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Cheating and Collusion by Opponents
A major concern in online poker is the chance that your opponent (or opponents) could be cheating to gain an edge over you.
You can rest easy in knowing that there have been major developments in poker security over the past few years and we are no longer in the Wild West of online poker.
The good thing is that you don't have to worry about the old tricks of the backroom card parlors: false shuffles and aces up the sleeve are a thing of the past in the online game.
There are several new techniques that players should keep an eye out for, however:
Poker is not a team sport, and anytime two players purposely collaborate against others, it's known as collusion.
An example would be a three-handed game where two of the players agreed to play soft against each other until they were heads-up.
Ultimately you shouldn't worry too much about collusion because hand histories make it extremely difficult to hide for very long. Although most of the online rooms have automated software that picks up suspicious play in the data, the rooms also employ hundreds of security workers to manually check the hand histories for illegal play.
Multi-accounting is a real problem in the online world and there have been some very prominent cases of it. Online poker rooms take multi-accounting very seriously; any person playing on more than one account will be banned immediately.
The reason players multi-account is so they can mask their true identity to potentially get more action from opponents.
Perhaps the most prominent incident of multi-accounting occurred in the 2007 World Championship of Online Poker on PokerStars.com. Competitors alleged that the winner's account, TheVOid, was that of well-known pro Mark Teltscher's sister. Teltscher allegedly played on as many as five accounts (including TheVOid's) in the tournament to give himself a better shot at winning the tournament.
Justice was served, however, as TheVOid was disqualified by PokerStars and the first-place prize was redistributed to the field.
Other high-profile incidents of multi-accounting include ones involving popular players like Justin "ZeeJustin" Bonomo, Sorel "Imper1um" Mizzi and Josh "JJProdigy" Fields.
Multi-accounting is another irregularity that online poker rooms have cracked down on hard in the past few years. Any player found multi-accounting faces severe penalties and is usually banned from the site for all time.
Abusing All-In Protection
Playing fast and loose with poker rooms' all-in protection mechanisms isn't really a problem in the online world anymore, but it's worth mentioning to show that such issues are taken seriously by the rooms' administrators, and that they act to resolve them.
It used to be that when you were involved in a hand and lost your Internet connection, you would instantly be all-in for whatever was in the pot while the rest of your stack would be protected. This was taken advantage of by disingenuous players who wanted to see if their hand would hold up but didn't want to put any more chips in the pot. They would manually induce a disconnection in order to benefit from the policy.
All-in protection has now been either removed from or changed in most online poker rooms, and while it's unfortunate losing a big pot because of a failed Internet connection, it's way better than having your opponents disconnect all the time just to see if they can win a pot without risking more chips.
General Computer Protection
Because you are dealing with actual money on your computer, it's important to keep up to date with basic computer security.
Firewalls and antivirus software are crucial. Most computers come equipped with security software; it's also widely downloadable for free from the Web.
Another thing to keep a close eye on is online friends whom you don't know very well. It's common knowledge that Johnny "Bad_IP" Lodden had his computer hacked when a "friend" allegedly sent him a poker tool via instant messaging. The tool apparently allowed the player to see Lodden's hole cards while he was playing.
As a basic precaution, do not download software on instant messenger or via e-mail from people you don't know.
As you can see, there are several ways that players can attempt to cheat, but for the most part the major online poker rooms do an exceptional job in cutting out illegal play. Awareness of the issues is your best weapon for detecting online cheating. In reality, thanks to modern security software, it is extremely unlikely you'll be cheated in any way if you use common sense when you play online.