Poker is a game where you’ll find exceptional players who can outplay their opponents using dominating strategies. But it’s also where you see players who will do anything, even if it means playing marginally within the rules. One such method is an angle shoot, which players use to gain the upper hand and win the game.
An angle shoot in poker refers to any action that a player does to mislead and gain an edge over their opponent. It’s similar to bluffing, but the shady execution of angle shoots makes it less impressive for players. Someone who does it plays within the grey area of what is acceptable in games.
There are many reasons why it’s unethical for a poker player to engage in an angle shoot. We’ll go through all of it in great detail and help you understand why it’s never a good idea to do so. Learning this can save you from the ire of everyone playing against you and protect your reputation from being labeled as an angle shooter.
Angle Shoot in a Glance
Most of the things you do at the table will be your opponent’s basis when they make their move. Trying to commit actions to bluff the other player is an entirely acceptable practice because it aims to create an impression that can manipulate the other player, forcing them to commit mistakes.
Bluffing is a practice that players do since the early days of poker, and there’s nothing wrong with it. In fact, players who successfully bluffed their opponents can even brag about it with the intent of tilting their opponent.
Although bragging can be irritable for some players, it’s still an acceptable practice that many players do when at the felt.
However, due to poker’s highly competitive nature, some players take ‘bluffing’ a step forward to commit legal but unethical practices. It’s what we refer to as an angle shoot. Professionals usually use it against inexperienced players who aren’t entirely aware of the rules of a tournament or the game they are in.
Angle shoot is a practice that doesn’t break any rules. In fact, in many cases, it even relies on strict enforcement of such. It’s using the regulations of the game to their advantage and manipulating other players to commit mistakes.
That’s why many professionals consider it as one of the most unethical techniques that a player can do when at the poker table.
A player who is known to be an angle shooter already has his reputation tainted. It’s a practice that organizers actively fight, usually by informing the other player about the past actions that an angle shooter has committed. Although it might work once or twice, it’s a technique that won’t be enough for anyone to win highly competitive games.
Best Examples of Angle Shooting
There are several examples of angle shoot, and most of these are within the grey area of what poker players can and can’t do while in a game. There are also two types of angle shoots that players commit while at the table: actions and words. In both types, an angle shooter intends to mislead his opponent without violating the game’s rules.
Here are the several examples of angle shoot:
Simplest Angle Shooting: Sneak Peak
When another player fails to cover his hole cards, an angle shooter can look at it to gain the upper hand. In poker rules, looking at the player’s cards without the other player’s consent is a massive violation. But that rule only applies when the player looked at his cards directly, not something that his peripheral vision caught. Simply put, angle shooting is an act of wading through loopholes to win the game.
This example is the simplest form of angle shooting. However, like many things in poker, the sophistication of angle shooting increases as the game becomes more competitive. Often, a professional would use his knowledge and experience in poker to take advantage of an inexperienced player.
Angle shooting isn’t easy to spot because they often mask it as a mistake that they committed, like accidentally seeing another player’s cards. Although he can get a warning for it, the advantage a player gains from knowing his opponent’s cards outweighs the risk.
Angle Shooting in Casual Games: Incomplete Call
Another form of an action-based angle shooting is what we call an “incomplete call.” In this technique, the player doesn’t say anything to clarify his move and only relies on the other player’s actions. It happens when an angle shooter pushes forward a stack of chips that isn’t enough for a call and proceeds without saying a word.
This action intends to mislead the other player to get to the showdown, and if the angle shooter has a better hand, he collects the pot. However, when the other player wins, the angle shooter claims to have accidentally pushed the chips forward but doesn’t really intend on calling the bet.
An incomplete call is so bad that it wouldn’t pass in professional games. However, it’s something that players do when they’re playing casual games.
The rules of casual games are too vague for an angle shooter’s incomplete call to stand. However, it relies on the enforcement of such to retract his bet and misdeal the hand. Since it doesn’t break any of the rules of a casual game, we can’t consider it as cheating. However, this practice is one of the fastest ways to lose other players’ respect toward you.
Professional Angle Shooting: Hidden Chips
One of the most common types of angle shooting in professional games is hiding your chips from the other players. This move isn’t allowed in any poker game. You need to have all of your chips, especially the bigger ones, visible to every player.
Those who hide their chips, intentionally or unintentionally, from other players can get a penalty for doing so, but that’s how far this rule goes. If a player keeps committing the same violation, the organizers can penalize him for it.
In many cases, hidden chips happen as a mistake; even live games players are prone to doing it. But if you’re wondering why players consider it as a form of angle shooting, it’s because when we make decisions, especially at the turn or river, we look at the stack of the other player. If we can’t see all of his chips, we may be making the wrong decisions that could affect the outcome.
When an angle shooter uses this technique, he relies on the enforcement of tournament rules that his opponent’s first move will stand, regardless of any discovery that he makes after the move. We can say that trying to hide your chips to gain the upper hand is playing marginally within the rules.
Alec Torelli is one of the most notorious players who may or may not have committed an angle shoot. Here’s a video where Doug Polk discusses everything that happened in the game:
As mentioned, angle shoot is playing by the rules but uses loopholes to gain the upper hand. Although it’s not as conclusive as other forms of angle shooting, it’ll give you an idea of what you should avoid whenever you’re playing poker.
We’ll let you decide whether the Torelli angle shoots another player. However, you should always keep in mind to have your chips visible to every player whenever you’re at the table.
Casual Games Angle Shoot: Announcement
There’s also the opposite of an action-based angle shoot, where the player uses words to mislead the other player. One of the best examples of this practice is to appear too carried away with the game that they announce their hands, truthfully or not, at the turn or river.
When a player joyfully declares something that an inexperienced player might interpret as a made hand, no one can penalize him. However, since a beginner may not have enough experience in playing poker, especially against these types of players, it can have a massive impact on his decision-making process.
Imagine this, you’re playing a casual game with another player, and he declares at the turn, joyfully: “that’s a flush!” or “straight,” which may or may not refer to the angle shooter’s hand. However, it can disrupt your strategy and even commit mistakes that you wouldn’t have done if he didn’t say anything as you reached the turn.
He could be referring to the community cards or anything, and there are no penalties for doing it at a casual game, but it has so much impact on the outcome. It’s a practice that players can only do when playing casual games because players get penalized for doing it in a professional game.
Notorious Angle Shoot: Wrong Move
When you’re playing in a professional game, your first action will always stand, even if it’s unintentional. If you move to raise, then suddenly steps back to a flat call, the organizers will enforce the rule and will force you to stand by your first move, which is to raise. It seems like an innocent mistake that anyone can do, but it misleads the other player into thinking that you have a weak hand and might call your raise.
That’s what happened at a PokerStars game between Eugene Yanayt and Ivan Freitez. Here’s the video to help you visualize how it can happen even in the final game:
Ivan Freitez won that tournament for €1,500,000, but it does very little for his career. In fact, if you searched for him, most of the results that you’ll see are the ire of spectators who watched him commit to angle shooting multiple times throughout the tournament.
Again, raising, then stepping back to flat call and say, “Sorry. No English” is understandable; it can happen to anyone. But when you commit the same mistake multiple times throughout the event that even the organizers, who shouldn’t be interfering with such blunders, stepped forward to warn the other players, you know something’s wrong.
It’s so bad that we can’t even say anything to defend him from the ones who are saying that he didn’t deserve the win.
Why Is Angle Shooting Unethical?
Angle shooters argue that this practice is just another form of bluffing, albeit a more sophisticated one. The reason is that the goal of bluffing and angle shooting is to mislead the other player and force him to commit mistakes. When done enough times, both can have a massive impact on the game’s outcome.
If bluffing is a practice that professionals even encourage when teaching poker, why would an angle shoot have a negative notion if the goal is the same, right? The answer lies in the execution of both techniques. When you’re bluffing, you’re trying to represent yourself at the table, and you let your opponent interpret your actions.
The decision solely depends on the player you’re trying to bluff. Pulling off a bluff simply means that you’ve represented yourself properly, and you’ve outplayed your opponent, fair and square. It also displays your skills as a poker player because pulling off a massive bluff takes intense focus, patience, and determination to win the pot.
When a player angle shoots his opponent, his goal is to stay within the rules and use “it’s a mistake” as an excuse for his actions when caught. Even so, it still forces the other player to commit mistakes that he wouldn’t have done if the angle shooter didn’t mislead or intentionally manipulated his actions.
Despite the similarities in both techniques’ goal, they’re different in many ways, particularly with how the other players at the table will see you. Sure, the organizers can’t penalize an angle shooter, which can also alter the outcome. However, it can escalate quickly, and the other players may look at you as the villain of the table.
When you’re playing poker, you should never try to do anything that can directly affect another player’s decisions. Bluffing is acceptable because you’re leaving the interpretation for your opponent, and you’re not pushing him to believe the representation you’re trying to make. Bluffing is a very different strategy that many players, even professionals, do regularly.
Making Mistakes vs. Angle Shooting
Angle shooting carries so much negativity that someone who angle shoots any player will always claim that they’ve committed a mistake.
In fact, most of the angle shoot techniques that we’ve shared with you rely on getting caught. Enforcement of game rules, despite an apparent blunder, is what makes this practice even worse.
For example, making the wrong move relies on getting caught and enforcing the rules that the player should stick by his first move. Raising then retracting to a flat call, despite having the nuts, can genuinely be a mistake, but the organizers must enforce the rule and force that player to keep his raise standing. On the other hand, his opponent already has the impression that his cards aren’t as strong, which can mislead him to call the bet.
It could’ve been a mistake, and no one is perfect. Calling anyone an angle shooter because of one incident is unfair. However, if the same player already has a pattern of wading through the game’s rules to gain the upper hand, it becomes unacceptable even for the other players.
Hidden chips can also be a mistake; anyone can do it, even at ultra-high stakes games. There’s nothing wrong with doing it once because no one’s perfect, and that player will also get penalized, keeping the balance. However, when a player commits this mistake and relies on the enforcement of rules to gain the upper hand, it becomes a very different story.
There’s no way for us to tell whether someone is trying to angle shoot another player, especially if it happens for the first time. That’s because the mere act of angle shooting relies on committing such mistakes and having the organizers step in to correct that mistake.
One of the best ways to avoid being labeled as an angle shooter is to familiarize yourself with the rules before you even participate in live cash games.
Aside from protecting yourself from being the angle shooter of the game, it also protects you from other players trying to use all means necessary to take your chips away from you. Remember, when you’re playing poker, it doesn’t matter how friendly they are because they only have one goal in mind: take you down and steal your chips.
Angle shooting and committing mistakes are impossible to detect when it happens for the first time, so always give the benefit of the doubt whenever you think someone is trying to angle shoot you. But never fall for the trap that they might be planning. It’s an important lesson that will save you chips, especially when you’re playing in tournaments.
An angle shoot is a shady practice that some players do in poker. They often disguise it as a mistake, but they intend to mislead the other player and gain the upper hand.
Knowing everything about angle shooting doesn’t only help you avoid committing the same mistakes, but it also saves you from doing things that may taint your reputation as a player. Remember, trying to mislead your opponents isn’t bad, but doing so while playing marginally within the rules is unethical.