Improving the game: Recommendations all Poker site operators should consider

As online gambling interests are threatened by recent legislation in the United States, Poker site operators will soon have to face another problem that could hurt their business: A loss of consumer confidence as stories of cheating become more prevalent and game integrity is called into question.

Recent instances of rule breaking have rocked the online poker world, including players entering and playing multiple accounts in a single tournament and poker bots operating, virtually non-stop for days at a time. As such stories become more prevalent, the general public is likely to lose confidence that the games are fair.

In the first case first case, the winner of a tournament with a prize pool of over $200,000 was discovered to have entered and played multiple accounts in the tournament, all from the same computer. He was only caught because he accidentally revealed himself in the chat room and people noticed and reported him. Eventually Party Poker launched an investigation and seized his account and the funds inside, but he was able to get away with cheating for a considerable time period. In another multi-account case, a player was found to have earned 1st, 3rd, and 13th in the same tournament. Except for poker message boards, these stories have gone virtually unreported in the media and have not reached the general public.

In the most disturbing and potentially damaging case, Poker-playing bots were able to operate on Party Poker for over a month virtually non-stop, and only after people started to notice and talk on discussion boards did the accounts get shut down.

Each of the recent stories of cheating share one striking similarity. Other players were responsible for catching the offending parties, as security measures of the casinos failed the most basic of tests.

These events expose extreme examples of cheating using methods that should have instantly set off alarms in the security department of every online poker room, yet people using the most obvious mistakes were able to succeed. If people can be stupid enough to run two accounts from one I.P address or a bot for days straight and not get caught, just how prevalent is cheating?

Brian Briarwood of ITB holdem, a group dedicated to reforming the online poker industry, wants poker room operators to be more public with their investigations and punishments as it relates to cheating. “We want to know that they are doing everything they can to protect honest players for those who break the rules. So far they have given customers little reason to be confident in the job they are doing, security-wise.”

For now, customers have no way to really know if they have been cheated, as sites rarely release the details of security investigations in cases of cheating. “It is only so long before the general public loses confidence and new players stop playing,” says Briarwood, “and unless sites make some fundamental security changes, cases of people cheating the system will only increase.”