It would be nice if there was a world where everyone is honest and all games are on the up and up. Unfortunately, where there is money, there are people trying to scam it. This is something that everyone should be aware of.
I would not be concerned with outright cheating online, either by players or by the site operators. In a brick and mortar casino, this may be a concern. Maybe a dealer is in cahoots with some of the players. Maybe a player has marked some of the cards in the deck. Of course these issues are not concerns in the online atmosphere.
Collusion is something that many of us worry about. We worry about other players seeing their friend's cards and using that information to take advantage of us. This may take the form of two players playing side by side, exchanging the information on their hands through the telephone or through an instant messenger. The best way to be protected from collusion is by playing at a fair online site. Online sites have access to the hand histories of every player. If there is a good management team, they can review the hand histories of players when there are complaints. This means they can catch those that collude if the play is obvious given the hands that are shown. But it is probably not possible to catch everyone, so we all need to watch out for this possibility.
Is it possible that a site has a software glitch where some smart computer programmer can re-engineer their system to the point where he may have some inside information? Maybe these smart programmers can know with some precision what the Flop will bring. Maybe they have a way around the software to be able to figure out some of their opponents' hole cards. These are scary thoughts, and although they may not be probable, it would not be outside the realm of possibilities. There is no proof that a person or a group is doing this, but that does not mean it is not being done. Of course this is a conspiracy theorists' dream, or nightmare, depending on how they are looking at it. The truth is that there are many players making money steadily in online poker, playing the cards, the odds and the opponents. This fact alone should comfort most except the most ardent conspiracy theorists. Coincidentally, these conspiracy theorists usually are not good poker players. I leave it up to the individual reader to determine if this is an issue they think is important for themselves.
Players can get disconnected from their internet connection sometimes. It can happen because of a real disconnection or it could happen when a player tries to take advantage of the system. Most sites have an all-in rule where the disconnected player is considered all-in even when they still have chips on the table. Players who try to take advantage of the system will purposely disconnect their internet connction in the hopes that they get to see a free showdown. They do not want to invest any more money into the pot so they do not want to call any bets or raises. However they still think there is a chance they can win so they purposely disconnect themselves so the system can put them all-in and they still have a chance to win the main pot. Oftentimes you can tell when a player is messing around or not. For example, if the board is K-9-A-T-7 with no flush possibility on the Turn, and a player who got disconnected on the Turn shows 43 on the River, it would be obvious that the disconnection was a genuine one. However if the board shows K-9-A-T-Q, and the disconnected players' hand is J9, then maybe he tried to take advantage of the system because he did not want to have to call on the Turn with an inside straight draw. Players who try this are a real pain to all the other players. Not only is it a form of cheating, but it also really slows down the game as the system will wait the requisite time for the player to act and he is not even there anymore.
Internet poker opens up some new forms of cheating but it also reduces some other possible ways of cheating that can exist in brick and mortar poker rooms. I believe that cheating in the modern day poker rooms is quite rare, but I would not completely discount it as an impossible feat. The forms of cheating that may be possible in a brick and mortar poker room but would not be possible online include marking cards, crooked dealers in cahoots with other players, switching cards, holding out cards, front loading (seeing other players' cards as the dealer deals them), and sneaking a peek at another player's cards. Everyone likes to talk about the possibilities of getting cheated online, but it seems no one discusses the other forms of cheating that are completely eliminated when playing poker online.
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