Op-ed: Time to say goodbye to high-stakes online poker

Posted by Steve Ruddock on Aug 11, 2012 Posted in Poker News | No Comments »

I really never thought I’d say this, but perhaps the opponents of online poker legislation have a point when it comes to security –am I really agreeing with Sheldon Adelson on something??? My concern isn’t for the potential of underage and problem gamblers finding an easy outlet in the fast-paced, anonymous, world of Internet gambling, what concerns me even more stems from the recent discussion on 2+2 about hackers in the high-stakes poker world.

Over the years online poker players have had to deal with colluders, multi-accounting and ghosting, scammers, super-users, and now the most recent but apparently the most significant form of cheating hackers. So my question is this; is there simply too much money (easy money for criminals) in the world of high-stakes online poker? Is it time to nuke the high stakes poker games online until players can be certain they are getting a fair shake?

Sure there are live games with just as much money on the line, but these take place in controlled environments, and cheating is relegated to the simpler and basic forms that have plagued poker since its inception, and will likely always be a part of the game – card manipulators, marked cards, collusion and so on.

Online players have to not only play the game, but they must also provide the security (security against hackers and from being cheated) which is 10x as hard when you consider the amount of tables the average online player participates in, not to mention the absolute absence of an opponent to observe.

The poker sites have had little interest in weeding out the potential cheaters in their midst, as we have seen by the 99% non-action track-record against any suspected cheaters –that is until the community conducts their own investigation and the irrefutable evidence is then presented to the poker site.

From the recent discussion on 2+2 it doesn’t seem that Trojans are the exception but rather the rule in high-stakes poker. Whether it’s sent over the Internet, downloaded to an unsecure computer at a major poker tournament, or simply brute-forced by some super-hacker employed by legit criminals, these Trojans seem to have infected dozens of high-stakes poker players, and these are just the ones willing to come forward!

Unfortunately the world of high-stakes poker is dominated by young, and I’m sorry to say fellas, but naive, players; they are such easy targets that I would go so far as to call them a criminal’s wet dream. Online poker is a billion dollar industry (the money in player accounts at Full Tilt poker and PokerStars was in the $1 billion range prior to Black Friday) so how tempting must it be to shave off a few hundred thousand here and there? And how easy it is to do so! All you need is access to one computer, a single high-stakes player’s computer, and you’ve basically cashed a $50k to $100k check.

The problem is not going to go away with regulation and as long as there are high-stakes games unfolding the game will continue to be plagued by ultra-high-tech hackers and cheaters.



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