Get the drop on poker's 'angle shooters'

Apr 28, 2009 5:06 PM
by George “The Engineer” Epstein |

Recently I received an e-mail from Adam Stein who enjoys hold’em in casinos in the Seattle, Washington, area. He was quite erudite, writing of a player who might have been "angle shooting." That’s an intriguing term that I rarely hear spoken at the poker tables. So I did some research.

According to Michael Weisenberg’s The Official Dictionary of Poker (MCU Publishers), an angle shooter is "a poker player who uses various underhanded, unfair methods to take advantage of inexperienced players." (I’m not sure it has to be limited to "inexperienced" players.)

It’s almost – but not quite – cheating. You might question whether it is ethical; but, like it or not, it’s technically within the legal bounds of the game in most casinos.

This was echoed by Learn-Texas-Holdem.com on the Internet: The rules of Texas Hold’em are fairly clear. Still, there will always be someone who tries to skirt them. "Players who try to bend the rules … to their advantage are called angle shooters." They hope to gain an advantage by actions that are not technically rules violations, but are inappropriate.

Examples of Angle Shooting

One of the most common methods of angle shooting is acting out of turn in a way that is the opposite of how the player will actually declare when it is his turn. He knows the out-of-turn act is not binding. In response, the player who was declaring, changes his originally intended action; perhaps he checks rather than bets, expecting to complete a check-raise after the angle shooter makes the bet. Surprise! The angle shooter also checks, saving himself a bet. (You may have seen this happen!)

Another interesting example was at a no-limit game in a casino. Player A moved all his chips into the pot. Player B, about to declare, asked "Are you all in?" The answer was "yes." Then, after waiting awhile, Player B nodded, "All right. What do you have?" Player A then turned up his hand, showing the nut flush! Thereupon Player B announced: "Great hand. I’m folding." Player A got angry. He thought that Player B had agreed to call his all-in bet. The floorman clarified: "He never said he called." True, Player B had never committed to call the all-in bet. It was a good "angle shot."

The Best Defense

Like it or not, angle shooting usually is technically legal. The best defense: Be aware of such a player at your table; take that into consideration when he acts or speaks. Certainly, do not believe him when he announces his hand at the showdown; wait for him to turn it face up. If you declare after him, watch to see what he actually does – not what he had indicated by prior action or words.

(I am sure that many of you have experienced angle shooters, whether or not you branded them as such. How about sharing your experience with other readers of GamingToday? E-mail a short description to me at [email protected]. There will be a reward for the first person whose experience we use in this column. Please indicate if we can use your full name and where you play poker.

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