By Michael Morris
In today’s online poker community, the one most vital and overlooked skill is recognizing online fraud. Home and cell phones, instant messengers, multiple PCs in the same location, and other various communication devices all contribute to the ever growing danger in on line gaming. Where online poker can be a great opportunity and locale to hone your game and learn new betting patterns and tactics, its best to remain aware of those players “around” you, especially when real money begins to come into the mix.
Gone are the days in which cheaters could be recognized while sitting at your table. Gone is the floor man able to bounce those individuals from the casino to ensure fair gaming. The online community is ill equipped, and websites unprepared for the sheer amount of cheaters online poker can garner. There’s no one site in particular that is a mainstay of cheaters, as all sites are subject to underhanded people attempting to bend the rules and gain unfair advantages not readily obtained at an actual poker table. Aside from the typical “play smart” advice, there are several red flags and warning signs that one must look out for when committing actual funds to any online poker game or tournament.
The most glaringly obvious signal would be players being overly friendly with each other at the table. Whereas this is not as noticeable online as it may be at a local casino or home game, online chums have tells as well. Good poker players watch their fellow players as much as the cards that are dealt, in an ideal world, on-line poker should provide for a much better environment for such observations. Players who seemingly never bet against each other or never seem to be in any hand at the same time hold the potential for shenanigans.
Secondly, repetitious betting patterns can be an overwhelmingly blatant attempt to swell or sweeten any online pot. For example, the player to your left has been aggressive to a fault during game play. Only to have the player to your right always re-raise should there be any callers with the original player (to your left) typically fold his hand. Where smart cheaters will not be so openly obvious on a repeat basis with this ploy, it is one of the most common scams occurring in internet games. That player to your left may not just roll over and fold each time, but with your keen eye, you should notice if the original raiser and the re-raiser never wind up showing down and playing the hand against each other to the end.
Another, less conspicuous scam, players seemingly knowing exactly when to chase their draws all the way down to the river, regardless of how behind they are or how high the bets are. For example: a flush draw. A player holding two spades, with two spades on the board after the flop can confer with his cohorts and knows that there are plenty of spades left in the deck as none of his fellow cheaters are holding any. The opposite of this is as equally as true. A cheater may not choose to follow such draws when it is revealed to him exactly how many other players who are in on the scam were holding, in this particular case, spade. Another example: 6, 7, 2 on the board after the flop, cheater #1 has 8, 9 – after seeing how many of his associates had either 5’s or 10’s can plan his betting strategy or fold accordingly. Of course those are only two examples, checking strength of middle pockets against the sheer number of high cards in play, odds of having 2nd highest pair hold up, are all open for cheaters to gauge their strength and hustle innocent players out of their hard earned online chips.
Whereas there is no true way to “catch” online cheaters, it is better to keep these warning signs in mind while playing at your favorite poker web site. And, just like in real life, bad beats will happen, and there will be times when other players play seems erratic and unusual at best, but such is the game of poker. Good players, online or otherwise, will always be on the lookout for those unscrupulous individuals whose games do not demand the same respect as theirs. And most importantly, if you ever suspect online cheating is going on, leaving the table is always a click away, and most every site will have some form of customer service to contact in the event you suspect unruly play (ers). It is up to you as the gamer to be on the defensive and be aware of what is going on around you to help put cheaters in there place: out of the game.