The subject of cheating, particularly that of online poker site employees being able to see your cards, never goes away. As poker continues to grow and new players join the scene, it’s understandable that such accusations pervade. Of course, none of these myths are actually true, as you’ll discover in this article.
However, there certainly have been some famous security breaches in the distant past, which only fuels suspicion among skeptics. Learn more about these and discover exactly what lessons have been learned by online card rooms to keep poker games fair.
Ensuring Fairness in Online Gambling
Online gambling companies have to take certain actions in order to earn and maintain their license. Whether it’s online casino games, sports betting, or internet poker, one of the many hoops the operator must jump through concerns game integrity. All software used has to be independently certified as fair, random, and honest.
Random number generators used to produce roulette wheel animations, poker hole cards, or slot machine results are rigorously tested before they can go live. Reputable compliance experts like GLI or BMM Testlabs run millions of simulations to guarantee there are no flaws in the software. Encryption techniques are also thoroughly scrutinized to ensure they’re watertight. There is just no way anyone can cheat, including poker room staff.
“Poker is rigged!” scream the naysayers. But honestly, why would a card room bother? It’s not like sports betting or casino games, where the operator could feasibly lose money on any given day due to unlucky outcomes. They already make so much money from cash game rake and hosting online poker tournaments that there’s simply no need to cheat.
Imagine what would happen if a poker room was found to be fixing outcomes or allowing employees to see the cards. News would spread like wildfire across the forums, social media, and by word-of-mouth. Within weeks, not one registered player would remain, fleeing to the safety of competing card rooms or quitting altogether.
These companies have guaranteed fruit to pick every day in the form of rake. So why would they cut down the entire tree and risk killing their profits?
It’s important to remember that most people who make accusations of cheating are just bad, long-term losing players. They will bang on about having their aces cracked as if having the best poker hole cards is supposed to guarantee them a win. Confirmation bias is an issue with such players, too. They focus on the bad beats and forget the instances where they were lucky themselves.
Learning From Mistakes
In fairness, there have been a few high-profile instances of compromised online poker sites in the past. For a long time, these incidents certainly fanned the flames of suspicion among skeptical sections of the poker community.
However, given the subsequent changes made as a result, poker security online is now tighter than ever. The following scandals rocked the poker world at the time. But in the long run, they taught lessons that helped to make the game much safer.
One of the most recent security breaches came way back in 2015. A piece of spyware known as Odlanor targeted users of the industry’s two biggest poker sites. This malware was smuggled onto a player’s computer by bundling it up with other pieces of software.
Once installed, it took screenshots of the player’s screen, revealing important details like hole cards and usernames, which were then sent to the attacker. It wouldn’t matter which type of poker table you select or what the stakes are; if your opponent can literally see your hole cards, you’re destined to lose. Luckily, though, Odlanor only affected a couple of hundred accounts before it was discovered, never becoming a major issue.
Something that absolutely was a major scandal at the time was the infamous UltimateBet superuser affair. Supported by high-profile professionals like Annie Duke and Phil Hellmuth, UB was founded in the early days of internet poker, when regulation wasn’t so tight.
High-rolling players began to suspect that a user named “NioNio” had some sort of access to hole cards. This was triggered by suspicious betting patterns and the ability to win an unrealistic number of pots in bizarre circumstances. David Paredes, one of those affected, shared hand histories that helped to unravel the scandal, which took place between 2005 and 2007.
A similar story was also unfolding around the same time over at Absolute Poker, sparked by a user named “Potripper.” Given that both sites were on the Cereus Poker Network, something was clearly amiss with these suspicious accounts.
Upon investigation, it turned out that 1994 World Series of Poker Main Event winner Russ Hamilton was behind the accounts in question. He did indeed have access to hole cards, and Absolute co-founder Scott Tom later confessed that hole card access via so-called “superuser” accounts was possible.
Hand histories were obtained from Absolute Poker in order to recreate a suspicious-looking online poker tournament. When it was revealed that all hands were visible, not only those of the individual player, it became clear that access to hole cards was real. The resulting decline of the two brands taught poker sites a valuable lesson in security practices.
Other Forms of Cheating
These days, the issue of access to hole cards is non-existent. With so much security involved and historical lessons around superuser accounts learned, we can consider that particular problem solved. However, a much more modern threat exists in the form of poker software tools like solvers.
Real-time assistance (RTA) tools, like heads-up displays and GTO solvers, are considered cheating by most poker sites. While it’s fine to use such tools in your own time to aid with studying the game, they’re not allowed while actually playing. If caught, money will be confiscated, and bans can be issued.
One of the best-known cases involves Fedor Kruse, who used a $60,000 RTA setup dubbed the “dream machine” to inform his strategy. GGPoker confiscated $250,000 after he was confirmed to be cheating. This only goes to show that security teams working for poker sites are doing their jobs effectively.
Play Poker in Safety at BetMGM
If you’re looking for somewhere trustworthy to play poker online, why not register with BetMGM? There’s no need to worry about your hole cards being visible, while the selection of slots and live dealer casino games is also certified as completely fair and secure.