Be on lookout for ‘Angle Shooters’

Rarely do we read about Angle Shooting. Have you ever been its victim? You may not have realized it. 

Angle Shooting can be very costly. Most likely, being an honorable person, you would never use it.

Angle Shooting is usually defined as using unethical, deceptive tactics to take advantage of your opponents. It is closely related to cheating — which most poker players abhor.  But it takes all kinds of people to make a world and poker is no different.

This aberration from the “normal” game of poker can be very useful to devious players who seek to win more money or reduce their losses. It does take special skills. In effect, it is another form of deception.

Hunches can help or hurt you at poker table

Angle Shooting makes it difficult for the shooter’s opponents to assess the strength of his hand. And, of course, it can influence an opponent’s decisions and subsequent actions. It may also help the shooter gain valuable information about his opponent’s hand, based on his reactions.

Here are a number of typical examples of Angle Shooting:

• Misdeclaring his hand strength at the showdown before revealing his hole cards in order to try to get his opponent to fold his hand.

Then, the angle shooter wins the pot, as his victim’s hand becomes dead once it hits the muck. Oh, so devious! This form of Angle Shooting probably occurs much more often than we care to admit.

• Betting or checking out of turn, hoping to encourage an opponent to change his original decision on how best to play his hand.

Then, when the action gets to the shooter, he may do just the opposite. We might label this a “reverse tell.”

• Pushing his hole cards forward but not crossing the line on the table top.

Opponents think he has folded, but his cards are still in play since he has not actually mucked them. Meanwhile, the target’s reaction to that move may give the angle-shooter valuable information — and an edge over the other players. Note: Poker is a game of information — usually partial information.

• When it is his turn to declare, the angle shooter says “raise” but puts out just enough chips for a call, and then says that he meant to say “call.”

The dealer will inform him that his verbal declaration is binding and he must complete the raise. Meanwhile, the victim believes that the shooter simply made a betting mistake. He actually held a monster hand and was trying to build the pot at his victim’s expense. Then, with added chips in the pot, other players will be more inclined to call the raise.

There are also borderline Angle Shoots. These may be outright cheating or perfectly legitimate rather than Angle Shooting:

• Peeking at his neighbor’s hole cards when he is careless in reading them.

When I first started playing in casinos, I would turn my head the other way when a player to my side was so careless when he picked up his hole cards as to make them viewable to his opponents. After a while, I realized it was his responsibility to protect his valuable hole cards from view — not mine.

• Rearranging his chips in a way that makes it appear as if he is preparing to bet or raise.

• Criticizing an opponent to gain control over his actions.

• Stating in a loud voice that the river helped improve his hand.

An example might be shouting out, ”Ace-high straight!” and then betting as if he had it.  0This may be more akin to bluffing. I used to play against such a player; eventually I caught on to his tactic.

• Concealing his higher-denomination chips from view to mislead his opponents.

This is not uncommon. I have even seen such a player sneak a $100 chip into his pocket — contrary to the house’s rule.

I believe that I have been the victim of Angle Shooting at least twice. I will discuss these incidents in part 2 in next week’s column.

About the Author

George Epstein

A retired engineer, George Epstein is the author of “The Greatest Book of Poker for Winners!” and “Hold’em or Fold’em? – An Algorithm for Making the Key Decision.” He teaches poker courses and conducts a unique Poker Lab at the Claude Pepper Senior Center under the auspices of the City of Los Angeles Dept. of Recreation and Parks and at West Los Angeles College.

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