Poker Basics

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Collusion occurs when two or more players seated at the same table work together as a team, usually signaling card holdings to each other, then betting with that unfair advantage to increase their winnings. Obviously, the risk of two or more people unfairly conspiring increases dramatically when the cheaters can operate under the anonymous cloak of the Internet.

But although advances in modern communications like cell phones and Instant Messages would seem to make online poker collusion almost a foregone conclusion, the situation is not as bleak as it first appears.

Online poker casinos use sophisticated computer programs to detect collusion. With them, site technicians are able to track betting patterns of suspected players, then cross-correlate results with those of other players at the same table to detect teamwork. Reputable sites thoroughly investigate all complaints made by clients suspecting collusion, and can direct computers to search back through voluminous hand history records to detect unnatural patterns.

In a brick and mortar poker games, a player can ask to see the hand of any player who calls the river card. Although colluders have occasionally been detected after a suspicious cross-raising war triggered suspicion, timing a request to see the hand of someone who obviously doesn't want to show it can be rather tricky. It's all too easy for a colluder to anticipate a query and fling a hand into the muck before a courteous request can be made to the dealer, who is busy with many things at the end of each hand.

Making such a request in a flesh-in-blood games can be sticky, too: Players are understandably unhappy and often indignant about revealing a losing hand - even if they're not up to anything.

Internet poker, while providing an environment conducive to collusion, also makes it far easier to detect: Any player can obtain a hand history showing detailed betting action and the cards of anyone who called the river card. Other players at the table won't even know when someone makes the request for either a hand history or a more extensive investigation, so there's no chance of an unpleasant confrontation to hold up the games. Play goes on, and with no interruption.

If anything looks suspicious, management can launch a computer program to compile cumulative hand history data about every hand a suspected player has ever played at the site - including the presence of possible colluding partners at each and every table involved.

Contrast these investigative options with the situation in a brick and mortar establishment: Rarely does management have the means to clarify exactly what happened in even one hand, since a floorman typically hears a different story from each person involved in a dispute. And cards successfully mucked remain forever unknown. As for past hands, there's no way to look at them except to examine whatever was recorded by the omnipresent security video. Although betting action may be examined as long as the video is kept, rarely would such film reveal cards not shown down if players protected them adequately during the hand.

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