For years, online poker has been criticized for potential security faults. Time and again, cheating scandals have arisen at major online poker sites, highlighted by the ‘super-user’ cheating scandal that rocked Absolute Poker and Ultimate Bet right to their foundation in 2007. Even the world’s largest online poker room, PokerStars, has been affected by incidents of cheating. Now, the operator is taking the initiative to show its 67+ million registered users the extensive efforts taken by PokerStars to prevent bots, collusion and other duplicitous tactics.
PokerStars officials have been working hard lately to increase he brand’s already esteemed reputation by releasing a series of videos entitled “Inside PokerStars”. The videos are designed to give players unique insight into the inner workings of the company. Part 4 in that series, published Tuesday, Nov 25th, is called “How does PokerStars protect the game?”
Within this new video, PokerStars Director of Game Integrity, Steve Winter, and Senior Game Integrity Product Manager, Bryan Taylor, sit down with English Journalist and Poker Commentator James Hatrigan. For the next 4+ minutes, the three discuss “some of the measures that PokerStars put in place to protect the game at its online tables.”
Winter and Taylor are just two of the employees on PokerStars’ enormous payroll that dedicate their time and efforts towards the prevention of cheating and other security infringements. Eric Hollreiser, Head of Corporate Communications who introduced the new video on the PokerStars Blog, indicated that a full 20% of the company’s staff is directly involved in “protecting the integrity of the games and ensuring compliance with regulators.”
According to Winter and Taylor, who are personally responsible for viewing and leading investigations into reports from players that point to possible cheating, even attempts to cheat are extremely rare. They revealed that the most common accusation from expert players is that of collusion, wherein two or more players work together by sharing their hand information and acting as a team to beat their opponent(s). PokerStars sends in expert players to reconnoiter, while reviewing the accused players’ histories to look for abnormal betting patterns that would point to collusion.
During the video interview, the PokerStars duo was careful not to reveal any technical information that might assist would-be cheaters in circumventing the security systems. However, they did touch on the topic of how the online poker room detects the use of ‘poker bots’. Bots are automated software that play the game without aid of a genuine player. They said that the system is designed to identify abnormal, “non-human behavior patterns”, such as those a bot would characteristically employ.
“The vast majority of poker players are fundamentally honest,” said Hollreiser. “But when you have more than 67 million registered players, with as many as 400,000 playing at a single time, there are going to be some who don’t play fair.”
Hollreiser broke down the majority of online poker cheaters into three typical categories. The first he labeled those who “break the rules because they don’t know any better”. The second and third, considered much more dangerous to the online poker community, are considered those who, “do so willingly, cynically in an attempt to cheat fellow players”, and those who “don’t see the harm in cheating “the game.”