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Home arrow Online Poker Games arrow Internet Poker Honestyarrow The Bottom Line -As We See It
The Bottom Line -As We See It

So what does all this mean to you? Is Internet poker holding its own against collusion, hacking, and outright thievery - as enthusiasts and site operators' claim - or is cheating as rampant online as some Internet newsgroup posters believe? (If you read the Internet newsgroup rec. gambling. poker (RGP) on any given day, you're almost certain to find at least one "thread," or group of posted messages, dealing with some sort of alleged malfeasance or conspiracy involving online opponents, site operators, or both.)

Our answer begins with a stark statistic many players acknowledge only by saying it doesn't apply to them: According to some experts, only an estimated five to ten percent of all poker players are winning players. If you didn't know this before, now you do: Not a very cheerful little earful is it? The corollary of this estimate, of course, is that ninety-five percent of all players are losers. That means a 20-to-1 predominance of players in the red, folks.

And do we believe this purported ratio of losers to winners improves on the Internet? Hardly! If anything, that 20-to-1 or 10-to-1 avalanche snowballs somewhat in cyberspace. After all, online play is much faster than physical card room play, so a poor player figures to lose even more money per hour.
Moreover, it's easier to click a mouse than to physically move chips or bills into a pot, which at least adds a few seconds to allow a player to ponder his action. And there's just something less, well, visceral, about risking virtual chips - somehow, they just don't seem real. It's all too easy to squander a pile of them in the short-lived delusion that it's not real money at risk.

That's an inherent added risk for newbies, and just one of the many reasons we recommend playing initially for play-money, and, after that, for the very lowest cash limits available. Until you've absorbed all nuances of the Internet playing medium - including the very real link between the real money in your account and those brightly colored cyber-chips representing it - you're better off sticking to games where you can't get hurt much.

There's also a psychological factor we think is very important: It's far easier to click down to the felt anonymously than to go bust in person. Where it's far more embarrassing since the vast majority of online players play alone in front of a computer, the constraint of potential humiliation is lacking.

Still another factor - and it's a biggie - leads many players to rationalize online losses by ascribing them to cheaters or rigged games: Credit card bills and ready-to-click account histories at Internet poker sites tell the real story of a player's bankroll, which is often a painful tale he or she may not want to face.

Let's face it: Most losing players have very faulty memories and inadequate - or even non-existent - written records of their poker careers. When confronted with those unforgiving monthly statements enumerating charges for online play, they're forced to either gulp down the unpalatable truth about their poker skills or cast about for scapegoats. So cast about they do, floundering in tales of conspiracies, "impossible" strings of bad luck or bad beats, and opponents supposedly amassing small fortunes in even the smallest limit games by "somehow" knowing hand results ahead of time.

We take such whiners with a grain of salt, since we both know people who win regularly online. Since it's to their advantage to keep their success to themselves, they usually don't get on a public forum like RGP to play devil's advocate. However, we do hear from them occasionally, and their letters confirm the presence of winning players online-just as there are winning players' offline. Some folks are collecting cash-out checks from the online poker casinos or accumulating winnings in FIRE-PAY.COM or NETELLER.COM accounts. We simply don't hear much from them as often because they're happy campers. We hear much more from the losers - the folks who need to vent, look for answers or in some cases, seek absolution for playing leaks or lack of discipline. We've heard all this stuff before - and long before Internet poker came along.

So as far as we're concerned, the high percentage of losers online simply mirrors the high percentage of losers' offline. When it comes to the preponderance of poker losers over poker winners, there's nothing new under the sun - or in cyberspace.

The truth of the matter is that online poker casinos have a heavily vested interest in maintaining games integrity, just as their brick and mortar cousins do. Knowing clients would evaporate overnight if colluders. Hackers and other cheaters spoiled the games, online poker casino entrepreneurs are engaged in an ongoing cyber-war against them - it's just smart business.

While nothing's perfect, we believe the vast majority of online games provide an astonishingly random shuffle, split-second synchronized action with computer-perfect accounting of bets and pots, and nothing more or less than the vicissitudes of normal poker in a netherworld setting.
By normal poker, we mean the frustrations of facing the usual brew of bad beats, back-to-back rotten catches turning wonderful starting hands into worthless rags, in-your-face gamblers making one and two-outers, flop lag woes, promising draws leading nowhere but the muck pile, and dreary rounds of awful hands culminating in a snapped off set of aces. It's all part of the games - both online and off. And in both places, discipline and knowledge prevail over time.

Granted, you don't hear from the winners as often as you do from the gripers and whiners on RGP who aren't sharing the loot. In fact, you don't hear from them much at all. But consider: When you think of the solid players in your offline home or casino games, do they gripe and make a lot of noise or just smile and count their money? Do they walk around advertising their wins or just keep silent? And what do the losers do? They gripe a lot right?

OK, now mentally transplant to the Internet that same parade of losing players shadowed by a few quietly smiling winners and you'll get the picture. It's far less sinister - and a lot more normal poker - than a small but noisy coterie of whiners would have you believe. That's our view, for what it's worth.

That said; let's take a look at some of the state-of-the-art technology involved in ensuring fair cyberspace games.


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