Monday, December 10, 2007

How Should Online Poker Sites Punish First-Time Cheaters?

With all the recent scandals and the dozens more going on that haven't yet made the news, this has become a very interesting question. And since there is no FBI or Scotland Yard exactly breaking down doors to arrest online cheaters, it really is up to the poker rooms to determine the punishment for those caught. As an-ex cheater myself, you might think I would naturally lean toward leniency, after all, while plying my trade in the world's casinos for two and a half decades, I always hoped that the gaming authorities would handle me "with care" had they ever nabbed me. Well, you're kind of right if you think that. I do think that online poker sites should treat cheaters in a similar fashion to how criminals are cheated in most of the western world's criminal justice systems, that's to say inasmuch as the severity of the offense and the recidivism factors are concerned. (Shit! In the Asian World they might cut the keys of your keyboard!) If we're talking about simple collusion scams with cheaters whispering each other their hole cards via Instant Messenger, I don't think they should be barred from a poker site for life. Even if the infraction is for employing those nefarious bots, I think a second or maybe even a third chance at redemption should be given (if there is such a thing as online poker redemption). But when the offense is as offensive as viewing other players' hole cards via hacking or insider assistance, then I think it's time to bring out the ONLINE GUILLOTINE! I mean, come on, that's like breaking open a toilet stall door and robbing a guy who's not only defenseless but more than likely at least half naked! So for all these creeps involved in the Absolute Poker Scandal, throw away their computer keys! Let them try to find another way to hack their way out of online poker prison! But for that less harmful pair who pulled that fast switch on Full Tilt Poker, let's cut them a little slack and let them wiggle their way out of the line of online poker fire.

Well, that's my opinion. Here is what someone else had to say:

The entire Sorel Mizzi situation recently has sparked an interesting debate online: was his punishment too excessive? He clearly broke the rules, as did Chris "BluffMagCV" Vaughn, but do both players deserve to be banned for life from Full Tilt Poker?

"JJProdigy" cheated. Justin "Zeejustin" Bonomo cheated. Sorel "Imper1um" Mizzi cheated. They were all banned from at least one of the major online poker sites. "JJProdigy" and "Zeejustin" were caught multi-accounting. "Imper1um" was guilty of buying an account of another player late in a tournament from which he had already been eliminated.

All of them were caught and banned for life from the sites that they cheated on. All lost significant sums of money. All of them were publicly ridiculed.

And all of the players were no older than 21 years old when they were caught and banned.

You have one side of the argument that says that these guys are all of above average intelligence, and knew exactly what they were doing. They knew that it was wrong, and they knew that they were cheating their fellow player. They deserve to be banned for life, and by banning them from life and seizing their funds, you are deterring any other would-be cheaters. A zero-tolerance policy is the best way to police the sites and keep the game as clean as possible. That is one side of the argument.

The other side says that everyone makes mistakes, especially people that are barely out of high school. They say that these players lose tremendous sums of money when they are caught and also lose the respect of the poker community. They are ostracized and ridiculed. They say that most kids make mistakes when they are young, and that a lifetime banning for a first offense is excessive. If you are caught driving drunk, or even murder someone, you are given a second chance by society most of the time, so why shouldn't you be given a second chance by an online poker room?

What do you think? If you are found guilty of multi-accounting or purchasing an account late in a tournament, should you be banned for life? Or do you favor a system that severely penalizes a person for a first known offense, and then bans them if they become a repeat offender?

Do you ban a first offender for life? Or do you feel that punishing someone say, ten years after the fact, is a bit excessive? If Sorel Mizzi still can't play on Full Tilt Poker when he is 41 years old, 20 years after the fact, do you feel that this is fair or unfair?