Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Cheating and Poker

Part One, Internet Poker

Although this post is aimed at beginners, and experienced online players already practice caution and diligence, I feel that anyone, at any stage of their poker journey, may benefit from another look at the topic.

Cheating is something that comes up so often in poker it is to the point of absurd. Not absurd because it doesn't happen, but absurd because it is something so ingrained in poker that it seems to go hand-in-hand with the game.

From the earliest mentions of poker, you will read about problems with cheating. I'm not going to sit here and tell you it doesn't happen, both live and online, but I will tell you some things which may help you avoid or even benefit off of cheating.

Most people are probably scratching their heads wondering how a person could possibly benefit from having a cheat, or cheaters at their table. It is not always as bad as it seems. First I want to tackle the online world of poker, and then, in another post, I'll tackle live poker.

Let's say you are about to open up the software to play at an online poker site. First you must decide what game you want to play. If you are concerned about bots and teams, the most logical thing for you to do is look for a game and limit that flies under the radar of the most likely "infected" tables.

Get into the mind of a person who would create a bot and put it at the table to play for him. If you were a cheat, where would you place that bot? Probably not the lowest stakes, but definitely not higher stakes, either. So let's just say that if you want to avoid a bot, you won't play between 2/4 and 10/20.

Let's assume pot-limit games are likely to be bot-free, so those are clear for us as far as that goes. Let's further assume that Stud games will not be infected. The one thing that the creator of a bot wants is reliable, steady income. He doesn't want to deal with the swings of variance, so he is going to choose a relatively low variance game to place his bot into. He probably is going to choose Hold'em. I would guess either low limit HE or low buy-in NLHE. So that leaves the other games theoretically free.

Now that we have narrowed down which games to play that might have a better chance of being bot-free, let's narrow down the games which might have a better chance of being cheat-free.

Cheaters benefit in games when they can squeeze a victim in between them and get him to put his chips in with the second best hand. The best hand will keep pushing you higher while the junk hand will keep pushing you even more. This is so elementary that it borders on ridiculous. In other words, if you know you are being cheated, that means the cheats aren't any good ;)

Online, this is the most common form of cheating that we see daily. The cheaters are caught by anyone with half a brain, and they go somewhere else. Some sites are more diligent than others when it comes to catching and banning these guys. But when I started this post, I assumed you were bright enough to pick the very best poker sites to play on, which have at least the appearance of integrity.

So what games would colluders sit in? The number one choice is going to be Hold'em, I believe. They have a better chance of getting lost in the crowd in HE. Just two little peons in a huge ocean. They most likely will not be playing for big money. People who play bigger pay more attention, in general. The games are fewer and farther between, less players are playing eight games at once, more players will recognize nicknames and the signs of collusion. So I think that cheaters will probably stay at 3/6 and below. In NLHE, let's say $100 max buy-in or below.

Remember, these are assumptions by me, so don't try coming back here and claiming, "I was cheated at the $500 buy-in NLHE! You said there wouldn't be any at that level!!"

While cheaters may not last very long at a site, in the meantime they might take your stack. And if you think that the site is going to go back and do your homework for you, think again. They will not be checking every, single hand history and refunding your money if they aren't alerted. You must be diligent and report suspected cheats. In addition, you must follow up on it. Also, if someone at your tables busts said cheaters, you must not think to yourself, "Oh, well he already did it for me, I don't have to do anything." Think again. You need to write to the site, or you can just kiss your money goodbye. It is a rare thing when a site writes you out of the blue, says they busted some cheats who were at one of your tables, and gives you some dough.

So now I've given you some guidelines on what games to play, and what limits. Let's move on to the fun part, where you get a chance to use cheating and bots to your advantage and have some fun with them, while frustrating them to no end, busting them both monetarily and then reporting them to the site!

There are some games where it is to your advantage to have a lot of players in the pot at times. In most forms of poker, this is not the case. Schooling is usually not a good thing, and that is why aggression is so important.

But then there is the one, the only, THE OMAHA. My, oh, my, is Omaha ever something to behold. Retard poker at it's finest.

Omaha is so different from most poker games that it really deserves it's own name. Maybe pokhim, instead of pokher, lol.

In low-limit Omaha 8, the laws of poker don't really apply the same way as other games. Sometimes aggression is not the key, but rather fishing for MORE callers, by overcalling or calling along with the absolute, mortal nuts. Seems completely the opposite of Hold'em or Stud, right? That's because it is :)

So where better than to bust a team? Where better than to have fun taking advantage of a bot? Yeah, you got it, in Omaha.

In O8, colluders only lose MORE. In O8, schooling only puts more money into YOUR hands. It is a sight to behold. So many players grumble about cheats sitting down at their table in Omaha. I grumble, myself, AFTER they are busted! Seriously, though, if they cheat in any way other than collusion, I do the ethical thing; I bust them first, not later. But that is live poker, I'm talking about online poker, where palming is impossible and stealing chips out of another stack is impossible. Collusion is really the only thing these idiots have going. And if they are stupid enough to sit down in an Omaha game, well then god bless them, I'll sit right there until I have everything.

Remember, in Omaha 8, your nut hand only gets stronger with a lot of callers, not weaker. So sit back and let the cheats give you their buy-in's. It will make you feel better during a losing streak, and you can report them as soon as they are busted, if you are so inclined.

In conclusion, here is my best contribution to the topic of cheating in online poker. I am obviously addressing new players in this post, not hardened, experienced vets. I do not have enough firsthand knowledge of online cheating to address the topic more thoroughly.

This post has taken me quite a while, because I simply don't have as much experience playing online as someone who has played quite a bit in ONE month! Over the past four years, I've only played sporadically. Glenn was kind enough to step in and give me some help with this one, although we both still maintain that we are speaking in very general, definitely disputable terms.

When you deposit money into any online cardroom, you are taking a gamble. Whether it be state law, international disaster or a myriad of other things, online poker is still a gambling endeavor. Choose wisely. Be diligent with your money and your choices. If you play at a location other than your own, personal computer, never save your password to log on automatically. If your own PC is shared with others, ditto.

If you use common sense, the likelihood of getting burned is less than if you take unnecessary chances. And yes, this is before you even sit down at the virtual felt!

Monitor the table before making the choice to sit in. Watch the players and the pot. One site may have a rake policy that makes the game unplayable. Protect your money!

I hope I have helped out one or two new online players. It was a difficult post for me, because of lack of experience, but if nothing else, I pray I have made it clear to be cautious and aware whenever you decide to play online poker.

Felicia :)