Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Poker Cheating Online According to Newell

Jennifer Newell, a well known writer on various poker subjects has written this thoughtful article on her views of what's current in online poker cheating. Although I think it is quite informative, she does leave out many major forms of online poker cheating, such as collusion, bot play and possible hacking, probably because they have not made headlines recently. I do agree with her positive assessment of PokerStars. Here's her article; see what you think.

FOR THE PAST SIX COLUMNS, I focused on one single incident of online cheating at Absolute Poker and the scandal that ensued. Prior to that, I wrote about a PokerStars cheater who was caught multi-tabling during a tournament and disqualified from his first place finish. The next few columns will also discuss players who have admitted to breaking the rules of online play.

Subsequently, I have received numerous e-mails during the past few months regarding the safety of online poker. "How do I know my money is safe?" "Which site is the safest?" "How do I keep from being cheated?"

I have no idea.

Just kidding. Let's start with some basic scenarios. Scenario A: You would like to deposit money into an online poker account but aren't sure which site is safest. Visit the websites of those being considered and read through the "Security" or "Integrity" pages. While most have standard legal wording, some give very detailed information about the safety measures in place. There are also contact e-mails listed. E-mail the support department and ask them to tell you why your money is safe there. Research is the key. And if public opinion is what you're after, make a post on the forums PocketFives.com or TwoPlusTwo.com to get feedback from others who have played on the sites you have in mind.

Scenario B: You are wondering if you've been cheated online. Be sure. There is a fine line between being a bad-beat administered by a bad player and being cheated. If you truly believe you have been subject to or witnessed cheating, e-mail the site and ask for a hand history of the table or tournament. Then analyze it. Send a well-written and detailed request to the site to ask for a review based on your analysis.

There are several ways that players can cheat. First is multi-accounting, in which case one player opens multiple accounts and plays them simultaneously. This is difficult for an outsider to detect and should be monitored by the sites themselves. Second is seat-selling, which occurs when an experienced player offers to purchase the account of an amateur player who happens to make it deep into a profitable tournament.

This could be detected by other players who notice a distinct change in style of play, but it is tougher for an online site to prove.

Third is ghosting, a process by which a player gets advice from another player during the tournament. While ethically wrong, this has virtually no chance of being proven or outlawed. Scenario C: Which sites do I recommend? Truthfully, I cannot recommend any site over another. I play at such low stakes and inconsistently that I am far from an expert. However, I will say that PokerStars has demonstrated that they monitor the site for multi-accounting and have taken bold steps in enforcing the rules against it. On the other side of the coin, I would not trust a company like Absolute Poker, as evidenced by my opinions in previous columns.

Currently, I am in the process of asking all of the major online sites that accept U.S. players, including Absolute, to answer a few questions about their security and explain why players should trust them. When sites respond to my inquiries, I will print the answers in future columns.

In summary, be aware when playing online, research as much as possible before depositing funds, and search the poker forums and blogs for opinions and assistance. Trust your instincts but get facts to back them up. And most of all, enjoy online poker as the incredible learning tool and source of entertainment that it is.