One of the first things people ask me about online poker is whether I’m concerned about possible cheating. In short – I’m aware of the possibility, but I’m not concerned about it. There was a large cheating scandal at one of the poker sites (UB/AP) a year ago. An employee of the company had access to everyone’s hole cards and cheated a number of high stakes players out of hundreds of thousands of dollars. It is in the poker site’s best interests to make sure the games are on the level. I estimate Full Tilt makes hundreds of millions of dollars in rake every month – and they are only the second largest poker site. It would be completely illogical for them to jeopardize such an income stream by having cheating run rampant. There was a mass exodus from UB/AP after the scandal and they have had a tough time (re)gaining customers. Poker is a trust business – once a site loses the players’ trust, it’s basically finished. That’s why I’m “comfortable” that the sites will do all they can to protect the player’s interests.
Of course this does not mean there is no cheating at online poker. There are many ways to cheat, including: using illegal software, running automated poker programs (“bots”), using opponent statistics from hands that you did not participate in (“datamining”), sharing hold card information with someone else at the table, etc. Some sites are better than others at detecting cheating, and from time to time, you hear about accounts getting banned and the cheaters’ funds confiscated.
And as with any other industry that deals with large sums of money, you have people trying to scam others. A notable recent incident involved a coach at one of the poker training sites, who allegedly didn’t know how to play poker but took tens of thousands of dollars in coaching fees and squandered $100K in his students’ money. There are also scams involving hacked MSN/AIM accounts of high profile players, and hacking of the poker accounts themselves. A lot of players keep tens, if not hundreds of thousands of dollars on their poker accounts. There are a handful of people who keep over a million dollars on the poker site.
This probably wraps up the last of the answers to major questions I’m frequently asked. I’ll cover some other basics as they come up. Starting next week, the next phase of the blog begins!
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