Throughout this text I will assume that the reader is familiar with the basic rules of poker. However, should you need a reference on this subject, please visit our rules of card games chapter on our sister site Playing Cards Online. Also, for further information about poker collusion, visit the poker cheating chapter on this site.Generally speaking, collusion is one of the few poker scams that can fly under the radars, when done correctly. Even if suspected, in most cases there is not much that anyone can prove, if the collusion is done right. After all, there is no hard evidence, like a mechanical cheating device, or a deck of marked cards. All the evidence is circumstantial and open to individual interpretations. If one of the players scratched his nose, one person may think that the player was signaling something to his partner, and another person may think the player had an itch. As long as there are no laws against scratching your nose, there is really nothing much that one can do to prevent players sharing secret signals amongst each other. Now the question is, can all this be done in an online poker game?
The answer is basically, "Yes, but..." Ah, there is a "but". And the "but" basically means that all the aspects of collusion are not exactly the same in an online poker game, as they would be in a live game.
First thing that comes to mind is the fact that there is really no need to exchange signals by scratching your nose, when colluding in an online poker game. After all, who would know if the colluders were openly communicating over the phone, while playing the same online game, on two different computers? There are no laws against calling a friend on the phone, while playing poker, are there? In fact, those two players don't even have to be in two different locations. They could be seated right next to each other, in the same room. In fact, the colluders don't even have to be two different people - one person can open up two different screen names and play as two different virtual players, and he won't even really have to "talk" to his partner. One player could even open up several online poker accounts and play at the same table, as multiple virtual players, against one or two real suckers. If one player had nine screen names he would know a total of 18 cards, before the flop, and calculate his odds accordingly. Better yet, instead of wasting his precious time playing poker, perhaps he could just program his computer(s) to play for him while he is sipping at margaritas on the beach. Do any of these possibilities have any relevance with reality?
Since at the present time the most popular gambling game is Texas Hold'em Poker, we will focus on this particular game whenever we talk of poker, unless otherwise noted. Just in one paragraph of text we see that online poker opens up many possibilities for collusion. But we should examine every possibility separately. And we also have to keep in mind that things are not always as simple as they may appear at first.
First thing we want to know is if it is profitable to collude in online poker. After all, one player has to pay a small blind and a big blind, every time the button passes; two players have to pay twice as much and nine player have to pay nine time as much, just to see the first two cards. So, if a player is colluding with nine different screen names against one sucker, he will have to pay a lot of blinds just to see the first two cards - and most of the times the sucker may just fold, without paying any blinds at all. So now the colluding beast with nine heads has to pretend to play out a round, by pouring more money into the pot, just to make it look right. And at the end the "winner" will have to toss some of the "winnings" down the drain, just to pay the house rake. But couldn't the colluding beast with nine heads just fold the nine hands, pre-flop and save some money that way? Not really.
In a live poker game, yes, nine colluders could just fold whenever the fish fails to bite. But in an online poker game it's not that simple. There are other things to consider.
Poker sites claim to monitor their games and look for signs of collusion. There is no reason to doubt that. So, with this in mind, how would it look for the beast with nine heads to fold, if the player on the button had a monster pocket pair, and the small blind had A-K suited, and the big blind had a fat callable hand? And how would it look if the remaining players folded on the flop, if they all caught a big piece of it? Aha, so now we see the first difference between live poker collusion and online poker collusion. In a live poker game no one, except the player, will ever see what someone may have folded. But online poker games are monitored. It should be safe to assume that if the sites are really monitored, bad folds like that should raise some eyebrows. So, right off the bat we see how online collusion may be a lot more expensive than live collusion. Not to mention the fact that most poker players that attempt collusion are not really all that good at it, so colluding actually ends up costing money, if you don't know what you are doing.
But all this doesn't answer the first question. Do any poker players collude in online poker room, yes or no? Of course they do. But the real question is, how successful are they?
Unless we have real statistical factual information, here is where we can only make logical conclusions. First of all, there is nothing special about a bunch of guys that play, or (try to) cheat, on online poker sites. Playing poker, or cheating, is like any other skill. So, what am I getting at? Simple! Most people suck! That's right, most guitar players are not virtuosos, most artists paint like chicken scratch, most students are not at the top of their class, most web sites are badly designed, and most poker players don't know what-da they're doing. This undeniable fact leads us to the one and only logical conclusion: yes, people do try to collude at online poker, but most of them suck and most of them end up losing more money than they would by playing normally. But this is not to say that some of the bad collusion doesn't end up hurting some of the square players. After all, there is just one party involved that never loses at the online poker games, and that is the poker site itself. At the end of the day, collusion or not, they end up collecting their rake. And also, even if you believe that most of the colluders suck, you should not dismiss the possibility that somewhere out there in cyber space, there are some colluders who actually know what they are doing.
A lot of bad poker players end up losing a lot of money by bluffing too much. For bluffing to be profitable a good poker player must wait for the right opportunities. One may even say that a good poker player will only bluff when there doesn't seem to be any other way to win a pot he is certain of winning only by bluffing. Why I bring this up?
Well, some of the collusion techniques are a lot like bluffing. If two players are trying to push a third player out of a pot, by raising and re-raising, they are in essence bluffing. But if a pair (or a team) of bad colluders are relying to heavily on this technique they will get burned. Good colluders, by contrast, will only resort to this technique when the time is just right. In a rigged game, a bluff raise (following a bluff bet) may be very powerful against a weak mark if the colluders know in advance that it will be followed by a bluff call. In a square game, however, the situation may be very different because a player that is considering to bluff doesn't know how some of the follow-up action will unfold. But in a rigged game, a mark that knows he doesn't have too strong of a hand may be scared of the caller, more so than of the aggressor.
It would actually be beyond the scope of this chapter to describe all the collusion techniques. Those descriptions should really be saved for a separate chapter on collusion. For now we are only interested in scams, and issues, that relate specifically to online poker. So far we have already scratched the surface and now is time to move to our next discussion.
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