Scams in online poker
Online poker is a very peculiar game. Even though they’re closely related, the differences between online poker and its live variant are obvious to everyone who devoted some time to studying them both.
Most of the differences between the two variants can be traced back to the difference in pace between them. We are all aware that (because of their nature and the actions involved) there are far more hands played per hour in online poker than there are in live poker. If we consider a good player who knows how to exploit the positive expected value situations and we assume that he’s able to stay focused for hours on end, the more hands played per hour will result in a higher hourly rate, thus the conclusion is that online poker is should normally be more profitable.
Unfortunately this is just not the case. When coming across a bigger hourly rate, people usually react by relaxing. After all, even if they do not strictly exploit all high EV+ situations and they act on the lower EV+ ones too, they’ll still cut a good hourly rate, right? Right. What this does it that it loosens up the game (these are low-to-medium limits we’re talking about here). People will play more hands by acting on lower EV+ because the higher hourly rate will come to their rescue.
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Poker reviews usually associate loose play with value. They say it is much easier to lift money off loose players than it is off tight ones. They are correct to assume so, but the problem is, when everyone around the table is loose, the variables of the equation change.
It becomes difficult as hell to make money because of the schooling, and because of the adverse odds multiple callers mean for every single poker hand.
Low limit online Texas Holdem is extremely loose and for that, it is extremely difficult to beat too. This is the very reason why good players constantly find their EV+ hands outdrawn by runner-runner 2-3 outers. This takes us to the point I’m trying to make with this whole lecture: according to the above explanation, being hit by incredible bad beats in online poker is not as improbable as most players assume it is. Therefore, crying ‘rigged!” at such turns of events is not justified. The number of hands played per hour further increases the frequency of such bad beats.
Having had access to inside poker room information, I can calmly state that no online poker software is knowingly rigged by the company. Besides, it doesn’t make any sense for them to rig their software when they can make more money over the long-run by staying fair and honest.
Despite all that, the danger that the software will be exploited by an insider still exists, as recent events on one of the best known and appreciated poker rooms proved it. Fortunately, such hacks always leave behind a trail of slime, that is of betting patterns which make it relatively easy for poker room authorities to track and identify the perpetrator. (as it happened in the above-named incident too).
As far as scams go, online poker patrons should be afraid of other players much more than the poker room.
One common online poker scam is the borrowing of money. The scammer asks an innocent victim to lend him a few bucks (some loose change like $5-10) and promise to return it with a huge interest. The funny thing is, they do return it interest and all. Having gained a certain level of trust this way, the scammer goes back to the drawing board after a while and borrows money again – this time slightly more. He once again lives up to his promise and returns everything. He does this same trick about twice more, by which time the victim regards him as a source of cash rather than a potential thief. The scene is set for the scammer to strike. He asks for money once again, this time for a significant sum (can be anything from $100 to a few thousands of dollars) and is never heard of again.
Other scammers will ask someone to trade money with them: if they get $100 from the victim in one poker room, they’ll gladly give up their $150 account for them in another one, since they hate playing there anyway, and transfer is such a fuss.
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After the victim agrees tempted by the extra dough, the scammer cashes out and disappears. Only later will the victim find out (upon the closure of his newly acquired account) that the money he got was stolen from another player, or that he just played a part in a large-scale money laundering operation. Something like that will have far further reaching implications than the actual loss of the money from the account.
The side-bet scam is another - less elaborate - scheme. The perpetrator doesn’t even need to put his money on the line in this one. He sits in on a STT, and watches the play then he tries to draw players or other onlookers into a side-bet regarding the winner of the tourney. If he wins he’ll demand the loser pay him, if he loses he just vanishes.
Many of these schemes go on in poker forums where people interact on a daily basis. Some people are masters in gaining others’ trust, and some of them will simply ask for a loan and then disappear with the money. Even though you might reckon only dumb people fall victim to such scams, you’d be amazed to find that normal people like you and I are often just as vulnerable when faced with the persuasion skills of these master-scammers.
Never let yourself be talked into anything that involves any sort of transfer of funds between you and another party except the poker room. There’s nothing wrong in playing along and letting scammers have their fun, but draw the line when it comes to money. No well-intentioned entity will ever require you send them money without proper assurances.
Do not make a scammer’s day.