'Soft playing' in poker means to deliberately play a weak strategy against a specific opponent, perhaps because we are friends with them off the tables. 

Soft playing is considered a form of collusion and is against the rules of poker. Although soft playing might be considered a lesser evil than directly working with another player for unfair advantage, soft playing could still wind us up with a lifetime ban from any room/casino if detected. 

In this guide we’ll learn the following - 

Is Soft Playing Against the Rules in Poker?

Soft playing (playing a weak strategy vs a specific opponent) is against the rules of poker and can potentially end us up with lifetime ban. Despite this, it’s generally considered a lesser evil than deliberately colluding with someone and often flies below the radar. It can also be quite difficult to differentiate soft playing from bad play in general so a poker room would only approach a player once they had collected a decent amount of evidence. 

How is Soft Playing Detected in Poker?

Soft playing would usually be detected by the poker room’s security team who actively search for any patterns that indicate possible collusion. Patterns are a lot easier to spot in the context of online poker where teams can draw on large amounts of historical data including all hole-card information. Certain types of action raise big red flags such as not raising the river for value when holding the nuts or calling down river bets with hopelessly weak hands.

Why Must You Raise the River Nuts in Poker Tournaments?

There is no good reason why an honest player would not raise the stone cold nuts when facing a bet on the river. Smooth calling the river nuts is considered a type of ‘soft play’ and usually incurs a penalty such as sitting out of the action for a set number of hands. 

What is an Example of Soft Playing in Poker?

We hold a very strong value hand on the river and elect to check back rather than value bet because we know the opponent and don’t want to take too many chips from his stack. While this might seem innocent enough it is considered a form of collusion and is against the rules. Minor soft plays are often indistinguishable from general bad play, but more obvious soft plays can result in a lifetime ban if detected by the poker room.

Summary of Soft Playing in Poker

Soft playing is the act of deliberately playing a weak strategy against specific opponents at the table. While it might seem innocent, it is considered a form of collusion and is against the rules. 

The easiest way to avoid soft playing is not to sit at real money tables with our friends who we know from outside of a poker context (although doing so is not in itself against the rules). 

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