Angle shooting in poker is defined as using unethical, intentionally deceptive tactics to take advantage of (usually more inexperienced) opponents. It’s usually done:
- To help influence an opponent’s action (i.e. by deceiving them into thinking that the angler was going to act differently than seemingly intended).
- To gain more information from an opponent during a poker hand (i.e. by seeing how they will react).
- To help the angler win more money and/or lessen their losses.
- To appropriately fool your opponent(s) in regards to correctly assessing the strength of your hand.
While cheating in poker is a clear violation of the rules (i.e. colluding with others, using bots, marking the deck, and stealing chips from the pot or other players stacks), the technical legitimacy of the actions of an angler is a little bit more ambiguous. The spirit of someone who partakes in this play is still the same as that of a cheater: it comes from the intent of causing he harm for their benefit. Subsequently, angle shooting is something that is not welcomed by players as proper conduct of the game.
To protect its players, many casinos and live cardrooms have specific “house rules” in place to help prevent some forms of this play and/or ban certain angle shoots from happening altogether. (Some of these rules will be mentioned throughout the following sections.) Even with these in place, though, players still look for ways to push the rules to their limits to exploit others and benefit themselves.
In this article, we’ll look at typical angle shots that can happen both live and online. We’ll also discuss more appropriate ways to fish for information from your opponents.
TOP 3 ANGLE SHOOTING INSTANCES IN LIVE POKER
Live poker has many more possibilities for this poker move because of the ambiguity and lack of clarity that there can be in a player’s betting actions. (In online poker, one’s betting action is defined with the click of a button.) Here are the top 3 angle shoots that can be found in live poker, with many additional angle shoots listed in brief afterwards:
- You could also be ambiguous with your “checking motion”, as many different motions are accepted these days to constitute a “check”. For example, you make a small motion that causes the poker dealer to think you checked (allowing you a chance to gauge a reaction from opponents) but then defend yourself by saying that you haven’t acted, then this is an angle shoot.
- Another example is putting out incomplete bets, and saying you haven’t completed the bet, so you think it shouldn’t count as being a binding call. (Casinos have countered this by either (a) forcing a complete call to be made as soon as one chip is put forward; or (b) the “incomplete call” money can be left in the pot, and the player can fold, or they can complete the call for the full amount and continue in the hand.
- You could also push your cards forward (but not across the line and into the muck), making your opponents think that you have folded. Then you argue that the motion you made with your cards did not constitute a fold.
- If you say, “Raise,” put out calling chips, and then say that you meant to say “call” (when really, you know that the first verbal action is binding and that you’ll have to raise anyway), this can be another form of an angle shot. You are trying to implore deception and make your opponent think you’ve made a betting mistake when really, you have the nuts (or a very strong hand, at the least). This play is a common tactic that Ivan Freitez is known to have used, and a video of him doing it can be found here.
- Mis-declaring Your Hand at Showdown: This is a very dirty tactic used to try and get your opponent to muck their hand before you’ve shown yours. It’s done to try and get your opponent to muck their hand prematurely so that you can then show your actual hand and make an argument that you should be awarded the pot (because your opponent called and then mucked). Luckily, many casinos require all hole cards to be shown by the winning hand at showdown in order to award that player the pot - not just a verbal declaration.
In addition to the 3 more common angle shoots listed above, here are some other examples:
- Re-arranging your chips in a way that makes it look like you’re going to bet.
- Berating your opponents to manipulate them.
- Looking at another player’s hole cards (if they fail to cover them properly).
- Saying you haven’t looked at your hand yet (especially if you’re a short stack preflop all-in), but really you have looked, and you know exactly where you stand in the hand. (This move is exactly what Tony G did versus Phil Hellmuth on the TV show “The Big Game” where he had AK and Phil had AJ – here is the video link.)
- Saying the river helped improve your hand or yelling out, “FLUSH!!!” and then betting as if you have it.
- Intentionally acting out-of-turn.
- Being in a hand with multiple players still involved and engaging in conversation with one of them to try and get a read on the strength of their hand. (This play is an angle shoot because it can influence action for the other opponents still involved in the hand.)
- Keeping your larger denomination of chips hidden from view (resulting in opponents inaccurately assuming your stack size at first glance). Alec Torelli is one poker pro who was accused of doing this versus an amateur on TV! (Here’s the video.)
TOP 3 ANGLE SHOOTING INSTANCES IN ONLINE POKER
As clarity in players’ actions is naturally more prevalent in online poker (and ambiguity more minimal), there is much less of this play in online poker. That said, there are still a few possibilities for ways it can occur.
Here’s our “Top 3” list:
- Abusing the “Disconnection Protection” Some Websites Use: On websites that have this feature, if a player is disconnected in the middle of a hand, the rest of hand is played out as if the disconnected player were all-in. If there are multiple people still in the hand, additional bets are put into a side pot between the remaining connected players. Users can abuse this in instances where they don’t know if they have the best hand and don’t want to invest any more money in the pot before showdown. They disconnect from the internet until the hand is over and upon reconnecting can discover the result. (In recent years, many websites have upgraded to only allow X number of minutes of disconnect protection per day, or they’ve eliminated this feature altogether.
- Going South: This action refers to when a player exits an online table (usually after a big win) so that they can protect their winnings and then re-entering the same table with the minimum number of chips. It’s an angle shot that can be done in live play, as well, but is always disallowed if another player or the dealer notices this happening.
- Using the Chatbox to Give Misleading Information: Suppose you say in the chatbox you’ll go all-in when the action gets to you, when in fact you ultimately just check behind. This chat is an example of an angle shot.
What to do When a Player Tries to Angle Shoot You?
When a player tries to angle shoot you, there are 4 things that can be done to rectify the situation:
- Tell them they’ve done something wrong: Sometimes angle shots are unintentional. However, even if the malicious intent is not there, the player should be made aware, at the very least, that they have done something unethical and potentially against the house rules.
- Let them know why: Instead of simply berating the angle shooter, be calm and clear in your explanation of what specifically they did to constitute an angle shot, and how they can better proceed next time they act.
- Make sure the dealer becomes aware: If the problem persists or you wish for someone else to better explain the house’s rules on angle shooting, notify the dealer.
- Ask the floor manager to intervene, if necessary: In severe cases (i.e. recurrent angles or when it’s during the middle of a hand and affecting gameplay), asking for the floorman to make a ruling on how action should proceed in the hand is the best way to rectify the situation.
How Can We Use Angle-Shooting to Our Benefit?
Let’s be clear: angle shots are completely unethical, and repeated angling will give you a bad name in the poker community and make people not want to play with you at the poker tables. Bottom line, this should NEVER be done with deceptive, malicious intent and specifically to take advantage of weaker players!
Yes, it’s true, that at one point or another, almost all poker players have done this play to an extent. In fact, knowing the rules well enough to be able to manipulate them, while usually unethical, is arguably a part of the game.
However, certain actions are considered more acceptable to do at the poker table (to try to get a read off your opponent and/or influence action) than the dirty angle shots we described earlier in this article.
Here is a list of acceptable conduct you could consider trying during your next session, in an attempt to get better reads off your opponents and or help elicit certain action(s) from them:
- Cutting Out Chips: If you’re facing a tough river decision after your opponent has bet, the simple action of cutting out chips as if you’re going to call can sometimes be enough to yield a tell from your opponent as to whether they are weak or strong. Just do not combine this “cutting motion” with the “forward motion” action described earlier.
- Engaging in Table Talk: When heads-up with another opponent, it is perfectly acceptable to engage in table talk to try and get a read.
- Pause Before Acting on You Pre-Made Decision: Sometimes, you might already know what you’re going to do when it’s your turn to act (bet/raise/fold/call). However, instead of always completing these actions instantaneously – especially when it’s either a fold versus aggression or a call when facing a bet on the river –pause for a few seconds. You might be able to gain a tell from your opponent (weak or strong) that potentially you will be able to use in future hands.
- Hollywooding / Acting / Reverse Tells: By making it look like you have a tough decision, you can influence the action of other opponents, when really your decision is straightforward and simple. It can also refer to doing anything physically to throw off your opponents.
- Showing Your Cards at Showdown Before Calling or Folding: If your opponent makes a bet, you flip over your cards (not mucking), and they look at your hand, it’s possible to try and get a reaction from them and elicit a tell regarding the strength of their hand. NOTE: Be sure to know what your casino’s house rules are regarding this as, in some instances, if your cards are ever turned face-up during a hand, they are considered dead.
- Saying, “Raise,” While Throwing in Calling Chips (Followed Eventually by the Raising Chips): While uncommon, some players raise like this. It’s used to see their opponent’s reaction after they say, “Raise,” in order to decide how much they should raise. i.e. They might ultimately decide to bet large if their opponent looks weak (to maximise fold equity) OR they might sense their opponent is strong and perhaps choose to raise a smaller number of chips (to help minimise their losses).
- Making Frequent Use of Your Timebank During Online Play: Skillful players play their monster hands just like they would their bluffs (and vice versa). Therefore, even if you know you’re going to bet or raise during a hand online, it’s best to let your timebank run down a bit before clicking your chips into the middle. This strategy will help you eliminate prominent timing tells and make you more difficult to play against.
- Needling: Light-hearted, verbal jabs at your opponent to try to induce them to tilt or lightly influence the action is an okay play in certain scenarios.
WHEN DOES ANGLE SHOOTING CROSS THE LINE INTO CHEATING?
As long as it does not break any rules, angle shooting cannot be technically considered cheating. However, it will give your name a bad reputation, and people will not want to play with you, if you are known to be an angle shooter.
In poker, angle shots are bound to happen, not necessarily because everyone is trying intentionally to “angle” other players, but because we’re all human and make genuine mistakes.
However, repeat offenders can and will most likely be penalised in some fashion, and so they should be! If they weren’t, then poker would invariably dwindle down to becoming a game focused on those who can unethically take advantage of their opponents the most.
If you’ve taken away anything from this article, it should be this:
- While not cheating, angle shooting is the intentional misleading of your opponent to ultimately benefit the angler in the hand.
- To avoid unintentional angle shoots, always be clear with your betting intentions (either verbally, with chips, or hand gestures).
- Bring it to the attention of the dealer and/or floor staff if you think others might be angling players at your table.
- Don’t ever intentionally angle shoot your opponent. It’s straight-up unethical, and you’re not going to gain the respect of any other players at the table.