Cheating in online poker is rare, but still there

Many online poker 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.

There are several strategies people use to cheat online, with some methods more aggressive than others. In this article, we will feature the most prevalent in online poker.

Six ways to cheat in online poker

  • Multi-Accounting
  • Virtual Machine
  • Ghosting
  • Collusion
  • Access to hole cards
  • Account Selling


Multi-accounting means that a player uses multiple real money accounts at a single poker 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 players from opening more than one poker 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 for players starts when these cheats use two or more accounts to play poker 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.

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 poker room.

Virtual Machines

Virtual machines, or “bots” are computer programs that not only make decisions and actions for the poker player at the table, but ca be left running so that the owner doesn’t even need to be present!

A well-known example is Polaris, created at the University of Alberta in Canada. This has succeeded in winning heads-up Fixed Limit Texas Hold’em cash games against professional players.

While bots are by no means invincible, they still bring with them advantages (even practically, in that they never tire, for example), so players shouldn’t have to be up against them. Poker rooms have no financial incentive to catch bots because they also generate rake, but of course it’s in their interest to do so in order to retain customers – and, of course, to remain known as reputable operators who provide a level playing field.

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.


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 online poker tournaments because someone could be sitting actually with the player or simply communicating via Skype or Teamviewer, for example.


lCollusion is when two or more players join forces. For example, two players 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 online poker room used access to a so-called superuser account to see the other players’ hole cards!

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

Account Selling

Account selling is when a player sells their ‘seat’ in an online poker 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 players at a disadvantage in a number of ways, and is therefore a serious breach of the rules that is severely punished.


So people try to cheat at online poker. What do I do now?

There is absolutely no reason why you should not play online poker – there are rare instances of cheating but operators have become increasingly adept at identifying those who try, and in those cases where players have lost money as a result of being cheated the policy is to reimburse them – often by banning the guilty parties and using the funds in their accounts. By playing at the most secure and trustworthy online poker rooms – notably our partners! – you can rest assured that your hosts are constantly doing their utmost to provide a safe environment to maximise your security and leave you free to enjoy poker at its best.

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· Published 14.01.2018 · last updated 20.07.2022

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