Cheating & Online Poker (The Absolute Poker Debacle)

Cardroom Managment

September 16, 2007

I normally don’t comment on current events or news items, but this one dovetails nicely with some things I’ve been meaning to write about, so here goes. There is now high quality evidence that there has been cheating going on at one of the major poker sites, Absolute Poker, for the last 2 months or so in the high stakes limit and NL games. While this evidence is not 100% conclusive, in my opinion it’s at least 99.9% conclusive. My opinion is based is based both on the evidence presented and the people it came from. There’s an excellent summary of all the evidence here on 2+2:

Obviously any decision about whether to play on Absolute Poker, especially in the high stakes games, should take this information into account.

That said, I want to talk about online poker and cheating in a more general sense. It’s always been my opinion that online poker is fairly heavily cheated at the higher levels. The reason is simple – it’s technically feasible to do so, there’s a lot of money to be made, the people behind online poker are likely criminals, and there are no controls in place to prevent it and little chance the laws of any country would punish an online poker cheat.

When you find a scenario where crime would pay A LOT, you can bet there will be criminals flocking around. I can’t see any reason online poker is any different. Now, to be clear, real world poker is certainly not immune from cheating. But there are procedures you can follow that make it very difficult. In an online scenario like the one that appears to have occurred at Absolute, there’s not much anyone can do to put a stop to it. It’s like the most sophisticated imaginable real-world camera cheating scheme, only it’s easy and doesn’t involve massive amounts of expensive equipment. Just one inside contact at Absolute. If the cheat had been a better player and not startlingly greedy, this would have gone undetected. In fact, I suspect there are several similar schemes going on right now run by smarter and less greedy cheats with better poker skills, and no one is the wiser.

I think it’s unfortunate that poker forums have been so dismissive of the claim that “online poker is rigged”. I’m well aware that the majority of people making such claims are simply fish looking to justify their losses. But the argument that online poker is dirty has always been strong. Now we just have much more concrete evidence. This is a case where a correct position was argued by some uninformed and inarticulate people, and as such unfairly dismissed.

Be careful out there.

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