5 Ways Online Poker Players Can Lose to Cheating

Do you know how to spot a poker cheat? No? Well, you're in luck — today, we look at the 5 most common ways you can be scammed playing online poker.


From the Mississippi riverboats upon which the pursuit is said to have come into being to the latest online software, poker has always been a game that is open to cheating — we want you to be able to spot a cheater, so we’re looking at 5 ways online poker players can lose to cheating.

In recent years, individuals who have conspired to try to take money from others at the game without winning by fair means have been few and far between. This is probably due to the sophisticated software and passionate policing that poker now prides itself on.

Cheating is a dangerous gamble that even the foolhardiest of players would not attempt in modern times. Despite this fact, however, it does still go on, so it’s crucial to understand how to avoid poker cheats.

How does cheating still exist and what methods are used to deny honest online poker players a level playing field? We’ve found five techniques that may be detectable but, every so often, slip through the net.

  1. Ghosting

Ghosting isn’t restricted to being an online problem but is most common when it takes place over the internet rather than at the rail of a live event. Essentially, ghosting refers to a player in a poker tournament taking detailed advice from another player or players while the game is going on.

Poker is supposed to be a solo mind sport, but even at live tournaments, players can go to the rail to get advice. That’s fine between hands, but during hands – a more common occurrence online – it’s not allowed and with video conferencing apps such as Zoom or Teams, it’s easier than ever to get live advice from other players without your opponents ever knowing.

More regularly happening towards the end of big events, you can often identify a change in playing style in your opponent at the final table and is probably the most common form of cheating. If you think you’ve been ghosted then it’s worth reporting, but as we’ve described, it can be very difficult to prove that it’s been going on.

  1. Collusion

Very different from mere ghosting, collusion has been in poker since the germination of the game as it floated down the Mississippi River. Collusion occurs when two (or more) players team up – or collude – to increase their chances of winning either a hand, multiple hands, or an event.

Because of the sheer difficulty of organizing this kind of cheating, this often happens at high stakes simply because it wouldn’t be financially worthwhile doing in a $1/$2 cash game or a $5 rebuy, for example.

Collusion can happen during live poker, online, or even both, like when two players work together to win packages to a live event then meet up there to enjoy the profits of their collusion.

While collusion is a huge problem, the levels of security at the main poker sites are impressive now and more is being done to target collusion and stamp it out.

  1. Multi-accounting

    person holding cards during poker game

    Watch out for multi-accounting when playing poker online.

Multi-accounting has been in the news recently as poker players have been caught performing this illegal activity. Multi-accounting is when one player creates multiple real money poker accounts on a specific poker site, allowing them to pose as different players within the same tournament or cash game.

As well as influencing the individual hand of poker, players can also obtain multiple casino bonuses when joining poker sites, which is equally wrong. This frequently leads to the accounts suspected of being multiple ones that belong to the same player being frozen while investigations take place.

Multiple accounts don’t come along that often but when they do, they’re often attributed to established players, which leaves a bad taste in the mouth of any fans who have cheered them on. Almost all poker sites forbid multi-accounting and protect themselves at the gatekeeper stage by insisting on official documents being needed to sign up, such as a passport or driver’s license.

  1. Computer Programs

Everyone’s shouted, ‘You bot!’ at the computer screen at least once if they’ve played even a nine-man sit n go, but what if the player you’re facing really is a computer program? Bots are able to make the right decision every time – at least until human play improves to necessitate the computer program being improved.

How can you tell if you’re playing a robot rather than a human being when you’re taking on others at online poker? Checking how many tables that ‘player’ is playing at and ascertaining the length of time they’ve been at the felt without missing a hand is one giveaway.

Others include making the correct decision every time or acting as if they are not human in terms of no chat or emotional interaction (i.e. throwing a virtual tomato at an opponent) when they’re at the virtual felt.

  1. Super-Users

The worst method of cheating is, thankfully the rarest. Super-users are individuals who have hacked a poker site and found a way to look at the hole cards of other players. Accused of doing this with the help of others, Mike Postle is perhaps the highest-profile poker player to be accused of this in a while.

Sadly for poker, Postle is not the only one tarred with this brush. Russ Hamilton was embroiled in a scandal when it was alleged that he was a super-user on the U.S. poker site Ultimate Bet. Hamilton, the former 1994 WSOP Main Event champion even had the glory of winning his weight in silver, but allegations of cheating stuck to him like pocket aces pre-flop after the Ultimate Bet scandal.

Being a super-user and knowing everyone’s cards is to cheat at the lowest moral compass since the snake in The Bible. Put simply, being able to see others’ cards at a poker table is the lowest of the low and requires no skill at all to win. It doesn’t even require luck!

If you think you’re being cheated at the virtual felt, always report the problem. Stay safe whenever you play online and read our reviews of trusted sites to play on. Good luck!

James Guill

James Guill is a former professional poker player who writes fro GambleOnline.co about poker, sports, casinos, gaming legislation and the online gambling industry in general. His past experience includes working with IveyPoker, PokerNews, PokerJunkie, Bwin, and the Ongame Network. From 2006-2009 he participated in multiple tournaments including the 37th and 38th World Series of Poker (WSOP). James lives in Virgina and he has a side business where he picks and sells vintage and antique items.

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