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Poker News | Online Poker | News

Collusion, the Online Boogey Bear

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While playing live poker, you often hear players say they will never play online, because their opponents may use the phone, instant messenger or other chat application to pass information about their hands or “collude.” Well there are actually two types of collusion; ACTIVE, where the players cooperate by betting or raising, building big pots, when their partner has a good hand, or PASSIVE, where they simply signal their hands to their partner, giving them additional information for better decisions.

Active Collusion is by far the most harmful, but online it is very easy to detect. The records of hand histories inherent to online play make this type of collusion almost impossible to carry on for even a short time. Poker sites spend a lot of time, effort, and money to prevent it. You will encounter this much more often in live games.

Passive Collusion on the other hand can be hard to detect and seems to be the most feared, but does it really have that much of an impact on the game? Well if the cheaters are lucky the impact can be devastating on a particular hand, but just how much impact does it really have on YOU. Let’s look at a Hold’em hand:

Our cheaters are players A and B. The hero/victim is player C. Player A holds A-Ks and player C holds Q-Q. What cards can player B have that would affect this hand? He could hold and A, or K, 13%, Two of his partner’s suit 3% of the time. I discount a holding of a single card of the suit, because the play is the same with 10 or 11 outs. (Most cheaters play poorly to start with, they usually see their “advantage,” as an excuse to continue play.) These percentages indicate the possibility of an advantage occurring.

16% of the time, the players will have some advantage, but how much? If Player B has an A or a K, Player A knows that he has 5 outs instead of 6 outs. So the correct odds equal 5/48 instead of 6/50. This provides an advantage on the flop of only 10%.

So 13% of the time our cheaters can be expected to have a 10% advantage against a random hand, but we gave our hero, Q-Q. Our hero will get a hand that would compete favorably against A-K about 15% of the time. So the actual advantage in this situation is: 13% * 10% * 15%= .15%. If player C is holding 2 of the suit, the advantage is .02% for a total probable advantage of only .2% for one of the most severe cases.

Of course there are many other combinations that would provide an advantage. But here is a general formula that gives you the probability of a situation occurring. Either A or B will have a playable hand 35% of the time, our hero 30% of the time, and 25% of the time Player A/B will have meaningful cards. So an advantage will occur 35%*30%*25%=2.5% of the time. If we take the severe case above which provides about a 10% actual advantage and multiply it times the 2.5% of the times when a confrontation occurs, the real advantage achieved is only .33%.

Does this mean that Collusion isn’t bad? Definitely not, at a full ring game that .33% is multiplied by 8 and is about 2.5%. Craps and many slot machines make millions with an edge just that small. What it does mean is that for YOU, the edge held by the cheaters is almost insignificant. Poker sites like Full Tilt Poker, Titan Poker and PokerStars spend a lot of effort to prevent both types of collusion, and the efforts are quite effective. Since online records are so extensive, it is quite simple to track which players are always playing together, and to match their play with their hands.

Even in a live poker room with extensive camera coverage they don’t have a summary readily available, and never have access to a player’s hole cards unless they are exposed at the end. So, don’t let fear of collusion keep you from risking a few dollars at your favorite online site. John Vorhaus probably put it best when he suggested that you never play at a level where you are afraid to lose to an act of God. If you are a competent player you’ll probably lose more to computer glitches than to Colluders.

GL
jb

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