Poker Shield

How Online Poker Operators Keep Games Fair & Safe

Your guide to understanding bots and collusion in online poker and how legal operators combat this to make games safe for their players.

One of the concerns online poker players have is whether they are playing in a safe environment, that is, if the games are fair and that they are not being cheated.

Legal online poker rooms in the US do an excellent job at keeping the poker room safe and secure from fraudulent activities.

In this guide, we tell you how to stay safe in terms of bots and collusion, what sites do well to protect players from cheating and what you should look for as a player.

But before we get to that part, it is important to understand what some of the most common forms of cheating in online poker are and how they operate.

Cheating or unscrupulous activities in online poker exist in the following ways:

  • Bots
  • Collusion
  • Multi-Accounting
  • Ghosting
  • Virtual Private Network (VPN)
  • Super-User

Terminology To Look Out For

Poker Bots

In the online poker world, bots are computerized programs that play in the place of humans. They are designed to make mathematically perfect decisions all the time which puts them at a huge advantage. Unlike humans, bots do not succumb to tilt as they have no emotions, do not tire or misplay a hand, and they can continuously play for long hours without getting tired.

They are widely considered to be menaces, which ultimately have a negative impact on the economy of the game. These automated programs are rightly prohibited by all poker rooms as they eliminate the human thought process required for a game like poker.

Bots are often used by users who are looking to make quick and easy money. However, the good news is that poker bots are rare in reputable sites and are very likely to get caught thanks to the sophisticated programs used by the operators to detect them.

Collusion in Poker

Collusion is basically a form of cheating where two or more players on the table cooperate by privately sharing their hole cards or any other knowledge, gaining an unfair advantage over other players.

Collusion can also include intentionally losing to an associate account more commonly known as Chip Dumping. Another form of collusion is Soft Play in which a player opts to take a less aggressive line against their friends, with the goal to avoid winning money or chips.

It is a clear offense and players getting caught can be given a warning or banned from the room. Compared to the use of bots, collusion is more common but can be easily detectable thanks to security systems put in place or through players’ reports.


Multi-accounting in online poker refers to creating more than one real money account in a single poker room. It is strictly prohibited and can lead to account suspension with even the possibility of getting bankroll seized if caught repeatedly.

Players usually create multiple accounts to gain an unfair advantage over their opponents. They can do so by joining a cash game table or a sit and go with two accounts or more, thus giving them access to four hole cards instead of two and helping them manipulate the game. Some also create multi accounts to take advantage of the site’s welcome bonus offers or participate in a freeroll, thus giving them a higher chance to win the tournament. They also do so to get a new username or identity, which is considered unethical.

Multi-accounting does happen in all the sites but, like other forms of cheating or unfair methods, they are easily detectable thanks to the comprehensive measures put by operators to prevent this from happening.

Ghosting in Poker

Ghosting usually occurs when a player is deep in the tournament where huge money is at stake and takes advice from another player or their coach. In live games, ghosting is strictly prohibited, but on the virtual felt, it is very difficult to prevent this form of cheating as players can take advice from someone sitting right next to them with no way for the operator to know.

Another way Ghosting can occur is by giving access to their account to a friend. Some third-party screen-sharing tools such as Teamviewer or Skype can also be used to gain control of their friend’s account but these methods are likely to be caught by operators for breaching their terms.

VPNs & Online Poker

The use of a Virtual Private Network (VPN) is another form of cheating in online poker.

While a VPN is often used to protect a user’s privacy, its usage in online poker is mostly for masking their real location and to virtually play from a jurisdiction that is allowed by the poker room when in fact the user might be in a different state or abroad.

For a list of all the states where online poker is legal go to the Poker Shield homepage, where we have an interactive map of the US.

It is strictly forbidden by every legal online poker room to mask your location and if a player is caught using a VPN to play in another jurisdiction illegally, their account can be suspended.

Superuser Accounts

A Superuser account means a person with access to an opponent’s hole cards in real-time. In the past, there have been instances where an employee of a certain room was able to see hole cards of all their opponents. However, legal and reputable online poker rooms have all the information on the hole cards stored centrally on the poker server, which can only be viewed once a hand is completed, ensuring players are playing safe and fair games.

Poker Rooms Combating Fraudulent Activities

All regulated and legal online poker rooms have a specialist Poker Risk & Fraud team set up to tackle any suspicious activity that may be against the site’s rules. The team is equipped with enough resources and the expertise necessary to hunt down cheaters.

Be it the use of poker bots or other nefarious software, collusion, multi-accounting, or any other form of unfair play, these rooms use sophisticated security systems.

Global online poker giant, PokerStars, particularly invests millions into game integrity and has been doing it for two decades. Partypoker also has a dedicated Fraud Team and is one of the few rooms that does not shy away from revealing the number of fraudulent accounts banned every month and the amount of cash confiscated and reimbursed.

In this guide, we focus on the regulated online poker rooms active in the US. Currently, there are three major online poker networks in the country.

  • WSOP/888 Network


PokerStars has been in the industry for two decades and is considered to lead the industry in proactive detection, with a team of 50+ employees in their Game Integrity division that use a variety of advanced techniques to detect irregular play.

It is licensed in several countries across the globe including three in the US states namely:

While their US operations are handled by a different team, make no mistake, they are equally efficient and capable of detecting nefarious activities. Any kind of cheating or unfair play is not tolerated on the site and anyone caught could face penalties in the form of warnings, account suspension, or even confiscation of player’s funds.

As per PokerStars, the tools its team uses to detect and investigate fraud cases “are multifaceted, incredibly sophisticated, and always improving.”

The fraud team examines players’ accounts such as their hand histories, win rate, and playing statistics on an individual basis. Some of the mechanisms used by PokerStars include using special collusion detecting software, ensuring mouse movements are realistic, using popup CAPTCHA inputs, preventing the same IP address from registering for the same game more than once, requiring that players record a video of their gameplay, and various other mechanisms that cannot be revealed publicly, for obvious reasons.

These security measures are triggered, not only by their own internal systems but also depend on player reports, which point to potential cheating. PokerStars, like other operators, encourages players to report any suspicious activity to their support team.

Depending on the infraction, refunds may be distributed back to those affected, as compensation. Network

The WSOP/888 network is one of the largest networks in the US and the only interstate poker network in the country at the time of writing. The duo currently operates in three states, all sharing the same player pool:

WSOP has its own room in Nevada and New Jersey and uses 888poker’s software. It shares its player pool with the three “racinos” in Delaware powered by 888, the exclusive provider for online poker in the state. 888poker also has its own brand in New Jersey which again combines player pool with that of WSOP NJ.

In addition WSOP runs its own ring fenced room in Pennsylvania under WSOP PA.

Like any other top-class operator, takes fair play and cheat detection very seriously. It has employed security teams designated especially for this purpose. It has its own set of House Rules, which every player must abide by. Players can report suspicious or unfair play by contacting their email at [email protected].

The exact methods that the operator uses to prevent and detect cheating are not known publicly for security reasons, but WSOP states that it has developed and employed “sophisticated proprietary technology” to detect plays that appear questionable or suspicious.

The operator also verifies the player’s account details from time to time by requesting documents such as a valid government-issued photo ID and proof of address so there is no identity fraud. Furthermore, the operator may ask for proof of payment method to prevent fraudulent payment activities. The operator also verifies the player’s location through geo-location software so they are not breaching the site’s policy.

Should a player’s account be found in breach of the site’s policy, the operator can freeze and close their account and can even notify the state gaming regulatory board of the suspected illegal activity. Affected players can expect to be reimbursed with amounts that have been confiscated.

888poker NJ itself has its own set of rules and regulations which can be found on their website. Like, it has its own fraud team to prevent nefarious activities.

partypoker US Network

The partypoker US Network is another esteemed operator in the US — also operating in three states:

The network consists of three skins — BetMGM, Borgata, and partypoker and, depending on the state, the operators vary in each of them. For instance, in New Jersey, all three skins are active, whereas in Pennsylvania, all three are active with the exception of the partypoker brand and in Michigan, only the BetMGM operates.

Much like any other reputable online poker operator, partypoker has zero tolerance towards inappropriate play and fraudulent activity. In its global network, it has a dedicated Poker Fraud Team comprising former professional poker players. It has pledged to update players on account closures every month, which includes revealing the number of accounts banned and funds confiscated.

The US network has its own separate fraud team and, although it does not reveal the number of accounts closed on a monthly basis like its dot-com counterpart, the US fraud team is equally well equipped and the site does everything it can to make players feel safe.

In fact, the partypoker US network does not shy away from revealing the countermeasures it takes to prevent the use of bots. As per the network, their efforts are divided into three separate categories:

  • Identification and detection
  • Warning/suspending offending users
  • Additional measures through enlarged customer choice.

Identification and detection counter-measures are in place and have been for some time, the site says. partypoker detects existing bot programs that players may be using, as well as prevents new bot programs as they are released or created. As soon as a player is caught using an illegal program, they are notified about the potential steps that the site will take if they continue to use that program.

  • Extreme steps include suspension of their account and confiscation of the funds without any prior notice.*

The security team is also tasked with reviewing hand histories. Unlike players, sites have access to all the player’s hand histories on a table, which gives them a good idea of whether collusion or any other form of cheating has taken place.

The site has also has developed special software that tracks every single move a player makes in their poker room. This also includes tracking third-party software (including the illegal ones) being run on the computer.

Legal & Safe Online Poker Rooms

First and foremost, always play on a US poker site that is licensed and legal. You should never play on sites that are unregulated as these poker rooms are more vulnerable to illegal activities and playing on them puts yourself at great risk.

To know if a site is legal, look for the logo of the gaming regulator at the bottom of the poker site’s home page or the poker client. The currently active gaming regulators in the US are as follows:

Online Poker Room Regulators

Ensure that you read the site’s terms and conditions. This will give you an idea of how serious a site is when it comes to dealing with fraudulent accounts.

Most online poker rooms encourage you to report any suspicious activity to their support staff. We have compiled a list of all the support contact pages and emails of all the major sites operating in the regulated US online poker market.

Support for New Jersey Poker Players

Support for Pennsylvania Poker Players

Support for Michigan Poker Players

Support for Nevada Poker Players

Support for Delaware Poker Players

Alternatively, players can also contact via the live chat option available on the website or poker software. Players also have the option to contact the state’s gaming regulatory board if they are not satisfied with the resolution offered by the operator.

Cheating in Online Poker FAQ

Here we answer some of the most commonly asked questions players have when it comes to cheating in online poker.

Do Online Poker Rooms Have Bots?

Yes! But not many as you think. In fact, poker bots are quite rare and you’re unlikely to face them every day. Furthermore, due to bot-battling software, the operators are cutting down the numbers even further.

Do I Need to be Worried About Poker Bots?

As long as you are playing in a legitimate, legal online poker site that is regulated and licensed in known jurisdictions, you should not be worried. Most online poker rooms have various counter-measures in place that prevent players from using bots. Even if they go undetected, they are very likely to be caught in the future or through players’ reports.

What About Other Fraudulent Activities?

Apart from poker bots, other forms of cheating such as collusion, multi-accounting, ghosting do exist. However, online poker rooms have a complex internal security system that prevents as well as catches these kinds of unscrupulous activities. For instance, sites have special software that detects any irregularity in play or if they are using any third-party tool.

They also have access to players’ hand histories, which helps them determine if a group of players is involved in collusion. Operators can also ask a player to upload an ID for multiple reasons including to see if they are using more than one accounts.

How Do Operators Combat Poker Bots?

Most online poker rooms have systems in place that track any automated programs that are being run when they are playing on their software. Any third-party software that makes decisions on its own is red-flagged immediately and the player using that software can be given a warning or even can get a suspension. Other mechanisms used to detect bots include using popup CAPTCHA inputs, ensuring mouse movements are realistic, reviewing hand histories to detect similarity in play with other accounts suspected of using bots, and more.*

How Do Online Poker Operators Combat Collusion?

Online poker rooms have access to the hand histories of all players playing on the table. This allows them to know if a player or a group of players is involved in collusion. Operators also detect collusion through internal systems that automatically detect collusion in real-time.

How Do Poker Operators Prevent Multi-Accounting?

Most online poker rooms take comprehensive measures to prevent multi-accounting. For instance, a player can be asked to upload a copy of their government-issued photo ID to verify their identity matches the account. Operators can also detect multi-accounting via cookies and fingerprinting techniques such as storing the MAC and IP address when a player creates an account. Some rooms also have a security feature that prevents the same IP address from registering for the same tournament more than once from different accounts.

What Can Players do if they Find Suspicious Play?

Operators often encourage players to report any suspicious account activity to their support via email or live chat. See above for our list of all the contact info for every operator in every state in which online poker is legal.

Which Sites Are the Best at Protecting Players?

Most legal and regulated online poker rooms do a good job of keeping their players safe. PokerStars,, partypoker US Network, and 888poker — all have a dedicated internal fraud team whose sole job is to detect any suspicious play. But in particular, PokerStars is the safest room to play, in our opinion, and is widely considered an industry leader when it comes to proactive detection of cheating.

Can I Get My Money Back if a Site Catches a Cheater?

Yes, if a site does catch a cheater and if their funds get confiscated, you will very likely receive compensation if you have been affected by the cheater.