How Not to Cheat

Let’s say you discover an old lamp and rub it, and out comes a genie offering to grant you a wish. You are greedy and devious, so you wish for the ability, whenever you play online poker, to see all the cards that the other players are holding. The genie grants your wish.

What would you do next?

If you were a total idiot, you would do exactly what some cheaters on the Web site Absolute Poker appear to have done recently. Playing at the very highest stakes games, they allegedly played every hand as if they knew every card that the other players had. They folded hands at the end that no normal player would fold, and they raised with hands that were winners but would seem like losers if you didn’t know the opponents’ cards. They won money at a rate that was about 100 times faster than a good player could reasonably expect to win.

Their play was so anomalous that, within a few days, they were discovered.

What did they do next? Apparently, they played some more, now playing worse than anyone has ever played in the history of poker — in other words, trying to lose some of the money back so things didn’t look so suspicious. One hand history shows that the players called a bet at the end when their two hole cards were 2-3 and had not paired the board … there literally was no hand that they could beat!

I don’t know whether these cheating allegations are true, because all the information I am getting is third-hand. The poker players I’ve talked to all believe it to be true. Regardless, I bet these guys wish they had it to do over. If they had just been smart about it, they could have milked this gig forever, winning at reasonable rates. For the stakes they were playing, they could have gotten very rich, and their scheme would have been nearly undetectable.

(Note that I say nearly undetectable, because while that poker site probably never would have detected them, I am working with a different online poker site to develop a set of tools for catching cheaters. Even if these guys were careful, we would catch them.)


Hey Mihai, that's exactly what I was talking about in my previous post. I would like to see the results of a large sample of winning players and see how many are winning as much as they should be. My view on it is that once players are making money they disregard all notions that a site might be not using 100% fair code, they don't realise they should be making more money. I made $180,000+ last year and believe I should it should've been well into the 200's. Sorry if my post now sounds like I have an issue with the sites, I just want to make it clear that I am not some loosing player who's frustrated, that is not the case at all.

I can think of no reason why they wouldn't implement this balancing in the software. It is basically risk free money and could/(is) increase their revenue many times over. Why is this so hard for some people to believe it may be happening?

Rita: Lovely Meter Maid

#6, interesting points. In view of what you say here:

"A professional card shark vs a bunch of amateurs?"

I would think that is cheating. It's like Lance Armstrong challenging just about anyone to a bike race. I'm not so sure about pyschic ability, however, because it seems to be akin to calling someone's bluff and so forth.


This is a much wide question than it seems: how do you obfuscate the fact that you're 'too lucky'?

Go back sixty years to World War Two, when a dedicated team of intelligence officers had to plant fake evidence and launch pointless missions - doomed to fail - in a carefully-calculated campaign to mask a revealing run of 'luck' arising from reading enemy ciphers.

If you know of a concise nonspecialist reference for the underlying mathematics of obfuscation, feel free to post the link!

This is still relevant, and there's good software out there for detecting fake results in laboratory experiments and clinical trials. And I heard of a consultancy somewhere (*I forget exactly where I read about it*) for detecting cheating in the testing programme for schools in the 'No Child Left Behind' initiative.

So it ain't just poker. And neither genies nor geniuses are required to find a place near you where a little bit of applied statistics can reveal something unexpected. I do not doubt that all commercial gambling enterprises do so routinely.



#12 "The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar"

Actually, the challenge gone, Henry gets bored of cheating very quickly, and ends up cheating only to get money to fund orphanages. It seems the work of gaining psychic powers also endows him with some previously lacking morals.

So I guess the question is- if you can see all the cards, then at what point do you get bored, take your winnings, 'retire' and go do something useful?


I am loving this discussion!
Mihai, I can't wait to see what you come up with. As for the website cheating--I can't thing of a reason why not. Casinos alter their slot machines to control the payout rate, and that in the US and well known. Why not something like this? And Ils, I agree...I would need advice and this is where I would come for it!


I posted a couple of links to websites but my comment got rejected by the moderator. I probably looked like spam. Suffice it to say that the kind of program Mihai is talking about is already available for free (google for "PokerEV") and these kind of analyses have been done many times in the past over huge numbers of hands and turned up nothing.


@ChrisV - Link please, lets see this huge group analysis that has been done.


nice post kujo76- I'm not sure I agree with running the table tho, in terms of getting caught- this reminds me of the cheats in Who wants to be a millionaire- even the show producers admitted that they would not have even investigated if the cheats walked with 500K, which was the original plan- they got greedy, took the mil, and got caught- I think this is the age old truism of no perfect (rational) crime because the essence of the act is greed, which is easier to detect- which is why I like your post- the knee-jerk reaction is greed, while the profound interpretation is that the act was ethical! (even tho nobody would believe THAT)

Mike Roddy

I was a very serious poker player in the 80's, and can shed some light on what is going on online. Post #6 is interesting, but not the main danger to playing online.

Let's say that you are a mathematical and fuzzy logic whiz, operating out of Hong Kong. You would not need to see your opponents' cards. All you need to do is recruit three or four confederates, put them in the same room with their computers, and have them access the Internet via satellites. You would constantly change their name tags. The game would become a conversation among the cheating players about what their cards are and how to trap, save bets, and generally pound their helpless opponents. Edges are small in Hold Em poker; this kind of advantage will get all the money.

I used to lay Lowball, where partner scams were common. I won anyway, because the lowlifes who resorted to it were such poor players when they couldn't cheat. Nowadays, the mathematical and strategic information is more accurate and widely disseminated. Edges of the kind I described are undetectable and no doubt common. If I've thought of it, so have lots of other people. Even if one site gets suspicious, there are plenty of others, and for that matter the cheaters could reenter the site with different tags and banking info.

In other words, don't play online unless it's in very small games for recreation. You will lose there too, because the expectation in relation to the house's rake is miniscule if you play perfectly. But at least you will keep your losses down.


Mike Roddy

PS to Rita re psychic players: The Nevada casinos love the action of superstitious and psychic players. So do good poker players.


Rita, "intuition" is not a psychic ability: it is the residue of what in other species we call "instinct," which has been crowded out by the "higher reasoning" processes on which homo sap largely relies. "Intuition" constitutes a collection of abilities, basically the subconscious recognition and analysis of subtle cues such as body language (granted, not applicable to most Internet sites), and pattern recognition. These combine with the psychological biases that lead us to attribute meaning to coincidence (all well documented), e.g., when you just "knew" your song was next up on the radio or that your Aunt Bertha was the one calling, you remember those occasions as proof of psychic powers, while forgetting all the times you had that intuition and were wrong. Intuition is a subconscious educated guess, and highly fallible.

No one can say for absolute sure there is no such thing as "psychic powers" in the sense in which these are popularly defined (telekinesis, mind-reading, precognition, etc.). But no one can say absolutely for sure that my living room is not full of invisible, weightless pink unicorns, or that we are not all dwelling in a snow globe in a remake of Saint Elsewhere. There is a point at which "highly unlikely" tips into "for all practical purposes, no."

You would think, though, that either their intuition or their rationality would have recalled the saying of investor Bernard Baruch, who bailed out of the 1920s stock market well before the peak and before the crash" "Only a fool holds out for the top dollar."



I'm a pro poker player, and trust me, all online sites are cheats, as are some of the players. Anyone who thinks different is a donkey.


Wouldn't this be a pretty decent way to launder money? Someone wants to transfer money to someone else, they can arrange to play each other in online poker and be on the phone or instant messenger the whole time. The problem would be you'd need several people involved (since poker has more than two players usually).

I don't know much about online poker though. Is there any ability to pick who you're playing against, or even to know who you're playing against?

Mihai Bucica

the difference between my progra,and Poker EV are the following:

1. i dont take rake into consideration ..the game is considered 'ideal' (no rake)
2 only headsup 'all in's are considered in my program
3 In POker EV POTSIZE(i) represents the money bet only on the 'all in' street and not total pot size after all in like in my program

..more exactly I've written this program just to find out how fair/unfair sites are.

Andrew Hime

#33 - In most situations, who you're playing against doesn't matter.

Mihai Bucica

I cant post link here because this is moderated.
But you can search google after:
"is online poker rigged" research
and follow the first link on cardschat site

Rita: Lovely Meter Maid

"There is a point at which “highly unlikely” tips into “for all practical purposes, no.”

#31, if we are talking about your living room, I'm willing to agree. After all, you know your home better than I every could, even after trying to visualize it in my mind's eye. In terms of intuition, I think it is one kind of psychic ability.


Ive played at AP since 2003 (from $1 $2 limit to $50 rebuys ) and myself and many other side residents play there and win consistantly every month. This ordeal up top while potentially devistating, is not going to end AP or online poker. These people and their IPs get reconized immediatly and money is refunded back into the appropriete player's accounts. Also this only has taken affect on the highest of limits. anyone who is playing a $100 tourny or lower has no worrys. the game is very very fair.

Panem et Circanses

I've played thousands of hours of poker, overall quite successfully, in casinos. This article vindicates me for never playing online. the online sites always 'smelled' funny to me, and many casino players agreed.

As for psychic ability, I don't think it exists. I cite one of (Larry) Niven's Laws: "Psi and/or magical powers, if real, are nearly useless.
Over the lifetime of the human species we would otherwise have done something with them."

Panem et Circanses

Sudden additional thought: How many people have ALREADY similarly hacked online poker sites, but are holding themselves to wins of, say, 5 big bets an hour? There could be dozens... hundreds... thousands......