Online poker is enjoying a resurgence as the current coronavirus pandemic has had a serious impact on sports betting. The current boom is bringing old players back to the tables as well as new ones, and with all this fish comes both sharks and those with more nefarious motives.
Cheating in online poker is something operators of poker sites as well as the poker community often like to sweep under the rug, but there is overwhelming evidence that not only is it possible – it’s actually quite easy.
Knowing the methods they use will help you spot cheaters at the tables. There are plenty of ways to lose your bankroll, but losing it to a software really bites. And we’re not talking about the random number generator dealing the cards; We’re talking about sophisticated poker bots capable of learning tells and spotting betting patterns.
There are many ways to beat the system in online poker. Operators can only do so much in this elaborate game of cat and mouse with hackers and programmers who constantly probe systems and design software that will steal your money.
Without further ado, welcome to the world of online poker in 2020. But first, let’s start with a disclaimer. Using any of the methods we talk about in this article will get you banned for life from virtually every poker site on the planet if/when you get caught. We do not endorse cheating in any way, shape or form, but we do believe that it’s important to understand how it works so that honest players (such as yourself) will know when to leave the table before it’s too late.
Playing against an invisible online poker team
Poker is not a team sport, obviously. Each player is responsible for making the best possible decisions with their chips based on the cards they are dealt and the opposition they face. But in online poker it’s quite easy to end up playing against an invisible team.
There are two ways this cheat works. You could be facing off against multiple accounts or a team playing on the same account. Here’s how these two team-methods differ.
Multiple accounts: This doesn’t mean that a single player is sitting on more than one chair at the table, that’s way too risky and operator will be able to sus out these cheaters really quickly. There is a scene from the movie Rounders that perfectly illustrates how this works.
It’s when the whole crew are sitting at the same poker table in Atlantic City and the tourists keep sitting down to play. The main character Mike McDermott explains it beautifully when the first two unsuspecting “victims” take their seats.
“These two have no idea what they are about to walk into. They are down here to have a good time and figured ‘why not give poker a try?’ After all, how different could it be from the home games they have been playing their whole lives. All the luck in world is not gonna change a thing for these guys. They are simply over-matched. We are not playing together, but we’re not playing against each other either.”
How this works online is that you have a few players at the same table who are using a third-party chat program like Skype to communicate their hole cards. They basically get out of the way for each other so the player with the best chance of winning the pot does so.
Single account: It’s a different take on the invisible team and you’re more likely to stumble into this scenario when you’re playing heads-up. The player you’re up against is not alone by the computer. There could be several seasoned players on the other side, making decisions together as a team.
With so many eyes on the prize, they will quickly figure out your tells and betting patterns, and before you know it you’re down to the felt without any chips.
Poker against a machine
There are still players out there who are not entirely convinced that so-called bots exist in poker rooms, but it’s pointless to deny. Sophisticated poker bots are available to download from hundreds of different websites out there. Some of these bots are so advanced that they can win tournaments against hundreds of players.
A Vice journalist bragged about sucking at poker but still winning a tournament with the aid of a bot he found online. Needless to say, it caused quite a stir in the poker community and put the fear of God into operators. Who would want to play on any site when they know how easy it is to use a bot? There are a few problems with poker bots, though.
Firstly, they play the game a little too “perfect” since it’s virtually a software without emotions, incapable of going on tilt or seek revenge, it never gets fatigued and make mistakes. Also, it usually takes the same amount of time for its decisions.
Secondly, and the most obvious clue that you might be playing against a bot, it can’t reply to chat messages or react to alerts. If you suspect that something’s afoot, try starting a conversation and see if you get any replies. If you don’t… maybe it’s time to leave.
Thirdly, it can play for days. Literally! It doesn’t have to stretch it legs or use the bathroom. It never goes on break.
Fourth and lastly, not many online poker players can handle sitting at more than one table at a time. A bot can easily play flawlessly at 25 tables at the same time. If you’re table hoping, looking for fish, and come across the same player over and over and over, chances are that there’s something rotten in the state of Denmark.
Seeing all the hole cards
Okay, this is probably the rarest of ways to cheat because it’s quite elaborate. As far as we know there’s only been one case reported where a disgruntled employee of a poker room had backdoor access to the system. Thus, he could see all the other players’ hole cards.
Another way of setting this up would be to install a trojan virus on someone else’s computer, but this is probably too much effort for too little pay off. Malware that shares people’s screens is out there but it is quite clunky and time consuming. All things considered, it’s probably the cheating method you need to be least worried about when playing poker online.