Why do we cheat so much? Why do we say we love to play games because it allows us to test ourselves against others, yet so willingly take short-cuts? Why do we play games because we love the challenge and the art of mastery yet so quickly decide to turn on invincibility mode? Why, just because you can win money in poker, do so many players cross the border into the unethical and illegal? Why are many players crying foul at Full Tilt Poker knowing that they themselves have been scheming hand after hand, tournament after tournament?

I’ve started doing some research for an article I’ve wanted to write for a long time but hesitated to write for even longer. Basically I want to find out exactly how rotten the online poker world has become. How much money is won with the help unauthorized software, unethical exploitation of data and the illegal aid of other players. I want to find out, but I don’t want to know. I think I do already. And like I said, I don’t want to know what I think I know.

I take pride in never ever having augmented my chances of winning a poker game. But I’d be a fool if I thought that had anything to do with flawless ethics. I haven’t because I am naïve, so I don’t think others cheat me, because me ego is inflated, so I think I can beat everyone regardless, because I am lazy, I can’t be bothered to install that shit and even if I did I wouldn’t use it, and because I am cheap, I can’t be bothered to pay for it. Apparently, a lot of players are not like me.

Now, the smell of cash makes cheating in online poker very attractive. But what is it that all you guys out there who know you’re violating terms & conditions and prohibited program policies tell yourselves to make it ok?
Do you steal in other aspects of your lives as well? Do you angle shoot old ladies managing the counter down in the local food court? Do you dope up before a basketball game with the guys? Are you the dude who borrows from the collection box at your local church? No? Why not? What is it that makes breaking the rules in games ok?

There are two aspects of cheating that fascinates me. One is the the fact that just because something is a game we’re seemingly willing to behave in manners not otherwise in character. The other is the fact that we seem so willing to counterproductively sacrifice playing in order to reach a good result from the playing we’re not longer actually doing.

Mastery is seen as one of the core ingredient in good games. Yet, once presented with the opportunity to master something in a safe environment like in a game, we so often prefer not to try and just cheat the shit out of it instead.

Words with friends. Brilliant game. Good fun. And harmless. No puppies will be strangled if I lose. Yet, hey, look at that! Nine million different apps tailored for helping me win!

Today, a leading Swedish newspaper featured an article about a student who’s developed one of those cheating apps for the similar game WordFeud. Ten thousand people have bought his app for $1. Ten thousand people who apparently felt it was more important to win a game by dropping “Xylyl” than to play, have fun and exercise their brains a bit.

Backgammon. Brilliant game. Good fun. Interesting balance between luck and skill. Stands no chance of ever making it online. Why? Because you’ll be playing some guy’s pre-programmed Dell.

Every time I go to Cyprus to meet my girlfriend’s family I get my backgammon  ass handed to me. By the old man. But the taxi driver. By the youngest one in the family. By the dog if he hadn’t eaten the board first. I think I lost seven games straight to a fourteen year old once.
That isn’t something I can handle with a smile and mean it. But obviously I didn’t bring weighted dice to our next game. I just didn’t play anymore. Until the next day. At least he was fourteen years and one day when he beat me then.

When I look back through my years of gaming, all my best memories are attached to moments of progressing in a game where cheating was starting to sound as reasonable as a balanced budget. Winning a poker tournament online when you haven’t seen a four figure stack in ages is fantastic. And I remember with joy all the moments spent in eighth grade trying to crack the text-based Sierra adventure games. Me and my friend spent a week in a Space Quest game stuck like mud in glue before we managed to progress in the game simply because we were fighting over our lack of progress and didn’t stop the character from walking somewhere we didn’t think he could walk. The phrases “take a deep breath” and “call a cab” are forever etched into my puzzle solving brain. Cudos to anyone who understand why. And I am definitely bitter over NEVER getting past the point in Metroid for NES where you had to reach a platform by placing multiple bombs and ricochet upwards. I actually just watched a youtube clip on how to do it. What a dumbass I am. My technique was way off. Might be fun to see what was beyond that door, but I might as well read about it now. And it wouldn’t be the first time I read about a game. It’d take a weekend to erase all the “walkthrough” cashed google search strings from my browser’s memory.

The online poker industry is contaminated with cheating. I don’t know if the sites ignore it because it’s better for their bottom line or because the truth simply hurts too much. But they do. Pokerstars are proud of their prohibited programs policy. And they should. It’s a decent policy. Would be even nicer if players followed it instead of running everything on USB sticks. The question is what these players’ reasoning is? Are they also ignoring it because the truth of their actions hurt too much or have they simply lost themselves in an escalating arms race of cheating?

Poker take one minute to learn and a lifetime to master. Cheating, apparently, takes about three days six hours and then some. Clearly the best strategy, right? I mean, everyone else is totally cheating too…

Blessed art the cheats.