What is ‘Steal’?
If a player is said to ‘steal’ a pot, they use the advantage of a late position to force further raises or calls. This is done with the hope of scaring others away from the pot and claiming it for themselves, despite holding a hand that is unlikely to win at the showdown. It is therefore a form of bluffing, and the phrase ‘steal’ can only apply once the hands are revealed and it is shown that the weak hand claimed the pot.
In poker, the easiest way to obtain the pot is to have an unbeatable hand, such as the royal flush. However, there are lots of opportunities in a game for any hand at the table – even the worst of the lot – to win that prize for themselves. If the strongest hand in the game is high but not unbeatable, there are plenty of opportunities for opponents to mislead about how their cards will play, and convince a player with a good hand to fold and concede.
One such method for attracting a series of folds is the ‘steal’ – a late position move in which the player acting last or close to puts in a sudden raise after a series of calls, forcing play to move back round and potentially getting additional calls out of the table (a move sometimes referred to as ‘steamrolling‘). A player might do this despite knowing that they probably have a beaten hand, as a form of bluff. If this move does as intended and causes the other players to fold rather than risk paying heavily into the pot, then the player can go on to claim it for themselves. If the whole play is successful, that player can be said to ‘steal’ the pot, or indeed to ‘steal’ the game.