Hey all! I'm here to submit one last article for the Holiday Contest here at ARG. Instead of talking about a card or deck to consider, I want to take a look at an unfortunate reality of most card games - cheating. In my eleven or so years of playing this game, I have come across many dirty players, and have also had friends explain to me ways that they have been cheated. Cheating can occur before your match starts, while your match is going on, in between games, and sometimes even after your match has concluded. So, let's get to it!
The kinds of cheats that happen before your game starts are all related to shuffling:
1. The Wandering Eye/Fan Shuffle: This cheat irks me the most. It is a huge, glaringly obvious way that a lot of players try to get the upper hand. For those of you that don't know exactly what I'm referring to, let me explain. When your opponent is shuffling your deck, he or she will sometimes fan the cards as they "Faro" shuffle (taking two piles and weaving them together). When the cards are puffed out in this way, the opponent can take a quick glance at some of the cards you are running. This will give your opponent the obvious edge of knowing what you're playing if they see a key card (Master Hyperion, Grapha, Lonefiire Blossom, Inzektor Hornet). The way to avoid being cheated in this way is to not be shy! Call your opponent out when you see this, and ask that they shuffle with the deck face down. Frazier Smith touched on this in his Pre-YCS rituals article. The Wandering Eye/Fan Shuffle can also lead to the next kind of fraudulent move.
2. Stacking: I think most of you have probably heard of stacking. It occurs when a player intentionally places cards in a certain spot of the deck while pretending to be shuffling in a random manner. Stacking usually occurs in an external way, meaning your opponent will try to stack your deck instead of his or her own. This is because you will have the last opportunity to get your opponent's deck before play begins or continues. Be weary of the Wandering Eye as your opponent shuffles your deck. The two things you should do to avoid being the victim of stacking are always self-cut after your opponent shuffles (your opponent will then have the opportunity to cut your deck one more time - only picking up one pile and places the bottom pile on top); and keep an eye on your opponent's eye. Don't let him or her look down at your cards as they shuffle. Either request they maintain eye contact (a bit awkward) or look the opposite way/towards the ceiling as they shuffle. As a precaution, you should also ALWAYS opt to shuffle/cut your opponent's deck just in case they are trying to stack their own deck.
3. The 8/5 Shuffle: I will admit, when I first learned about this form of cheating, I was impressed. It was one of the only tricks that involved math. The 8/5 shuffle and its variants (I'll explain shortly) refer to when your opponent pile shuffles their own deck two times. The first time is in 8 piles of 5 cards. The second time is 5 piles of 8 cards. This may not be glaringly obvious, but what your opponent is doing is reversing his initial pile shuffle with his second pile shuffle. By picking up the 8 piles in a certain order, and distributing them in a certain order for the piles of 8, the deck reverts to the EXACT SAME order as it was before your opponent began shuffling. The 8/5 shuffle only works for 40 card decks (as 8 and 5 both divide evenly into 40), but variants will work for different sized decks as long as two proper divisors are picked. For example, a 42 card deck could do a 6/7 shuffle and achieve the same thing. The way to avoid this is simple - shuffle your opponent's deck thoroughly! As a side note, never, EVER, opt out of cutting your opponent's deck (what is commonly referred to as "tapping" the deck). If you telegraph to your opponent that you plan to never cut his or her deck during the duel, that opponent may just take the opportunity to cheat you if they are falling behind in the game.
4. The Espa Roba: For those of you that watched the original Yu-Gi-Oh! television series, you probably already know where I'm going with this. For those unfamiliar, let me briefly explain. Espa Roba was a character in the show whose shtick was that, as a psychic, he could read every card his opponent had in hand. Espa Roba was eventually exposed as a fraud whose friends would look at the opponent's hand through binoculars and relay the information back to Roba. In our real life tournament scene, this can be seen by players who stand behind someone they don't know as that person plays in a match. These people will see the person's hand, and will somehow relay the information to the opponent (a friend of said players) through code words or signals. You can avoid having this happen to you by being aware of who is around you. If you see people standing directly behind you, politely ask them to move somewhere else. Again, don't be shy!
5. Marked Cards: This one is also pretty well known. Sometimes players will intentionally put a small bend or ding on their card/card sleeves in order to ascertain when that card is on top of the deck. This can lead to stacking or unconventional plays (because the upcoming card will change the game state). Sometimes cards will be bent so they stick out when you look at the deck from the side. This will allow players to play accordingly (maybe play effect veiler on a non-threat because BLS is the next card). The way to avoid this is to pile shuffle your opponent's deck at the beginning of the game and examine each card sleeve. If any sleeves look marked, you can ask them to replace the sleeve. They should be obligated to switch out the sleeve so long as you don't request this of every single card in the deck (or an overwhelming amount of them).
6. Quickdraw: Sometimes your opponent will try to draw an extra card from his or her deck when you're not paying attention. He or she may even be so bold as to try and open with seven cards instead of six. Additionally, your opponent may try to quickly add a card from the graveyard back to his or her hand. What you need to do to evade this cheat is keep a count. Constantly keep track of how many cards are in your opponent's hand, and how many cards are in his graveyard. The sum of these two (plus any cards that are on field or removed from play) minus five (termed the net count) should equal the number of turns your opponent has had. If for some reason the net count is greater than the turn count, your opponent has likely cheated. Naturally, you should be aware of cards that increase the count (sangan, pot of duality, card trooper) and adjust accordingly.
7. Extra Room: In a nutshell, this is when your opponent is running more cards in his or her side deck than is allowed. Always ask your opponent to count his or her side deck both before they begin siding and again once he or she has finished. (also be sure to make sure your opponent's deck is at least 40 cards).
There are only two cheats that I have come across and think you should be aware of that happen after the match has finished.
8. Snatch/Steal: If your opponent played a card like reborn, e-con, mind control, or leviair, he or she may have opted to take one of your cards. Once that card is destroyed, it may end up in your opponent's graveyard instead of yours. This sometimes happens by accident, but can also occur intentionally if your opponent is trying to steal your card. After the game is over, your opponent may quickly put his deck away or pretend to side deck and put your card into his deck box. After each game, try to recall if any of your cards ended up on your opponent's side of the field. Make sure you get your cards back! It would be a shame to be down $150 because you forgot your Tour Guide was resurrected with a reborn at the beginning of the game.
9. The Miscount: I rarely see this happen, but sometimes an opponent may claim you've played more or fewer games than is actually the case. This may be to either force another game or grant your opponent a free win (by saying you're going to game 3 instead of 2; this would make the score 1-1 instead of 1-0 in your favor). The way to avoid this is to keep track of each game after it has finished. On the back of the match slip, mark down the game count after each game. This way there will be no conflict (hopefully) once the match is over. Also be sure to keep track of life points on paper. This will minimize the chance of there being a discrepancy over life points. If you have the individual amounts of damage shown on paper, you can easily track where damage came from.
I hope these help you all on your dueling careers. Remember, always be alert of the game state and what your opponent is doing - don't be shy to state your concerns!
Also, if I missed any other ways people cheat (I probably did), then be sure to include them below with your comments.
Thanks for reading!