Online poker spyware is one of the greatest “urban myths” regarding online poker and online gambling in general. There have been rumors of poker spyware that one can download and use to see other players’ hole cards while playing poker online. So let’s have an in-depth discussion about online poker spyware and see what’s true and what isn’t.
Can I use Spyware to Cheat at Online Poker?
Online poker spyware that accomplishes this feat would be both highly complicated and highly unlikely. In fact, to access players’ hole cards on a large enough scale to make cheating possible, one would have to hack the poker site’s internal servers and manipulate files and data on a large scale. This would be nearly impossible, and if poker spyware could achieve this level of penetration, it would be simple for the online poker operator to detect and eradicate the invading spyware program.
The scenario where online poker spy ware would be more likely to work, would be a spyware or virus that would infect individual users’ home computers and log keystrokes or the images on their screens and then relay that information to the spyware creator. This could be accomplished, but for it to work at all it would have to infect millions of computers around the world on a large scale. Any virus or spyware that reached this scale would be the same as a widespread virus attack and would be handled by anti-virus companies such as MacAfee and Norton.
Even the most advanced wide scale poker spyware would be detected and wiped out within a few weeks, if not sooner.
If an online poker spyware virus like the one outlined above were to be launched on a small scale basis, the resulting data would be too incomplete and erratic to give much of an advantage – if any – at all. When this hypothetical online poker virus collected data from a small amount of online poker players, it would be difficult to achieve any advantage since there would be millions of online poker players and very few infected with the spyware. The odds that you would be placed at the same table as any of the infected players would be minuscule.
Examples of Successful Online Poker Spyware
There are some legitimate safety concerns when downloading and playing online poker software. There have been documented instances of cheating in online poker using one of several methods, most notably the Absolute Poker and Ultimatebet cheating scandals of 2007.
There have been numerous in-depth accounts of what specifically happened that led to millions of dollars cheated from many online poker players, all of which were at very high-stakes games. A very quick summary of how it was done is that former high-ranking employees at AP/UB had access to the internal testing software and used the poker sites’ own software to see players’ hole cards.
The perpetrators were caught by their fellow players with the use of tracking software such as PokerTracker and HoldemManager. The offending online poker rooms were fined for their negligence and all stolen money was returned to the robbed players.
As the above example shows, a very specific and unlikely set of circumstances had to take place at the very top of a poker site’s organization for a successful poker spyware cheating scheme to work. Although the perpetrators had very intimate inside knowledge of the inner workings of the poker room systems, they were still caught and all money was returned.
Protecting Yourself From Online Poker Spyware
If you are still concerned bout the safety of playing online poker for real money and online security in general, there are some steps you can take to increase your safety online.
Spyware Removal Software
- Ad-Aware – Ad-Aware is a free spyware removal utility that can run a daily spyware scan and automatically quarantine and remove any malicious spyware programs running on your computer.
- Windows Defender – Microsoft’s free Windows Defender program, formerly known as Microsoft AntiSpyware, is an anti-spyware program that defends against pop-ups, spyware, and various performance slowing factors. There is a free download available for all versions of Microsoft Windows more current than Windows 2000.
Anti-Virus Protection and Firewalls
Most computers already come with some form of firewall and anti-virus protection already installed, but there are many better programs that can be used in place of pre-packaged software.
- Norton Anti-Virus – Symantec’s Norton suite of anti-virus programs is one of the largest and most well known antivirus software programs. Norton is pre-installed on many Windows based PCs and comes with a 30 day trial. Once your 30 day trial period ends, you must pay either a monthly or yearly fee to keep up to date anti-virus protection. Norton will block all known internet poker spywares and viruses.
- AVG Anti-Virus – AVG is a free anti-virus protection and firewall software for Windows based computers. AVG has all of the features of Norton or MacAfee, but is free. There a couple paid versions of AVG, but the free version should be enough to protect most PC users.
Get a Mac
Apple Macintosh computers are more resistant to spyware and viruses than Windows personal computers. Mac computers famously are infected far less often than their Microsoft running counterparts. This is for a number of reasons, but mainly because Macs make up a very small percentage of overall computers sold every year. With a far smaller market share than PCs, hackers and cheaters do not make viruses or online poker spyware for Macs because it would be a waste of time. Mac computers fly under hackers’ radar, so to speak.
There are limited options for Mac users however when choosing an online poker room. Poker sites have to make Mac-specific versions of their poker software, and the time of this writing, only a handful of online poker sites have launched Mac poker software. For a list of the best Mac online poker sites, visit our page titled ‘Mac poker downloads‘.
Legal Online Poker “Spyware” Programs
Although the programs listed below are not by definition “poker spyware,” each of these programs can be used to give you an informational advantage over your opponents while playing at many major online poker sites. Some major online poker rooms such as PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker have banned some or all of these “poker spyware” programs, so consult each individual poker rooms’ terms and conditions before you download and use any software.
- Poker-Edge – A tool that tracks millions of online poker players statistics and tendencies, and displays those statistics when you are playing online poker against players in the Poker-Edge database. This is as close as it gets to legal spyware for online poker. Many online poker sites have banned using Poker-Edge. The data collection that PokerEdge performs is not illegal, it is simply deemed unfair by some online poker operators.
- Poker Pal – A real-time poker odds calculator that automatically detects when you have an online poker table open and reads the card in your hand and on the board, as well as how many players are at the table and how many are in the hand. Poker-Pal instantly produces the odds that you are: going to win the hand, make your draw on the next card, and suggests the correct action whether you should call, fold or raise.
- Holdem Hawk – A comprehensive table selection, player stats, and odds calculator tool. HoldemHawk combines all of the features of Poker-Edge and Poker-Pal into one tool, but it is less detailed than either. Holdem Hawk only shows players’ statistics from the current session, not historical stats. The odds calculator has less options than PokerPal, but combined with the other features it provides, Holdem-Hawk is a good tool, specifically for beginning to intermediate poker players.
I want to emphasize that we do not recommend any of the above online poker tools. Make sure you check with your online poker room of choice before using any of the tools listed. Some online poker sites ban all third party software while playing on their software. Be careful.