What is ‘Ratholing’?
‘Ratholing’ is a casino phrase which describes illegally removing chips or cash from play while the game is still active, for example after a win but while the game is ongoing. It refers to when there is a requirement for chips and cash in play to remain so for the duration – such as when a buy-in is enforced or when the game has a no-limit rule applied.
If a player in a poker game is accused of ‘ratholing’, they are suspected of or known to be removing chips from the table. This is a serious breach of poker etiquette at best and a form of illegal cheating at worst. When a player enters a poker game, they are expected to stay for the duration – a set number of rounds, or until all players are eliminated, for example. While many casino tables allow players to walk away when they choose, competitive and high stakes games have strict rules which must be followed.
Poker has natural fluctuations throughout play – a player might find themselves with a very short stack, but a big win could put them back in the lead. A player who has recently suffered a loss is at a big disadvantage when ratholing occurs – they cannot win back those chips if they are removed from the game. It is common practice that cash or chips on the table are part of the game and are not to be removed until that player leaves the game or until the game ends some other way. Many online casino sites and card rooms will make a player buy-in for the full amount if they leave a no-limit game and take chips with them before trying to return, and almost all no-limit games enforce strict rules about leaving chips in play.