When discussing on-line poker with poker players who have never played on-line poker before it seems the most common reason, or objection they give for not playing is that they fear the game is unfair in someway. The most common activities mentioned, that are included ‘unfair’, are ‘The poker room can rig the deck’, ‘Players will work in teams in order to gain an edge (known as ‘collusion’), and/or ‘A player or the poker room can see my cards’. These types of ideas, which can be summed up with the word ‘cheating’, are something to be fearful of, because nobody wants to be cheated out of money. But, just because they are something to be concerned with, is the concern justified in regards to on-line poker? This first article aims to not only show that the poker rooms do not cheat, but actually, even if for self-serving reasons, have an incentive to not cheat and to prevent others from cheating poker88.
All card rooms, whether land based or on-line make money from the rake. The rake is the amount of money collected as a fee from each pot or paid directly by the players on a temporal basis (All on-line poker rooms use the former method). The standard maximum rake per hand on-line is $3. For purposes here it will be assumed that the average taken per hand at most poker rooms is $1.50. On-line poker software is much faster than a live dealer and one table can play, on average, 60 hands an hour. This means that from one table the card room will make $96 an hour in gross profit. Using reports distributed by various on-line groups, the average amount of active tables at the medium to larger poker sites is anywhere between 200-1000 (real money only included). To make our point clearer, we can assume 200-300 tables per average. This means that every hour a poker room turns a gross profit of $19,200 – $28800. What reasons would an established company have to NOT protect $460,800-$691,200? Let’s assume for a second that a poker room could manage to cheat its players out of $460,000 in a 24 hour period, how many times would they be able to get away with this before word got out that half a million dollars was missing from players? Even if the site was grossing 10% of this amount per day, they would still make more money, even after paying expenses, than they could from cheating their players. As long as the site is of medium size or larger and has a decent (not even great is necessary) reputation a players risk of being cheated in anyway by the poker room is negligible. In fact, it is safe to say, because of the card room’s large profit, even if the poker player’s best interests did not matter at all to them, that they actually want to protect their players from being cheated in anyway. If a site cheats or allows their players to cheat, they will lose all their current and potential profits, because their reputation will rapidly spread (by ‘rapidly’ we mean within a day or two) to the poker community via the media and on-line poker communities.
The idea of poker rooms actually protecting their players from being cheated and providing them with a secure place to play poker has been mentioned numerous times here, but none of the methods have actually been mentioned. As has been mentioned, the other fear for potential on-line poker players is other on-line poker players cheating in someway. The most common method mentioned is collusion. When players collude one player will be on his computer and via the phone or some messaging program, can let another player, who isn’t’t’t even in the same city, state, etc… know his cards. The second player would then let the first player know his cards. They would then use this information to their advantage by raising the other players at the table (usually one or two others) in order to build a larger pot. Those who perpetuate this idea (myth) realize that one of the colluders will lose the pot and the other will win. Since they are partners, they will still profit off of the unknowing cheated players. This seems like it would be fairly easy to do, but it is probably safe to say that learning to play poker would be easier and less risky than colluding. All reputable poker rooms usually have a policy that players using the same IP cannot play together at the same table. It is pretty easy to get around this though and luckily the poker sites know this.
The poker rooms have software that watches the betting patterns of players. This software is made even easier to use because of the hand history poker rooms offer. When players collude, one person will usually have a good to great hand and the other player will have rags. Because of the software that the on-line poker room uses, they can easily see that these two players play at the same table together quite a bit (even if from separate IPs, states, etc…) and they are always raising and folding when one has a great hand and the other has a really bad hand. It won’t take long for the poker room’s software to find out if they are colluding or not. But, the fact that other players quickly report any type of strange behavior in order to alert the poker room, the time this pair of colluders has to cheat other players out of money is drastically decreased. Even if there is a huge team of colluders, lets say 20 people, the bankroll necessary to make this effective, the amount of planning that would need to go into this, and having to play high enough limit games in order to make it worth their time, greatly decreases anybody even trying it.
The poker room not only relies on other players and one type of software to track a player’s history, cashout requests, and history, but they also have software and manual checks that take place when a withdrawal is requested. This software and security representative check for inconsistencies in a player’s betting, to check for chip dumping, and any other ‘shady’ or illegal behavior. Even if the colluders were successful at the table, they still need to be able to withdraw their funds. Being that it will need to be a large amount in order for the colluders to make enough money for their time and risk, the withdrawal will be analyzed much closer and if it is proven that collusion had taken place, the funds will most likely be returned to the cheated players in someway.
There are other methods that the poker rooms use for detecting cheating, but because of the need for secrecy, they are not as public as the above mentioned methods. The purpose here was not to show all the methods used, but to help rid the fears of the sites cheating and/or allowing cheats. The large sums of money that poker rooms make is more than they could ever make from cheating. In order to protect this profit, they also implement methods to prevent others from cheating their players. These methods are usually sufficient, but there is always risk that is out of the poker rooms control, but is in the player’s control. The second part of this article will discuss ways a poker player can protect their computer and spend more time learning to play poker and enjoying themselves while learning.