Cheating in Online Poker

Cheating in Online Poker

While online poker is considered as being very safe and secure, some cheating also happens in the online gambling industry. Read on to learn more about the five most common ways of cheating in online poker.

Five ways to cheat in online poker

  • Multi-Accounting
  • Poker Bots
  • Ghosting
  • Collusion
  • Access to hole cards (superuser account)

Multi-Accounting

Multi-accounting means that a player has several real money accounts at a single poker room. Online Poker rooms forbid players to open more than one real money account per person at their poker site. The main reason for this ban are their poker first deposit bonus offerings. By forbidding multi-accounting, they prevent bonus fraud. However, this is only a problem for the poker room, and not directly for the other players.

But the big problem arises when multi-accounting players are using two or more accounts to play poker at the same cash game table or at the same tournament.  Such a player has an unfair advantage because in cash games he can see four and not only two hole cards. In addition to this, in tournaments like SNGs he practically has “two lives” in a single tournament.

Multi-accounting is a clear case of fraud, and a player who gets caught will be suspended and his bankroll will be retained.

The poker rooms have – even in their own interests (first deposit bonus) – taken comprehensive measures to prevent multi-accounting. To cash out, for example, players have to upload a copy of their ID first. Furthermore, many rooms have a security feature, preventing the same IP address to register for the same tournament more than once. In addition to this, other players might detect this form of cheating as well, and report the cheater to the poker room. However, multi-accounting is theoretically always possible – at least until the player in question has been caught.

Poker Bots

Poker bots are computer programs that play poker online. One of the most popular bots is the program Polaris from the University of Alberta in Canada. This bot was able to win the majority of heads-up fixed limit Texas Hold’em cash games against poker professionals. To exclude random effects, the poker pro’s and the computer bot played “duplicate match” games of 500 hands. This means that both the computer player and the pro’s had the same hands when playing against each other.

Even if poker is, in contrast to a game like chess, a game with limited information, the ROI and profits are still strongly determined by the mathematical skills of the players. Heads-Up Fixed Limit Hold’em is definitely one of the variants that can best be “solved” in a mathematical way. On the other hand, with computing power and programming skills permanently improving, it is almost for sure a fact that similar to chess, computer bots will be even able to beat very strong opponents in No Limit Texas Hold’em in the future.

Currently, it must be assumed that poker bots are in use. But these poker bots are rather playing on the lowest limits, because there the level of play of the opponents is bad and the human opponents are therefore easier to be beaten. Also tournament poker players (and in particular Sit and Go Double or Nothing) cannot rule out for sure that all opponents at their tournament table are human. Especially the middle and late phases of these six-and ten-man tournaments are strongly influenced by the mathematical skills of the players. Once you have less than 10 to 15 big blinds, players (or bots!) have to make only one decision: should they fold before the flop or push all-in? This push-or-fold mechanism can be programmed relatively easy. The poker bot must take into account only the chip stacks of the players at the table, the size of the blinds, the position and the two hole cards. With the Independent Chip Model ICM he can convert the chip equities into dollar equities and determine – based on an assumption on the calling and pushing ranges of the opponents, the optimal strategy (push all-in or fold).

In addition to this, a computer bot has no emotions. And as you probably know: tilt and the desire for “revenge” are large leaks of many human players – another advantage for the poker bot.

A poker bot that became known to the public because it got caught was “DeepComputer”, a computer program multitabling a turbo SNG variation at Full Tilt Poker where players started with only 300 chips. Surprisingly, the bot did not get caught because of the insane number of tournaments it played each day. It got caught because its programmers became too greedy and opened a second account with a copy of the bot: they got caught because of multi-accounting.

Poker rooms have no direct financial interest in catching poker bots. Also bots eventually also generate rake. However, the confidence into the poker room disappears if a bot gets caught and this security problem gets known to the public. Therefore, poker rooms are using a set of different mechanisms to detect bots. These mechanisms are not published publicly for obvious reasons. However, some of the protective measures probably include:

  • Examine whether certain programs are running in the background (e.g. the WinHoldem poker bot framework)
  • Taking screenshots, a very effective measure also used in video gamese
  • Measurement of mouse movements (are they natural?)
  • Measurement of the reaction time of a player

Another measure that for example Party Poker has implemented is using a pop-up window where the player has to type in a certain sequence of letters within 120 seconds in order not be put on “sit-out” on all of his tables. This poker bot check is probably shown only to multiplayers.

In addition, the poker rooms prohibit the use of certain programs while playing poker, such as programs which make decisions for the human players or which make them suggestions on how to play a hand in real-time. For example, the use of programs that makes push or fold recommendations based on the Independent Chip Model is prohibited.

Ghosting

Ghosting is giving advice from one poker player to another player during the poker game or tournament. While this is prohibited in live tournaments, it can be very difficult to enforce this in online tournaments. Ghosting can happen when a friend sits next to the poker player and plays the tournament with him. Ghosting at poker happens more often online with the help of free tools such such as Skype or Teamviewer. With Teamviewer and since recently also directly with Skype, it is possible to transmit real-time pictures of one computer screen (displaying the poker table with the hole cards) to another computer screen (where the “ghost” or coach is sitting).

A coached player has the advantage that he can discuss difficult situations with his “ghost” before taking the decision. In addition, having a live coach reduces the risk of tilt significantly.

Ghosting is mainly used in the late phase of online poker tournaments with a high prize pools. It is quite usual that players were lucky and made it into the money or even to the final table. In this case, a coach can help them win thousands of dollars.

Although this is probably the most common cheating method in online poker, the harm made to opponents by ghosting is relatively limited, as a player has, besides the “second opinion”, no further unfair advantage over the other players.

Collusion

Collusion refers to the cooperative play between two or more players at the poker table. Collusion can mean that two players are spearing each other, are submitting themselves the value of their hole cards or are even intentionally cooperating to win the money of an opponent. Collusion is a clear case of fraud. This kind of cheating is prohibited by the poker rooms in their terms and conditions.

Such a form of interaction can be time-consuming and it is difficult multitable and collude profitably at the same time. Collusion therefore makes mainly sense at the higher limits, where a small edge can lead to a large financial benefit. Online poker players can share their hole cards and intended ways of playing the current hand with telephone, cell phone, Skype or other messenger programs.

A milder form of collusion is implicit collusion. This happens between experienced players at the bubble of a tournament. If a small stack goes all-in, it can make sense for the large stacks to call his bet and to check the flop, turn and river. By sparing each other, they maximize the probability that at least one of them has a stronger hand than the small stack, thus eliminating him from the tournament and getting them all into the money. This collaboration by checking-down a hand is allowed as long as it is agreed on implicitly (and not directly, e.g. in the chat).

Viewing Hole Cards

A player who sees the hole cards of his opponents can win every hand (or avoid losing money when his hand is inferior). Online poker rooms are only sending the information the information about the hole cards to the one player. The information on the hole cards of the opponents is stored centrally on the poker server. It’s therefore almost impossible to grab the data to the hole cards of all opponents at the table. However, there was a huge scandal in 2007 at the poker room “Absolute Poker”: An employee was in possession of a “super-user account”. He was able to see the hole cards of all opponents at the table. He was eventually caught when a player who became second in a tournament suspected that he was cheated. When he requested the hand history, Absolute Poker unintentionally sent him the complete hand history of all players at the tournament. A specialist then analyzed the hand history file and found out that the winner of the tournament played saw the flop with all his hole cards after the first round, and that he folded before the showdown every time he was behind.

Since then there hasn’t been another such scandal.

We are confident that the poker rooms tested and reviewed on our poker strategy site here on TournamentTerminator are serious online poker sites, offering a very high level of security and making manipulation of the games almost impossible. Check this poker bonus code list out now and grab yourself an exclusive real money bonus!



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