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The Mayor

Preventing Collusion

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Collusion happens in all online poker.  It's impossible to prevent it.  But I've been thinking about what we could do to discourage it.

We could prevent more than one player from the same ip address at any public table.  That would prevent one player with two accounts on two machines (or one hacked machine) taking up two seats at the table, so that he can see two more cards, and give himself an extra life in a tournament.  But it would prevent valid, non-colluding players in the same household, or the same company, from playing together at a public table.

I'm not sure how much valid play happens from shared ip addresses.  I would have to add some code to the servers to track duplicate ip addresses at public tables, and then I'd have to analyze the play to try to distinguish between valid play and possible collusion, which would be prohibitively time consuming and not completely accurate.  But I suspect there's enough of it that we wouldn't want to just prevent it.

We could instead show an icon or something over the heads of players at the table with the same ip address, so that everyone can see that there might be collusion between those players.  In ring games, you could just leave the table if you don't like the situation.  In tournaments though, you wouldn't know about the potential collusion until you got to the table, and then you'd be stuck with them.  But knowing about the collusion potential, everyone could alter their play to shut them out.

Maybe it would be best just to prevent it.  Or prevent it just for tournaments, and show the icon in ring games.

Another form of collusion is between two real players, not from the same ip address, who are communicating with each other outside the game.  It isn't possible to prevent that.  But certainly most of that comes from one player inviting the other to his table, or one player using the system to join their friend's game without an invite, and in those situations, we could show that collusion icon, since we would know that they know each other and have intentionally joined the same table together.  Again they could be playing honestly and not colluding, so the icon would affect such players unfairly.

Another option would be to prevent invites in public games completely, or allow it ring games but not public tournaments.  You would be able to set up a private table using invites or join-a-friend, but you wouldn't be able to invite someone to a public game, or join your friend in his public game through the system UI.

What do you all think?

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I am not scared of collusion, it does not prevent me from playing the hand that I am dealt well. For example, if I have a full house, flush, or good hand in general, no amount of collusion is going to prevent that. IMO (speaking from experience, the one time my brother talked me into colluding), colluding players actually hurt each others chances of winning, as I often found myself folding good hole cards because my brother's was "better", or not raising because I did not want to "push him out" of a hand, to keep us both alive. 

 

I have even joined a party chat of these two players who tried to get me to collude, and I simply trolled them when I whipped their tails.

 

In sum, colluding provides no advantage, and even creates a local disadvantage to the colluding players via conflict of interest. If I have a bad hole cards, I will fold, if I have a bad flop, I will fold again, and even if all five of my opponents are colluding, it would not make a difference. I'll beat all 5 of them. 

Edited by Sweetd31
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Where's Farmer John when you need him? Warp and Wuss Timmy might have some good insight also. They seem tech savvy.

I'm a sales/marketing guy with basic technology experience. However, preventing collusion seems like a lost cause unless it's extremely prevalent. Restricting duplicate IP addresses for public tables is a good ideal. Preventing friends on the same network from competing with each other could backfire. For example, the PSN is based around being able to network and play with friends, for the most part. Ring games and casual tourneys wouldn't be much fun if 2 friends, for example, are forced to play on a private table together. Additionally, righteous players might become dismayed if they're singled out for playing with friends, but I could be wrong. Personally, I think protecting the integrity of "ranked games" should be the highest priority. Although, if multiple friends of similar rating initiate ranked matchmaking at the same time it seems impossible to stop them from playing together. Or if friends of different ratings are able to select a broad range of ranked tables.

I don't know if I've been a victim of collusion. If so, I have a hard time detecting it. During a ranked game last year I was playing on a table with 2 remaining players and they kept raising me every hand, but they wouldn't raise each other. My wife observed this table with me and we both came to the conclusion that they were playing against me. But I kept folding until I received a good hand and just tried to play through. I can't remember the table results.

Also, when I was managing my PSN community I was mic'd up with one of my members during a "private" tourney. He kept telling me his hands and asking me if I could beat those hands. It was very uncomfortable for me because he was providing valuable information. He ended up placing 1st and I placed 2nd. I haven't mic'd up since, unless I was coordinating a private tourney for my community. That's why I constantly ask for basic pre assigned text chat as another means of communication.

IMO, the biggest form of collusion derives from friends who are using party chat on their network, for example, PSN for the PS4. I just don't know how you can prevent those situations from occurring. Overall, I would like to think that the majority of the player base is competing fairly and those players shouldn't be punished because of the actions of a small minority of cheaters.

Maybe further analysis and monitoring of all aspects of the game should continue and if something major stands out you can have some proactive protocols in place to deal with cheaters. You have to protect the integrity of your game.

Edited by DaWiz_
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1 hour ago, DaWiz_ said:

I don't know if I've been a victim of collusion. If so, I have a hard time detecting it. During a ranked game last year I was playing on a table with 2 remaining players and they kept raising me every hand, but they wouldn't raise each other. My wife observed this table with me and we both came to the conclusion that they were playing against me. But I kept folding until I received a good hand and just tried to play through. I can't remember the table results.

That could easily have been "implicit collusion".  From https://www.tournamentterminator.com/tournament-strategy/online-poker/cheating-collusion-fraud/:

Quote

This happens between experienced players at the bubble of a tournament. If a small stack goes all-in, it can make sense for the large stacks to call his bet and to check the flop, turn and river. By sparing each other, they maximize the probability that at least one of them has a stronger hand than the small stack, thus eliminating him from the tournament and getting them all into the money.

Just because they're clearly out to get you doesn't mean they're in direct communication with each other.

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My recommendation would be a reporting system.  let the players do the policing.  Sure, false positives from tilted players trying to get back at the guy they just lost to but true problem children would start to rack up the reports and stand out.  Their play could be reviewed, bans handed down if deemed appropriate.  it's less immediate and therefore doesn't help those getting taken at the time, but it should play out over time to reduce problems, and also avoid punishing the innocent, which is what would happen more often than punishing the guilty by trying to have some systematic/IP based restrictions.  Also, I don't think this is a major problem in prominence..it's very difficult to be truly effective in collusion.  You have to truly know what you're doing and I doubt that most people attempting it really do.  Having said that it can make for a crappy game that people don't enjoy playing in even if it is beatable, so it's still not good.  Ganging up on the short stack in a tournament is totally normal...generally not called out in chat or anything but unspoken rule for larger stacks to check down to each other unless they have the nuts to give the greatest odds of eliminating that 3rd player.

Edited by PMGS247
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I have been considering some sort of reporting system, which is where this collusion discussion came from.  I would much prefer to prevent collusion as much as possible in the first place, rather than having to spend my time investigating reports.  We would have to modify the servers to track and process the necessary data for such investigations, and even then the investigations would take time.  Other online poker games with these reporting systems have said that about 95% of them are bogus.  Still, that might be what we have to do, if collusion is really a problem.

I'm envisioning that, at a table, you would be able to bring up a screen where you would select the users you think are colluding or doing something else wrong, and write up a short description of the problem.  Then such reports would go unread until a user gathered several reports against him.  And reports would probably expire after a while.  Once a user had accumulated enough reports, it would trigger an investigation.  But I haven't really thought it through.

I appreciate all your feedback on these crazy ideas.

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Makes sense.  and yeah, that was what I envisioned...even a canned set of potential categories to report on rather than an open text field (always tough on console, and also much more data management & analysis friendly on your end)...the only I could think of would be colluding with others or being abusive. To this game's credit it's tough to be abusive on PP due to the way you have to go out of your way to join a voice channel and there is no text chat.  The amount of bogus reports would be huge for sure...in theory the cream will rise to the top though and at least the most blatant offenders would get caught.

I think it's really tricky to prevent it up front without being too restrictive on those with good intentions.  I could see stricter rules on a game where this was a rampant problem, but in my world of 500k ring games I don't really see this as an issue.  Maybe it's more of one in the $1M buy-ins?  I don't know.

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1 hour ago, PMGS247 said:

My recommendation would be a reporting system.  let the players do the policing.  Sure, false positives from tilted players trying to get back at the guy they just lost to but true problem children would start to rack up the reports and stand out.  Their play could be reviewed, bans handed down if deemed appropriate.  it's less immediate and therefore doesn't help those getting taken at the time, but it should play out over time to reduce problems, and also avoid punishing the innocent, which is what would happen more often than punishing the guilty by trying to have some systematic/IP based restrictions.  Also, I don't think this is a major problem in prominence..it's very difficult to be truly effective in collusion.  You have to truly know what you're doing and I doubt that most people attempting it really do.  Having said that it can make for a crappy game that people don't enjoy playing in even if it is beatable, so it's still not good.  Ganging up on the short stack in a tournament is totally normal...generally not called out in chat or anything but unspoken rule for larger stacks to check down to each other unless they have the nuts to give the greatest odds of eliminating that 3rd player.

Nuh-uh. No report button. People in this game will use literally any excuse in the book before admitting that they lost fairly. I hear/see people complaining about "The Algorithm" on a weekly basis in-game, monthly here on the forums. Hell, just last night I was accused of cheating for cracking someone's 9K with an 8J.

You can't automate something like a report system, 'cause those are easy to abuse. Get a couple friends, tell them to all report so-and-so, and they'll do it just for the lulz. Bam, innocent person banned & branded as a cheater. So all those reports would have to pile up on someone's desk (figuratively). Even with a team of people, sifting through those reports would take time & manpower that could be better spent improving & updating the game.

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My household has two PS4's and my husband & I enjoy playing poker at the same table.  We do not collude.  We play for fun in ring games.  We both wanted to play at a poker table in another casino game, but we are not allowed to sit at the same table if we share an IP.  It's understandable because there are some not-so-honest people who play online poker.  When PP came out and we realized we could play at the same table in this game, we were excited to be able to play poker together.

It's not a bad idea to add an icon that shows people at a table who share an IP.   My only concern is, other players may automatically assume that those two people are colluding and report the players if/when a report feature is added.  Hell, I've been accused of colluding with a random stranger because we shared the same affiliation (hearts) and a member of the club affiliation didn't like that we kept beating his hands.  It was kind of funny at the time listening to this guy lose his crap, but being reported to PP for something that I am not even doing would get old really fast.  Especially if it could potentially ban innocent players from the game.

DPack is right.  People will abuse your report function.  However, you can put a stop to it and suspend/ban those who continuously submit false reports.

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It also brings up a sort of morally grey area, but from a business standpoint, even cheaters count as customers. Ban all the cheaters, and you lose a percentage of the playerbase, which hurts your traffic, and makes running the servers that much less worth it, financially.

Instead of banning cheaters, might I suggest taking a page from Rockstar Games' book, and pool them all together in a separate tier of matchmaking. Let the cheaters all play against each other, and the game becomes fair again via the highlighter method: If every word on a page is highlighted, then nothing stands out. So if every player at a table is cheating, then nobody has an unfair advantage over the others.

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21 hours ago, Sweetd31 said:

 

 

In sum, colluding provides no advantage, and even creates a local disadvantage to the colluding players via conflict of interest. If I have a bad hole cards, I will fold, if I have a bad flop, I will fold again, and even if all five of my opponents are colluding, it would not make a difference. I'll beat all 5 of them. 

This right here sums it up perfectly,  most times I can take them down but once in awhile they get the best of me.   

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12 hours ago, Farmer John40 said:

 Would it be possible to track those that consistently win?  If so, could partnerships be identified?  

Other games track the number of hands played with other players.  If you play an unusual percentage of hands with a particular player, your account is flagged for review.  They record all play, and they have tools that can analyze that play when the account is flagged to look for collusion.  These are real money games, making billions, so they can afford to make the tools and pay people to investigate.  We don't have those resources, so I'm looking for what we can do with what we have.

But the consensus so far seems to be that it's not really enough of a problem to worry about, especially given all the other things we could be putting our efforts towards.

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*stream of thought

 

Change table so they can have observers. Make invite only for observation or private tables.

Encourage non mic chat systems. A list of chosen phrases.

Or make an error and let the chat be open and privately follow chat that results in what looks like told hands AA, j10 etc.. track those phrases over a few months and find the defined coluders developing a simpler algorithm off of easily identified colluders based on commonalities. ( sell secondary product ).


Can you set the game to auto disable the microphone and turning it on doesn't allow you to play? This would help with direct tell or even third party programs.

Of course the same IP thing.

Now lets assume the guy is doing it through Facebook messenger.... or some common chat format.... I guess it all comes back to algorithm. So im going back to the make an error so cheating is more obvious and collect data. People will inherently choose the easy route. You can also allow player notes that the community is allowed to make on each player and monitor those notes for information as well.

Sounds like a lot of work. a potential second income stream. All i got.




 

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I think no matter how you look at it, report system, tracking how often people play together, etc., you have to have human review.  I don't fear the attempted abuse of a system if ultimately a human review is involved.  I wouldn't blame the devs for not wanting to go down that path due to the time allocation it would require, and honestly I don't see this as a big enough problem to warrant it myself, but the question was raised and I believe ultimately the answer is human review.  Whether you use some sort of metrics or a reporting system, as long as it lands on someone's desk to review before any discipline is handed out you don't have to worry about abuse or flawed logic punishing the innocent, you're just picking your poison in terms of how many false positives will come across that proverbial desk...and there would be plenty, regardless.  I just don't see an entirely automated method that doesn't either occasionally punish the innocent or have people find a way to abuse it.

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I suppose my question is can you really do anything about collusion once you’ve caught it?  Has anyone been barred from playing after someone has reported collusion?

I have 30 minutes of video from a game that I was playing tonight where it was pretty obvious. I still crushed then both in the end, but really - if I reported it and the video was sufficient evidence, what would really happen?

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14 hours ago, Hecubus912 said:

I suppose my question is can you really do anything about collusion once you’ve caught it?  Has anyone been barred from playing after someone has reported collusion?

 

     On Pokerstars I was in a 10 dollar real money tournament on the bubble.  Evidently 2 out of the 4 remaining players decided to gang up on me and knock me out in 4th, now granted I tried taking them down but the cards were not coming my way.  It turned out these 2 players had done this many times before and after reporting them to Pokerstars they awarded me 2nd place money and the person that finished 5th got awarded 3rd place money.

     I asked them what punishment those 2 players got and all they would say is that they could not give out that information so who knows.  This was before Black Friday obviously. 

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I’ve got no problem with being ganged up on when I’m the short stack, but if there’s three of us left, I fold on the button and the BB folds when the SB limps and is short stacked, it’s pretty obvious that there’s collusion going on.

More so when the player names are so similar, they’re clearly part of a clan of some kind.  When I saw that, I knew what was going to go on, but it was too late: ranked tournaments  What’re you gonna do?

I know there’s no way to really stop collusion, but really, what’s the point of even discussing it without some real ramifications for people when they’re busted doing it?  And how do you prove it beyond doubt?  I’ve been accused of team play just because I’m in a party with someone, but I don’t collide because it’s an ignorant thing to do. 

Frankly, I think it’s just one of the hazards of online poker and there’s not much to be done about it. 

Edited by Hecubus912

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19 hours ago, Hecubus912 said:

I’ve got no problem with being ganged up on when I’m the short stack, but if there’s three of us left, I fold on the button and the BB folds when the SB limps and is short stacked, it’s pretty obvious that there’s collusion going on.

More so when the player names are so similar, they’re clearly part of a clan of some kind.  When I saw that, I knew what was going to go on, but it was too late: ranked tournaments  What’re you gonna do?

I know there’s no way to really stop collusion, but really, what’s the point of even discussing it without some real ramifications for people when they’re busted doing it?  And how do you prove it beyond doubt?  I’ve been accused of team play just because I’m in a party with someone, but I don’t collide because it’s an ignorant thing to do. 

Frankly, I think it’s just one of the hazards of online poker and there’s not much to be done about it. 

I agree,  it's very difficult to prove and quite frankly since we're dealing with play money here at PP I think it would be a waste of time and resources.

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10 hours ago, rockguy24 said:

 since we're dealing with play money here at PP I think it would be a waste of time and resources

I'd just like to point out that real money can be used to buy play money in PP so 'some' consideration may be needed??

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11 hours ago, P0K3R said:

I'd just like to point out that real money can be used to buy play money in PP so 'some' consideration may be needed??

My apologies, I tend to forget that.  That was inconsiderate of me to post that part.  Collusion technically should never be tolerated no matter what your playing for.

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