The scandals at Absolute Poker and UltimateBet should not lead to a loss of faith in online poker
Earlier this year it was discovered that numerous ‘super-user’ player accounts on two well known online poker sites (UltimateBet and Absolute Poker) had managed to fleece millions of dollars from unsuspecting players. These players used a [now corrected] flaw in the software to see all the hole cards, of any player at any table they were sitting at, in real time.
As a result, the players just sat back and reeled in the cash. If this wasn’t bad enough, it appears the cheats were discovered by a couple of other online poker players who investigated and posted their results online before the infiltrated sites themselves took any action.
The investigations happened, money was refunded to affected players, security breaches were sealed and apologies issued. Trusted professional players representing the affected sites were sent out with pledges that this will never happen again. But will this be enough to save online poker or has trust been damaged beyond repair?
My immediate answer is yes, online poker will survive, because we the players want it to. We want the freedom to play from our homes, hotels and offices. We want the variety of games and tournaments available on the internet, but we want this in a secure, fair and safe environment.
It is this type of environment that the majority of online sites strive for, but most of them are falling short. Forget flashy marketing, forget lucrative affiliate deals, rake-back and deposit bonuses, and focus on security and support because without it you’re dead in the water.
I haven’t stopped playing internet poker since this scandal because I trust the site I play on. I firmly believe that they look after my interests as a player. They provide support and instantly investigate the smallest complaint or suspicion of foul play. Their security is excellent. In protecting me they’re protecting their own interest, what more could I ask?
Well there is a simple answer. I want it regulated by my government. If someone manages to cheat me, I want them punished and I want the site penalised for their own failures. I suspect that the sites would want this too, but as yet we are lacking the full co-operation from governments worldwide.
Governments need to recognise this online poker phenomenon is never going to go away and that they have a duty to protect their citizens from unscrupulous individuals. Little is achieved by taking the moral high ground and seeking to ban poker totally, but much will be achieved by accepting it for what it is and weeding out the bad eggs.
Until then, we are going to have to rely on the self-regulation of the sites themselves. So, in the meantime choose your sites wisely. I no longer chose to play live poker in dingy rooms above mini-cab offices, or private games with questionable hosts. I play in professionally managed casinos, or dedicated card-rooms that want me as a customer for life. You should, virtually, do the same.
JOHN DUTHIE was the winner of the first Poker Million and founder of the PokerStars.com EPT
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