One of the biggest criticisms leveled against the online poker industry is the lack of face-to-face play. Opponents of online gambling claim that the game of poker is not designed for an online interface, as poker players are reading the other players, rather than just playing the dealt cards. More cynical opponents claim that most “opposing players” encountered on online poker sites are actually bots, or computerized programs designed to play purely based on the odds. Since no human can compute or remember odds as quickly or effectively as a computer program, these bots decrease the chances of a real human being turning a profit.
However, these arguments against online poker are outdated and ill informed. While there are always risks to playing poker online, poker websites are constantly updating their software to make the online poker experience closer to a casino game. Even with all of the arguable imperfections, online poker is still a safe and enjoyable way to gamble. The vast majority of online poker players are real people.
Bots are one of the most commonly cited reasons to avoid online casinos. While bots are formidable opponents when it comes to calculating odds, any good poker player knows that there is more to a poker game than merely crunching numbers. After all, the other main argument against online poker is that poker is a game of reading an opponent’s personality quirks and playing style. A program can tell you the exact odds of drawing to an inside straight, but the artificial intelligence cannot guess what a human personality will do or how a human will interpret the cards. Think of all the times you have seen someone fail to fold despite clear indicators that they should stop playing. Humans do not play like computers, and therefore a computer cannot understand a human well enough to truly compete. Even the most effective bot will not win an overwhelming percentage of the hands.
Poker websites are also implementing new waves of anti-bot technology to ensure that players are gambling against other real people. Most gambling websites use captcha texts, which are a series of letters and numbers at the end of signup pages that are printed on a patterned or grey background. A computer program cannot differentiate between the background and the letters, so the captcha blocks bots from even registering on poker sites. All reputable poker sites have anti-bot protocols built into their software, which look for odd fluctuations (or no changes at all) in bets and other tells. Any bots that do manage to gain access to the poker sites are quickly detected and banned.
The face-to-face aspect of poker is also evolving. One thing that opponents of online poker often overlook is the extra challenge of playing online. In person, you can use a person’s physical tells to help decide if s/he is bluffing. Online, you need to adapt and watch the other players’ trends instead. In short, playing online helps you to become a better player. Since you are still playing against real people, but are learning to read their bets and reactions to the cards, you are honing a different set of useful skills. Some casinos are also offering face to face online poker via webcam. This allows you to practice “reading” the other players’ facial expressions as well as their reactions to cards. If you do play in a brick and mortar casino after playing online, those skills will make you a formidable opponent playing face to face.
If you are worried about bots or rigged games in which you are not playing against real people, we recommend only playing at well-reviewed and reputable casinos, such as Bet365.com and CasinoTitan.com. These casinos have excellent security measures that keep games fair and ensure that you only play poker versus real human beings. After all, these casinos would not keep their sterling reputations if they allowed cheating.
Despite reports that online poker games are often rigged or that the tables are populated with bots rather than people, most casinos provide honest poker games. By choosing a safe and reputable casino, you can ensure that you play poker against real people.