Is Online Poker Rigged? How To Know For Sure?
Is Online Poker Rigged? How To Know For Sure?
Image from Flickr
If you were just starting learning how to play poker or wanted to check how safe it is, a simple Google search could lead to some conflicting conclusions. There seem to be quite a few players completely convinced that this game is rigged.
In their minds, there is just no doubt about it.
The question almost as old as online poker itself: is online poker rigged?
If you check Reddit or some popular poker forums, you’ll find hundreds, if not thousands of pages discussing this topic.
Some users will vigorously defend their positions and offer “proof” that they’re right. If you don’t know much about poker, discussions such as these could lead you to question its fairness.
So, in this article, I’ll talk about everything you need to know about this topic. You’ll understand where this idea comes from in the first place, what makes people believe online poker is rigged (while live games are fair), and, most importantly, how online poker sites ensure their games are kept safe, fair, and random.
Why Do People Believe Online Poker Is Rigged?
The first and the most important issue I’d like to address is the origin of the idea that online poker is rigged.
If you read some posts on this topic, you’ll find that many players advocating the theory compare live and online tables, stating that the situations they see on the internet “never happen live.”
When they talk about these crazy poker hands, they’ll often claim their strong holdings online lose way too often to weaker hands. Their pocket aces are cracked way too often, and their opponents seem to hit miracle two or even one-outter all the time.
This never happens live!
But anyone who has played live poker for a long time and actually plays more than once a month will have some quite colorful horror stories from live games as well.
Bad beats and awful suckouts happen live and online alike. So, why is it that people are so adamant that just online poker is rigged?
The (Sample) Size Matters
One thing that many in the “online poker is rigged” club don’t understand is that you need a fairly large sample size to determine anything in poker, be it someone’s 3-betting range or whether the game is truly fair and random.
If you play live poker once a week for a few hours, you’ll see maybe 400-500 hands every month, which is almost irrelevant from the statistical point of view.
When you play online, you’ll usually play more than one table at once, and you’ll see twice as many hands at each table.
You might play more hands in a single evening online than you play in an entire month live.
And, if you are good with multi-tabling, you can easily play 1,000+ hands in a night, whether you pay cash or tournaments.
As you play more hands, you’re likely to experience an increasing number of less likely situations.
Think about it: the odds of even being dealt pocket aces are 1 in 220. So, in the live scenario, you won’t get that many chances for them to be cracked in the first place.
Online, you can easily get them several times during your session, and it is almost guaranteed some of them will lose. After all, you’re not 100% to win with aces, so you have to lose sometimes.
And this is where the root of all theories about online poker being rigged starts. People feel like they’re experiencing many bad beats in a short period.
They don’t see that at the live tables, but they forget that they play anywhere between 5x and 20x more hands in an online session.
Numbers Don’t Lie
If there is one thing common to all those who support the theory that online poker is rigged, that’s the fact they only take a few select hands.
They’ll find a few weird hands where someone decided to call off their all-ins or huge preflop raises with rags and managed to crack their aces. Or, they’ll dig a big pot where someone managed to hit an unlikely gutter on the river.
If they were right, someone would find the proof by this point.
In this day and age, almost all players have tracking software like Hold’em Manager, which keep track of all hands played and helped built databases containing hundreds of thousands and even millions of actual hands.
When you analyze these databases, you always see the same result. Pocket aces show up as the biggest winner in every single database containing a large sample of hands. Flopped sets win way more often than they lose and so on.
If online poker was rigged, these anomalies would show up in databases, but there hasn’t been a single player as of yet to show up with a sample of 500,000 or million hands to confirm conspiracy theories.
Why Would Sites Rig Their Games?
People who believe online poker is rigged and don’t understand (or refuse to accept) how poker RNG works also have an explanation as to why sites would rig their games. The most common ones I have seen:
- This is done to create more action and ensure no one wins too much.
- Poker rooms will rig stuff so that the “fish” don’t lose too much and keep playing.
- They’ll create situations where players will build huge pots so they could charge more rake.
All of this doesn’t make much sense and, once again, isn’t supported by the evidence. First of all, good players have been making tons of money from online poker, so it is clear that sites aren’t limiting anyone’s winning potential.
The theory about building huge pots for rake doesn’t make much sense, either. In most games, the rake is capped, so after a certain point, it doesn’t matter from the site’s perspective. If you play a $5,000 pot on NL200, you’ won’t pay more rake than if the pot was just $300.
Online Gambling Isn’t the Wild, Wild West
While it may feel like casino sites and poker rooms can do whatever they want, this really isn’t the case. They have licensing bodies and governmental organizations overseeing their operations. One of the main reasons for this type of control is to ensure a fair gaming environment.
A site that would allow their games to be rigged would risk losing their license and paying a significant penalty, so the risk is not worth the reward for them.
The risk involved is such that the rigging of any kind just isn’t feasible. And that’s without even going into complexities that would be required to create an efficient algorithm to do that.
Poker RNG: Why Online Games Are Safe
Taking a little time to understand how poker sites operate is all you need to find an answer to the question is online poker rigged.
Many players seem to believe that rooms have a high degree of freedom when it comes to how the cards are dealt, but the matter of fact is, no one can tamper with the code once it is in place.
The essential part of pretty much every poker site is the underlying Random Number Generator.
This is a piece of software, or an algorithm that ensures that cards dealt out of the virtual deck are genuinely random and utterly independent of any in-game factors such as card dealt, the number of chips on the table, or someone’s bankroll.
What Does RNG Mean In Gaming?
Random Number Generators are present in almost all forms of online gambling, be it poker, virtual sports, slots, or whatever else. There are a few different RNG algorithms that most rooms and sites use, so it’s not like everyone has their secret poker RNG.
RNG gaming is based on pseudo-random numbers because it is hard to achieve a truly random result in a controlled environment. However, for the purposes of dealing cards out of a deck, this is more than good enough.
The way RNG poker software and algorithms work is that they take several random numbers to use as a base for their formula. These numbers can be anything, and the only way to take advantage of an RNG would be to know precisely what numbers are used and in what manner.
As an example, the RNG could take the value of the temperature of a PC processor, the time in a random country, and some other arbitrary number to use as the base values at the exact time when the flop needs to be dealt.
These random numbers will then be entered into the formula, and the result will determine what cards will come out of the virtual deck.
This is a highly simplified explanation of RNG gaming and how poker RNG works, but you get an idea. While it is not as random as someone shuffling the cards using their hands, there are enough random variables to ensure a genuinely fair game.
Real Online Poker Scams You Should Worry About
Now that you know what is RNG in gaming and how it is applied in poker, you should have a better idea is online poker rigged or not.
As you could see, rigging online poker games would be virtually impossible, and at the end of the day, very risky for the sites.
However, this doesn’t mean that online poker is always completely safe.
Sadly, there are poker scams you should be protecting yourself from. These don’t have anything to do with online poker being rigged as they’re usually performed by players themselves in an attempt to make a profit out of it.
Absolute Poker – Ultimate Bet Super User Scandal
One of the biggest and best-known online poker scam is the one involving Absolute Poker and Ultimate Bet. It happened back in 2007 when a group of players discovered certain users were making unbelievable plays that just couldn’t be explained.
After the investigation was concluded, it turned out that individual players had access to superuser accounts, allowing them to see other players’ hole cards.
Although many use this as one of the main supporting pieces of evidence that online poker is rigged, there was no rigging of any type.
This was simply a few players who found the way to cheat – and live games are full of cheaters as well. The whole scandal cost both rooms a lot of money and had a massive impact on their reputation, which only shows that any attempt at rigging the games is not worth it at all.
Stories of Pot Shaving at Pit Bull Poker
There are bad seeds in every industry, so it is no surprise that some sites did try to cheat their players. Although it wasn’t a classic rigging, it was an online poker scam that potentially cost the players a lot of money.
Back in 2009, an instant-play site called Pit Bull Poker was accused of “pot shaving.”
This meant that parts of the pots would just go missing, but players quickly catch up, and the scam became obvious.
Pit Bull Poker shut down shortly after. For those who would use this example for online games being rigged, it’s important to note this was a site without any proper license and no standing in the community.
Plus, their scam was quickly uncovered by the players precisely because it’s impossible to somehow hide these things for a long time.
Various Bot Rings
Probably the biggest and the most widespread form of online poker scam are various bot rings. A bot ring consists of many accounts, all playing for the same person or a group of players, usually at the same tables.
Their goal is to make money from legitimate players and earn money from rakeback.
Although rooms are trying to get rid of them all the time, bots are an ongoing online poker problem.
That wasn’t a problem back in the day, while bots weren’t very good, but with the introduction of artificial intelligence and advanced algorithms, this posts some dangers to online poker.
If you can identify some patterns or see the same players always sitting together, better keep away from these games. However, there are more chances to be cheated in live games by angle shooters than when playing online, so don’t be afraid of monsters under the bed.
Play It Safe But Don’t Panic
Making sure you play on a safe and regulated platform is just common sense.
You want to play in a room that features proper licenses and has a reputation in the poker world, but don’t worry about online poker being rigged.
Even though these theories have been around for a couple of decades now, there is not a single shred of real evidence to support them. As explained, rooms have no reason to rig their games, and even if they did, players would catch up with the scam in no time.
So, don’t let the hyped-up posts claiming online poker is rigged get to you, and think about real evidence.
Many just use this as an excuse because they can’t bead the games. So instead of these conspiracy theories, learn Texas Holdem strategy or even join a poker training site and show your opponents how easy it is to win!