Are You Being Cheated in Poker? Read This.

Are You Being Cheated in Poker?
This article was written by blackrain79.com contributor Lars Kyhnau Hansen

Recently there has been a big stir in the poker community about a guy named Mike Postle who has allegedly been cheating on a live streamed poker game at Stones Gambling Hall in California.

In fact, this cheating scandal in particular was actually so big that even the mainstream media covered it! (example: CNBC story)

Whenever stories like this hit the media, many people ask themselves, if it's even safe to play poker. Now let me say first of all, that whenever money is involved in anything, there will always be someone trying to find a short-cut.

That is just human nature, and therefore there has always been cheating in poker and any other game where money is involved.

However, with that being said, I think playing poker is safer today overall than it ever has been. Not that long ago poker was an illegal game in most countries.

This meant that the games might be raided by the police and the players had no one but themselves to protect them from cheats. Or even getting robbed at gunpoint bringing cash to and from the game.

Today however we can play poker at regulated casinos, and at least in some countries, on regulated online poker sites as well.

And these establishments have a large incentive to maintain the integrity of their games in order to keep their profits rolling in. They are also audited by third party organizations in most cases.

Even with all this though it's still good for poker players to be vigilant and protect themselves. So with all that out of the way, lets look at the most common ways that someone can cheat in poker and what you can do to insure that you are not the next victim.


Superuser AKA “God Mode”


Poker is a game of incomplete information, so it stands to reason, that the most effective way to cheat is to find a way to know what cards your opponents have.

If you go to a sketchy home game, or play in an illegal poker club, the cards might be marked in some way.

This is maybe the oldest way of cheating in poker. And this is why it's much safer to play in a casino if you are into live poker.

With online poker this kind of cheating was taken to the next level in 2006-2008 by someone working at Ultimate Bet and Absolute Poker.

Ultimate bet cheating scandal

These two sites were merged, so they were using the same software and the same staff. Apparently these guys got a hold of a master account, which was able to see the players hole cards in real time, and then this account would sit in and observe the game, while another account was playing.

Eventually players got suspicious, and Absolute Poker accidentally send their entire hand history file to someone including IP addresses.

The data revealed that a user called "POTRIPPER" was playing from Costa Rica, and that an observer also located in Costa Rica moved around with him from table to table.

The evidence was very damning, and the scandal was basically exposed by the poker community itself. The Ultimate Bet cheating scandal will forever go down in infamy.

What Mike Postle apparently did at Stones is actually very similar to this. In live streamed games players place their cards face down on an RFID reader in front of them, which then transmit the information to the stream editor.

Typically the stream is then sent out with a 30 minute delay, so that no one can pass on information to players in real time.

However someone apparently did exactly that at Stones, which allowed Mike Postle to win 10 times more, that a good player can normally hope for during a heater, and to basically never make a wrong decision on the river.

He also made some really absurd plays like calling an all in preflop with 54 offsuit, when his two opponents both had AK blocking each others outs.

Eventually some people got suspicious, and just like in the Ultimate Bet/Absolute Poker case the cheating was exposed by the poker community itself.

Nothing has officially been admitted by anyone yet, but the live stream has been shut down, and investigators have been called in by Stones. Several civil lawsuits have also been filed against both Mike Postle and Stones Casino.


So How Do You Protect Yourself From Someone Who Can See Your Cards? 


Well first of all, play at a reputable casino or online poker site. Stay away from sketchy home games or online apps, that were not developed for real money poker play.

And second if something seem fishy, then just leave. In the Mike Postle case the signs were there in retrospect for anyone to see who bothered looking.

In fact, Mike Postle played in something like 80 live streamed games at Stones Gambling Hall during 2018 and 2019, and pretty much all of them can be quickly found in their entirety on YouTube with a quick search.

And as the old saying goes: “fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me”.

If you played at the Stones stream, lost a large amount of money to Postle, and something did perhaps seem a bit fishy, then there should perhaps be some cause for concern there.

Mike Postle cheating at poker
Mike Postle staring at his mobile phone underneath the table, which allegedly is giving him real time access to everybody else's hole cards at the poker table.

There are many other casinos to play live poker (even streamed games) all over California and across the United States and the world.

As for live streams, I do think they are generally safe, but you might want to ask the casino, exactly what safety protocols they are following.

But so far it does seem like someone was abusing a very lazy security set-up at Stones rather than finding a way to hack into the RFID data.

And of course if you are not sure, then there are plenty of live cash games that are NOT being streamed, which obviously takes away this risk completely.


Poker Cheating - Collusion


Collusion is basically when two or more poker players work together as a team against the other players at the table.

The most subtle kind of collusion is to simply share information about hole cards and thereby be able to make slightly more profitable decisions.

For instance you might not want to set-mine with 44 if you know your buddy folded T4. Or if you and your friend both have AK, there is no need for both of you to get involved in a multiway pot with the same hand.

Colluding players can also coordinate their actions to improve their results. Lets say for instance that Villain 1 is UTG with 83 offsuit, and Villain 2 is on the button with AA.

Villain 1 makes a mini-raise, someone in between calls, and Villain 2 makes a mini 3-bet and bump it up to 3BB. Villain 1 click it back to 4BB, and getting amazing pot odds the victim of course calls.

poker squeeze play cheating

Villain 2 now makes it 6BB, Villain 1 bumps it up to 8BB, the victim calls again, and so it continues, until finally Villain 2 goes all in with his AA, and Villain 1 folds.

This is called a squeeze play and can also be done after the flop in multiway pots.

Finally in tournaments players can collude by soft playing against each other or by losing on purpose, which is also called chip dumping.

Soft playing and chip dumping both give the cheating players an unfair advantage because of ICM. They can avoid busting against each other, even if they have hands like AK and QQ, which they would always get it in with against someone else.

Or they can increase the ICM value of their chips by keeping the two stacks about equal. For a much more in depth explanation of ICM (and how it works), see my recent article on this right here.


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Mike Postle cheating

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The Squeeze Play and Chip Dumping


The squeeze play is actually pretty easy to spot, and if you see someone doing this, you should leave this game right away.

The good news is, that maybe because its so obvious, I have very rarely seen someone attempt a squeeze play in real money games.

Those who are stupid enough to even try presumably get caught very quickly. The other forms of collusion are more difficult to spot, but if someone always seems to play cash games and single table SnGs together, that is another potential red flag for you to look out for.

As for chip dumping, you want to look out for plays that make no sense. That could be a short stacker open raising for 80% of his stack preflop, a big stack calls, and then he folds on the flop for the tiny amount of chips he has left.

If you feel your suspicions are strong and based on multiple hands, let the tournament director or the poker site know, so they can look into the suspicious play.

Unfortunately collusion is very easy to carry out in online poker, because players can easily communicate without the victims noticing it.

The good news though is that it leaves digital footprints, which are fairly easy for poker sites to pick up on.

So in online poker the best advice against colluders is to play on a reputable site, that takes swift action against cheaters and confiscates their funds.


Poker Cheating - Bots


A much talked about and also much misunderstood phenomenon in online poker is bots. So first off let's get it clear that a poker bot is simply a computer program playing poker,

So the owner doesn't actually have to play poker himself. Its nothing more and nothing less.

The obvious advantage of this is that a computer does not get tired or tilted. It can play as many tables as the poker site allows. It can play on multiple sites simultaneously. It can play 24 hours a day and it has almost endless computing power.

In recent years bots have also become so good at poker that the best of them can now beat the best human players.

So how do you know you are playing against bots? Well, the honest truth is that sometimes you don't.

However I am pretty confident that the vast majority of my opponents on 888 poker are human players. The reason I feel so sure about that is that most of them are frankly pretty bad.

They are either fish or bad regs, which I can define in an objective way, because I am using a HUD. A bad reg by the way is someone like the Villain in this hand:


Sometimes in poker forums you see the most crazy comments from people, who had their AA called by 72, which then sucked out and got there on the river.

They then see this as evidence that they were playing against a bot. But it's actually evidence of the opposite. Only humans play 72 and they mostly do it for fun like the guy in this hand:


The players, who could potentially be using bot software are those who have near perfect GTO type stats or who make exploits, which are profitable in their games.

For example, if I see someone C-betting 70% but also folding 70% to C-bets from other players, that could indicate bot software, since few humans have the discipline to play like that over a large sample.

However playing well or making certain exploits is not in itself evidence that someone is using bot software. So before you sit down and write to customer service you should have a bit more evidence.

Like for instance him playing literally every time you log on to the site, which is also something, I don't really see anybody on 888 Poker do.

So maybe I am naive, but I actually do believe that at least 99% of my opponents on 888 poker are not cheating.

And here is another thing. Even if a few players in the micros are using illegal bot software, does it actually really matter that much?

We just established that bots will look like good players, and if you find yourself at a cash table with only good players, you don't want to stay on that table anyway.

Table selection is an extremely important key to your success in cash game poker. Here is my complete guide to table selection at the micros by the way.

If on the other hand there are some huge fish at the table, you are probably going to win even if one or two players are using bot software.

So it's not really that different from a situation where you are just not the best regular at the table. You will lose a little to the better regulars or the bots, but you will still beat the crap out of the fish, and the net result will be positive for you.

online poker bots cheating

So for all these reasons I am not losing any sleep over the possibility that I might be playing against a bot now and then.

However I will say, that if you are a mid or high stakes player, then this issue might be more of a real concern. The reason is, margins are thinner, and the rewards are also much larger for someone potentially cheating.

If the stakes are high enough, it also becomes a real possibility that someone might set up a system to get real time advice from a program installed at a completely different computer so that it cannot be detected by the poker site.

Online high stakes pro LLinusLLove was recently accused of doing this in poker forums, but since there was absolutely no evidence of him cheating, the speculations quickly died out.

So to sum it all up, there is no way to know for sure if you are playing against bots, or if someone is using software to get real time advice on the tables.

But as long as the games are good, it probably also does not matter all that much. It's not like being up against Mike Postle in god mode or even colluders.

The future of high stakes online cash games does look a bit bleak though, if nothing else because, the games have basically been solved. So if you are planning to go pro, you might want to go the tournament route and/or play live poker.


Rigged Poker Sites


If you play online poker it is potentially possible that the card generation is not random, which would mean you are being cheated by the poker site itself!

Pokerstars rigged cheating

There is an almost absurd amount of speculation about this in poker forums, but no statistically significant evidence has ever been presented by anyone.

I have already written extensively before about what online poker sites might be rigged. So for more on this subject read these two articles:

Is Online Poker Rigged?

Is PokerStars Rigged?


Final thoughts


Ok so this was a long one.

And to sum it all up being cheated is not the main reason why people lose in poker, and it should not deter you from playing either.

In fact cheating might only account for 1% of the money lost or a similar small number. The main reason people lose in poker is rake.

If you play in a casino or on an online poker site, the biggest and most certain winner in the long run is the house.

The second most important reason why people lose in poker is bad play. Everyone thinks they are the best, but most don't have a clue what they are doing. Or they suffer badly from tilt as well.

However that being said poker players should still be vigilant and protect themselves. Stay away from games that are obviously shady like playing in someone's basement, unless its with close friends.

And if something seem fishy in your game, then just stop playing, even you have no actual evidence of cheating.

There is no need to prove to yourself or anyone else, that you can beat someone, who the casino itself portrays as a poker god on the stream (i.e. Mike Postle).

Because after all, winning in poker is actually stupidly simple. You just need to play with someone who is worse at it than yourself.

That is really all there is to it. If you always keep that in mind, and only play at reputable casinos or poker sites, then chances are, you will be just fine.

Lastly, if you want a very simple poker strategy to beat the bad players, make sure you pick up a copy of my free poker guide.

Read this simple step by step poker guide in 20 minutes. Start using the strategies in your poker games. And finally start winning (no cheating required).

It's that simple!

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This article was written by blackrain79.com contributor Lars "fundiver199" Kyhnau Hansen. Lars is a part time online poker player from Denmark currently playing 10NL and 25NL. Lars excels at the math side of the game.

Let me know in the comments below if you have ever been cheated in a poker game before. How did you find out?

Are You Being Cheated in Poker?

6 comments:

  1. i have instances where new user sat down on table, within 20 hands cleaned a few players. If we're heads up, i had a lower flush on river, he'll jam on river seems like he can see my cards. Guess what lol, he had a higher flush.

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    1. Hey Tom,

      Could just be a good player or somebody running hot since the sample size is so small. But it is always smart to be aware and vigilant as well.

      Delete
  2. Thanks for the info, Nathan.

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    Replies
    1. Glad this article helped! This article was written by Lars though, not me :)

      Delete
  3. the more technology we have the more people are getting more stupid. WE have a guy that looks at his crotch 6 months in all his hands, and they make a move only after 6 months. I don't know why they are allowed to look at the phones with the hand still in play, I'll bet that if 3-4 folks said out loud at the table as a joke: come on man, are you cheating or something? he would stop doing it. Anyway the guy is stupid, they have the footage, hand histories, etc. He will pay back more than his winnings from those people.

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    Replies
    1. Alledgedly the cheating took place over more than 12 month from mid 2018, until the scandal broke and the stream was cancalled a few weeks ago. And yeah in retrospect the crotch staring and later hat manipulation is very obvious.

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