The protect your cards debate

If you don’t do a good job of stopping others from seeing your cards, does that make it fair game for others to try and look at them?

SkillsRocks and Barry Wallace

The story of last week was no doubt the poker player caught trying to look at his opponent’s cards on a live stream of all things. It’s rare something can unite the poker world but a cheater usually can.

A player called ‘SkillsRocks’ was subsequently banned by the Hustler Casino after poker fans started to point out when he was trying to look at his opponent’s cards, as well as what looked like a clear case of collusion.

There was a small minority of players, however, who felt that the victim in the hand, Barry Wallace, was at partial fault because he did a poor job of protecting his cards. The man himself even said the same thing the following day on the live stream:

Indeed, in most casinos around the world this is written into the law, the player must protect their cards at all times. This also includes making sure the dealer doesn’t muck your cards in error, hence the invention of card protectors. There has never been a successful prosecution of a cheater in court for looking at another player’s cards for this reason.

So was Wallace at partial fault in this case?

Cheating is still cheating

The short answer is yes, a player should always protect their cards for this reason. You will never be able to control the actions of nefarious parties but you can control how easily they can manipulate you. Just like we should all lock our doors when we leave the house, there is some level of personal responsibility involved in these things.

The longer answer is, no, of course not. Another person trying to look at an opponent’s cards is perhaps the most flagrant example of cheating possible in a game of imperfect information like poker. Making it easier for them does not in any way make it more excusable. 

There was a particularly silly branch-off discussion with this story about people who seemingly cannot look at their cards without exposing them. Some people felt that, if after several warnings to protect their cards, it was OK to use the information and no longer inform that person because it was their own fault after that. That is the same line of argumentation that it is OK to rob a person’s house if they continue to leave their door open.

Always speak up 

Protect your cards

It’s not always easy to actually tell people when they don’t protect their cards. A real pet peeve of mine in live poker is when these players do not realise you are looking out for their best interests. Many times in live poker I have told a player I just saw their cards and, rather than acknowledge their error or thank me for pointing it out, they get offended and told me to stop looking at them, seemingly oblivious to the fact that I would not be telling them if I had a cunning plan to look at their cards to my advantage.

If you find yourself constantly telling somebody to protect their cards and they don’t listen, the appropriate response is not to then use the exposed cards to your advantage. If anything, call the floor over to tell them of the situation and get them to tell the player to protect that cards better. 

Pet peeves aside, purposely looking at a player’s cards is second only to collusion as far as cheating in live poker goes. We might not be able to prosecute it but the Hustler Casino did the next best thing by banning the player from their games immediately.

It’s much more important that we spend our energy policing deliberate attempts to break the rules than we do victim blaming those people are abiding by the rules who could be more careful.

If a player continually exposes their cards, are they at fault if somebody uses that information against them? Let us know in the comments:

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