One player per hand?

by , Feb 8, 2007 | 5:13 pm

I have a list of pokerish blogs/sites I make a point of scrolling through at least once a week. Among them is ESPN’s Poker club, mainly because reading Bernand Lee’s tournament recaps are a guilty pleasure. Today, I was somewhat surprised to see Paul Wasicka’s new article about, well, to be somewhat hyper-technical, uh, cheating.

It includes this basic premise:

A joint session is simple: You sit at the same computer with a friend and make the decisions together, splitting profits and losses.

better yet, change one word:

A joint session is simple: You sit at the same table with a friend and make the decisions together, splitting profits and losses.

I mean, I know that this happens with the internet form of poker, hell, I even know people who have done it, but at it’s core, I think it’s a pretty clear violation of the stated (or unstated) rules of poker. Am I wrong?

25 Comments to “One player per hand?”

  1. Karridy

    I have mixed emotions on this. And I’ll just say that I really don’t know that this poses much of an advantage, anyways. So much of poker is instinct, perception, and getting in the zone. Two players will never share a zone and in most cases won’t agree when a true critical moment comes up. A friend of mine sat and watched me play a Titan tournament about a year ago. It was the only time I had somebody hang out for a whole tourney and pay as much attention as I did. The true benefit was him telling me “Don’t even think about playing that trash!”.. or “Don’t auto-fold. Wait till the action comes around you might get odds”. He was typically right. And I think I did do better as a result. But we certainly didn’t have any information that anybody else didn’t have, as in traditional cheating. I haven’t played this way since, but it’s not because I’m terribly opposed to it. Think about it… Poker is like chess. You trap, you cover angles, you set-up, you fain… These are strategies that lend well to a conjoined player.

  2. Karridy

    I mean DON’T lend well

  3. The Big Randy

    Frankly, I tend to agree with you, K, but more from a sense of what can really be done about it. Think of it this way, though. What if I’m sitting across from you in that tournament you mentioned (and let’s assume it’s live for a second). You’re about to fold your garbage, but hen your buddy stops you after noticing the odds are okay to call. Let’s assume further that you flop gin and end up winning a big hand. It’s probably not too big a suspension of reality (though I have played a little with you) to assume that you will make a good decision that your partner may miss later in the tournament. Clearly, you have now benefitted from the “two heads are better than one” concept, and that can’t be close to good.

    There’s certainly no way to stop it. But I don’t think pros (nor any other serious players for that matter) should be encouraging it.

  4. DanM

    Karridy, I gotta think there’s nothing wrong with the situation you describe. My one big online tourney win wouldn’t have happened were I not getting the same voice over my shoulder.

    But if you and I sit at a cash table and agree to split our collective winnings, it not only gives us a mathematical edge, but we have altered the game. In and of itself, that agreement does that. Now imagine if we were able to communicate what our cards were, either directly or indirectly. Clearly crooked.

  5. The Big Randy

    Guys??!! Hold on a second. You’re telling me if Todd and I sit down across from you and tell the table that we are going to play together, and then periodically huddle to pool our collective thoughts on how to play a hand or situation you are fine with that? C’mon.

  6. DanM

    OK, and now I have actually read what Randy wrote … and TBR makes a good point. But I gotta think that if you’re gonna draw the ethical line there — where it’s wrong to talk with an uninvolved friend while you play a hand — then the whole concept of “sweating” in a live game would be wrong.

    Or maybe not … the key word is “uninvolved.” The WSOP has considered measures requiring players to divulge who has a piece of whom. Because while, really, gentleman’s agreements can’t be stopped … it does only seem right that other players know more specifics about what they’re up against.

  7. DanM

    Re #5, definitely not.

    But I wouldn’t have a problem with two “teams” facing off Battleship style on computers. In fact … TBR/Todd vs. Dan/Karridy … heads-up for whatever money but with collective decision-making? That would be kinda fun, no?

  8. Ed

    As long as both people are not playing in the hands at the same time then who cares. Like Big K said…”Two players will never share a zone and in most cases won’t agree when a true critical moment comes up.”

    This means they could end up hurting themselves by the one making the final decision changing what the original person had decided to do on a gut feeling. I would rather my gut tell me to make a call than my buddy standing behind me who probably plays differently than I do.

    I am in no way saying I would want to see Johnny Chan standing behind Jamie Gold at the WSOP saying “no no…you need to check raise there.” Just saying if folks do it while playing online then more power to them.


  9. Fresh Princess

    First of all, yes Dan, it is technically cheating. One player per hand is a standard rule. Do I have a problem with it? Not really. Why not? Because not only do I agree with Karridy but I also think their play will even out because two brains or possibly two idiots don’t necessarily equate a higher intellect.
    Besides, if someone can’t make a decision for themselves and they need someone else to hold their hand in a poker game then…I want them at my table.

  10. Doc John

    This past month in one of the magazines, Cardplayer or Bluff, I am sure that I saw an online wizard’s column in which he advised people to team up and play together online. His point was that discussion of the hands was a good learning experience. I don’t recall where I saw it. Anyone else pick up that issue? I don’t think the writer was at all thinking there would be much inherent advantage. If an experienced player helped a newbie, the newbie would benefit. Beyond that I can’t see how it could help much. I’d much rather play against my favorite opponents if they had someone second guessing and advising them, frankly. I agree with the comments about feel, intuition, and the flow of the game.

  11. Bubba

    I know players who switch accounts and play their friends bankrolls in cash and tourneys online by simply exchanging laptops. several pros in and out of houston do this regularly for a variety of reasons.This one guy I know %$#@&* from vegas style on westpark a poker supply house won his seat in the main event from pokerstars this way. He and several of his friends alternate during tournament play to mix it up and to keep from being too predictable.But the guy is a pyker anyway and I hear he’s in the pokey probably getting poked so its all karma baby.There are no short cuts it always comes back in some form to find balance. secondly really good players don’t need to cheat. for them the cards are nearly irrelevent. they know what you have. you might as well turn them face up.they know how to get paid by picking on the weak players. I play a small ball strategy like this in cash games where there are small blinds and no max buy in restriction and kill almost everytime; it is instinct, experience and a little gamble. I read people well. so i say let em cheat they suck anyway and have no talent or skills

  12. Pokerdog

    I agree with what Bubba says, just let them cheat. Ultimately, true players want to develop their game and are not just in it for the money. Sure, money’s nice and fluffy. It seems more to me that “joint” session with a friend is going to develop into a crutch.

    What happens when your fellow cheatin’ friend’s developed a condition? Stop playing all together? What a nonsensical article.

    While I understand that if you’re not a winning player, you can engage your friend as a poker mentor or such. Having him sitting together with you PHYSICALLY in front of the same computer, coaching you is acceptable. That means that you’re sharing the seat, he briefs you on the thought process of each aspect of the decision making process. That to me will develop a person into a better player, learning from a better player.

    Unless your friend’s a donkey.

  13. DanM

    Doc John … the magazine was probably Bluff, as it was an article in Bluff that inspired this conversation. (look at the very top.)

  14. DanM

    Wait, maybe I am confused … It was an article on ESPN’s poker club … but that content is somehow connected to Bluff. It’s hard to keep up with who’s who and what’s what in the poker media these days … but that’s really all the more reason why TBR’s initial question is a good one.

    Gotta wonder if they woulda run something by ZeeJustin a year ago where he tells readers the best way to win is play multiple people in the same tourney!

  15. Karridy

    Ok. I think we all agree. It’s technically cheating. I think we also agree that it’s not an evil practice and can actually be helpful in learning, but the long-term success or “critical value” cannot be determined.

    I did learn a couple of great things during my buddy-session which I think have helped me tremendously. THAT is the value for me. There actually were a couple of hands where I made a call against my partner’s better judgment and vice versa. Some worked; some donked. Michele (FP) said it best when she said that two players don’t always equate to one bigger, better player. And often, as many of you pointed out, it can prove detremental. HOWEVER… I think something that we are all overlooking is that fact that we will ALL play tighter and better with an audience. And even more so when we are “passing a laptop back and forth”. It really makes you dot your “i”‘s, etc. If you haven’t already done it a dozen times, I would suggest that all of you at least play in a large MTT with some friends. As long as you aren’t that the same table, have fun watching eachother, giving advice, and even add a “last man standing” prop bet. These things will really help you un-donk your tournament game without crossing any ethical lines.

  16. The Big Randy

    One final point to piggy-back on Karridy’s comment. Remember, Wasicka wrote the article specifically because he believed it gave the team an ADVANTAGE. I absolutely believe this and think it is supportable by some simple math, but alas, that will have to wait for another post.

  17. Marvin C

    Come on guys, let’s not be so nieve. When money is involved, rules will be streched and broken.

    Most of the online players I know have had in-play advice. All of the operators of the several clubs I play at and those that closed, played online before the action stated and during it. It is not uncommon for four or five players waiting for the game to start to be standing around the computer giving advice; some good, some bad, some right, mostly wrong.

    We all know of online players that play online at the same table using wi-fi that doen’t show that they are sitting next to each other. This is cheating that is hard to detect.

    When two players at the same live table share in each other’s winnings, there is going to be colllusion, especially in tournaments. If player A & B are sharing winnings it is in each other’s benefit not to knock the other out, to keep them in the game, not busting them out. Collussion is cheating, therefore, sharing winnings is a form of cheating.

  18. CayneB

    I read Wasicka’s article and found no problem with it. He’s NOT referring to playing two seats, just mentoring each other by discussion. While this is indeed “cheating” at any live table, I don’t believe it can be considered unfair online. Honestly I believe the majority of online players at one time or another had another person watching and discussing their play. I’ve taught several friends the game through this exact method, and do not see an ethical dilemma.
    I really hope no one reads this string and concludes that Wasicka was recommending playing multiple seats together, or even joining the same MTTs as friends, as that was NOT his point. Colluding IS CHEATING, joint sessions for mentoring purposes is not.

  19. Onewhowas

    I agree with CayneB.

    Two people sharing the same seat at an online table for the purpose of discussing hands and making better decisions, does not seem (to me) to be any different than using poker tracker or holdem indicator or some other tool you may have handy.
    The all are designed to help you to make better decisions.
    And I certainly don’t consider it to be cheating or colluding.

    I consider cheating or colluding to be when you are given an unfair advantage by someone else at the table or tourney or by using a device designed to give you an unfair advantage.
    Everyone at the table has the same information.
    This person (who is being mentored) just has more help in decifering that information…

  20. Bob

    To me… it’s simple. It’s cheating.

    I am playing another player, not a team. Having “help in deciphering information” is an unfair advantage, whether it is a partner, or a “tool”. That’s what experience teaches you.

    Now, in the .net sites, for “play money”, not that big of a deal. But for “real money”? Damn right it’s cheating, particularly because it is not disclosed to all players, to give them the option of playing or not.

    Think of it in terms of a real-life table. Would you let a player have his “mentor” sit beside him, and help him with hands? Hell, no. Whether it is online or not is not relevent.

  21. DanM

    C’mon, Bob…. while what you say might be right in theory, it’s just not realistic. Fact of life when you are playing online you are really playing against an avatar who plays two cards a certain way — regardless of whether you are up against a dumb individual fish, a “team” of world class pros, a bot, or a blatantly unethical colluder — and its up to you to figure out who you might be facing on the other end.

    OK, and maybe up to the online site, in the case of real collusion — because really, they DO look to stop that sort of activity, and maybe someday these sorts of cheaters could be prosecuted.

    But there is zero way the site can do anything about how many people are looking at a computer screen.

  22. Bob

    I didn’t say whether anything could be done about it, I just answered the question that was posed, and said that it IS cheating, because it is not disclosed to all players pre-game.

    Again, online or real table, or whether or not it’s realistic to stop is irrelevant. I was talking about the game.

    And yes, I have been able to determine when I’ve been “tag-teamed” in a game, by changes in betting patterns and response times for the same “avatar”.

    Actually, I’d have no problem with a “team game” like you suggested Dan, as long as everyone knows ahead of time, and is operating under the same premise.

  23. DanM

    Bob … can you throw us your top four signs that you are facing collusion online? like seriously … i have looked for this sorta info and have been unable to find anything. seems like it would be helpful to know the red flags to look out for.

  24. Bob

    I don’t know that I have “signs” per se. It’s a feel I get from behavioral changes that I notice throughout the game. Not as in “switching gears” (which everyone should do), but going from “fish” behavior and betting patterns to “knowledgable” behavior and betting patterns within a game.

    I have a little less faith in response times, because those can be affected by net connections, but it is part of the “feel” I get. Going from “tank-like” responses on every hand to faster calls/raises/folds.

    Players just don’t reach an epiphany within a game, and start playing like they know what they are doing. A donkey is typically a donkey in a game until he hits the felt (then hopefully learns from it).

    And I am speaking of within an avatar, not 2 avatars colluding. You’d have to be able to connect the behaviors between the avatars, which is as difficult to do online as in a “real” game (if it were easy, they’d all get busted, and this conversation would be moot).

    Anyway, sorry if I jumped on the soapbox on the issue. I blame my parents…

  25. Onewhowas

    I have to say BOB is a big fat dumb MORON to think one player to a hand is cheating and should be prevented.
    I would say it’s no more cheating than speeding is breaking the law (or playing poker online?)
    Sure, it’s ‘technically’ against the rules. But everyone does it, and almost no one thinks it’s wrong.
    (Except for ‘Bob’ who probably shouldn’t be that illegal online poker in the first place.)

    But far from me to say that everyone does it.
    How about if ‘The’ Michael Craig blogs about doing just that, at the final table of a major Full Tilt tournament with Clonie and friends.
    “I was re-raising, Mike, but the wine and Clonie slowed me down.”
    In a voice barely above a whisper, Robert explains during his fifteen seconds of decision time, “I don’t know why but I think –“
    Clonie: “You think you fold. That’s all you think.”
    Cate: “Fold. Fold. Fold.”
    Robert pushes the Fold button. “I’m kidding, I’m kidding.”

    You should also see some of his discussions with Mathusow as well..

    It’s VERY common practice to discuss hands with friends while playing in a tournament (or ring game).
    And it’s done by pretty much everyone.
    And no one considers it cheating, collusion, or otherwise….

    If Bob wants to enforce the ‘one person to a hand rule’ maybe he should stick to local poker rooms.
    oops. I forgot. That’s illegal. Guess he needs to travel up north then….

    ..just telling it like it is….