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Frequently Asked Questions Part 2 (internet Poker vs. Live Poker)
by Roy Cooke

As many players know, I’ve been involved in the Internet poker industry since the days when there were only a couple of sites, as opposed to the hundreds there are now. Poker on the Internet is the biggest part of the game now, and I suspect that won’t change in our lifetimes. The day when there are a thousand sites from which to choose isn’t that far off. In my last column, I addressed some frequently asked questions about online poker. Here are some more.

What about shills/prop players?
Many sites pay prop players hourly or give them a percentage of their rake back to fill games. These players get no advantage against other players. Props tend to be good for the game because they both start games and keep games going. Many of them are props because they are not capable of making a living strictly on their quality of play, and don’t have much, if any, edge against the field.

What’s an affiliate? An affiliate is a person who refers somebody to an online poker site. The affiliate receives either a flat dollar amount or a percentage of the referred person’s rake forever. Most sites have affiliate programs. Many people/companies have made a business out of attracting and signing up customers to Internet poker sites, and some do very well.

What are bonuses, and how do I get one? A bonus is extra money that a site will give you for making a deposit, usually 20 percent or 25 percent up to a maximum of $100-$150 per deposit, although I’ve seen them as high as 100 percent and $600. Usually, the higher the bonus, the greater the site’s need for players. Most sites offer bonuses, and you can find info on them at many forums or by entering the site name and the word bonus in a Google search. If using Google, sometimes adding the current month helps find current bonus programs (that is, PartyPoker, bonus, July).

What’s bonus whoring? When you get a bonus, there is usually a requirement that you play a certain number of raked hands before the bonus is credited to your account. Bonus whoring is the practice of jumping from site to site, earning bonuses by meeting the minimum requirement, then moving your money to another site for a new bonus. It takes away game selection from your poker game and seems like a lot of work for not much money to me, but lots of people do it. Obviously, this type of customer is not what the site is looking for when offering bonuses.

What is rakeback? A rakeback is just what it sounds like: The site gives you some of your rake back. This is a popular method for paying prop players. It is becoming more popular as an inducement offered by sites to new players rather than bonuses. Some affiliates will give you a portion of their rakeback if you sign up with them, although this is also a violation of the affiliate rules at many sites. If you make such a deal with an affiliate that is not approved by the particular site involved, you have no legal means to enforce it.

Is there collusion and cheating? Some people cheat. They cheat on exams, their resumes, their taxes, their golf scores, their spouses — and in poker, both live and on the Internet. It’s just a reality of life. As discussed in my Integrity — Part I and Part II columns, it’s less prevalent than you’d think, and at limits below $15-$30, it has a low level of impact on the games; the sophistication level on the part of those trying to cheat is just not very high. At limits higher than $15-$30, there are some concerns, but most major sites closely monitor their bigger games. Cheating on the Internet, especially in the form of collusion, is quite real, but it’s not so widespread as to greatly interfere with the game as a general rule. If you play well, you will beat Internet poker, regardless of the cheats.

How do sites protect me from cheats? Different sites protect you in different ways, and some sites offer more protections than others. Ask the site that you’re planning to play exactly how they protect you. If the answer is generic, I would not put much faith in the site. See my Integrity — Part I column for more details.

What are bots and are they a problem? Bots are computer programs that play like robots, hence the term bots. Some computer whizzes have managed to get them into sites. Fortunately, poker is not a game that lends itself to set preprogrammed strategies, and most bots give up edge to good players. Use of bots is a violation of the Terms of Service and/or End User License Agreement at virtually all sites. Bots are fairly easy for sites to detect if they choose to expend the resources, which some do and some don’t. As of right now there are several groups developing sophisticated "artificial intelligence" poker programs. Chess programs can now beat the best humans, but to my knowledge, poker programs cannot beat good human poker players.

If I want to play two, three, or four games at once on the same site (multitabling), how do I show all four screens at once? I think most people who play more than two games give up far more edge by dividing their attention and having to keep track of 30 or more players than they gain by adding a third or fourth game. I seldom play more than two. Still, many people disagree and play three, four, or even more games at once on one or more sites. Some sites are designed so that their software will let you play four screens set up on a single screen; some have overlapping screens, some don’t. To set your screen to play four games without overlapping, you need to set your screen resolution to 1,600 x 1,200. Most sites’ tech help can walk you through this.

How do I play with two monitors? This is how I play two monitors with a game up on each. It requires either two graphics cards or a dual monitor card. Mine is set up so that I can run my cursor from screen to screen. This aids my play greatly, as I can maintain visual contact with two games at once and follow the game better, and it enables me to maintain a large game screen that is much easier on the eyes for long sessions. I’m told you can run up to 10 monitors this way! Make sure you get the right kind of graphics card if you’re adding one, as incompatibility can be quite a problem. Unless you have computer hardware skills, I suggest you do what I do when upgrading: Consult your neighborhood computer geek! As an alternative, you can use two CPUs for playing two different sites (as an integrity monitoring measure, if you’re logged in on one CPU, most sites won’t let you log in from a different CPU), with a switch box for your mouse and keyboard.

What is datamining? There are several programs available on the market that integrate with poker site software to collect data on your opponents, such as how often they raise, call, and fold from various positions, how many flops they see, how many hands they take to the end, and so on. The best-known of these programs are Poker Tracker, Poker Office, and Poker Prophecy. The sheer volume of data can be overwhelming, and hard to read. That said, the information available is certainly potentially valuable. Using datamining programs is often a violation of Terms of Service or End User License Agreements, and can potentially get you barred from a site. Check with your site to see if you are in line with its policies. Sniffers can detect you operating these programs.

Can I change the background or other interface elements of the site I play? Most sites have a way to do this via changes in the directory where the site resides on your hard drive. Write to support or go to the live help of the particular site for details.

What precautions should I take for playing online? Thoroughly research the site you’re thinking of playing. I recommend using a separate dedicated bank account for your poker transactions. Among other things, this will give you an exact read on how you’re really doing. Read the Terms of Service and End User License Agreement. Protect your passwords and change them often. Ask the site for specific information on anti-collusion protocols. If you suspect you are being cheated in any way, report it immediately, with the names of the involved players and the hand number. You can usually e-mail a site at

What is the future of online poker? Like the song says, the future’s so bright, I gotta wear shades!

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