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Stacked Deck

Stacking the Deck

by Jesse Knight
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Stacked Deck
Stacked Deck - A deck which has been illegally arranged to give an advantage to one or more players.


One way of cheating in a poker game is to arrange the cards in a favorable manner for a specific player, before the start of the deal. A deck that is fixed in this manner is called a “stacked deck,” or a “cold deck.” Since it would generally be too obvious to try to set up the deck during the shuffle, a stacked deck is usually set up ahead of time and is slipped into the game by the dealer, just prior to the deal. This scheme usually requires the participation of the dealer and at least one of the players in the game. You are most at risk for this type of cheating if you play in home games. The risk of running into a stacked deck in a brick and mortar casino is negligible.

A stacked deck scheme usually targets at least one and often times many of the other players in the game. To maximize the profit from this type of cheating, the losing player or players are often set up with very strong hands, which elicit from them a lot of betting and raising. The winning player, whom the deck is set up for, is dealt an even stronger hand, and is pushed an enormous pot. When a player is set up like this, it is referred to as getting “cold decked.” Players who are running bad will often sarcastically complain that the dealer is “cold decking” them. Despite these allegations, modern day poker dealers rarely participate in cheating schemes.

That does not mean that some dealers are not capable of cheating, if they so desired. A few dealers are very skilled in slight-of-hand techniques, like false shuffles, dealing seconds, and other methods of illegally manipulating the deck, including manipulating the shuffle. A dealer who is skilled at manipulating the deck without being detected is called a “Mechanic.” Some mechanics are so skilled that they can place cards at certain positions within the deck while shuffling, without anybody noticing or suspecting anything. They often use the same slight-of-hand techniques magicians’ use, and can be very deceptive, even in super slow motion. In short, the manipulation of a deck of cards has been elevated to an art form, albeit a lost art.

Still, the risk you face of actually being cheated by a mechanic is really very low. Very few poker dealers have the skills of a mechanic, and you are not likely to encounter one playing in a brick and mortar card room. It takes an enormous amount of practice to be able to be able to accurately and undetectably place cards in the deck. There are only a handful of people in the world who genuinely have these skills. Most brick and mortar dealer have their hands full just running the game. Very few have the ability or desire to cheat effectively without getting caught. The price a dealer would pay for getting caught cheating in a casino would be extremely high, and not at all worth the risk. A dealer who is caught cheating faces the permanent loss of both their job and their dealing license, as well as the possibility for criminal prosecution. All of this makes cheating on the part of poker dealers very rare.

Just as you are not likely to encounter a mechanic when you play in brick and mortar poker rooms, you are also not likely to see a stacked deck make it into play. The casinos themselves take proactive measures to prevent many different types of cheating. There are several layers of security, surveillance and deck handling procedures, which are designed to protect the integrity of the deck, and to prevent the introduction of stacked decks into play. In addition to this, new technology has reduced the dealers handling of the deck to a minimum. Many casinos use electronic shuffling machines called “Shufflemasters,” which only require the dealer to insert the deck into the shuffle machine, remove it, and immediately deal after the shuffling process is completed. This reduces the amount of time the dealer spends handling the deck, and closes the window on the potential for manipulation of the deck. While you can never be 100% protected from cheating when you play poker, you can be fairly sure you will not be cheated , at least by the dealer, when you play in a casino. Home games are a much more common venue for cheats. Still, in order to protect yourself, you should always be on the lookout for suspicious situations when you play, regardless of whether it is in a home game, brick and mortar casino, or online. If you never let your guard down, it is much harder to get burned by a cheat.

Usage: He Stacked The Deck, Stack The Deck, Stacked Deck In Play

See also: Cold Deck

Previous Poker Term: Stack
Next Poker Term: Stand Pat

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