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Is online Poker Rigged?
A few evil players at Absolute Poker and Ultimate Bet have been recently caught cheating. This scandal has taken the online poker community aback, and it is still under the shock of this brutal surprise. This was even discussed on the Television at "Sixty Minutes".
This story has reinfored the feeling in the mind on some players that online poker is rigged, and this is the topic of many poker related discussions. This article attempts to put some light on the issue of online poker site rigging the game for their own benefit.
Are Online Poker Rooms rigging the game?
Why do many online poker players wonder or suspect that online poker is rigged? Let us be honest, people do not like to lose at poker, but not everyone can be a winner. So when players take a beating, a bad beat, lose against a one-outer or are on a continuous downswing, the natural reaction is that someone is cheating on them.
It has been noticed that people get many more bad beats online than in live poker. This is normal, given that online poker plays much faster. In the simple case of one player multi-tabling four tables of full ring No Limit Texas Hold'em, he will play in one hour five to ten times more hands than if he were sitting at a casino.
Another reason that bad beats happen more is that online players are not afraid to make stupid calls as no one can see or recognize them behind the anonymity of their avatar.
Henceforth bad beats will occur 5 to 10 times more frequently in the case of this player. So many bad surprises make people wonder if poker on the web is rigged.
Given that bad beats inflict such a dreadful amount of mental pain in our brain, it is understandable that people get so upset and question the integrity of online poker rooms when they take too much of them.
What is hard to understand for most of us is that there will always be period of very bad luck. Randomness is like that: true random events do not feel random, but this is the way pure chance happens, not in a perfectly smooth way, but with "trends". Nothing to do with rigged games.
Is it worth it for Poker Rooms to Rig the Game?
Online Poker is still a very unregulated environment for the most part. In 2008 one of the most respected financial institutions was accused of running an unnoticed Ponzi scheme for the past twenty years. As finance is so much more regulated than online poker, one may wonder why we should trust poker sites and not believe that online poker is rigged.
One conspiracy theory is that the poker rooms tweak the odds in favor of bad players versus good players. As fish would lose their money too fast, this is a way to keep them playing online longer and to collect more rake.
In spite of its ability to explain bad beats, this stratagem would be very difficult and dangerous to implement. Difficult as the software enabling to run this program needs to be very advanced, profiling players between fish & regulars and fine-tuning the odds precisely but not too much to avoid alerting observant players as well as auditing companies.
Note that all respectable poker room such as pokerstars get their random number generator audited on a regular basis.
In addition rigging the cards would be dangerous because information about this machination could be leaked by accident or by anyone involved. The price for rigging the poker software would be way too high, including fines and loss of reputation. As online poker is so lucrative, it can be argued that the risk is not worth the reward for poker rooms to offer unfair games.
In a similar vein, it has been said that one sees way too many big pots, where two players fight each other with a monster hand. It does not seem natural to have two monster hands at the same time that often. The theory is that poker rooms tweak the card shuffling in order to generate more big pots and collect more fees.
The arguments against this idea are the same as above, difficulty of implementation and risk if they are caught. Fortunately for poker lovers, hand histories can be collected and used to run statistical tests of the fairness of online poker games.
Plenty of players collect such hand histories and run their own tests, sometimes in great depth. This is how the cheaters at Absolute Poker and Ultimate Bet were caught. But no one has ever been able to find any statistical evidence that online poker games were rigged except for this well-known case.
By the way, with respect to the security of your money left in your account at these rooms, it is very safe. Just stay with the largest rooms. If you have a paypal account, there are paypal poker rooms. Otherwise check the payment methods for each room.
Stay with the largest poker rooms. Such rooms with high traffic are under a lot of natural scrutiny from their players and cheaters are caught rapidly because of that. Many players have databases with over one million hands, and sometimes even over ten million hands. Such large sample sizes enable efficient statistical evaluation
This is not so in the smaller poker rooms, where the reduced traffic makes it harder to multi-table. There are fewer sophisticated players in these rooms and cheating would be harder to catch there.
This is why we only recommend poker rooms with a perfect record of offering fair games in a secure environment and under strong work ethics. They are not rigged.