5 measures US online poker regulators must insist on
As Nevada draws nearer to being the first locale in the United States with legalized online poker, and other states move forward with their own online poker legislation, it’s important to not overlook the recent “problems” the world of online poker has gone through in order to insure that players are getting a fair shake. In this column I’ll take a look at five things I feel online poker regulators must demand from online poker sites.
While these five suggestions will not eradicate cheating, botting, and other shady things from happening in online poker, they will act as a deterrent, and insure that as poker players we are getting as fair a shake as is possible.
#1 – High-Stakes games need to be eliminated
Party Poker has it right; high-stakes games are useless for a poker site. First off, they don’t provide any more rake than mid-stakes games. Second, the argument that they draw people to the site is silly since they draw fanboys who don’t play for real money or play really low stakes (yes, occasionally a big match draws some interest from the poker community, but nobody is signing up at a site just to rail a $100/$200 NLHE game).
As we’ve seen throughout the history of online poker, high-stakes games draw in cheaters. Whether insider cheats like at UB and Absolute Poker or hackers implanting Trojans, there is simply too much money at stake at the criminals will always find a way. By capping the stakes at $2,000-$2,500 buy-ins ($10/$20 for No Limit and Pot Limit games, and $50/$100 Limit games) players can still make a living at the online poker tables and the lure of huge money isn’t there for cheaters.
Realistically, how many players consistently play above these stakes in today’s poker world?
#2 – Third-party-software must be banned (including bots)
I’m not actually sure of the safety measures that could be put in place to prevent this, but it’s imperative for the long-term solvency of poker that the edge winning players have over new and casual players not be skewed more in their favor; which is precisely what many of these third-party add-ons are doing.
One way to at least cut down on their usage would be to permanently ban players using them (which could actually be done by implementing #4 on this list); this penalty should be enough to deter all but the most dishonest of players.
When it comes to bots (again #4 below would aid in this matter) there must be some kind of firewall or flagging system that could be used to detect their use. As the AI continually improves, bots are becoming a very serious problem (especially with the rising popularity of heads-up games) and can no longer be looked at as an inconvenience to micro-stakes players only.
#3 – Sites must submit to random, independent, audits
Regulators MUST set up their own auditing companies (hopefully with a few long-time poker players helping create the scripts and deeply involved) where full, unedited, hand histories are sent. These auditing houses can then make sure that the online poker sites are dealing a fair game, and not using bots themselves. These audits can also be a secondary safety net against player cheating as well, possibly finding red flags that the poker site has missed.
I’m not looking for an auditing company set up, or paid by, the online poker sites; I want a truly independent company that will create the proper software to find any anomalies in the site’s RNG and from individual players.
#4 – Players should be given a universal online identity
In order to get a player’s club card at any casino, or even a Price Chopper card you have to submit some personal information and usually show some id. If and when online poker becomes legal in the United States the government should insist that every player is who they say they are by submitting their personal details. These players can then be given a randomly generated number that can be listed along with all of their screen-names across different online poker sites (basically this number would be needed to sign-up at an online poker room).
While this may give unscrupulous websites a better chance at tracking and selling player information it will also help cut-down on or eliminate multi-accounting, poker bots, and other online poker offenses committed by players. And other measures can be implemented to prevent data-mining and tracking.
We’ve seen that anonymous tables are not trusted by the community as a whole, so I feel this is the next best option. Each player will be assigned a random number that is used as a pin-code of sorts to register at online poker room, and after registration the screen-name they have chosen will go into an online database that would look something like this online (for all to see, with the .xxx withheld for security reasons):
* 5446219.xxx – Lock Poker (Christinerules)
* 3317845.xxx – Party Poker (flopped2Pair) Full Tilt Poker (mortalNUTZ) PokerStars (flopped2Pair)
These numbers would be kept with the regulatory agency with a confirmed identity. So, in order to multi-account a person would need to submit another person’s license (or whatever form of ID the regulatory agency uses) instead of just making a new E-Mail account and filling in some phony information.
#5 – Cheaters must be prosecuted
Finally, there has to be some type of legal ramifications for cheating. Even crimes as paltry as multi-accounting need to be met with a fine and/0r suspensions or bans from online poker. For far too long players have gotten away with murder at the online poker tables with their only penalty a little bad publicity on 2+2 and perhaps having some of their online poker funds confiscated, but for the most part they have gotten less than a slap on the wrist.
Yes the community has always been a self-policing place, and I think this is the #1 measure we have to catch cheaters, but up to this point the online poker sites have practically facilitated cheating and turned a blind eye to all but the most blatant cases.
These are my suggestions (I’m sure I could come up with a dozen more to prevent underage and problem gamblers and such) for anyone crafting or passing online poker legislation. As I said, these measures will not eliminate the problems, but they will reduce them while not burdening the players with unfair restrictions.
Tags: Absolute Poker, Botting, Cheaters, Fair Shake, Games Players, high Stakes, Long Term Solvency, online poker legislation, Online Poker sites, Party Poker, Poker Games, poker players, Poker Tables, Poker World, Pot Limit, Rake, Real Money, Regulators, Safety Measures, Third Party Software
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