Many players are concerned about collusion and cheating on the Internet Some avoid playing online for just this reason. There are conspiracy theories that the poker sites cheat their own customers. Some people don't trust computers and the Internet and believe other players can hack into the system to actually "see" the cards. Others simply believe that a lot of players collude online by either playing with two computers or talking to a buddy on the phone.
The first two concerns, conspiracy and hacking, are not very valid concerns. Poker sites have nothing to gain by cheating their own customers. It takes a significant amount of money to invest in software, marketing, and customer support to start-up a site. Sites are willing to invest this money for the tremendous income potential the site can earn from the rake. Why risk this income and their integrity by cheating their customers?
One popular theory is the "cash out curse." Some players believe that some sites will blacklist you once you have cashed out so that your cards start to run cold. What would the sites gain by doing this? They earn the rake in every game no matter who wins the pot. Good and bad runs are just an inherent part of the game, which explains why it often seems that you hit a bad run just after a nice run of the cards.
Another common worry is that computer hackers could somehow break into the system to ''see" the cards of their opponents while they are playing. I am not a computer hacking expert; however, if this were possible, these sites would not be in business very long. Somehow I manage to make money, which would be very difficult if players could see my cards.
Collusion and cheating between players is a valid concern, just as it is in live games. It is quite easy for players to connect online with two different computers or call a buddy on the telephone. Being able to play two hands at the same table is an added advantage.
First, you have a better idea if your outs are counterfeited. For example, if one player holds KQ and another player QJ, both players would be better off folding since their queen is a weak out. On the other hand, if one player holds KQ and another JT, they have a good chance of hitting something on the flop between the two of them.
Second, two players can work together to build a larger pot when one of the players has a super strong hand, for example, if one player flops a set and bets out. the other player could raise even though he has absolutely nothing. This raise charges the other players more money for playing in a pot his partner is likely to win. Third, your partner can help you drive out the other opponents by raising and reraising.
Although players are able to collude, one great advantage to the Internet is that the poker site has access to everyone's cards. In a casino, the players' cards are often buried in the muck making it difficult to detect cheating. On the Internet, most sites have sophisticated detection programs that can look for unusual play or earnings that are unusually high.
if you suspect that two players are colluding together, contact the customer support team of the particular site to investigate. PokerStat software actually has a feature that will evaluate whether two players have potentially been colluding.
Another thing to realize about cheating is that good players don't need to cheat!
The players who are most likely to cheat are the players who can't win otherwise. I know of a player who decided to connect two computers in his house so he could collude online. Unfortunately for him, he is not a very good player and lost several thousand dollars very quickly. Although it is an advantage to see the cards of two players, it still is not enough of an advantage to turn a losing player into a winning player. People might try to cheat, but if they aren't good players to start with, they still will find that winning is difficult
Colluding and cheating occurs; however, the more important question is how much does this impact your earn rate. I believe the impact is quite negligible, especially when looking at the benefits of playing online versus a live casino. In a casino, you have to overcome the rake, parking, gas, meals, and most importantly tips, to make your session profitable. On the Internet, you have to overcome the rake and some collusion that might be taking place. I believe the tips you pay in a casino are far more than any money you might lose through collusion on the Internet.
Another form of cheating is abuse of the all-in feature. If a player gets disconnected, he still has a chance of winning the pot without investing any additional money. Some players abuse this feature and will intentionally disconnect themselves. Unfortunately, there is not much you can do when this happens. The only thing you can really do is contact customer support so that they will monitor the player and prevent him from playing if he abuses the all-in feature too often.
The bottom line is that I believe all of these are minor concerns when playing online. I have played for thousands of hours online and have demonstrated a good win rate. However, as discussed in the ''Promotions" chapter, a more important concern is the site's reputation and financial stability. A few sites have gone bankrupt and have taken off with the players' deposits. This is not cheating but plain and simple robbery.
This risk can be mitigated quite easily. Try to play at reputable sites with a lot of traffic. Small sites with very little traffic are risky endeavors unless a well-known company backs them. If you decide to play at a small site, be sure to only keep a very small amount of money on deposit at any one time.
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