Lately, my two year-old daughter has been obsessed with my wife and I telling her the story “Goldilocks and the Three Bears” as she lays down in her crib for the night. As I usually sit down to write at night, I am often brainstorming as we do the bedtime routine. Tonight, my brain mixed poker and children’s stories, and I started thinking about poker fairy tales. And that, in turn, got me to thinking about the long running fable of online poker, the “doomswitch.”
The doomswitch, as the story goes, is a fantastical switch that the powers that be at an online poker room can use to alter the fortunes of a customer. By flipping this switch, pressing this big red button, or activating the programming code, the shuffle and deal at a table can supposedly be rigged in an effort to cause a player to lose money, and lose money in a hurry.
There are many theories as to why someone might get doomswitched:
1) They are simply winning too much and their money needs to be redistributed to the fish.
2) They said something unkind about the poker room, be it in the chat box at the table or in an online poker forum.
3) They have been getting insanely lucky and deserve to be taken down a notch.
4) They have cashed out recently.
I want to address that last reason. Known as the “cash out curse,” many players claim that as soon as they pull some of their funds from an online poker site, they hit a serious downswing. They believe that the cash out angers the poker site bosses (after all, that’s less rake that can go to the house), so they get doomswitched as punishment. There is an easy way to avoid the wrath of the poker room, though. When you cash out, cash out in full. If you don’t have any money on a site, then you can’t play and you can’t get the doomswitch flipped on you. Plus, if you later decide to play there again, the new deposit will please the poker room operators and you will be rewarded with a run of good luck.
Speaking of which, the “new deposit equals boomswitch” theory is also very popular. But I am not a believer. I tend to immediately go into the red when I start at a new poker site or make a deposit for a bonus. Party Poker, despite all the fish, was the bane of my existence when I used to play there (I’m American, more’s the pity). I have got to think that, even with bonuses, I barely broke even at Party.
Nobody knows for sure what poker room invented the doomswitch, but most think it was either PokerStars or Party Poker. Inquiries to all poker rooms commonly result in the denial of the doomswitch’s existence, but should we expect anything else? Why would they admit that they control the strings of fate?
Even when a poker room does not straight-up deny that they have a doomswitch, they cleverly avoid the question and play dumb. Take a recent e-mail to Party Poker by a player, telling customer service that he understood that he had been doomswitched. He explained that on another site, one could transfer two cents to a specific account to have the doomswitch turned off, and he inquired as to what account that might be on Party Poker. The Party Poker representative replied:
“I have checked the games that you have played in past 30 days. I understand that you play cash games more often. I went through the hand histories of these games and I notice that you have been on a winning streak. However, I don’t want to deny the amount that you requested for. So I have added $0.02 to your account and I wish the luck switch keeps flashing on your more often, from here on.”
How clever. Not only does the Party Poker representative not admit the existence of a doomswitch, but he claims that the customer is actually winning, and pretends like he does not even understand what the customer is saying. Genius.
Do I believe in the doomswitch? I don’t want to shape your beliefs one way or the other, so I will not say. I urge you, though, that when you do find yourself stuck in a downward spiral at the online poker tables, think about what you might have done at that site recently, from a non-poker standpoint, and if that may have triggered it. Big brother is always watching.