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The History of Online All-In Policy

In the early phase of Internet poker, clients were given plenty of latitude about response time. Frequent server problems, computer glitches. programming flaws, and Internet lag caused many unavoidable delays. in those new frontier days. players exceeding the time limit - for any reason - were given the benefit of the doubt and accorded all-in status. They could still share in the pot commensurate with their investment in the hand up to that point. Generally, they were allowed to do this once or twice a day - or even more often simply by asking to have their all-in allotment reset. So long as there were no complaints from opponents, the request to reset the allotment was usually granted.

The problem was that too many players used the "all-in but still alive" maneuver as deliberate games strategy. Even once or twice per day was an unacceptable loophole for the unethical. The no-questions-asked time-out policy allowed players to use all-ins as part of an overarching plan. "Taking a shot" at large pots with no further financial risk - even once or twice a day - was just too much temptation for some folks.

For example, a player with a draw to a flush or straight, or who holds a set and needs the board to pair to win against an opponent's obvious flush or straight, might disconnect abruptly or simply fail to act, thus obtaining all-in status. The intent was to take a shot at part of the pot with no further risk, then return to the games.

Debate on the ethics of this ploy flared frequently in the poker newsgroup rec. gambling. poker, with some players insisting that if time-out all-ins were allowed without serious penalty and others did it, then they had to do it, too, just to level the field. In a nutshell, this argument came down to, "Everybody's doing it."

Along with compromising the fairness of cash games, prevalence of this behavior was a serious threat to the integrity of the increasingly popular online tournaments. Such blatant violation of fair play was totally unacceptable. Clearly, something had to be done. With clientele complaining of unscrupulous opponents purposely timing out in order to gain unfair advantage, online poker rooms had no choice but to revise their lenient all-in policies in the direction of fair play and ethical behavior.

Adopting a policy first initiated by PARADISEPOKER.COM, many Internet poker casinos now automatically fold hands of non-responsive players in both ring games and tournaments unless the server detects a connection problem. (See the following section for more on legitimate connection issues.)

Starting late in 2002, Paradise Poker clients were greeted with the following curt chat-box message in each and every games: "Dealer: New fairness policy for all real money and tournament games.... If you do not act in time while connected, your hand will be FOLDED. " After several audio and visual prompts fail to elicit action, a player's hand is folded in thirty seconds if site technology determines there was a "live" connection to the games server when the delay occurred.

Exceptions are made only for legitimate cases of service disruption or "disconnects" from the Internet. Such instances still receive all-in treatment on a once per day basis. Thus, a player may still share in the pot after he fails to act - to the point commensurate with his investment - as long as he isn't connected to the games server.

A couple of Internet poker sites are still too lenient with negligent or even intentional sluggards, granting them all-ins or all-in resets by request. They allow one or even two "all-ins" per player per day even in cases where the player still has a live connection to the games server. This means that a player with a perfectly adequate Internet connection remains in the hand for whatever amount he's already invested, getting to participate in at least part of the pot at showdown. If you play at a site with such a lenient all-in policy, your failure to act - whether deliberate or inadvertent - won't cost you much unless you exceed the daily all-in limit. And if you have no scruples about feigning a disconnect when you're on a draw, you'll get to share in the pot if the draw comes in.

But don't count on it: As we go to press, Internet poker casinos are cracking down hard on all-in abuse. The trend is toward an allotment of one "all-in" per day - as long as the player doesn't have a live connection to the games when he fails to act.

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