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Rant: Player Syndicates Are No Good For Poker

A few years ago I was playing an online poker tournament when I got pretty deep and decided to massage my ego by advertising the fact through my social media network.

Within the hour a friend of mine (a professional poker player) had contacted me through Skype and we started talking as I made my way into the deeper waters of the tournament.

The same ego that wanted the world to know I was doing well wanted me to win the tournament on my lonesome. So initially, I didn’t want my friend to help me with my decisions.

Then things changed. Greed got the better of me.

So Did I Cheat at Poker?

At first I asked him for help when I was put into a tough spot. Then, as the tournament progressed, I revealed my hand more frequently and the advice flowed more frequently.

In my mind I had already started to spend my winnings. I followed his advice to the letter and I won the tournament.

Jeff Fenech
What about if you're a boxer?

So did I cheat?

I've thought about this long and hard and I don’t think so. Sharing your cards to help formulate a more informed decision is no different from any other form of coaching in the world of sport.

It’s the equivalent of a boxer having someone in his corner who has already fought and defeated the opponent he's facing. Every three minutes you sit down in your corner and receive advice on what to do next to exploit your opponent’s weaknesses. What about this?

Is This Cheating?

Let’s go back to the scenario I started out with. But instead of my friend helping me, he's playing in the same tournament and we end up at the final table together.

Not only can he help me but I can help him. I can tell him what my hole cards are and he can do likewise.

Cyrus the Dog
It's dog eat dog in poker.

Imagine how vital this can be if we got down to the final three spots?

Is this cheating? I think it is, and doubt there are many people who would turn their nose up at this form of collusion.

In poker, it’s dog eat dog and everyone is a pit bull with a taste for blood. People wouldn’t think twice about taking this edge.

The high costs associated with being a professional poker player mean very few players are fortunate enough to play under their own bankrolls.

Instead you see syndications formed: the most common being in the shape of backer and horse.

Now Imagine Three of the Final Four Share a Bankroll

What happens when you get a backer, a horse and a random player in three-way action at the end of a tournament?

Are we naïve enough to think that conversations are not being held during the break on the optimal way to finish in the top two spots in live tournaments? Can you imagine the problems this creates when you are playing online? 

cThe other form of syndication is one where players share the same bankroll. So instead of backer and horse you have a series of elite players who effectively use the same chunk of money to play poker with.

High roller
What if they're sharing a bankroll?

This has never been more prevalent than with the creation of the High Roller tournaments that are now the darling of every major tournament organizer in the world.

How does this affect the dynamic when three out of the final four players are sharing the same bankroll?

The reason this form of syndication can be damaging to the game is two fold.

Firstly, the financial rewards are so much bigger. We're talking seven-figure sums of money here.

Secondly, the player pools are so much smaller so there's an increased likelihood that the scenario I outlined will actually occur.

What’s your opinion on syndication and how it affects the game of poker?

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2013-11-23 21:54:53

This is one of the reasons that I think that phones (or any computer computer or communication devices should be banned at the table during live tournaments I often sit at a table where someone is texting. He could be texting someone for advice, or telling a friend at another table who/what I’m playing.

2013-11-06 10:44:03

It’s telling that the author of this piece doesn’t put his name on it.

2013-11-06 09:24:00

You are a cheater.

2013-11-06 07:00:27

Terms and conditions say one person, one hand, u are breaking the terms and conditions of the site you are playing on, I would say that is cheating.

2013-11-06 03:37:09

Getting live advice having revealed your cards to the advisor is cheating.

As for the dog eat dog attitude stopping cheating, dream on. If we assume the 3 on shared roll vs 1 not then the options for team play are obvious and it would not be easy to detect at all given that if you know the hole cards there is always the option to say it was a bluff.

Take the scenario where the non pooled player is the chip leader, the other three can call freely against each other to consolidate a bigger stack to take the first place. If the non team player is out it makes sense for two of the others to settle for one getting a fourth for the far better chance of taking first.

2013-11-06 03:32:02

Ummmm to me it looks more like your boxing coach is coming into the ring and delivers a massive uppercut, before he leaves the ring again, and let you finish the easy job with a few stright left jabs….. Its cheating, and it can’t be prevented.

2013-11-04 11:11:53

I agree with Pete, the boxer analogy certainly doesn’t hold if you’re simply clicking the buttons somebody tells you to click – a 3-year-old could do that. If a coach is offering general advice such as, “Player X folds too much to 3-bets”, then I would say that’s acceptable. However I definitely disagree with what you did here and would never consider doing this myself. It’s effectively the same thing as having a better player logging into your account and player for you.

2013-11-04 11:01:52

soooo…am i the only one who thinks the author is a cheater? not sure why getting advice while playing would not constitute cheating. it would in a live game.

2013-11-04 05:34:51

Sbellzy has a point here, but so do you. I’d say something in between because in this scenario of making the final four of a high roller, even understanding the ‘dog eat dog/no friends’ situation, knowing that the money is coming back to the back roll in the form of the 3 of the top 4 cashes open’s a door to a more aggressive play. It is easier to ‘go for it’ as money is coming in big time whatever happens. My mindset isn’t the same last four if I am only playing for myself. Also, the boxer example you used for your tournament doesn’t stand up. In the case of the boxer, he is out there and using his own skill set and decision making skills only as the action is unfolding, and receiving feedback on what went down and strategy between rounds. The set-up is regulated (i.e. corner men, who can talk to the athlete) where as in online poker it is not. I think closer to equivalent would be you playing out your hands to your best capacity and getting some feedback during lulls in play or at break. Interesting article.

2013-11-04 02:30:20

The high rollers (mostly the EPT’s) usually have hole cards up at final tables so even if the final 3/4 are sharing the same bankroll any type of collusion would be hard to do considering how many people watch the live stream. Plus I think most of these top level pros understand the dog eat dog/no friends at the table scenario, even if they are using the same roll.

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