The Security Behind Online Poker – Is It Really Safe To Play Poker Online?


Is Playing Poker Online Safe?

Last Month I said I would give you some advice for choosing an online poker site. I have tried many sites and have now been playing regularly at Party

There are several reasons I have chosen Party Poker. Here are two of them.

Most sites offer a sign up bonus and subsequent promotional bonuses. In order to get the bonus you have to play a certain amount of raked hands. (This is a hand where the pot is big enough for them to take out the small rake that I discussed last month.) Some sites will only credit you for a raked hand if you have invested money in the pot. This means you do not get credit for a hand you played and folded after looking at your first two cards. In other words you are penalized for playing a tight game. At Party Poker you get credit for being in a hand even if you fold, as long as the pot was big enough for them to take out the rake.

The second reason I like Party Poker is because they have 10 player tables instead of 9 player tables. This means you can see an extra hand before the blinds come around. You will also have to put less money in the pot to meet your requirements for the bonus.

I will go in to more detail about choosing a site in a future article but I felt it was more important to discuss a concern that many people have asked me about safety... I have been playing online poker for a few years. When I discuss online poker with players who have yet to give it a try it seems I always get asked the same question, "Is it safe?"

In only a few short years Online Poker has become a billion dollar industry. In the last year alone live poker games and tournament play online has grown by staggering proportions. One estimate I saw listed the prize pool for tournaments from October 2003 to present was $102,015,000 (primarily from online events with a few related land based events.) If the growth continues and most agree that it will, 2005 will be another record setting year for online poker as more players log on to try their hand at the virtual felt tables. This will present a great opportunity for the skilled player to make some money from the uneducated players who are just using online poker as a form of entertainment.

Is It Safe?

The number one concern players have about online poker is whether they will be cheated by other players or by the site. This is a legitimate concern and one that needs to be addressed. This may or may not shock you, but cheating occurs anywhere there is money involved and poker is no exception. One minute after the first gambling game was invented someone was trying to figure out a way to cheat it.

There are poker players out there who do cheat and this is not limited to online poker. I ran into an instance a couple years back on the Vegas Strip which I wrote about in my book, Get the Edge at Low Limit Texas Hold’em, The main form of cheating amongst poker players is collusion. Two or more players will signal each other during a hand and try to take advantage of the "mark" or unsuspecting player. They may start raising every time the mark enters the hand. They will either try to drive that player out after he has bet or enough of them will stay in the hand until the end with the likelihood of one of them drawing out the targeted player. In a brick and mortar casino this would require players to use hand signals or some other means to convey their cards to each other but online it is a little easier for players to do this. Online players have numerous ways to communicate with each other via ICQ, instant messenger or even the telephone. In fact with a cable router or multiple phone lines you could actually have two people playing side by side in the same room. This makes it fairly easy for players to share information about their hands.

Software to Detect Cheaters

In a brick and mortar cardroom it is not often easy to prove when collusion happens. Once the dealer mucks the cards the hand is over and it is hard to prove anything out of the ordinary went on. This is not the case however when you are playing online. If you even suspect that some players are colluding with each other all you have to do is contact customer support and they will investigate. The operators of the online sites have a recorded history of all hands that have been played by each and every player. Many of the sites utilize special software programs to track the betting patterns of players suspected of collusion. They can search back over every hand played by the parties involved and look for anything out of the ordinary. This is a big advantage that online poker rooms have in flushing out cheaters.

Online Poke sites have a vested interest in keeping the games honest. If word gets around that rampant cheating was going on at the XYZ poker site, it would not take long for players to abandon that site for another site that is more vigilant in keeping the games honest. Most sites will take swift action against the cheaters. They can do this by freezing the cheaters account and using that money to give refunds to players who were involved in games with the cheaters. The cheaters are then banned from playing on that site in the future.

The operators are also looking out for themselves by trying to catch cheaters. Back when it was easy to use credit cards to fund accounts some of the sites got burned by players using stolen credit cards to fund a factious account. The player would then play against a co-conspirator who had a legitimate account and dump chips to that player by raising up hands and folding at the end when only the two of them were involved in a game. The co-conspirator would then cash out the stolen money and the poker site would get stuck for the money. This led to the sophisticated programs that the sites utilize to spot cheaters.

Hacking Unlikely

Another concern that players voice has to do with the hacking of a poker site. With the new technology and vast improvements with encryption and security the chance of someone hacking is not really an issue. Nobody can see your cards as you play except you. The online Poker sites use the same technology that is used by with online banks and other financial sites. If you are not worried about banking or trading stocks online, you shouldn’t be concerned playing poker either.

I do play poker online and I do so with confidence. I play lower limit games online than I do in the brick and mortar cardrooms but part of this has to do with the abundance of bad players at the lower limits. I believe that players who do try to cheat in low limit games online are overall losers to begin with and I am not too worried about them. I am also not worried about being cheated by the online pokers sites.

The online poker sites are making millions of dollars by collecting a rake on each and every hand that is played. They have no reason to jeopardize this lucrative business by trying to cheat the players. If you stick to well established sites you should have no problem playing poker online. Next month I will start to give you some tips for becoming a winning player.


Until next time, remember:
"Luck comes and goes...Knowledge Stays Forever."