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Online poker cheating

One of the projects I’ve been engaged in lately is trying to catch players who are cheating in online poker.

(This is unrelated to the Pokernomics analysis I have also been doing — although at a glacial pace. For those of you who sent me hand histories we will be getting you ring game analyses within the next couple weeks.)

It turned out to be harder than I thought it would to catch online poker cheats. I have found lots of behavior that looks awfully suspicious in the data, but it doesn’t seem like the players do much better when they are behaving suspiciously than when they are not. So far, I can’t figure out whether what looks suspicious to me is not cheating, or whether cheating of the sort I’m looking at doesn’t provide a player much of an edge.

Recently, some highly regarded young players got caught playing under multiple identities in the same tournament. (See here and here, although if you aren’t a poker insider the posts are a little confusing). Thanks to Scott Cunningham for pointing me to these two links.

Because of these two projects on poker, I figured I better play a little myself to understand the game better. I was surprised how much fun it was. I was a big loser initially, even in low stakes games. Now I’m still a loser, but not as much, and at much higher stakes. I’ve even had the honor (??) of losing to the guys who just got caught cheating.

But the best news is that my wife Jeannette quickly picked up the game and now does not consider her day complete if she can’t slip in a few sit-n-go no limit hold ’em tournaments after the kids go to sleep. I married well.