If you are playing 3 Card Poker or another casino variant of the game, you can be sure no one will ever try to cheat you since the casino has the house edge, and they are more than happy to take your money “the easy way.”

However, things can change in actual poker games, in which individuals play against one another, where there is a lot of money on the line. There will always be people looking to take advantage of others and even do some shady stuff to put that money in their pocket.

Today I want to mention three things that you should learn to identify to avoid potential danger when playing poker online, and this might even help you save some money along the way.

Collusion

Collusion was always a problem both live and online, but with the new influx of various poker apps, this actually became quite a serious issue. Collusion happens when two or more players play together, share the information about their cards, and coordinate their actions to win more often.

I have played Texas Holdem games in which it seemed like 4 of the 8 players at the table were playing together, and it goes without saying that there’s a very small chance for you to win in such set up if these players even remotely understand what they are doing.

If you somehow manage to know which players are colluding, you have a fighting chance, since you understand what they are trying to achieve, but even then it is better to leave the game.

That being said, there are a few things you should be on the lookout for:

  • These players almost exclusively play together – they are sitting at the same tables most of the time
  • They sit down and leave the table at the same time
  • They have similar stats and play many pots together
  • They try to see many flops to try and hit it
  • They take very strange likes to squeeze other players

If you see someone cold 4-betting on the flop or doing other insane lines more often than would seem normal, that ought to  raise your suspicions. These moves rarely happen in real games, so if you have any suspicions about specific players, you can always report it to support. Meanwhile, it is better to leave such games than to be sorry later on.

READ MORE: PokerStars Game Integrity Exclusive – On Bots, Collusion, and More

Ghosting

Ghosting is also quite a serious problem that we do not see covered so often, and one that is quite hard to deal with in tournaments. Ghosting means that an experienced player is giving someone advice on how to play or even takes over playing the tournament for them.

Unfortunately, this practice is quite often used by various players groups and stables, and when one of the players gets very deep, others join him to help take it all down.

While poker integrity teams try to monitor this and the use tools like TeamViewer or Skype, which can transmit real-time information, what can they do if these offenders are actually sitting next to each other in the same room or if they call a pro on the phone?

Not much, it would seem, so the best thing is to observe players and pay attention for any sudden behavior change at the table.

For example, if you have marked someone as a “recreational” player who only plays made hands, and then the guy suddenly becomes aggressive and starts crushing everyone at the final table, this might be an issue.

Of course, you should not jump to conclusions too quickly since, most likely, ghosting is not happening, but you should be aware of this risk.

Most importantly, do not play blindly based on your previous observations and keep in mind that you might be playing against a pro instead of a mediocre player if there is a lot of money on the line, so stick to a solid strategy and do not expect them to throw money at you.

Poker Bots

Computers can be programmed to poker and make mathematically perfect decisions all the time. Not the best opponent to have, even with all of the ethical aspects it brings aside.

While we cannot know how many actual bots are playing poker online, there is a high probability of this being a more serious problem than we think at the moment. The bad thing about it is that these tools can be very advanced, and it would be close to impossible to notice it.

Long gone are the days when bots were leaving ridiculous traces like always taking the same amount of time to act or clicking the button in the exact spot. All of this can be and is easily randomized, so it is very hard to identify it.

However, here are a couple or realistic ways you can notice you have a bot in your games:

  • They play unreasonably long sessions without breaks
  • The play at an unrealistic number of tables at the same time
  • They play perfect poker even at low stakes

If you suspect that someone might be cheating, make sure to let customer support know. While they will not be able to prevent all of the possible problems, they do have many tools to look into every situation from various angles and are way more likely to identify actual cheaters.

Moreover, it’s not as though the sites’ game integrity teams are just sitting and waiting for customer support emails. They’re usually incredibly proactive at monitoring all site activity, with the overwhelming majority of problems being detected internally rather than by players.

That said, there is no need to panic about this since, most likely, you are not being cheated, but it is always good to keep this in mind and observe the action in your games.

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