Online poker must be rigged. Why else did I just get bad beat? Has to be rigged. I'm losing at poker after a couple of months. Me? An amazing player?! I beat the $#!% out of my home game last week! Must be rigged! Poker sites are out to get me
.and people like me. Poker sites hate winning players, hate new players, hate existing players, hate men, hate women, hate Jesus, and eat babies
after they rig them. Yes, online poker rooms must rig the deck or mess with the RNG in some way.
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The above paragraph summarizes thousands of posts on poker forums around the web. No one likes losing. Being bad beat isn't fun and just not having the skill to be a long-term winner at poker isn't something most people are willing to admit. It's human nature to blame these losses on someone else. The obvious
online poker must be rigged.
It's tiring for seasoned players or people knowledgeable of online poker to respond to all these posts and explain why online poker isn't rigged. Consider this Weekly Shuffle to be a public service. Now an educated players can just link to an article instead of spending 20 minutes responding to a whiny post by a newbie that just got rivered at a $.10-$.20 game and thinks the world is out to get him.
Since I do not own a poker room or work for one, I cannot be 100% sure that the games at online poker rooms are completely fair and random. However, I highly, highly, HIGHLY doubt online any of the major sites "rig" the deck in any way for the following reasons:
1. It's not in a poker room's financial interest to rig the deck. The major online poker rooms are companies valued in the hundreds of millions, sometimes billions of dollars. Some of the larger online poker rooms are also publicly traded companies. For example, Party Poker is owned by Party Gaming, a member of the FTSE 100 index of the London Stock Exchange.
Even if there is only a 1% chance of them being caught, the risk makes it not worth it to make a few extra bucks. If you are one of the owners of Party Poker, are you going to potentially destroy your billion dollar net worth over a trivial amount of money in extra rake?
2. There are numerous pros that have detailed logs of all the hands they have played. They are able to do this with a program such as Poker Tracker that keeps statistics of all hands played. With all of the data that is potentially mined, over the course of the years, someone reputable would be able to prove something fishy if it was in fact happening.
3. Online poker rooms have had their RNGs analyzed and verified by third parties. Examples are Party Poker, PokerStars, and Titan Poker.
These are the major reasons why most educated people trust the online poker rooms. Now, let's take the next step and at the reasoning behind some people's paranoia:
Paranoid thought: Online poker rooms might rig the deck so that bad players can win more often. Otherwise, bad players will lose to quickly and quit playing.
There are other ways a poker room can limit the ability of pros to beat up the fish. Sites can do this by limiting the number of tables a person plays, not having player note abilities, creative advertising, and other strategies (read poker ecosystems for details). Basically, they can do a lot of things, and a lot of the poker rooms aren't even employing these tactics. They may in fact have good reason for not doing so. Pros will play a lot...no matter what. They often think they can win even if the game has gotten too difficult. They will continue to play, even if their hourly rate has significantly decreased. Many pros/winning players aren't as sharky as one may think in terms of game selection.
Paranoid thought: Poker rooms rig the deck through "action flops" and other types of hands that stimulate rake.
Since the poker rooms rake is based on a percentage of the pot, it makes obvious sense that the poker rooms will rig the games so there's more action and therefore more rake, right? Well, no. More action means higher variance which means people will bust out even quicker. This paranoid thought basically contradicts the first paranoid thought. The first paranoid person thinks the poker room is trying to keep everyone breaking even so they keep on playing. This paranoid thought thinks the poker room will essentially induce wild swings for a short term increase in rake.
Furthermore, this sort of artificial mechanism to increase rake would only matter at the lower limits anyway. At the higher limits, the rake is almost always maxed out anyway when a flop is seen. So do paranoids think that the poker rooms rig the lower stakes games and not the higher stakes games? Or do they think they are going to chase after a small increase in rake by rigging all the games? The possibilities for chasing one's tail thinking about this ridiculous notion are endless!
All I know is I hope the paranoids think the online sites rig the lower-stakes games and not the higher-stakes games. This way, they'll sit at a $30-$60 table with me and lose their money without worry.
There are issues with online poker that are potentially troublesome: collusion, player-made bots, and people multi-accounting tournaments. However, the risk of the major online poker rooms intentionally rigging the deck does not fall into this category.