Although collusion and all-in abuses are the most prevalent problems, there are other security issues which discourage some people from playing online. One common fear is that someone may be able to see your hole cards. This may be either because the original programmer has revealed the ‘key’ to the encryption algorithm to a cheat, enabling him to see everyone’s hole cards, or because someone has somehow managed to break into the server and bypass the code. (Players are recommended to provide themselves with an extra measure of protection by installing firewalls on their PCs.) Alternatively, the programmer may have disclosed the shuffling algorithm, enabling a cheat to determine which cards are likely to come next. Finally, the programmer may have left a backdoor into the software to enable him to insert hidden code to enable certain designated players to win. Although these means of cheating are possible, there has never been an instance in which anything like this has ever actually happened – it would be so damaging for any cardroom to fall victim to this kind of cheating that it is hard to believe that adequate security measures would not be in place.
Clamping down on the Cheats
Although they are in business competition with one another, if the major sites were able to get together and share their information about known cheaters, and even discuss methods of tracking down cheaters in future, they would undoubtedly be doing a great service both to themselves, and to the online poker-playing community as a whole. A firmer, across-the-board approach to the problem of cheating would encourage new players to participate and give existing players the confidence to compete for higher stakes. Indeed, according to Paradise Poker’s head of marketing Bruce Davidson (quoted in an article in the New Yorh Times from November 2001) one reason why the site has been reluctant to raise the maximum stakes, is precisely because they are concerned that this would attract more sophisticated cheaters and hackers.
Furthermore, it is not sufficient that cheaters be barred; each site should adopt an open policy of refunding losses to players who have been the victims of proven cheating. Although both PokerStars and Planet Poker, for example, have refunded cheated players in the past, this does not appear to be a universal policy among cardrooms at the present time. Short-sightedly, some sites may prefer not to admit that any specific acts of collusion have arisen, whereas a more open treatment of such instances would demonstrate not only that they hold a powerful stance against collusion, but also that they possess the resources to detect and combat it. In this way, they would not only reinforce public confidence in their commitment towards honest games, but also discourage potential cheats.