When I ask this question, I'm not talking about the right poker strategy, but the right legal, moral and ethical approach to the game. First I want to share the issue that set me off this morning, then get into the more important issue it inspired. As I was doing my daily round of checking on the latest in the online poker world, I came across this tweet from Poker News Now that perturbed me.
Poker News Now - How To Hack Any Online Poker Game: New software that can hack any online poker g m.. (*link not shared)
While it is not officially affiliated with PokerNews, the news source, it gives regular news-like tweets throughout the day, most of which seem credible from outside sources. A number of questions came up when I read this tweet. Do they have a responsibility to differentiate between news items and product endorsements? Do they have a responsibility to verify those items that they feed and distribute? Are they vouching for the product by tweeting about it? Are they deriving financial benefit from it? Should any credible poker site be advertising someone claiming they can cheat the poker sites and other players? Regardless of whether the product/program can do what it says or not, it's a very disturbing situation.
When you click on the link, you are taken to a standard formatted site titled "How to Hack or Cheat Games and Software." That particular page's headline is how to Hack Any Online Poker Game and shows an out of focus YouTube video with narration of how to use the cheat software to your advantage when you can see your opponents hands. It then offers a link, that turns out to be an affiliate link to a questionable site I had come across before, that offers to show you multiple methods to make huge sums of money by seeing opponent's hole cards, how to program your own custom super automatic poker bot along with using poker calculators, poker profiling software, poker spy software and random number generators to your advantage.
The bigger consideration that this issue initiated in me was what is the right way to play poker? I have been deeply involved in the poker training world which encourages players to work hard and seek any legal edge they can to profit from their playing. These include:
1. Subscribe to a training site where you can view educational videos of other players playing and describing their thought processes.
2. Visit poker forums to seek opinions and feedback on how to play certain hands, or read other people's hands.
3. Purchase software that will help you analyze your play and results (e.g. PT, HEM etc.)
4. Utilize Heads Up Displays (that utilize the stored and session information to provide statistics on your opponents
5. Seek coaching to accelerate or personalize your instruction. This can often involve screen sharing software as the coach observes or is observed.
6. Organize sweat sessions with players who play similar levels and face similar challenges.
7. Get rakeback to make sure you are getting some rake back on the sites that allow it.
8. Use the chat rooms for ask a pro type scenarios, or real time rail a player calling out their hands for educational purposes.
Each of these suggestions done carefully is a legal method to accelerate your learning, improve your game and gain an edge on your less motivated opponents. But each can also run afoul of the poker sites and their Terms and Conditions that we all accept when we sign up to play.
1. Training sites vary in their their teaching techniques and respect for the rules that poker sites put out.
2. Forums are open exchanges that can lead to multiple offenses. Some poker forums share private tournament/freeroll passwords that are not theirs. Some forums are look to exchange hand history databases. Forums are often loosely moderated, allowing free exchanges between individuals that want to skirt the rules.
3. Certain software is banned on poker sites, while others are not. Not every player makes a distinction if they feel it gives them the edge they seek.
4. While some debate their effectiveness on their own play, HUD's are credited with giving a great deal of information and advantage to most players, especially if they utilize hands not personally played.
5. Some coaches ghost their players, influencing decisions during live play.
6. Sweat sessions can also drift into 'group play' dynamics that are frowned on by the playing sites.
7. The uneven approaches taken by the sites regarding establishing rakeback accounts often motivate players to establish multiple accounts to skirt the unfair system.
8. Chat sessions also can drift into multiple players weighing in on live play decisions.
Players want to profit from their playing experience. That greed creates a strong temptation that can blur the lines of acceptable and unacceptable forms of play. The playing sites contribute by not being clear or fair in determining the rules for their sites. The outrage seen on 2+2 recently is partially due to the perceived uneven approach taken in handling visible players from the low stakes players.
Unfortunately, these same outraged individuals casually lump in all types of cheating as being equal. But they are not. Our innate sense of degree and proportionality recognizes differences between offenses. Our criminal system is categorized by degrees, the two main categories being misdemeanor and felony. Even within those larger categories, crimes are designated by degree (i.e., first degree murder and second degree murder) to denote the range of culpability, mitigating circumstance (was it provoked, premeditated or a crime of passion, etc.,) and therefore the severity of punishment to be meted out by the state. If I speed 5 miles over the speed limit, I am given a lesser penalty than if I speed 40 miles over the speed limit. I feel Full Tilt exercised that discretion in meting out a lesser penalty to Brian Townsend on this most recent offense, than to his earlier transgression.
As I stated in previous blogs, I feel it is the responsibility of the playing sites to create a fair and even playing field for their players. Any disparities are readily noticed by the players and creates an environment of distrust and hostility. Most players want to play fairly. Most players recognize that working harder on your game should be rewarded. I sincerely hope that most players are able to see the folly in trying to cheat the system. The potential risk of capture and illegally obtained rewards isn't worth the temptation of 'easy money'. Programs like the one that Poker News Now tweeted about today are most likely scams preying on your greed. Even in the rare circumstances that they are true cheats or hacks, is that the way you want to profit? Are you really wanting to set the precedent that all others should cheat you at every turn if they have the opportunity?
For as long as I can remember I have lived by one simple rule... "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you". If you apply that to your poker playing, you gain respect for the mechanics of the game. Have respect for your opponent, the game and especially yourself!