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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 cardroom 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.

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