In May, we shared the rules of Cash, also known as Kemps or Kent. Now, we’re going to take a deeper look at the signals used in the game, where the majority of the game’s opportunities for strategy are found. The most important rule in choosing a signal is to choose something that works for your partnership! Not all players notice or react well to the same same thing, so get to know your partner and learn what works and what doesn’t.
Keep in mind that part of a successful Cash game is fooling your opponents. Turn the pitfalls mentioned here around on your opponents—watch them to see if they are committing these errors, or commit them yourself with a phony signal to trick your opponent into calling “Counter cash!”
Verbal signals (a spoken word used as a signal) are the easiest to successfully communicate and are therefore also the easiest for your opponents to detect. Most of the time, you will be able to use a verbal signal only once. For this reason, it can be pretty much anything, because even if it’s something that you would obviously never say unless it was a signal, like “shark putty”, all you have to do is call “Cash!” before your opponents can call “Counter cash!” and you’re good.
But if you do want to reuse a verbal signal, you can attempt to camouflage it. You can use a single word and bury it within a longer sentence, for instance. Make sure it’s a word that is common enough that it won’t stick out like a sore thumb, but not so common that you will say it on accident. It should also be something that doesn’t force an awkward change in subject—you don’t want to be talking about your grandmother’s cookies, then suddenly bring up Breaking Bad because that’s your signal word. Something that can help camouflage a signal is deliberately waiting for a few moments before calling “Cash”, in the hopes of keeping your opponents from associating the signal with you winning.
There is some merit in pretending an already-used signal is your code word, when in reality you have since changed your signal. The reason for this, of course, is to trick your opponents into losing by calling a bogus “Counter cash!” If that’s what you’re trying to do, re-read that last paragraph, and do everything it tells you not to!
With non-verbal signals, many of the same rules apply. You will want something natural enough that your opponents will not notice, but conspicuous enough that your opponent will. Practically anything will do—taking a drink, fanning your cards out wider or narrower than usual, fiddling with your watch, slowly swaying your chair side to side. Just don’t pick anything like scratching your head or rubbing your eye—you are guaranteed to get a sudden itch in that spot when the hand starts!
One thing to watch out for is that you don’t fixate on wherever your partner’s signal will be coming from. If your partner will signal by adjusting their glasses, don’t stare at their glasses! Your opponents may notice and start staring too, and will call “Counter cash” whenever they notice anything amiss.
And remember, just because non-verbal signals have a higher shelf-life, it doesn’t mean they have an indefinite shelf life. You should still probably use the same signals for no more than three hands. Your opponents are bound to catch on eventually.