Cheating in online poker is rare, but still there

Many players have occasionally wondered if they are being cheated. And others might even be thinking about how they might possibly get away with cheating themselves… Despite an element of cheating, the industry is known to be very safe and secure, technological developments enabling them to identify cheats quickly, at which point they are dealt with severely.

Cheating is a broad term that encompasses a range of activities, all of which are considered illegal and unethical in the world of professional gambling. These activities can be broadly divided into two categories: pre-game manipulations and in-game tactics.

Pre-game manipulations

It refer to the methods employed before the actual game commences. These often involve tampering with the deck or the cards. Marked cards, for instance, are one of the most common methods used. This involves subtly marking the backs of high-value cards in a way that only the cheater recognizes. Other methods include swapping out the official deck for a pre-arranged one, or “stacking the deck,” which involves arranging the cards in a specific order that benefits the cheater.

In-game tactics

on the other hand, involve cheating used during actual gameplay. Some common tactics include signaling (sharing information with a partner through pre-arranged signals), second dealing (dealing the second card from the top instead of the top card to give a desired card to a specific player), and switching cards (replacing a low-value card with a higher one when no one is looking). In digital games, hackers might use malicious software to see opponents’ hands or to manipulate the game’s algorithm to their advantage.

Cheating with Poker Bots and Software

Although there are lots of players that don’t believe in the use of bots, there are lots of proofs to show the usage of bots to play. For example, at the University of Alberta in Canada, Polaris – a bot – defeated lots of pro’s at heads-up fixed limit Texas Hold’em cash games.

Cheaters make use of bots to have more advantage when they play, even without moving a hand. The bot has been designed to play every hand and make decisions – the cheater may provide additional information to the bot depending on the play – to increase the winning chances. Bots have no emotions and they never get tired. Lots of sites such as partypoker frown against the use of bots, and they have adequate mechanisms to ensure the use of bots is eradicated.

Conniving Cheat

In this cheating method, two or more players combine, without other’s knowing what is going on. These cheaters connive together to win large financial benefits and share with each other.

They share their hole cards as well as their strategies via Skype, telephone, or other instant messaging applications.

Multi-Accounting Cheating

Multi-accounting cheating means that someone uses multiple accounts at a single room so that they can simultaneously play with more than one account in the same ring game or tournament.

This is possibly the most dangerous and widespread form of cheating.

Online Poker rooms forbid opening more than one account per person. The main reason for this is that by banning multi-accounting they prevent bonus fraud through someone taking advantage of multiple first deposit bonus offers.

The problem starts when these cheats use two or more accounts to play at the same table or at the same tournament, as this clearly gives them an enormous unfair advantage. They can see four cards in a typical cash game, and of course have a massive additional, collective influence on the outcome of a hand. Furthermore, in a tournament format like Sit & Go, MTT, DoN and so on there’s the additional and essentially decisive advantage of having two ‘lives’ running at the same time.

Cheating with Ghosting

Ghosting is when someone receives help from another player during a tournament, for instance. It is very difficult to control this form of cheating in tournaments because someone could be sitting actually with the player or simply communicating via Skype or Teamviewer, for example.

Collusion Cheating

Collusion is when two or more users join forces. For example, two at the same table could share information, work together to manipulate the outcome of poker hands and ultimately exploit their unfair advantage by sharing the spoils of their collective efforts. Information can be shared easily (e.g. via telephone, Skype or other communication tools).

Again, operators have sophisticated software in place to both flag when someone’s play and betting behaviour is unusual or not consistent with the cards they hold and so on, as well as when players happen to find themselves playing together more regularly than normal.

Access to hole cards (superuser account)

Clearly, a player who can see opponents’ hole cards is going to find it easy to win, and this did actually happen way back in 2007 when insiders of a now infamous room used access to a so-called superuser account to see the other players’ hole cards!

Nowadays such information is stored centrally on an server from which it is impossible to access data.

Account Selling Cheat

Account selling is when someone sells their ‘seat’ in an tournament to a strong(er) player who is then effectively afforded anonymity by not playing under their usual name/account. Such a practice puts other’s at a disadvantage in a number of ways, and is therefore a serious breach of the rules that is severely punished.

Cheating FAQ

Consequently, online poker rooms use various mechanisms to detect virtual machines, and while they don’t necessarily give details of such measures to the public, these probably include:

  • Examining whether certain programs are running in the background (e.g. the WinHoldem poker bot framework)
  • Taking screenshots
  • Measurement of mouse movements (if they are natural)
  • Measurement of player’s reaction time

Party Poker, for example, uses a pop-up window in which players have to type something within 120 seconds.

Moreover, online poker rooms forbid the use of many programs while playing poker – especially those that help players make decisions, and/or make suggestions as to how to play a hand.

Fortunately, online poker rooms have many measures to prevent multi-account cheating. For example, to enable the cashout facility, players need to upload a copy of their ID.

Also, rooms have a security feature that prevents the same IP address from registering at a tournament more than once. Meanwhile, if other players detect this form of cheating they can report it to the support.


· Published 14.01.2018 · last updated 18.09.2023