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PokerStars Unveils Cheating Prevention Strategy

Continuing with their goal of being transparent and allowing players to see what goes on behind the scenes at the world’s top poker site, PokerStars recently released their fourth video, this one revealing the methods used to prevent cheating.

A very serious topic, the possibility of players cheating is likely one of the main reasons why a large portion of the massive numbers of online poker players who compete socially and for fun never make the transition to real-money play. A good number of those play-money poker enthusiasts have likely been turned off by the online poker cheating scandals that have made headlines in past years.

Names such as UltimateBet and Absolute Poker that were plagued with tales of hole cards of players being visible in the super-user scandals are familiar to anyone who follows online poker. To those who do not follow the industry and may not have been familiar, an expose by “60 Minutes” in late 2008 likely did plenty to persuade a number of would-be players to remain distrustful of online poker.

My own experiences

Way back in like 2006 or ’07 — my memory is foggy as to the exact year — I was approached by a player who claimed to have success running a scam by colluding with other players by communicating on Yahoo Messenger while a tournament was in progress. Collusion, of course, is employed quite frequently by those players whose aim is to cheat.

I am happy to report that I did not participate, choosing instead to look the other way. In attempting to recruit me, this dishonest scammer let it be known in no uncertain terms that those involved in the scheme would not take kindly to their scam being found out, bodily harm being strongly mentioned as a possible consequence. (the good old days)

Several years before that, circa 2002-03, I was playing at during a Milestone Hands promotion. Yes, it’s true, PokerStars did not come up with the Milestone Hands idea, but has taken the promo to new levels. I don’t think it was called Milestone Hands at Pokerroom, but the result was the same. Be seated and playing at a hand in which the hand number is loaded with zeros and all those involved got a piece of the bonus cash.

As a Milestone Hand was approaching, one of the players at the table had the idea that if we all fast-folded to the big blind, our chances of being involved in the Milestone Hand would increase greatly. He pointed out that the plan wouldn’t work if all nine players did not agree and take part.

Back then, real-money online poker seemed much friendlier than it does today. At least at the mid or lower stakes. Chatting and making online friends was a part of the game. It seems much more cutthroat these days, with derogatory comments often spewed by unhappy losers.

Anyway, getting caught up in the moment and succumbing to peer pressure — also wondering if we could actually pull it off — the entire table colluded and folded quickly and let the big blind win each pot. And sure enough, our dishonest efforts proved successful and our table managed to be next in the queue for the Milestone Hand and the prize.

I’m certainly not proud of my past actions today, being older and hopefully somewhat wiser. And I have since made amends and donated my ill-gotten Pokerroom gains to a worthwhile charity. It wasn’t much, like $25, but it is the way the bounty was won that leaves a dark cloud over the whole incident. One often regrets certain actions or deeds done during life, and that is just one on my list, a rather long list at that.

PokerStars 70 billionth hand controversy

Many players will remember that that very scheme was used by two German players at PokerStars in 2011 to win the site’s 70 billionth hand promotion. Apparently, the fast folders were in cahoots at about 24 heads-up tables and managed to win the huge prize.

A major controversy ensued. PokerStars decided to pay the Germans, citing the fact that “while this practice of ‘fast-folding’ may not be in the spirit of the promotion, it does not violate the rules and regulations of the promotion. As such, we have honoured our promotional award.”

PokerStars could have not paid the pair under a clause that states “any player found to be abusing any aspect of the Promotion” may be disqualified. It was abuse and collusion, plain and simple. PokerStars has since modified its rules for Milestone Hands winners, excluding heads-up tables from participation as well as disqualifying any play that finds players acting in a concerted manner.

Inside PokerStars episode #4

Like me, PokerStars is older and wiser and took the time to produce a video to inform players how cheating is prevented and will not be tolerated. The poker room goes to great lengths to flush out any incidents of cheating, investigating all complaints from players and using its own methods to determine collusion and/or dishonesty.

A staff of 80 are employed at PokerStars for the purpose of combating cheating, led by Stephen Winter and Brian Taylor, who appear on the video to explain their roles. While the technological methods employed by PokerStars could not be revealed for obvious reasons, the video does provide answers and perhaps should be shown to play-money players who remain distrustful of online poker.

Take a look at the video below, episode no. 4 of the “Inside PokerStars” series.



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Charles Rettmuller

Charles has been an avid poker player for a number of years, both live and online. He holds a degree in journalism and previously worked as a reporter for a Chicago-based newspaper. Charles joined the PokerUpdate team in early 2012 and writes daily news articles for the site.