“This poker software is rigged!”
If I had a nickel for every time any player has typed that sentiment into a chat window, I could afford to buy Full Tilt (not that I would). Too many players put the blame on outside forces, be it “rigged” software or crooked opponents, for their bad play.
However, that does not mean that online poker
cheating doesn’t exist. The scandals at Absolute Poker and Ultimate Bet prove that, wherever someone stands to make a tremendous amount of quick cash, some of those “someones” will resort to unscrupulous tactics to get their hands on that cash.Do online poker sites “rig” hands?
In short, no. In more detail, most online poker sites, like casinos, make so much money off their games (in both rake and tournament fees) that they have little to no incentive to stir up the action in a hand just to make a few more bucks. The bad press and lost business that such a scandal would create would not be worth the marginal amount of extra profit. How do online poker players cheat?
The players are another story. Online poker players, especially at high-stakes cash games, will use a wide range of tactics to take down big pots and leave confused, angry and frustrated players in their wake.Backdoors
Rather than use technologically intensive software hacks to anticipate the system’s random number generator, the most notable online poker cheating scandals use open “backdoors” in the software to peek at an opponent’s hole cards. These entries are often the result of either poor security design or an “inside job” at the software development stage. Cheaters can use codes reserved for system administrators to see an opponent’s hole cards and make their decisions accordingly.Bots
Automated poker software agents (also called “robots” or “bots) simulate the behavior of a real player. A cheater can set up a bot to play according to particular statistical tendencies. The bot plays each hand unattended while the flesh-and-blood player does other things. Players can play for hours against a bot and never know the difference; some bots can even be programmed to enter basic chat window messages like “nice hand” and “good bet”.Collusion
The most common form of online poker cheating (and the one requiring the least technological knowledge) is collusion. Players will often work together by sharing hole card information, raising and re-raising pots (also known as “whipsawing”) and even playing in the same room together. The colluders will frequently run over the other players at the table and split the profits.How do cheaters get caught?
The most telling clue in whether or not a player is cheating is his variance, or how much he wins or loses over the course of several sessions. Every player, no matter how skilled, will have some ups and downs in his play. If the player’s profits stay at a high level, with very little to no losses, then that can be a strong sign of unethical play. Conclusion
Although some players may stoop to cheating to win at the virtual tables, the problem is often less prevalent than news reports would have you believe. Most players, especially low-limit players, play at these sites for fun, prizes and a few extra dollars, and a hot streak or a lucky card is not a sure sign of a cheater at the tables.
As with most gambling activities, players should be careful and not bet any more than they can afford to lose. Most cheaters find that, in the long run, they lose much more in life than they win at the tables.