Monday, July 13, 2009
The Ins and Outs of Online Poker Cheating
Okay, we have been besieged by online poker cheat scandals the last two years, right? Right! In light of this fact, I have been getting tons of e-mails asking how online poker cheats work and what online players can do to defend themselves against cheats playing poker online. Well, the best advice I can give is to first learn and understand the various methods of online poker cheating and semi-online poker cheating. With that in mind, I have outlined just about every method of online cheating poker rooms have been victimized by. Some of these methods only border on online poker cheating, but nevertheless they are effective in getting your money. Some are as well scams that have nothing to do with cheating in the actual online poker play, but you can still fall victim to them and lose your money.
Collusion is when two or more players at a table work together to defraud one or more other players at the table by sharing information. It could be as simple as two guys using IM to warn each other when they have a big hand. More intricate collusion methods include employing specific strategies to get other players to put more money in the pot. The standard method is the squeeze play. In the squeeze play two players trap a player between them and raise and re-raise each other forcing the player in the middle to keep calling. One of the two colluding players will have a monster and the other can have anything because he will fold his hand on the river.
Fortunately, collusion is one of the more simple forms of cheating for both players and the poker room to detect. Watch out for telltale signs of collusion such as two players who always play at the same table and exhibit the same playing patterns with lots of raising between them. If you're suspicious, report it to the site and they should investigate it.
Poker Bot Software
A bot is simply a piece of software that can take certain actions. A poker bot can be programmed to push fold, call and raise buttons based on some sort of semi-complex array of if/then statements and scoring. Although it has never been proven that bots can beat intelligent players, there are bots with a kind of "artificial intelligence" that may be able to do just that. The main limit of a bot´s success is the intelligence and poker intelligence of the person programming its strategy. I will say that the bots you see for sale online are generally cheating you and not the online poker players you want to use them against. In short, they´re bad!
However, the artificial intelligent bots are very expensive and not for sale online, at least not real ones. These bots are sophisticated and can learn and adapt to different online games. People able to program AI bots are highly intelligent and know how to avoid giving off signals of their bot activity in the games. What usually ensues is a cat and mouse game between them and the online sites. The sites find a way to detect and block the bots and then the programmers find a way to circumvent the defense. In conclusion, I would say that it is rare that you will come up against a really good AI bot that can beat you, and even if you do, it's only one player (or bot) at the table!
Hacking via Trojans, Keyloggers, Phishing and Viruses
Don´t download and install suspicious software on your computer! That is how you get scammed for huge money! The main ways this happens is that the hackers get your passwords and see your hole cards. And usually they don't have to work that hard. Most victims fall prey to simple e-mails notifying them they need to confirm their personal info in order to collect bonuses. Don't give it up!!! Watch out for hackers in chat rooms posing as system administrators wanting to verify your account details. No legitimate online poker room will ever ask you to confirm your personal and login info. And don't click on a link in a dealer chat window that doesn’t go to the site you are playing on. Beware of sites imitating other sites, such as absolutepokerroom.com trying to fool you into thinking it is absolutepoker.com
These are the most brutal and almost impossible to protect yourself from. As what happened at Absolute Poker and UltimateBet, employees or ex-employees who have access to the poker room’s systems manipulate it to gain unfair advantages against other opponents. At UltimateBet and Absolute Poker, the scam was using source codes to see everyone's hole cards.
The biggest problem here is that the online sites themselves usually take a long time to admit online poker cheating has happened on their sites. Both Absolute Poker and Ultimate Bet denied cheating was happening for months until the evidence became overwhelming. The key was online players doing their own research into suspicious play. However, because of the Absolute and UltimateBet scandals, future online poker cheats will be more careful. Instead of being greedy and trying to win every pot, they’ll only use their advantage in big pots or critical hands in tournaments. In that fashion, insiders working with the knowledge of your hole card can go on indefinitely without being caught. And since there is still no regulation of online poker, expect to see more of these huge online cheat scams in the future.
Multi-Accounting is when a player plays multiple accounts at the same time on the same online poker room. Several high-profile cases have been uncovered over the last few years where a player entered a tournament under several different accounts. The worst case scenario is the player has two of his own accounts at the same table and thus could engage in all sorts of acts considered to be collusion. That is random and relatively rare compared to the fact that this one player simply gets multiple shots at the same prize as everyone else.
This has come to light more recently and basically when a player plays a tournament and is then offered the opportunity to sell his stake in that account to another player who then takes over the account and completes the tournament for him. The biggest problem created by this is that this is usually done when the tournament has worked its way down to a final few players (maybe the last 2–3 tables or even the final table). All of a sudden another player takes over the account and plays much differently than the original player eliminating any tells other players may have picked up on that player over the course of the tournament. Compounding the problem is that the purchaser of the account can ask the seller for his read on all the other opponents and can even go back through hand histories and figure out all the other player’s playing styles. In some cases this form of cheating can show itself obviously, for example: one player logging in from Las Vegas suddenly disconnects in the middle of a tournament and then logs back in from London a few seconds later. But if the two players happen to be in the same room and they simply swap seats it is a very difficult accusation to prove because many players will change up their playing style at various stages in a tournament. The poker room would need to go back and look at a large data set of previous tournament data and see if this was an unusual shift in playing styles. And even if they did conclude it was out of the ordinary, who’s to say that the player didn’t just get done reading a chapter on late stage tournament play and was following the advice given in the book?
Chip dumping can be done for various reasons but the one that tends to impact players is during tournaments or cash games where one player intends to give all of his chips to another player. In cash games it can result in lots of unnecessary re-raising which drives other players out of pots and during tournaments the goal is to give the target player a nice big stack so he can go late into the tournament. Both are a form of collusion though the two (or more) players involved in the collusion may not have any concern about taking chips off the other players. Their goal is to pass chips from one player to the other.
Angle Shooting and Disconnect Protect Abuse
Many poker sites offer tables that have disconnect protection. The way this works is that if the software detects that the player has become disconnected the player’s hand will not be folded and he will be allowed to see the river without putting any more money in the pot. This allows a player who thinks his opponent has him beat to pull the internet connection on his computer and thus see whether or not he has the best hand without putting any more money in the pot.
Poker rooms typically attempt to stop the abuse of this feature by only allowing players a set amount of disconnect protects. After they have reached their limit they will be folded if they fail to act in time. However the abuse still continues because players will often ask to have their limit reset, and barring other players complaining, the poker room will typically honor the request. Obviously, the best way to avoid people shooting this angle on you is to complain when you feel another player is abusing it. When he asks for a reset the poker room will see that other players have complained and will likely not reset his limit.
Some players will buy into a no-limit table with the minimum buy-in and look for the opportunity to get all their chips in the pot on a big hand. After they double up they leave the table and go sit at another table with the minimum buy-in and repeat the process. This isn't cheating but it is a disadvantage to you at these tables.
While online poker rooms directly ripping off customers is fairly rare it has happened in the past and will likely happen in the future as long as the industry remains relatively unregulated. Many of the early card room failures were the result of player monies being co-mingled with the casino’s assets which can often prove to be a tempting pool to dip into if a cash-strapped casino/card room is looking to make a big marketing splash or perhaps even an acquisition.
If you play at any of the top card rooms the chances are very low you’re going to get ripped off like this. However if you play at some unknown, incipient site, it could happen.
Player to Player Online Poker Scams
The creativity of scams is only limited by the imagination of the scammer. The most common types of scams are other players asking for loans, handouts, or some sort of trade. For instance a legitimate player on Party Poker may need to get money into his William Hill account. He posts on a message board that he’s willing to trade $550on Party Poker for $500 deposited into his William Hill account. Then a scammer accepts the offer. The legit player transfers the $550 first and the scammer never transfers back a dime.
Since the poker site can’t confirm whether or not a transfer has occurred on another site, they usually will not get involved in these sorts of disputes. Your best protection against this type of scam is to never transfer money to other players that you don’t know very well and trust. Set up proper deposit and withdrawal methods that will allow you to handle your own finances rather than relying on the kindness (or greed) of strangers to move money from one place to another.
Okay, that about covers online poker cheating and the various cheats who do it. Play smart and protect yourself!!!