You go for a check rather than the raise you were intending, which might have scared the angle shooter into actually folding. If you are playing a big hand, be careful how you interpret your opponent’s actions. Do not assume anything if they haven’t said check, knocked on the table, put in the chips to call, put in enough chips to raise, said ‘I fold’ or else mucked their hand. Ambiguity is the breeding ground of the angle.
The fake hand
This happens in poker games with community cards, like Texas Hold ‘Em or Omaha. It is completely unsubtle, and you kind of bring it on yourself if you fall for it. At the river, out of turn, the angle shooter declares they just hit a great hand, and you muck your own hand in exasperation. When it comes time for the angle shooter to act, he shows a completely different hand, lower than the one you held. Make sure people are penalized for this kind of play, as communicating the cards you have before a hand is completed is considered cheating in most games.
You’ll note that angle shooting in live games generally consists of incomplete action or acting out of turn. This means you can avoid a lot of it by insisting on clarity in the actions of other players, and by ensuring players who act out of turn are penalized. Don’t just assume everyone is an angle shooter, though. Anyone can make an honest mistake once, but repeat offenders should be considered suspect and you should always insist on clarity in a game changing hand.
Online poker does not allow for much angle shooting, as players cannot act out of turn or take ambiguous actions. Nevertheless, the addition of a system (i.e. the software used to run online poker games) means new opportunities for angle shooting, mostly based on the ease of joining and leaving games, or on disconnection.
This happens in ring games, when a player has just had a big win. They leave the game with their massive stack, then come back immediately after with the minimum stack. A lot of poker sites have policies in place to discourage this, such as requiring players to come back in with the same amount, or by restricting them from rejoining the table for a set amount of time. The best thing you can do to avoid this is play at a site that discourages the practice with solid rules, or by petitioning your favored poker room to implement policies against going south.
As disconnection can be a frustrating part of online gambling, some poker sites offer what they call ‘disconnection protection’. This makes it so that if you have money in the pot and get disconnected, you will stay in the hand as if the amount you added was going all-in. The hand will stand until the showdown regardless of whether others raise. Obviously, some players have taken to disconnecting on purpose so their current bet can ride until the showdown. Many poker sites avoid this with special policies, however, such as a maximum amount of disconnect time per day. Once that disconnect time is over, hands are folded or checked, depending on the actions of other players.
You’ll note that there is not much opportunity for angle shooting in online poker, as ambiguity is minimal. Even these few forms of angle shooting in online poker have been practically stamped out with new site rules, so those who want to avoid the angle shooters should play online, where the rules are enforced automatically.