Online Casinos, Gambling, Poker and Sports Betting Magazine

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Shared Secrets

Joel Stevens argues that while having a fellow online gambler advise you during an online poker tournament may be impossible to prevent, the practice of letting someone log into your account and play in your place must be stopped.

There’s been a lot of debate this year about account sharing in online poker. Much of it comes down to ethics. Many of us have come home with mates after a few drinks and gathered around the PC for an online sit-n-go. It’s great fun to argue over close calls and when to push all-in. But should we feel like we’re breaking the law when we do so? If not, is it still ok if one friend, ‘Paul’, is a professional poker player? What about if we telephone Paul once we’re deep in a multi-table tournament so that he can guide us into the money? And finally, what if we just give Paul our username and password mid-tournament, log out, and let the master take the reins? Where do we draw the line?

And what about team play—where a group of players work out a ‘shift schedule’ and all play on the same account? This can cause unfair advantage on some poker sites that offer monthly prizes based on league play and competitions based on the number of raked hands. Therefore the honest player who only plays when they have free time is at a distinct disadvantage to the highly organised team players. How can this be stopped?

In March, Full Tilt dismissed one of its sponsored players, Jonathan Little, after it emerged he allowed others to play on his account. Little’s reasons for doing so are unclear. But without pointing any fingers, it should be acknowledged that he apparently had a 100-percent rakeback deal and also a $35 wage from Full Tilt for every hour he played on the site.

Gary Wise from ESPN Poker Club’s Online Poker Think Tank chaired a debate in April featuring input from Annette Obrestad, Todd Witteles and Justin Bonomo (at tinyurl.com/6x86zr). Witteles lead the cries from the poker community when it was suspected an Absolute Poker insider was abusing a superuser account—as proved to be the case. While Bonomo was at fault in one of the most famous cases of online poker cheating, when he got caught using multiple accounts.

Think Tank member Matt Hawrilenko kicks the debate off by saying that neither Full Tilt nor PokerStars enforce a ‘one player per hand’ rule, and states that “we need to accept this as a paradigm shift, because such a rule is impossible to enforce.”

Bonomo agrees: “Unenforceable rules only punish the honest guys and reward the rest. Casual players and experts alike enjoy being able to have a buddy over to discuss what’s going on.

“Right now, most sites have a rule that you can receive all the advice you want, but if you are in a tournament, your friend cannot log into your account from a different location to take over. Personally, I think that’s a decent line… Not only is taking over someone’s account enforceable, but it goes a long way to stopping businesses in which a player backs several other players and then takes over their accounts whenever they get deep in a tournament.”

Obrestad also chimes in: “It’s just something we need to accept because there will always be people talking on the phone or a messenger service while playing to help each other. I help friends from time to time and I don’t look at it as cheating because I’m not clicking their mouse for them. I’m just giving them advice on what I would do and it’s up to them if they want to listen or not.”

Witteles proposes a solution: “Online rooms need to make it clear, one way or the other. If it’s allowed, people should be able to switch names, create multiple accounts in their own names, or use friends’ accounts at will. If it is not, it should be made clear to every poker player that sharing of accounts will not be tolerated under any circumstances.”

Of course, this does little to stop online guerrilla experts. But how could anyone ever stop that? What’s clear is that “one player per account” is a considerably more logical and realistic debate than “one player per hand”.

But it comes down to personal responsibility: always play with a poker site with the technology to catch organised, sophisticated account-sharing or account-selling cheats.
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