The good folks at the Online Poker FAQ (www.onlinepokerfaq.com) have provided a good introduction to the sometimes confusing issue of timing out and all-in policies. You should also always check the rules and regulations of the online poker room you are using—individual policies often vary and change.
An important way that online poker differs from real-world poker is the risk of getting disconnected. There are two common causes of this. First, your Internet connection can be interrupted, even temporarily. If this happens, the poker client will detect the problem and attempt to reconnect automatically. Sometimes it will reconnect quickly and no harm is done. But if the connection is truly lost (like if your dial-up session hangs up), the client will not be able to reconnect.
The second common cause of disconnections is a software crash on your computer. The poker client may freeze up (because of a bug) or your entire computer might reboot (you know how that is). When this happens, you will of course lose your connection to the poker server.
On rare occasions, you will lose the connection because the poker server itself is “experiencing technical difficulties.” You will recognize that scenario if your Internet connection to other sites is just fine, but your poker client is unable to reconnect to the server. When this happens, you can be confident that thousands of other players are having the same problem.
What happens when you are disconnected? First, the poker server will detect your absence and will give you some extra time to reconnect and play your hand. Second, if you run out of extra time, the server will dip into your “disconnection protection” pool of credits. These are like get-out-of-jail-free cards. When you have one, the dealer declares you as all-in for the duration of the hand (even though you are not technically all-in because you still have chips). Just as in the real all-in case, your hand will compete for the main pot at the showdown, while the other players will compete for the side pot that was created after you disconnected.
But third, if you don’t reconnect in time, and you don’t have any “disconnection protection” credits, then your hand will be folded. This is true even if you have the nuts on the river! If you play online poker for real money, it’s important to have a good Internet connection and a non-crash-prone computer.
The “all-in protection” rule is controversial because some players abuse the system and cheat by intentionally disconnecting their computer when it would be to their advantage to be all-in. Therefore, the sites limit the number of times you can be protected in this way. Also, the site support staff investigates complaints about a player who may be abusing the privilege. Some sites even offer “no all-in” tables where your hand is automatically folded if you fail to act in time because of disconnection.
—Online Poker FAQ
(© 2005 Deal Me In! Online Cardrooms, Big Time Tournaments, and The New Poker Book. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed)
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