Why you shouldn’t gamble - how people cheat at online and offline poker

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article (C) 2008 verycoolwriting.com

Online poker over the last five years has become exceptionally popular, more specifically something known as Texas Hold-em poker. I actually really got sucked into it, thinking I could start making $10,000/day after reading about students making millions of dollars. Instead of making that much in a day, I ended up spending months playing, only to find out I ended up paying for someone else’s really nice vacation from the money I had lost.

Part of the reason poker in general became so popular was because there was a hockey/sports strike a few years ago, so the t.v. stations filled the dead air-time with poker games. Almost overnight the casinos filled up with new poker players wanting to get rich quick. Then came on-line poker where you could play and win from the anonymity and comfort of your own home. However, it is extremely difficult, if not almost impossible, to win at online or offline poker unless you cheat, or are a robot, and I’ll explain why. Hopefully this will help you never start playing, or if you do – play it for fun. There are 3 elements to this article – offline cheating, online cheating, and why, just being human, you’ll almost always lose.

Cheating On-line

It is exceptionally easy to cheat on-line, and here is how people do it:

  • IM Chats/Phone/E-Mail/etc – Friends will sit at the same table, and chat/share information about their hands. So if are trying to bluff say having a King, and two other players know they each have kings, they aren’t scared, and will get your money. Many poker sites can detect ‘simple’ cheating – but only after it has happened a few times. Secondly, there are more sophisticated methods virtually undetectable.
  • Group Cheating – This is a much more effective way of cheating. Essentially a software program co-ordinates groups of 50 or more players playing at tables, which tables they should play at, when they should leave, etc – to thwart detection software at poker tables. The software then co-ordinates hands between players, letting each other know when they should bet, when they should fold, thus maximizing their profits and minimizing losses. For example, if three players are cheating together, and each has an ace, and on the board comes another ace – and then you try to ‘bluff’ having an ace, each of the players will know that you are faking it and then try to milk you for as much money as possible. When this type of software is randomized, it makes it virtually impossible for poker sites to detect it, because it would become too mathematically time-consuming to process. Most poker sites can only detect simple cheating (i.e., groups of identical players always playing together). As soon as they start mixing and matching with larger numbers of players, it becomes virtually impossible. To further confuse the poker sites, the software will occasionally allow players to ‘lose’ – so it doesn’t seem like any particular player is on a constant winning streak, but just has rather good luck
  • Software Helpers (i.e., “Odds Calculators”) – Surprisingly, many poker sites actually allow players to use software which is called an ‘Odds calculator’, which gives an unfair advantage over players simply using their brains (an example, not an endorsement, is ‘Texas Calculatem’ at calculatem.com). Basic version of this type of software simply shows the likelihood of winning a particular hand (i.e., % of you beating other players based solely on your cards, i.e., with flush draws, straights, full houses, etc). However, more sophisticated software – which many poker sites allow (such as partypoker.com) – constantly monitors what hands other players play – and records what cards they have when it goes down to a ‘showdown’. (I.e., when each player say goes all-in and shows each other their cards). This software then can determine ‘playing’ patterns. So as a basic example, if the software notices that you only go all-in when you have a flush draw (i.e., you have nothing right now, but are trying to force other players out so you can win the pot) – then the software will advise someone who say only has a pair of 2’s to go all-in, because they will probably beat you. And you lose money, instead of being able to scare other players out. I was actually playing a hand against someone – and stunned, I asked him why he didn’t fold to my all-in bet. He actually told me in the chat that the software he was using actually told me I was probably bluffing, and that he would probably win the hand with a single pair. I was very angry, obviously.
  • Poker Bots – Many sites actually disallow Pokerbots, but because the source code is available for some of them (i.e., http://www.codingthewheel.com/archives/how-i-built-a-working-poker-bot), and the fact that there are just so many different ways of fooling the poker sites, it is very difficult to stop them. (Actually, I was surprised how easy it was for me to find the above link, I simply went into google and did a search for ‘win poker bot’. A more ‘well-know’ poker bot is the WinHoldEm poker bot). Methods of figuring out cards use everything from something called ‘screen scraping’ (and analyzing pixels on cards), to reverse-engineering poker software to figure out what calls they are making, etc, etc. The only somewhat feasible way nowadays would be to have poker sites literally implementing a CAPTCHA every single hand. (In other words, before you made a bet on a hand, you’d have to enter a secret code). But even captchas are easier and easier to defeat nowadays. Bottom line, only if you use one of the most common poker bots like WinHoldem, will a poker site be able to detect it. But if you design your own poker bot, or use a lesser-known one – then you’ll be able to go ride your bike while the poker bot is raking in cash for you.

Cheating Off-line

Cheating in the casino is just as easy, but is done differently.

  • Group Cheating – This is a different form of group cheating, but still group cheating. Usually more ‘experienced’ players will go in at least a group of 2 or 3 players per table, and will have an agreed upon set of rules before they start playing. This is everything from physical signaling (i.e., scratching your head, talking about the weather in different states to hint at what cards you have, i.e., talking about Arkansas might mean that you have an ‘AA’), to subtler signaling. (I.e., betting three times the blind always means you have a pocket pair, or if you re-raise your buddy by say 3 times, then you are telling him you have AA and that he should fold and you’ll split the profits later).
  • Folding/marking cards. Although the casinos will generally reshuffle their cards, and bring in new decks, it is still possible for astute players to mark cards. They can do this by folding cards (say aces), tearing off little pieces, or even using ‘dirty’ fingers (i.e., powder, etc) on their fingers to mark ‘special’ cards (i.e., aces).
  • Dealer/player collusion There are some players that collude with dealers, and the dealers shuffle from ‘underneath’ the deck. I played one game in a casino where the dealer seemed to know a few of the players very well, and one player in particular just always seemed to hit ‘magic’ cards. (Make a full house when someone had a straight, or four of a kind when someone had a full house, etc).

It is harder, but not impossible, for people to cheat in the casinos. Not to mention that – when playing in ‘person’, someone might ‘roll’ you (beat you up) simply for winning “their” $100, let alone to mention if you just had a really lucky night and happened to win a few thousand. Is it really worth the risk?

The Human Element:

Finally, there is the human element to why you shouldn’t play. Let’s say you are aware of all these different tactics employed, and feel that you can still ‘beat’ the system. Let’s say you’ve read all the poker books on when to ‘hold-em’, and when to ‘fold-em’. Can you still win? Well, this will affect how you play (and not in a good way).

  • Tiredness – Most people don’t know when to leave the table, especially when they are losing. They figure that they will play ‘just’ one more hand – but several hours later, are still at the table, and several hundred or thousand dollars poorer. Likewise, it is very, very hard to leave the table when you are on a winning streak, because you start to get greedy and think it will last, until you make one small mistake and find that your ‘huge’ winnings that you acquired in the last two hours, are lost in 1 minute.
  • Emotional Roller Coaster – Playing poker can be very emotionally draining. When you win – you feel very elated and excited, but when you lose, you feel really, really bad. I’ve know “professional” poker players that did actually manage to make a living at playing poker, but had gray hair in their late 20’s. Is it really worth the risk playing now, to maybe make a few extra thousand dollars, at the expense of your heath? Not to mention, when I played, I felt the exact same kind of feelings.
  • Time waster – Unless you play really really good tight aggressive poker (and know when to play loose), you are going to find that it takes a really really long time to win, and you’ll get bored very easily and start making mistakes. Usually if you are a good player you can make 2-2.5 times the amount of your buy-in within one hour. However, most people don’t have the patience to wait that long, and want the “thrill” of playing so will start making dumb moves. That’s when you start paying the really good players, and walk away empty handed.

If, however, after reading this article, you STILL want to play poker and try winning money at it, I’d recommend visiting one of the many sites where they give you money to play. One such site is pokerstrategy.com. They “give” you $50 without you having to spend your own money. However, please note – the strategy that they have will take you literally days of non-stop playing before you see any real-money, and you are more likely to blow the $50 within the first 5 minutes of playing (boredom), and then deposit your own money, than you are likely to make any real money. If you do play according to their strategy to the letter, then it is possible that you will win money. However, you will probably have to play non-stop at least 2-3 months before you see any ‘reasonable’ money, but by then it basically becomes just like having a full time job.

The only time I think you should play poker is when you can play the game without caring whether or not you win ore lose – but if you were in that position, you probably wouldn’t be playing poker, would you? I hope this article helps you save time and money, and helps you use it towards more fruitful endeavors.

article (C) 2008 verycoolwriting.com

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