After working so hard to make it on my top ten list Ed Miller seems to have posted something that I disagree with.
It’s the dreaded “online poker is rigged” argument again. Granted, Ed doesn’t say that online poker is rigged but he does stir up the pot a bit. He goes as far as saying that it can be done and an online poker site might do it. Here we have two different questions. The first is whether or not it’s possible and the second is whether or not a site would do it.
In taking on the second question, I’ve always approached this question from the standpoint of a medium or large site. If a player is going to get himself involved with some no-name poker room then it’s a crap shoot. Most people aren’t complaining about rigged games at no-name card rooms. The vast majority of online poker is rigged claims come from people playing on the top 10 rooms.
So, if we’re talking about a top ten room then I would say that the motivation for rigging the game favors not rigging it. As I articulate in a previous post there are so many other ways for a poker room to increase its profits from you that are entirely legitimate. And if you took the time to brainstorm a bit I’m sure you could come up with ten or fifteen more suggestions of minor tweaks the room could make to the game that would generate more hands per hour and/or more profits for the room. Until someone can answer for me why a room would go to all of the trouble to rig the game before having exhausted these other much more simple methods then I simply cannot buy this argument as being logical. Granted, a poker room might act in an illogical manner but if we’re to assume that all actors act in a logical manner then this doesn’t hold up.
The other part of Ed’s argument is that it’s even doable. Of course it’s doable but let’s put the caveat on there that you need to be able to do it AND not get caught. That caveat presents an entirely different problem.
Now, Ed is a man who isn’t exactly ignorant when it comes to software engineering. He has two degrees from M.I.T and used to work as a software engineer at Microsoft. So it’s deceptively easy for one to simply accept it as fact when he says creating a system that could do all of this rigging would be rather trivial. However, I’m not one to simply accept an argument simply based on the source. I put it back to anybody who claims that this would be trivial to at least outline how they would go about solving the problem without getting caught.
See, that’s the one thing missing from every argument from a software engineer regarding building such a system. There’s always some guy who says “I’ve been a coder for a jazillion years and this would be easy.” Okay then, tell me how.
There are some fundamental problems in designing a system that needs to escape detection. First thing off the bat is that such a system would need to follow certain rules in order to determine who to rig the game in favor of and how to rig the games. My theory here is that given a large enough sample size detectable patterns would emerge. So if it is trivial to design such a system then it should be equally as trivial to explain how one avoids creating patterns in the data.
One of the other factors such an argument fails to properly consider is that over 90% of poker players are break-even or losing poker players. So what exactly is a fish? How are you going to rig the game in favor of the fish when there are so many fish and so few sharks? How would you determine which players to rig the action for and which one’s to shaft?
These are the types of questions those who claim it is a trivial task never answer. I would love to see someone draw up a hypothetical model. That would at least be a step in the right direction for those who advocate that online poker is or can be rigged.
I’ll repeat a point I made in Ed’s comments. It is very easy to rig a single hand. It is more difficult but relatively easy to rig the game for a specific player. However it is far, far more complex to rig the game in favor of thousands of poor players.
Just think about the number of hands that have to be rigged. Every time you rig a hand you have to create one or more offsetting rigs so as not to create easily detectable patterns. Eventually, you’re rigging the outcome of every hand dealt.
I do agree that it is possible. I’m sure if you designed an entire system around rigging games it could be done. Like they say about almost anything in technology; given enough time, money, and resources anything is possible. The question is whether or not it’s practical.