Behind The Curtain: Popular Poker Cheats

Ever had the feeling that one of your poker opponents knew more about your hand than they should? While nine times out of ten we’ve simply been outplayed – a fact that few players are happy to admit – sometimes our paranoia is justified. There’s a dark side to cash poker, and the really alarming news is that not all of the shady poker practices are illegal. Poker rooms are quick to talk about the game’s profit potential, but what they rarely mention are the predators that that kind of money attracts. We’re not talking about sharks, either.

Some of the best players at the table aren’t even human. Poker bots have plagued online poker practically from the beginning, and it seems every time the poker rooms up their security, the bot designers find a way around it. Bots may be used to give a player a statistical advantage at a table, or they may be used like auto-pilot, actually playing hands on their own. It’s perfectly legal to buy a poker bot, and most poker rooms don’t even specifically forbid them.

The bot issue came to the forefront again this summer when PokerStars banned 10 players believed to be using bots. Just last month Full Tilt confirmed that they’d also detected a ring of bot users. Full Tilt took things a step further by vowing to return all funds won from players defeated by the bots in question. And since Full Tilt’s terms of service actually do prohibit the use of bots, the site is promising tighter security in the future.

The bot problems raise an important question. When it comes to poker technology, where do we draw the line? Some pros are naturally good at reading their opponents, but most are getting extra help. Smart players will seek out a poker room that offers tools like basic stat tracking, player notes and hand histories. Ultra-savvy players let poker tracking software do the work for them. PokerTracker and Holdem Manager are just two of the most popular programs. It’s totally legal, but it doesn’t necessarily seem fair.

These programs are frequently referred to as HUDs because they use heads-up displays that can be viewed beside every table. They will calculate your own odds for every hand and will update your opponents’ stats after every hand. Additionally, they can be used to track betting patterns. In other words, if you use a strict betting system then you’re practically announcing your hands to HUD users. There are now as many poker tracking programs as there are poker strategy books, but why waste your time memorizing such advice when you can let a computer calculate your next best move?

So is winning poker about superior skill…or superior technology? We’d all like to believe that live poker is still an even playing field, but the recent Partouche Poker Tour scandal has proven that even live events are not immune. Millions of amateur players are unaware that such resources even exist, but hordes of informed poker traditionalists have already made their voices heard. If you’d rather play the game than buy the software, then the anonymous poker tables now being offered at sites like PartyPoker are one solution to the problem.

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