The potential of winning large amounts of cash after beating your opponents is one of the main reasons behind poker being a highly competitive sport. One of the ways online poker players cheat is collusion which involves two or more players working together. And there are several ways poker sites detect and prevent collusion.
The most common method by which poker sites prevent collusion is to develop software that tracks every move players make in a poker room. By reviewing the history of all the actions taken at a table, the site will have a good idea about whether collusion is or has taken place.
You already know anything that involves money tends to bring the worst out of people as there will be cheaters trying to scam other people. Online poker is no exception. Some players will do anything to have an edge and greatly increase their chances of winning, whether it is ethical or not, legal or not. They also take advantage of the fact that online poker is relatively anonymous.
The amount of money flowing through online casinos at and point in time may be up to several billions of dollars. Now, the nature of online poker rooms (digital) means they are less susceptible to online theft.
There are certain types of fraud that online poker is more susceptible to. And collusion is one of them.
What is online gambling player collusion?
Collusion occurs in poker when two or more players playing at the same table covertly work together in order to increase the chances of one of them winning a hand. To better understand how collusion works, imagine a group of friends (two or more) logging into an online poker site and playing at the same table.
Then, they reveal their cards to each other so they all have an idea of the cards that are already in play. Now, their aim is to have one of them win the hand. They may even increase their winnings by getting players to raise or get players out of hand by making them fold. And at the end of the day, they share the winnings amongst themselves.
Therefore, collusion greatly cuts down on the element of chances that’s common to most card games. The number of cards in a deck is limited and when players have knowledge of the cards dealt to other players as well as the number of cards remaining with the dealer, they are able to significantly reduce the number of potential outcomes.
Collusion is harder to carry out when you are playing live poker because the actions and behaviors of all the players at the tables are closely monitored. There’s a reason why casinos have cameras and state-of-the-art surveillance systems installed.
When you go online, it becomes increasingly difficult to monitor the actions and behaviors of players. Collusion can also be carried out by a single player and this is termed ‘self collusion’.
You probably thought collusion requires multiple players. Well, the opposite is true. But working with multiple players is usually faster and more convenient. And a single player can carry out collusion alone.
How does self collusion work? Here, a player will open several accounts with the same poker site and play at the same table using his multiple accounts. This way, he has knowledge of most of the cards in the hand and the outcome is the same as multiple players collaborating to rig the game.
How does player collusion work?
There are a lot of reasons online poker players collude to win a game. Yeah, I know winning the game is the most prominent reason but there are still other reasons as well.
The colluding players are in constant communication throughout the game, revealing cards to each other and determining who has the best hand. Also, they’ll be able to determine the cards that are still available after putting their cards into consideration. The more players colluding together, the more they will be able to narrow down undealt cards. Take for example a situation where four players are colluding.
Now, if the standard 52-deck cards, there will be four of each type of card. Assuming the colluding players are dealt four aces or four kings, then they surely know none of the other players have kings or aces. At the same time, they are also aware that there are no more kings or aces in the deck.
If you consider another scenario where the colluding players end up with three of any cards, they know that there is only one left in the deck. At the same time, there are also sure that none of the other players have a pair of the card.
It is by sharing information and collaborating that colluding players significantly reduces the number of potential outcomes of any hand.
Players typically use phone calls, text messages, Skype, and other communication tools to share information and discuss cheating strategies.
Common Reasons For Player Collusion
Players collude for just more than winning a poker game or other card games. And we’ll be looking at the common reasons for player collusion.
Now that you are thinking about it, you can probably see why players will collude with the intention of laundering money. It’s an open secret that governments have means of monitoring money obtained by illegal means. Most countries have very strict rules and regulations to achieve this.
Let’s use the US for example. You are probably aware that US banks have to report any deposits that exceed $10,000. Should anyone attempt to deposit more than $10,000, the source of the money will be looked into. The depositor has to be able to prove that the money he/she is depositing is actually gotten by legal means.
Gambling is seen as a legitimate source of income in the US and any winnings from casinos, online or live, don’t raise red flags. And this is one of the main reasons why casinos are regularly used for money laundering. One of the ways by which people ‘clean dirty money’ is through collusion on online poker rooms. The particular method of collusion usually used is called chip dumping, which will be explained better in this article.
The short version of chips dumping however is that a lot of players deliberately lose to a single player. The winning player then withdraws his winnings which will be legitimate and raises no red flags as it seemed to be obtained by legal means. And the colluding players share their winnings after.
There are times when collusion is used to influence and affect tournament play. Chips dumping and sharing of hole cards are usually the most common method by which players use collusion to influence tournament play.
Poker is a psychological game. The fact that online poker players don’t see each other eye to eye doesn’t make it the version of poker any less psychological. The aim of the colluding players is to toy with other players psychologically and influence them to make decisions they won’t make under normal circumstances.
Poker sites offer lots of generous bonuses to players. These bonuses are far more than what you’ll ever get in live poker. The bonuses are mainly sign-up bonuses and other incentives that will encourage/motivate players to play poker games.
These bonuses usually come with clauses that require players to wager a certain percentage/amount of the bonus. Sometimes, players have to bet a certain number of times. It is only after these requirements have been met that the bonus can be withdrawn.
Let’s consider a bonus that comes with a 3X rollover requirement. This clause requires the player to wager three times the total amount of the bonus before the bonus can be withdrawn. Poker sites are very smart. There’s no guarantee you’ll win any of the three times you make a bet, so they aren’t losing money by paying you the bonus.
What some poker players do is to come together and collude. They lose to each other while meeting the requirements. The winning will be shared amongst them and they also get the bonus. Some players even open new accounts and start the process all over again.
How to detect collusion online?
Collusion is a lot easier to carry out online than it is when you are playing live poker. However, a lot of colluding players aren’t skilled or smart enough to get away with it as collusion isn’t as easy as it seems.
Poker sites have the software and other means by which they check for and prevent collusion. Still, you need to watch out for these cheaters. And the only way you can do that is if you know how they carry out their scams. As a result, I’ll be discussing the various means by which you can detect collusion online.
Many poker pros consider softplaying the least problematic method by which players carry out collusion. But cheating is cheating. And any form of cheating is unfair to other players and unacceptable in poker, live or online. As the name suggests, two players (or more, but usually two) ‘softplays’ against each other. This means the two players will not play aggressively against each other. The colluders will instead decide to focus on weaker players.
Softplaying is not difficult to detect if you are observant and have played a couple of hands with the colluders. You’ll also notice that the colluding players will most likely never raise each other except when it is the two of them remaining in the hand.
The softplayers cannot play for long at a table without raising suspicions. Imagine the softplayers coming up with aces or kings towards the end of the betting rounds. Software isn’t much of a problem in cash games but a total disaster in tournaments. This is because softplaying makes it difficult to eliminate one of the schemers.
Squeezing is plain wrong no matter the perspective you view it from. Here, two players (yes, more people could be involved but it’s quite common to see two players colluding) work together and gang up against an unsuspecting/innocent player.
The aim of the colluders is to beat the innocent player at showdown without necessarily having the best hand. Their plan is to intimidate their opponent and leave him/her no choice but to surrender his/her chips and fold. An example will be given below to give you an idea of how squeezing is carried out.
The first colluder (colluder A) will raise pre-flop, then their unsuspecting opponent three-bets. The second colluding player (colluder B) then four-bets, colluder A five-bets, and their opponent is then forced to fold. Colluder B then calls. When it remains the two colluding players at the tables, one of them will have to fold eventually post-flop.
The winning colluding player gets the pot which is made up of their opponent’s chips, including any ante or blind he placed. The cheaters may also go about squeezing differently if their opponent/victim happens to be the original raiser. The colluders just simply re-raise after him. This method is more effective as the colluding players will have someone to put blame on – a patsy.
The first method tends to bleed the victim of more chips but is a lot riskier. It’s rare for two colluding players to get to a showdown and this is because one of them will most likely have a weak hand. And it’s not like they are playing to have better hands but then it wouldn’t be cheating if that’s their intention. It makes perfect sense for you to raise and re-raise when you have strong hands in poker.
But these cheaters aren’t playing to have strong hands. Their intention is to make an unsuspecting player raise and then fold by intimidating him/her. Squeezing is frustrating and troubling when it is carried out during the bubble period of a single table tournament. The bubble refers to the period when just one or a few players need to be eliminated before reaching the cash.
During this period, the blinds are very high – remember that blinds increase in tourneys – relative to the chips stack. The colluders can manage to swing a tournament in their favor after they get their opponent(s) to raise, especially during the bubble period.
You should try to be attentive at the tables and see if two players display this pattern on a somewhat regular basis. Another method to find out is to call the raises made by the colluders and get them (one is even enough) to showdown. If you find out that they have really weak hands at poker, then you can be fairly certain that they are cheating.
Remember chip dumping? I talked about it as a way by which people launder money above. And we’ll be talking more about it here.
Chip dumping in cash games generally refers to when two colluding players transfer chips to one another. It may seem and even be relatively harmless to other players at the table. But it’s some sort of cheating.
Colluders sometimes dump chips on one another during tournaments to give one of them an edge (an unfair edge, by the way) as one of the cheaters deliberately loses his/her chips to the other one. By the time one of them is eliminated from the table, the other has a big edge for the remainder of the tournament. Chip dumping is very difficult to detect in poker tournaments and the scammer usually carries it out as a one-time thing.
The colluder dumping chips usually seem like some silly donk blowing off steam. One of the ways to detect players dumping chips is to note their usernames and track them down in other tourneys. But this is usually stressful and involves time and money from you. So just mail your suspicions to the poker site. Online poker rooms don’t take any form of collusion lightly and they’ll investigate the matter.
I must also mention that not all strange play you encounter is collusion. What may appear to be softplay, chip dumping, or even squeezing may just be a legitimate strategic move. But should you notice any of the above methods of collusion repeatedly between the same sets of players, then you’ll do well to inform the poker room.
How online poker sites prevent collusion?
Ha, I’ve finally arrived here. I know a lot of you are eager to know how poker sites prevent collusion and make the game fair to all. And as I mentioned above, the software is the most common tool online poker rooms use to prevent collusion.
By developing different types of software, poker sites are trying to stay ahead of players trying to collude or use other malicious means to win games. These software’s are designed to detect collusion and any other fraudulent practices players may use.
It must be mentioned that it is very difficult to catch colluding players in the act as they communicate through media like telephone, skype, text messages, and so on. But the good thing is that their collaboration will certainly reflect in the game and will be noticeable in terms of dropped hands and by the manner by which they win or lose. As poker sites can’t control what happens or players do outside the tables, they make sure to take absolute control of the things happening in their realm.
This is why many poker sites make use of state-of-the-art software to detect various methods of collusion. Then, the software alerts fraud experts employed by the poker sites of any suspicious play. And the fraud expert will look into the matter. The experts are able to review every aspect of the game. They’ll know the cards each player was dealt, their entire action at the table, and the hands they had when they went all-in or folded.
Also, a number of patterns are also looked into like a player with a good hand folding early and two players playing at the same table consistently. The casino will also check if there is a history of one of the two players winning big on a regular basis. Random checks are also carried out and log files reviewed to see if there is any evidence of collusion.
It’s also possible for online poker rooms to detect players’ self colluding. A player using two separate computers/devices, two separate internet connections, and even two identities can be detected especially when he/she makes mistakes. It may be when the player forgets to take a turn for the accounts he is using. However, poker sites attempt to prevent players from opening multiple accounts by requesting an ID when a withdrawal is to be made.
Poker sites’ logging system is another great collusion detection tool. Online poker rooms maintain a record of all the players that competed at a table to win a hand. Should two players or more be suspected of collusion, all the poker site has to do is to have one of its staff to review the logs and check the time when the players played together and the outcome of the games.
The last method of collusion detection by poker sites I’ll be talking about is honest poker players. Online poker rooms encourage players to report any suspicious activity. There is no need for evidence or proof. And the poker site will look into the matter by reviewing their logs.
A lot of false accusations will be made of course. But collusion isn’t in your best interest or that of the poker room and it’s better to look into a false claim that falls victim to the schemes of these cheaters who have no respect for the fairness of the game.
Other methods by which poker players cheat online
Poker bots are essentially computer programs that play online poker. You can read our article on whether poker sites have bots.
The possibility of bots playing at poker tables cannot be ruled out. However, these bots will most likely be playing on the lowest limits as the skill of people at the level is low. There is no way one can be sure that everyone participating in a tournament all are human.
Normally, online poker rooms wouldn’t be very interested in catching bots as they also generate rake. However, should a bot be discovered and revealed to the public, people will quickly lose confidence in the poker room. It is for this reason that online poker sites implement measures to detect bots.
For one, the poker site will try to determine whether you have certain apps running background (e.g. the WinHoldem poker bot framework). Screenshots are taken during gameplay, especially in online poker. The reaction time of a player is also put into consideration.
Ghosting occurs when a player receives advice from another player during cash games or tournaments. Ghosting isn’t allowed in live poker as your actions and behavior are closely monitored by the casino. However, when you move to online poker, it becomes more difficult to prevent ghosting.
Some people have their friends sit with them throughout the poker session and receive advice from them. Others instead prefer to communicate with people helping them over Skype, TeamViewer, or telephone calls. Skype and TeamViewer have even made it possible for players to transmit real-times pictures of what they have on their screen to the computer of the person helping them (called ghost).
The main benefit of ghosting is that the player gets a second opinion before taking actions or making moves. And this may reduce the chances of a said player going on tilt. It’s more common to see people ghosting towards the end of online poker tournaments. The game becomes harder at this stage and getting help from a pro could help the player win the pot.
The harm done to other poker players may be relatively limited in ghosting but it still gives the player an unfair advantage.