Identifying potential cheating in poker is much harder when you are playing online compared to when you’re competing inside a casino or a live poker room. In the virtual world, all you see are avatars and screen names. There is no person-to-person interaction and most of the time, players hide their true identities by using aliases rather than their real names.
Online poker is run by gaming software over the internet and has sadly become a breeding ground for widespread exploitative practices. In recent years, online poker operators have stepped up their security to rid their sites of cheating, with some even creating a dedicated team of pros, programmers, and poker experts whose task is to scour the platform to spot unscrupulous behavior. But cheaters have also become more sophisticated by using advanced technology and identifying security loopholes.
This is why as a player, you must not be too complacent that the online room you’re playing at has stringent controls in place, because cheaters will always find a way to break in.
How can you know when a player is cheating? Get to know these common online poker cheating methods so you can protect yourself.
Online Collusion
This is perhaps the most common way for players to cheat in online poker. Just like in a live setting, two or more opponents you are playing against at the same table may have decided to play together on purpose. When collusion happens, these players share card information or discuss hands to gain an illicit advantage over their opponents. If they know each other’s cards, it makes it easier for them to take the right decision, resulting in more wins.
This form of cheating is quite difficult to identify especially if you’re playing in smaller sites where you’ll basically compete with the same people in one table. However, if you notice that a certain group always play together, consider reporting it the site’s security. Chances are, they could be cheating by collusion, robbing you and the other innocent players of your hard earned money.
Online Ghosting
When a player seeks advice from a better-skilled pro in the middle of a game, or if that player allows another person to take over his account and play on his behalf especially during the critical stages of the game, it’s called ghosting. While some would argue that ghosting is not cheating, it’s still unethical and should have no place in poker.
Daniel “Jungleman” Cates, one of the world’s most successful poker pros, recently got involved in a ghosting controversy which was initially exposed by hedge fund manager and high-stakes poker player Bill Perkins. While Cates eventually admitted to the practice and apologized to Perkins, the damage has been done, tainting his reputation. Cates was accused of playing in place of a friend to get a piece of the profit.
In a live poker room, ghosting cannot happen because venues implement a one player per hand policy. Players are prohibited from asking advice from friends or other players inside the room. Everything is different online. Nobody is there to monitor who you’re personally interacting with while the game is in progress. Nobody would know if you’re calling a friend or an experienced pro for advice.
If you notice that an opponent’s strategy and style suddenly changed dramatically, then it’s a warning. Someone else could be playing his game.
Online Poker Bots
Despite ongoing efforts by online poker sites to get rid of bots, they’re still here. A bot is a computer software that can compete with human players in certain games, using predefined calculations and artificial intelligence. They can play for an extended period without experiencing fatigue, because obviously, they’re robots! They do not experience tilt or downswings, which is why they can become very dangerous, so be vigilant.
The best advice we can give you to avoid online poker scams is that if your instinct tells you something is off, move away quickly even if you cannot figure it out intellectually.