The fact that the New York Times publishes a regular column on poker tells you how big the sport has grown in the last few years. Today’s column by James McManus argues that the Poker World is Flat (a play on the title of Tom Friedman’s book that discusses global interconnectivity) and that online gambling is just an oh-so-wonderful phenomenon.
McManus provides some powerful statistics to back up his claim. “According to industry research, more than $60 billion has been wagered on more than 200 poker sites in 2005, most of it lost or won by Americans. For the last two years, traffic on the leading Web sites has doubled about every six months. On Dec. 1, Morgan Stanley reported that Sportingbet was taking in $530,000 a day from its poker business. PartyGaming has been valued as high as $12 billion since its initial public offering in London on June 30 raised more than $8 billion; PartyPoker.com, the world’s busiest virtual card room, accounts for 92 percent of PartyGaming’s revenues.”
That’s great and all, but let me tell you the hidden truth about online poker. It’s a con job. It’s rigged. It’s for suckers.
If you are fool enough to gamble online, then you deserve to be separated from your money. “Blogs and chat rooms teem with charges of dealing that is programmed to give multiple players good hands, thereby increasing the bets and the rake, and of sites rigging the deal to prevent new players from losing so quickly that they become discouraged.”
That’s only the beginning. In fact, the most dangerous pitfall you face when playing poker online is running into a table full of players that “collude” against you. Consider: you sit down at a $100 buy-in, ten person tournament. That’s a $1,000 to be won and with only ten players, it will probably be won in less than an hour. Only three or four of the players are playing together, instant messaging each other to let each other know what their cards are. So what you say. Imagine you have a decent hand, such as four parts of a straight or flush, but not a lock hand, like a set or full house. You’re going to need to see the entire board to get to that straight or flush, which you are still not likely to get. And it’s pretty obvious to everyone else at the table from your check-call betting that that is the hand you are on. Two other players are in the pot. One with a made hand, the other there to bump up the action to benefit his partner. The latter will end up folding at the end, so as to prevent others from seeing how poor his hand really was. But the damage has already been done…to your chip stack…to your money. So let’s see, that $1,000 split among four players, subtracting the $100 they already put in there and that’s a nice profit of $150…for an hours worth of work. And there is no limit to the number of tables these guys are working, so you can bet, no pun intended, that they are making a hefty profit with this scam. And what are you going to do about it, complain to the police? Not when the online poker room you play on is based out of Antigua.
McManus argues that “sophisticated software also lets the sites check hand histories and IP addresses for evidence of player collusion.” Sssuuurrreee.