BY RUSS SCOTT
SEPTEMBER 1, 2009
WAS OL’ LUCKYDOG CHEATED IN THIS ONLINE TOURNAMENT HAND?
Let’s begin with this: I believe that, by far, most poker games played live and online are honest. That said, I also believe I recently was a victim of collusion in a hand during an online tournament.
Which online poker site hosted the event isn’t at issue here, so there’s no need to identify it. Truth is, the site has a great reputation and it quickly agreed to investigate.
Still, this seven-card stud tournament hand provides a lesson for players: Unless you know everyone in a game and trust them implicitly, you must always be alert to possible cheating.
To help you recognize the signs of collusion, let’s review what happened. These were the hands dealt:
Player A — Ac Qc / 8h 9s 3s 3d / 5d
Player B — Ah Ad / 7d Kh 5c 9c / 10c
LuckyDog — Ks Kd / 7h 4c Qh 3h / 9h
The first two cards before the slash were our hole cards. The next four were our up cards, followed by our river card, dealt face-down.
In stud, to start you are dealt two pocket cards down and one up, known as the door card or third street. The remaining cards are dealt one at a time, followed by a round of betting after each card.
This tournament used structured-limit betting. For this hand, betting levels were 300 chips on third and fourth streets and 600 chips for the final three rounds. Only 25 players remained from the original 108, and I had been at or near the top in chips for most of the event.
Player A started the hand with about 3,500 chips, Player B had about 5,000, and I had about 10,000.
Betting was capped (one bet plus three raises) on both third and fourth streets, costing each of us 2,400 chips at that point. All three of us were betting and raising, but Player A bet or raised at every opportunity despite having no pair and no draw.
On fifth street, Player B bet out first for 600. By then, I suspected he had pocket aces or queens (he obviously couldn’t have pocket K-K, and it was highly unlikely he started with trip sevens because I had a seven in the door). I thought Player A’s strong betting indicated possible trips, a big pocket pair, or perhaps 10h-Jh in the hole.
I hesitated before acting to look at the stacks. Player B had enough chips to bet the hand to conclusion, but Player A would be all-in on this round and couldn’t keep raising after that. I decided to play the hand out because the pot was huge, I could be in the lead, and even if Player B had A-A in the pocket I still could win by hitting a second pair or third king.
So I called. Sure enough, Player A raised all-in behind me with no hand, no draw and no chance of driving anyone out! Player B re-raised, and bet again on sixth and seventh streets. I called those bets, too, but didn’t improve my pair of kings.
At showdown, I saw the expected pocket aces for Player B but was amazed to see Player A’s cards. In an instant, I realized he could have been in cahoots with Player B to build him a big pot with me stuck in the middle.
The 12,114-chip pot pushed Player B’s stack to 17,000-plus, almost guaranteeing him a ride into the money (12 spots paid). I was left with about 3,000 chips — in serious jeopardy of busting out short of the money and totally ticked off at the possible collusion.
Fifty years of poker experience tells me they were playing side by side or sharing information by phone. There’s no other logical reason for Player A to blow off his entire stack with those cards — especially so close to the money — unless he was dumping chips to his partner, knowing he had pocket aces.
Also suspicious: An online player-tracking site revealed my opponents had played hold’em games exclusively for weeks until they showed up together in this stud tournament.
My e-mail complaint to the poker site produced a gratifying response in just three hours.
“We will review the records of these players and determine if they have been colluding at the tables. Appropriate action will be taken as soon as this investigation is complete. We take collusion very seriously and appreciate your help in keeping our tables fair and enjoyable,” wrote a site security staffer.
How’d did the tournament end? Well, Player B coasted to a 12th-place finish, barely in the money, but I fought back hard and finished sixth for about $100 profit. That didn’t eliminate the sting of what happened, however.
Do you agree with my suspicions?
E-mail your poker questions and comments to email@example.com for use in future columns. To find out more about Russ Scott and read previous LuckyDog Poker columns, visit www.creators.com or www.luckydogpoker.com.
COPYRIGHT 2009 RUSS SCOTT
DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS SYNDICATE INC.