What to do with a friend who slightly improves his chances in the card or board games we play, by, for example, picking another card while we don't look or turning the dice?

The games are played for fun, no money involved, but it kinda spoils the experience... we're still having fun, and we want this person to participate, but if possible, with less cheating.

How to let them know we don't appreciate their sleight of hand?

  • 10
    You might want to check out this question on the Board Game SE boardgames.stackexchange.com/questions/7183/…
    – aslum
    Commented Nov 8, 2017 at 15:43
  • 2
    Can you please explicitely state in the question whether this person is an adult? Commented Nov 10, 2017 at 13:23
  • Please do not answer in comments. If you have an answer to the question, kindly write it as an answer; use comments to request clarifications or suggest improvements to the post. Answers in comments will be deleted.
    – HDE 226868
    Commented Jan 3, 2018 at 14:47

10 Answers 10


Personally, I'm very bothered by a person who would cheat in a casual game. I would stop playing with them.

However, since you don't want to do that, try the following...

Make a house rule that cheating is allowed, but the penalty for being caught is costly.

For example, immediate disqualification from the current game and cheater must bring pizza for all to the next gaming session. Now either the cheating will stop, or you will occasionally get free pizza!

Backup from the comments:

I can vouch for this working. Friends and I stole the idea from an episode of Always Sunny. It honestly definitely reduces the instances of cheating. – Schrodinger'sStat

  • 69
    I would not use the word "cheating" in the house rule, as this allows a "Oh no, I wasn't cheating, honest mistake really". Instead, I would just word the rule as not following the rules lead to pizza; whether by inadvertence or intention. Commented Nov 8, 2017 at 16:01
  • 6
    @MatthieuM.: I agree that this could be a problem. Maybe the rule should be that a majority vote is required on whether the "mistake" is severe enough to warrant pizza.
    – James
    Commented Nov 8, 2017 at 16:31
  • 7
    I've used similar approaches to lateness to group games and the only problem it caused was ruining the game for the rest of us, because the group constantly had to enforce the same inconvenience on the same person every week. It creates a funky interpersonal dynamic when you and your pals have to constantly enforce your house rule on one person who simply won't change.
    – abavg
    Commented Nov 8, 2017 at 16:53

How to let them know we don't appreciate their sleight of hand?

You call them out.

I would recommend that you point it out, saying something like "Hey that wasn't a legal move, and if you keep it up I am not going to play with your any more" or some such response. Point it out when it happens.

I would not point this out after the fact as it will be much more difficult for you to prove. Typically someone who cheats knows it, and will deny it strongly if you call them out after the game has ended.

Eventually if they continue to cheat, stop playing with them.

If you cannot stop playing with them, I would continue to call them out each and every time. With enough peer pressure, perhaps the behavior will change.

Update: Your own excellent suggestion of cheating too, aggressively, could also be a clever way to get the point across. I will be stealing that as my idea in the future!


  • 7
    I'd also have a tendency to ask them if they were still a child, because "only a child cheats like that." It's a pitiful way to shame people, but it's also a pitiful way to win. Commented Nov 8, 2017 at 21:52
  • 5
    Re: "cheating too, aggressively" - there's a risk that this could just cause the game to descend into chaos as everyone loses respect for the rules, especially the original cheat.
    – komodosp
    Commented Nov 9, 2017 at 9:59
  • Upvoted. I had some cousins who used to do this. Apparently in their family growing up, cheating was considered part of the games. (This was a fundamentalist evangelical Christian family too. I used to assume the two were related, but that's probably unfair of me.) Still, I quit playing games with them, because it was no fun if I was going to get cheated every time. It would be wise to warn said person that not being invited to play anymore is the inevitable consequence of habitual cheating.
    – T.E.D.
    Commented Nov 10, 2017 at 13:24

Avoid giving him the satisfaction of winning when he cheats. When he has the highest score or is the first to meet the goals of the game, simply ignore that and proclaim the next person the winner. If he protests that he has the highest score, say, "Oh, but we have a rule that you can't win when you cheat." If his motivation is a drive to be the best and to win at all costs, this may (over time) remove that motivation.

  • 4
    I hazard a guess they will say "but I didn't cheat!", and it then becomes their word against OP. Unless the other players also witness it. Commented Nov 8, 2017 at 19:45
  • 4
    @stevesmith This is why it needs the group to act together. Sometimes you have to confront a "friend" and bit the bullet to do the right thing. Remember by punishing the cheat and rewarding the best non-cheater, you're not just discouraging cheating, you're encouraging good players. If you let it slide, then you punish the good and reward the bad. Commented Nov 9, 2017 at 8:17
  • 2
    Hey there! I know this is an old answer but we now require answers here to be backed up by personal experience or external sources. So, could you edit to tell us about a similar situation you were in the past? Who was involved, what did you say and how did the other person react?
    – Ael
    Commented Aug 23, 2019 at 13:16

Some people are just serial game cheaters. My dad is one of them. He is smart and good at board games, but if he can get away with it he will cheat. If he is caught, he will feign innocence and put things back the way they were. What does not work for my dad:

  • Calling him out - it solves the immediate cheat but doesn't stop future cheating
  • Clarity of the rules - he's a master of the rules and will use this to his advantage
  • Low expectations
  • Absence of extrinsic motivation - he gains nothing from cheating, sometimes it even spoils the atmosphere of the game playing

The suggestion of making it harder to cheat is a reasonable one, but that is impractical for some games.

Since your question was what to do with the friend and how to communicate with them, not how to stop the cheating, I am going to take a different approach with my answer.

If the occasional attempt at cheating bothers you too much, stop playing with them. However, it sounds like you do not want to do this. What works best with my dad is to call him out whenever you notice it, but otherwise not let it work you up that it may occur. In most games, in my experience, it is impossible for them to win by cheating every time.

Strategies about how to not let it work you up are a bit beyond the scope of the question, but what works best to me is to know who I'm playing with. If I'm playing with certain people, I don't expect to have a chance at winning--I just play to spend time with them. That applies not only to cheaters, but also when I'm playing with people who are well beyond my skill level at a certain game.


As you have tagged, the aim in any solution to this problem will be to avoid conflict, lest you leave any party upset. If you can proactively stop cheating rather than reactively punish it, you should be able to deal with the problem while keeping everyone happy. Some simple solutions include:

  1. Clearly state the rules before the game. Stressing what is considered cheating may be enough to discourage their insincere actions
  2. Lower expectations. Perhaps they have grown up in a household or family where boardgames are taken seriously (we all know the type!). Just because you and the rest of the players are playing for fun, they may be in the habit of feeling under a lot of pressure to win. Again, laying out the expectations before people start playing should help show their would be no shame in losing.
  3. Avoid extrinsic motivation. This is arguably a rehash of the above, but still worth bearing in mind. You may not be playing for money, but is there any other benefit from winning, besides pride? This could be why the friend wants to cheat.
  4. Make it harder to cheat. Playing games where it is more difficult to cheat, or removing the opportunities the cheater would normally use, should put a stop to their actions without directly calling them out for it.
  • 19
    I'd expect a household where boardgames are taken seriously to crack down even harder on cheaters.
    – Erik
    Commented Nov 8, 2017 at 14:13
  • 4
    @Erik - I had a cousin I caught cheating at Sorry once. I found out from other cousins later that their entire family was really into board games, and cheating was considered a big part of the game with them. A surprising amount of people seriously have the philosophy If you ain't cheating, you ain't trying. Despicable and immoral way to raise your kids, if you ask me, but they didn't.
    – T.E.D.
    Commented Nov 10, 2017 at 13:36

So, here goes

I cheat

So I thought you'd like my perspective: I cheat because I think it's fun, for me. I also only do it only in games of chance and to see if I can get away with it. The thing is that I am quite open about this to everyone I play with. I inform them that I'm pretty good at stacking card decks in my favor when shuffling and when I want, dice aren't exactly fair. People still play with me and have fun, here's why:

Cheating can help every game of chance

I tend to keep track of the rolled dice and drawn cards and I'll only cheat to make the game "more fair". If someone is having a horrible dice streak, I'll suddenly also be rolling worse. If someone really needs to score or fall too far behind in a card game, he or she will suddenly have a godlike hand. This way games with my friends have way less discussion about people only winning because they were 'lucky'. As such I'd implore you to check if you always mind cheating.

How people around me take it into account

When people around me want to play the game as intended, without any cheating, they're upfront about it. They tell me "We know you can do it, but we would prefer if you didn't for this game". At that point it's up to me to decide whether I'll join or not. I prefer games that rely less on chance (part of the reason I started to learn how to cheat), so many times, I simply won't join then, however, at that point all responsibility has been shifted towards me. If I'd dare to cheat after that, the moral tax put onto me is way heavier, because they trusted me and informed me about their expectation explicitly.

  • Good to see some positivity coming out of 'cheating'. Using it to help others! +1.
    – Tim
    Commented Nov 11, 2017 at 8:13
  • 1
    My grandmother does this and it drives everyone up the wall. We barely tolerate it, mostly because we had to play with her so infrequently. It's a bit silly considering cards are a game of chance as much as they are a game of skill, but there is a very real feeling around the table that we don't appreciate the metagame she's playing. Essentially, playing dolls is fine - but it's not what we signed up for when we sat down to play cards, and we certainly don't want to be the dolls!
    – Morgen
    Commented Nov 11, 2017 at 15:31

Similar to James' answer, but slightly different. Attempting to force someone to spend their own money could cause other interpersonal issues. As opposed to an out of game punishment, incorporate the cheating and the punishment into the game itself.

For example, we used to play Spades all the time when I was in the Army, there was a decent percentage of people who acted like your friend. "If you ain't cheating, you ain't trying" and "It ain't cheating if you don't get caught" were frequently heard. Rather than resort to fighting, we simply incorporated that into the game. If you didn't follow suit and nobody caught you, well, good for you. If you were caught, you would automatically lose your bid for that hand and your opponents would automatically make theirs. Some people would go so far as to say you had to point to the exact trick where they reneged.

As a side benefit to this, watching so closely made me a much better Spades players.


An alternative solution to what has already been said is to cheat.
Whatever may be your moral or social concern about doing this, cheating is fine as long as everyone in the game agrees to do so (by words or actions).

From there you can deploy two strategies :
- Cheating specificaly against the cheater until he gives up (changing him).
- Consider cheating as a fun additionnal rule (changing you).

Once your choice is done, convince your friends to try your solution, at least for the time of an experiment.

If conflicts happens when a player is caught, mimic your target cheater way of dealing the situation for the first strategy, or define fun penalities (not costly ones !) before the game on the second case.

The expected results are either :
- The cheater gives up and accept to stop cheating when playing in this group
- Everyone has fun cheating.
- A conflict happens, grows out of control, the cheater leaves the game.
- Playing with cheats is less fun for everyone, you are almost back at your starting point.

  • +1. Cheating certainly can make games more fun if everyone agrees to do so. There are even games entirely designed around that concept. If you play just for the fun, why not make it a bit more interesting instead of fixating on the fact that people cheat :)
    – user6027
    Commented Nov 8, 2017 at 23:31
  • @Paul What are some games designed around cheating? Is it weird/unconventional rules, or "real" cheating like sleight of hand stealing cards & faking/turning dice?
    – Xen2050
    Commented Nov 9, 2017 at 1:42
  • +1 for offering an alternative to all the whining about cheating. Seriously, cheating in a game with friends, as long as it doesn't ruin the fun, isn't even worth mentioning. Some of the other answers here are almost scary, stating some seriously crazy stuff. After reading them it looks like cheating means your are some sort of sociopath, but only if you do it in casual games, so cheating is OK if done in a more official context?!
    – r41n
    Commented Nov 10, 2017 at 8:33
  • 1
    @Xen2050 I know those games as drinking-games, so I guess you won't have heard of any of those. But finding games that have "cheating" as a sort of rule shouldn't be too hard. Even poker is basically more often than not lying about your hand, though it's in the rules here.
    – user6027
    Commented Nov 13, 2017 at 14:55
  • 1
    We implemented a similar feature into Monopoly. We made the banker an actual player, and made bank heists a feature - you can only pull it off if the banker doesn't notice you stealing (e.g. one player distracts the banker while the other loots the box). The banker was given executive power when catching thieves, foreclosing their houses or claiming their rent for the next few people that landed on their spaces. AS much I get get upset about cheating, I have to admit it was actually fun to play when everyone agreed on the added rules.
    – Flater
    Commented Dec 14, 2018 at 7:30

This behaviour often happens when a player is way more acquainted with video games than table games. You see, in video games, everything you can do is a fair game. If you can, say, lock an enemy in perpetual "skip your turn", it is a mistake of game developers, not your misbehaviour ( despite said developers blaming it on you).

With board games, you can physically do a lot of things, while rules descibe what you can, (and some of those are rather vague). Anyway, that player just thinks that cheating is a part of the game. He thinks everyone can do it, it is part of the fun, and if he is not caught in act, it is a fair win. That player thinks everyone cheats that way, or at least can cheat, and it is not not his problem if others don't.

So start with stating clearly and plainly that snatching extra card is just not cool in your group. Because in some, it is.


@James' answer is brilliant, but further thoughts come to mind.

You are quite possibly playing games which aren't suitable to the entire group.

However, people cheat for different reasons. Sometimes those reasons can be addressed without addressing the cheating.

Games are played for fun

If there's going to be an emotional argument about whether or not the cheating took place, then the 'fun' of game-playing is going to evaporate completely. Far better to enjoy what you can of the game, despite the cheat. If the cheat is fully engaged, the chances are they will stop cheating once they feel they have a chance.

Find games that they don't want to cheat at. There are tens of thousands of games available at any given time..

Although games are (mostly) competitive, gaming is collaborative

It's imperative to choose games that everyone wants to play and that everyone feels they have a good chance of winning at without cheating - this doesn't mean that you believe they have a good chance at winning - they have to believe it themselves, without coercion.

Innocence, Inexperience, Coercion are often factors for cheating. If someone doesn't really want (or doesn't feel able) to play, there's not much point expecting them to follow the rules. If someone doesn't know the rules, or feels unable to meet the current skillset of the other players, they are more prone to cheat.

Likewise, and importantly, cheats tend to be those who need to win, whereas most of us are satisfied by our need to play.

Games like Once Upon A Time and (of course the entire RPG genre such as D&D) have abstracted winning (almost) completely away such that there's nothing to win - there is just the play.

Some games aren't easy to cheat at

Some games, like Monkey Madness, Gulo Gulo, Carcassonne, Coloretto, Kahuna, Taluva, Zendo, (to a degree, Fluxx) are great for playing with cheats because there's nothing to cheat at. (well, with Carcassonne, make sure the cheat isn't operating the scoring track!!)

Many games are collaborative

Play collaborative games with your cheat. There are many fun games available, such as Hanabi, Pandemic, Lord Of The Rings, Unlock, Magic Maze, Mysterium etc. Many of the more recent ones prevent player domination also.