The issue that we really want to address in this chapter is the security of online gambling, or better say, the flaws in online gambling security. We want to closely examine the possibilities of internet gambling scams and weed-out the facts from the myths. There is in fact a lot of misinformation going around and, as usual, most people tend to believe the false information.
This chapter is somewhat different from the rest of the materials on this site, for the simple fact that it deals with online gambling. The online gambling cheat is not necessarily a card cheat, or even a gambler. The virtual world where online gambling takes place is the home of computer hackers and online thieves. A card cheat who tries to apply his skills to cheat on an online poker site may attempt a collusion scam. But a computer hacker may instead try to come-up with a piece of software that will funnel the gains into some untraceable virtual account.
The introduction of the internet undoubtedly brought many benefits to our lives, mostly the convenience of sharing information and publishing content and having it all available 24/7. But any new advancement in technology also immediately brings a rebirth of the usual vices, without which the human race seems to be unable to exist. Right at the top of the list we can find the usual two vices. The first one is pornography, world's oldest profession, and the second one is gambling, which must be world's second oldest profession. We'll skip the first one and take a closer look at gambling. And of course, the world has not drastically changed, just because we've entered the internet age. We already know that wherever there is gambling, there is also cheating. Always! Let's keep that in mind, shall we?
While online sex may be very safe, due to the fact that there is no physical contact, online gambling is the other way around. Due to the fact that you as a player cannot possibly see how the transactions are conducted, and due to the fact that you are still betting real money, one would be well-advised to consider all the possibilities before jumping into the pool with all their cash. First of all, the fact that the virtual casino floor appears on your computer screen is just an illusion that the online casino is at arm's reach. In reality, however, online casinos are usually located in very inconvenient locations, in different countries. The fact that their games appear only on your computer screen does not change the fact that somewhere in the world there is still an actual land-based server that runs the whole online gambling operation.
The difference between a land-based casino and an internet server (which is still land-based, somewhere) is that you don't really know where the server is. If the owner of a land-based casino has to run for his life he will have to leave a very expensive hotel, attached to a casino, right where it had been built. But if the owner of an online casino has to skip town, on short notice, he can just quickly pack up his server and throw it into the trunk of his car, and hit the road. How many degenerate gamblers do you think consider these facts before opening up an online gambling account and start pouring their money into it? And in the process give out all their personal information to some illegal online enterprise (not to mention that they link the online casino into their bank accounts; after all the casino will needs this link to make speedy deposits).
So far, I've only taken the trouble to hint at some facts that most people never bother considering. Or even if some consider some of these facts, most of them quickly become accustomed to the new online gambling environment and soon don't worry about it any more. After all, everything seems to be working just fine.
Now that I'm done hinting, let's talk about specific issues.
One of the easiest way to cheat at online gambling is to run a gambling site and cheat the customers. Before you start rolling your eyes and call me an idiot, and tell me that this would never be done, let me say that this kind of scam is just the online equivalent of running a rigged gambling operation in a land-based casino or card room. And that, I know for a fact, is done on regular basis. In fact, according to many historians, early (land-based) poker games used to be very similar to the three-card-monte scams we know today. Most of the early poker games were in fact just scams. At the time of this writing, we live in the era of early, highly unregulated, and illegal online gambling. Historically speaking, every time some new form of gambling took place in a new venue, most of the games were rigged. This has been the case in the early years of poker, this has been the case in the early years of riverboat gambling, this has been the case in the early years of faro game, this has been the case in the early years of Las Vegas, and the list goes on and on... During all of those times there were many skeptics that refused to believe the games were rigged. Those skeptics have been written-down in history books as "the suckers." Those are undisputable, historically-documented facts. And now, we are in fact in the infantile age of online gambling. Why don't we keep those facts in mind while we continue our discussion.
Today's skeptics will tell you that poker sites make so much money, legitimately, that it would be crazy for them to cheat their own players. This reasoning makes so much sense, I almost agree with it. I did say, almost, though.
First of all, the poker sites are not making all their money legitimately. At the time of this writing they are in fact breaking many laws. But some will still say that they are making so much money it would be idiotic for them to cheat their players. Well, ever heard of greed?
Let me share a true story with you. One of my clients is a casino owner, somewhere in Europe. I will not say where, exactly. He has so much money I truly believe his personal bank account may be bigger that the average national budget of the average third-world country. I say that without the slightest exaggeration. In the course of one conversation with him, he was telling me how much money he could make by implementing certain strategies that would offer him bigger returns, if you know what I mean. I had actually come to discuss some legitimate business and I just had to shake my head when he said that. I asked him flat out why he needed more money. He answered my question with an analogy: "When you get to #### a lot of women, do you ever come to the point when you say to yourself that you finally had enough? Do you ever say to yourself that as of this moment you finally #### enough of them, so from now on you don't need to #### any more?" That was his reply. I know he would have a blast reading this but he knows very well that I can't credit him for his quote.
Let's go back to the issue of money. Have you ever heard of people that have a lot of money, and still what more? Do you think such people exist, or do you think such people are just mythical creatures, like dragons and unicorns? I think we all know that the issue is not if they need more money, they just want more money. In fact, my client is not an exception to the rule. An exception would be a rich guy that doesn't want more money. I think you'd have better chances finding a unicorn in the forest than ever finding a rich guy that doesn't want more money. If you don't believe any of that, then you have no business reading the rest of this text.
To say that poker sites would not cheat their customers is the same as saying that land-based casinos would not cheat theirs. I can tell you for a fact that there are many casinos that in fact cheat their customers. You may have trouble finding such casinos on the Las Vegas Strip, but there are plenty of other casinos outside of Vegas, and in other countries, where cheating is common practice. Those are usually small joints, usually illegal, where procedures are not strictly regulated by some governing authority. Crooked casinos are commonly called bustout joints.
Bustout joint are often fly-by-night operations, or just doing business under the radars, and in constant fear of being shut down or somewhat forced to terminate. Many of them even move around. They have every good reason to want to maximize their profits while it all lasts. I have personally met three-card-monte hustlers that work in such casinos, yes, as bustout dealers. What do those bustout joints and online poker rooms have in common?
For one, online poker rooms are either flat-out illegal, or operating at the edge of the law. They are in a sense also fly-by-night operations that could be pushed out of business, at any time, either by some governing authority or by a powerful corporate competitor. It is just a matter of time when big corporations will tap into that market. And when they do, they will do it like they've always done it. They come in and crush all their competition (such as small-business owners) and create a monopoly. In the long run, online entrepreneurs have very little chance against corporate bullies. Corporations took over Las Vegas - one day they will take over internet gambling.
With all this in mind, would online poker sites have any reason to cheat their customers?
First, do they have the means to do it? Of course. They are the ones who distribute all the cards, without any supervision from any governing authority. They can see everyone's hole cards and they can "stack the deck" by distributing whatever cards they want in whatever order they want. Who would ever know?
Second, do they have a motive? Yes. Money, and more money. And not to mention, money. And as we've already discussed, they also have reason to believe that they may be shut-down, some day. Why not take all they can, while they can?
And lastly, do they have opportunity? They can jump into any game, at any time they want. What better opportunity than that?
Online gambling sites could cheat in any number of ways. They could be set up as bustout joints. As they grow bigger, they need more employees to maintain their servers. We cannot dismiss the possibility that a crooked employee could be in business for himself, secretly setting up a small piece of software to send hole-card information to another server, somewhere far away in deep cyber space. The possibilities are endless and I am sure there are many people out there trying to figure out how to take some of that money that gets tossed around on those poker sites.
At the time of this writing, I have absolutely no factual information that any specific poker sites do in fact perpetrate any of the scams I've described above. I only know for a fact, like we all do, that a certain percentage of our population is comprised by crooks. Crooks can be found in every business. It would be ludicrous, or at least a bit naive, to think that poker sites are, for some reason, free of crooks, con men and thieves. But of course, it would be as ludicrous to claim that there are no square poker games anywhere on the net. The question is, how can we tell apart the crooked ones from the square ones? They all look the same on the computer screen.
For the time being it is just fair to say that the question if gambling sites cheat their players is subject of much debate and speculation. We don't really know for sure who, what, how, if, or when. But to dismiss the possibility, based on pure logical conclusions, is just naive.
The previous paragraph was my original closing statement regarding the controversial issue if online sites cheat. That was what I said in July 2007, when I wrote this chapter. Since then there's been some news, on TV, which is archived on this site under the title 60 Minutes Report: Online Poker Cheating Scandal.
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