Three Important Tips for Safe Online Poker

A man plays poker on his computer connected to an internet gaming site. Karen Bleier/ AFP

Were you born in the ‘90s, or maybe even sooner? Then you belong to the online generation. The internet as we know it didn’t start until 1995 when the last restrictions holding back commercial traffic were removed – and the world was introduced to graphical web browsers like Netscape and Internet Explorer. Unless you’re old enough to remember life before the web, it may as well be ancient history, when the few people who were literate wrote on stone tablets that almost no one else could read. 
This brings us to online poker. The Twittersphere blew up last week when several high-profile players were accused of cheating, including Bryn Kenney, who allegedly ran/runs a “stable” of players who were/are using all sorts of nefarious tactics to gain an edge. None of these allegations have been verified as we go to press, but this seems like a good time for everyone to take a step back, and remember that online poker lives on the internet – with everything that entails. 
Keeping that in mind, here are three very important tips for anyone who plays online poker, or wants to start: 

Don’t Trust the Internet

Those of you who were logging in before 1995 are probably shaking your heads at the way people approach the internet these days. The idea that anyone could go online anonymously (or using a false identity) and say anything was taken a lot more seriously back then. Maybe it was because the internet was so new – or maybe because most of the early users were at college. 

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When it comes to anything you do on the internet, make sure you apply the same level of healthy skepticism. That goes double for online poker. Except for the rare webcam table (and perhaps even then), you can’t see who your actual opponent is across the table, or what tools they might be using. Maybe it’s Bryn Kenney; maybe it’s Ebony Kenney. Or maybe it’s a bot. Who knows? 

Don’t Move Large Amounts of Money 

As a general rule, you should never play any kind of poker with money you can’t afford to lose. Even if you’re a strong player with a solid win rate, and even if you avoid the in-game cheaters, you could find yourself on the wrong end of a transaction gone bad. Stick with the most trusted online poker rooms, and even then, save your biggest buy-ins for live games, where you’re there in person. 

Don’t Stake, Don’t Get Staked 

It must be tempting to join a stable once you’re a winning player. Imagine getting to play high-stakes poker on someone else’s dime; even if you’re splitting the profits, you’re gaining access to games that you wouldn’t normally be able to afford. 
Don’t do it. Whichever end of this arrangement you’re on, there’s a level of trust required that just isn’t appropriate if you’re going to practice safe online poker. Even if you’re playing live, you should steer clear of these stables. Be your own backer. Be your own horse. 

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Those are the three big “don’ts” when you’re playing online poker. Before we wrap things up, here’s one big “do” to consider: Do play online poker for fun, and for practice. There are still countless benefits to playing online, including access to a large volume of hands and a wide range of variants like Omaha Hi/Lo and Deuce-to-Seven Triple Draw. It’s a great way to train for live poker, and a fun way to play in and of itself. Treat both online poker and the internet accordingly, and as always, may the rectangles be with you.