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Poker security expert spills the beans about collusion

By Oliver Jon Cross

Just recently I received an email from a friend in the chess community about his concerns with collusion in online poker. "Collusion is when one or more players, work together to gain an unfair advantage over the other players at the tables.” Online poker security has been the majority of my work for the last three years, so I had no problem putting a few people at ease.

There are three different forms of collusion:

  • Soft Play
    Soft Playing is when one or more players don’t bet or raise in a situation that would normally merit it because you don’t want to cost your partner money.
  • Squeeze Play
    Squeeze Play is where one or more players raise and re-raise each other to trap players in between.
  • Chip Dumping
    Chip Dumping is where one or more players will deliberately lose to a partner.

Today the poker industry is a multi million dollar industry and it's number one priority is security and integrity. In the beginning online poker rooms and software developers employed poker experts to understand collusion and the best way to tackle the potential problem. Colluding in a live game has to consist of physical signaling between players, however today’s colluder can secretly use Yahoo or MSN messenger to communicate.

Many online poker rooms use sophisticated reports to detect collusion. If the poker room has any reason to believe two or more players maybe colluding, they have the right to freeze the suspect’s accounts until a full and thorough investigation is completed. Reports and adept security departments can flag suspicious accounts upon first entering an online poker room.

For obvious reasons I can’t go into great detail. However there are a few basic generalizations, such as the occurrence of two or more players seated in the same game, large winning sessions and suspicious playing patterns. For example a player could be drawing dead (drawing to a hand that cannot win because someone already holds a hand that will beat what you are drawing to) however the player continues to call or even raise.

How do you tell the difference between bluffing (raising when drawing dead) and colluding? Only experienced staff with a vast understanding of the game can make this call. There are a number of factors that must be taken into consideration, but a majority of decisions will be based on betting patterns. Basically the computer flags the suspect and the investigation is done manually by the professional staff of the poker room.

It’s not impossible, but it is very hard and you won’t get away with it. A good colluder must have an excellent mathematical understanding of the game and quite likely doesn’t need to cheat to win. If you get caught you run the risk of losing your own money and you could get banned from more than one online poker room [Editor's note: there are online poker security companies that supply information on colluders].

I am willing to risk my reputation and state that it’s harder to collude online than in the real world. Mainly because we know what you're holding and every hand is saved.

Unfortunately there are too many ignorant losing players when discussing online poker. Losing players are willing to blame everyone and anything. During my time in operations and customer service I have heard every complaint from faulty RNG’s (Random Number Generators), collusion, disconnections and general rigging of the online poker business. Just ask yourself one question, if you’re making a few hundreds or even thousands a day, why risk it to make a couple of extra dollars.

A poker room puts the security of it's customers as it’s number one priority, because online poker is a licence to print money.

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