Sigh: Online Poker Still Isn’t Rigged

Someone just posted a comment on my 2005 post about why online poker is not rigged and I think it brings up some interesting points I haven’t necessarily covered before. So instead of responding where it will be buried in a 5 year old post, I’ll respond to “duh” here.

Warning a lot of sarcasim
The numbers you see in this post are mostly fictional but I hope u get my drift
@ gavin

You actually believe pokersites are happy with 1 mil as opposed to 100 mill. OK sure I believe you, but only because you said it.

My common sence tells me that without fishes you dont have a pokersite or at least not one that makes money. All you have are some regs playing other regs obviously a pokersite is more than happy with that.LOL

Because on any of the big sites, playing cashgames with all regs at your table is why we play poker. We dont want to play weaker bad players, rather loose/flip money with regs.

The only way a pokersite can keep fish not losing their entire savings, mortgage etc etc to regs is to rig the deck. I mean cmon where’s your common sense, luck plays a part thats why regs lose too often, suuuuure. Its funny though that these fishes never seem to be lucky when playing live, yes they might win a few hands down to luck but beat me or shall I say kill me the way they do online NEVER.

Actually, it wasn’t until recently that many card rooms figured out that you make money on the fish, not the sharks. In fact, some rooms still haven’t figured that out. I guess I was fortunate to work at online poker rooms who got it very early but I still talk to people who work at poker rooms and various affiliates and they still don’t seem to understand how the poker ecosystem works.

So, if you’re telling me people too dumb to figure out how the poker money flows through the system would then be smart enough to rig the game in favor of the fish, I find that rather hard to accept.

And even though we’ve seen countless examples of poker rooms letting serious bugs slip through the system (awarding the pot to the wrong player, security/encryption flaws, etc) how is it that nobody has been caught rigging the game for the fish? Billions and billions of hands dealt and not a single person has been able to find any abnormalities.

In fact, when I worked at Party we were contacted by a world famous economist who wanted access to a few billion hand histories because he wanted to prove that poker was a skill game. We were in the process of discussing details when another big name poker room stepped in and offered to supply the data. Now, why would two poker rooms get into a pissing contest over supplying their hand histories if they were rigging the game?

And before anybody talks about UltimateBet and Absolute, they were not rigging the games to favor one player over another. They were allowing players to cheat. That’s different from rigging the game. The outcomes were not changed to favor any player. They did have a backdoor that allowed players to see their opponent’s hole cards but the cards were still dealt as they normally would.

It’s not impossible to rig the game but a lot harder than most people think. Maybe there is some no-name poker room rigging the games but the larger the room (in terms of players) the less likely it is.

I litterally dont stand a chance when playing online agaisnt the weakest of players. Why is it that they always wake up with a hand, always and i mean always have what they are drawing to if a 3 flush comes and they bet they show suited connectors, if the board pairs and they bet the river its a boat. When you’ve seen as many hands as i have(over a mill)you cant help but to become suspicous.

What I think of online bingo I mean poker, its TV poker all I seem to see are huge hands, isnt it suppose to be hard to hit a pair let alone constant sets, straights and flushes. Always one hand over an other. Iam scared to get it in with aces because I know im only a coinflip vs any 2. Live im licking my chops as I know its hard to make something. Online though pokersites wants me to have aces becuase the fish cant fold k8o to an allin bet.

Actually, one mistake I see very often with players is that they think they can play the same level online as in a live casino. At The Hustler in Los Angeles I had no problem sitting down at the $25/$50 fixed limit. In fact, I would normally crush the game. But there’s no way I could play at that limit online. The highest limit online where I showed a profit (and not even a healthy profit) was $10/$20.

Why do sites rig the deck this way, well for obvious reasons. What I see a lot of people overlook is the fact that by doing this not only do fish continue playing on their site, the site makes a hell of lot more money than one would think. Take Stars as an example 300k players, 10% regs and 90% fish. If fish stop playing Stars are left with 30k regs might aswell stop doing business as its not profitable for them no longer.

That’s actually a pretty interesting point. It’s true that about 90% of poker players are net losers. So isn’t it funny that so many people consider themselves winning players? I’ve never met anybody who’s ever admitted to being a losing player.

You know where I’ve also seen that? When I was a stockbroker. I never met a client who lost money in the stock market. I never met anybody who ever admitted to losing money in the 1987 market crash. None. Everybody felt the market was too high and pulled out just before the crash.

I even had guys who would trade with me and tell me they were up trading for the month and I would go over their trades and they were down. Way down.

The vast majority of people who tell you they’re winning players are liars.

Face it companies like this are dependant on their fishes, if they dont rig the deck fishes will lose everything to the regs, smarten up and leave. Stars cant afford not to rig the deck.

Or they could spend millions upon millions on marketing.

This whole argument is so flawed it’s hard to know where to start. This argument only works if one believes that the size of the poker market is fixed and finite. But we know that’s not true. One has only to look at Poker Scout to see that the overall market size is still increasing.

To the people that do not believe that unfair, greedy, shitty, no morals or standards people exist who blatantly steal your deposits(the pokerroom owners etc etc)prob the mafia. I say I too believe in fairytales and Superman is real. Heck even God almighty himself came to me and told me himself that I am the only person that can prove he exists.

Anywayz the bottom line is online poker cant be rigged because, they just wouldnt do it. If you can make 10 mill a year, why on earth would you want to make 10 billion a year. You just wouldnt risk it to make that little bit more.LOLLLL

Again, another faulty argument. First off, many of these companies are publicly traded. PartyGaming, 888, etc would all have a hard time explaining a sudden windfall. Likewise, any company who wasn’t rigging the games would be screaming bloody murder because they know what your expected ROI is.

That doesn’t mean that there isn’t some shady dude sitting in a shack in Costa Rica ripping people off but why would you pick poker? You can use hand histories to prove that a game is rigged. Why not casino? People will pump money into a slot machine forever regardless of the payout. And there’s no hand histories. Or blackjack. Or any game where the odds are in the houses favor.

One of the other major flaws in this argument is there are so many legitimate ways the poker room can make more money. Shortening the time to act by 1 second would translate into millions for PokerStars. They can change how the rake is calculated (e.g. instead of .10 on every $1 make it .01 on over .10). I could list at least 50 completely legitimate things a poker room could do that would translate into huge profits.

The beats/cold decks etc etc seems so surreal to everyone except a handfull of posters. I went through a number of blogs that have this discussion, what i have realized is that the people that say it isnt rigged are always in the minority.

And after having had this conversation more times than you’ve read blog posts about it I have yet to see a single person offer any proof.

Or let’s go back to the 90% fish to 10% “regs” numbers. If only 10% of the players are winning players and they’re the ones getting cold decked, why would the majority of people claim that it’s rigged? Are the fish complaining because they’re winning too much?

Wouldn’t it be faaaaaar more likely that there are a lot of players who aren’t as good as they think they are and use the crutch of the site being rigged to explain why they can’t beat the game?

And finally if I had a fair deal I probably would have been up more than triple to what im up now( yes iam a winning player who thinks online is rigged to fck).

Like I’ve said before, I’ve never met someone who thinks online poker is rigged who admits to being a losing player. Yet, of all of the professional players I know, all the way from 12-tabling micro-limits grinders to high stakes players, none of them think it’s rigged.

Taking away an allin pot of you is worth double, if I start with 100 and ship 20 allin and win i make 120 if i lose im on 80 difference in my roll is 40. Some people tend to forget this and say well i lost 1 buyin, actually you lost 2 buyins.

I guess that’s one way to look at it if you were a 100% favorite to win and still ended up losing. I mean, this logic just sounds so whacky. It assumes that you are guaranteed to win when you get your money in ahead but you also get full credit when you get your money in behind and suck out.

Bill Rini
Bill Rini is currently the Head of Online Poker for WSOP. He has been working in the online poker industry since 2004 and has held management roles at Full Tilt Poker and PartyPoker.

23 thoughts on “Sigh: Online Poker Still Isn’t Rigged”

  1. im a poker pro and believe online poker is rigged. im a winning player in love games. i made top 20 in my last 5 live tourneys of 250 ppl.

    im a losing player online. i started with $300 and end with 0. i lost 6 times in a row going all in as > 80% fav. my KK cracked 8 out of 10 times. my AA cracked 8 out of 10 times. last two times AA vs KK, K runner flush. AA vs A6o, running 6 high straight. u can see i lost buy in after buy in on those hands. all in pre flop.

    online tourney near the bubble. i got bad beat 3 times in a row buy all 2 outers and bust out. last online tourney i got bad beat 4 times in a row, finally got AK and hit a straight. then got bad beat another 4 times in a row.

    really ppl and bill. wake up. online poker is a ponzi scheme. new players get rewarded and old good players get sucked out on. when the new players become old then they too will get bad beat to new players and the cycle cont.

    tell me y is it i always get out drawn in almost every hand. yet when i chase and try to bad beat someone. i hit it 1 out of 10 times. why when i get it in with AA vs KK, then i lose but when i have KK and up against AA i never suck out AA???

    how does someone call an all in with 10 5 off against me with KK whos beeb playing TAG all game. he then hits two pair 10 5? or how about alll in with AA only to get called by 10 7 and hit two pair 10 7? or how about raise 5x with AA and get reraised all in by a donk with Q3 off. only to call and watch them hit Q in flop and Q on river for trips?

    seriously wake up. who r these ppl an how do they make suck a call deep in the tourney or cash game? i just saw mid online tourney one guy goes all in on a board A 10 5 rainbow and gets one caller. the one guy calls him with what??? Q2 off!!!! WTF!???? turn Q and riv 2. seriously WTF!!!! i could go on and on. if u can explain how these things occur so frequently and make sense. then plz do. online poker is rigged. theres no doubt in my mind. everyone knows it.

  2. Poker is rigged plain and simple. I’m a losing player online (down $300), but a winning player live (up over $3500+). Care to explain that? y is it when i grind up for hours online, only to get sucked out constantly over and over losing all my profits and the rest of my bankroll? I kid u not, i got bad beat 5 times within 1 hour when i go all in at least > 80% to win the pot. I lost 5 buy ins. i had to grind up winning small pots and bluffing, and i was up 3 buy ins, till the bad beats kept coming. y is this? this is the first time, it happens over and over and over. they give u a good run, then BAM u start getting bad beat over and over, no matter what u do, no matter what position ur in, no matter how much of a favorite u r to win, U ALWAYS LOSE. I’ve been in about 5 situations where my opponent had 1 out to win, and u kno what? i lost 4 out of 5 times, gee i thought i was > 90% fav to win? y am i losing then? yea poker isnt rigged? go **** urself.

  3. The frequency ppl , how many more hands an hour as apposed to live poker,

    think about it , more crazy hands simply because there is alot more hands played …simples

  4. sorry 1 last comment. i depsit 25 dollars at a time and ill get to say 100 and withdraw 75 then over the next day or 2 ill play 20 1 dollar games and wont cash and have to deposit again( losing with kk or aa in the way i mentioned before) it just seems as if the site knows i will withdraw so wont give me that in 1 tourney cash, but ill have to win 4 dollars a time on sng’s over a month to win 100 things like this do make me wonder.

  5. i will be honest here i have been playing poker for about a year and a half and i was $800 down in my first year, however i have halved that deficit so i have improved. im not sayin poker is rigged but i would like to make a few points that make me suspicious.
    firstly, for example there is 3 players in a hand that are all in pre flop, the majority of the time the strongest hand will hit and be infront on the flop but the weakest needs runner runner, the turn will put the 2nd strongest hand infront however it will be a card the runner runner needs and the river is the card needed for the runner runner which makes the weakest hand win when they dont hit the flop or turn but it pans out like that MOST of the time.

    next, as a poor player when i first started i would find myself chasin gutshots against AA and would hit most of the time (at this point i would find myself gettin eliminated alot chasin draws when it really mattered) but now im gettin better and not playing stupid wen i fold i rarely see them hit if it goes to a showdown with 2 other players

    lastly, going back to runner runner. why is it that in the latter stages of a tourney you will have kk or aa and you raise 5 times the bb the whole table folds except 1 guy will somehow decide to call with a weak hand and you bet the hell out of the flop, the weak hand has no straight draw or flush draw not even a pair yet will call and runner runner 2 pair, this may not happen to everybody but it happens to me all the time when i just make the cash. maybe im just unlucky but to me its just doesnt ring right, its like im being blocked from going further and making final tables were the bigger money is and just ending up with less than double my buy in.
    they say good players only go out with good cards which is the case for me but it would be less suspicious and agrevating if you went out to good cards instead of complete crap

  6. @ Bill Rini “Agencies that certify the rooms simply confirm that the RNG produces numbers that are sufficiently random…”
    Are you serious?? Agencies in Costa Rica?? Bahamas or god knows where? This Poker Sites are NOT regulated. I think you are smart enough to know that so the only logical conclusion is that you are a lackey working for the industry. Simple.

  7. Dear Online Poker Players,

    Why would you hang onto these scammers, when you have a brain?
    Why would they not scam? It is a computer.
    If you know this and still play on these sites, then you are the idiot and deserve to be dealt bad beats.
    You are like a junky and I am your pusher. :))
    People feeding into these “Online poker is not rigged”-crap are criminals.
    Accomplisses to these scammers.
    You do not help a junky by saying harddrugs are not hazardous if you only use it once in a while.
    You do not help a junky having an OD by telling him it is variance and it will be over soon, “just hang in there!”.
    Online poker simply is a fairytale.
    If you do not want to go out and play live, then you are saying yes to being rigged and it is your own fault when you lose your entire bankroll to a lucky moron.

    I mean, I will not mind paying rake to a house/casino that offers drinks and stuff (decorations), but to pay all this to an online poker room, just some pixels, is crazy.
    Real and fake just can not be the same, no matter how hard you try it to be.
    Come out of your house once in a while and visit a casino or play in a live-homegame.



  8. @Rod: Actually, what you demonstrated is a rather basic view of randomness. Since most hand distribution norms are derived from Monte Carlo analysis performed on less random systems than those generating random numbers for online poker rooms, the fact that the two match up somewhat validates what the statistical norms should be. In other words, the randomness even on a computer not whitening their results produces results that fall within a range that most statisticians would deem normal.

    Why would there be any reason to adjust the randomness at the cardrooms if the system setting the standards bar is even less random than the cardroom’s? The quick answer is that for the most part any extra whitening or anything else that the card rooms might do to get even greater randomness has such a small impact that the results fall within statistical norms.

    Quite different than your assertions.

  9. Thanks for the response, I think you’ve made my point in your response.

    They have to correct for “bias” (or “software-based whitening” as you call it). They don’t need to do this real time, I would think that hourly, daily, or even much more would be sufficient to fall under statistical variance. They have all the hand histories that they can use as a guide and to change the tides so to speak.

    You are correct, I know nothing about poker sites. All I know is that there is a goal (i.e. Achieve statistically correct hand results, over time), a problem (i.e. They can’t rely on random number generators alone), and a number of ways to correct for this (I.e. A number of ways to rig the results).

    Note: I didn’t say the sites profit from these corrections.

  10. @Rod: I think you severely overestimate both your knowledge of the subject matter and the complexity of your average poker site. Anyone who has spent any amount of time using the software from these companies can attest to the fact that many bugs exist in them. I get a real chuckle when people claim that poker sites are so good they can trick everybody from mathematician users of their products to external auditing agencies yet they release software with obvious flaws like forgetting to encrypt data streams on the local system. And believe me, having worked directly with the software engineers at two of the largest sites, I can assure you they do make mistakes.

    That’s not to take away from the many outstanding and brilliant people they have but if Microsoft can do everything they can think of to keep their browser secure and some group of hackers can crack it in 10 minutes, I highly doubt that any software developers anywhere can produce software that is immune to errors.

    Yet, according to you the online poker industry has found the only group of software engineers in the world capable of this as nobody has ever been able to find statistically relevant variances in the expected results and the actual results of hands dealt.

    Sorry, I don’t buy it :-)

  11. @Rod: Poker rooms (if they’re smart) don’t claim to be “random.” Agencies that certify the rooms simply confirm that the RNG produces numbers that are sufficiently random enough that calculating the next sequence of numbers is not currently feasible.

    The second part of your response makes no sense given the first part. If nobody can feasibly guess what the next sequence of numbers is going to be then poker rooms could only “correct” the hands after the fact. In other words, they could only “rig” the game after they noticed the anomaly occurring. That would by definition mean that their RNG does possess predictability as this has left a pattern footprint.

    The other part that makes your hypothesis somewhat unlikely is that most poker rooms I’m familiar with use hardware based pseudo-RNG generation. It’s a module that sits in the computer and whenever the software needs a new random number it asks the hardware device to generate a new one. There are many certified hardware vendors (Intel, VIA, etc) which sell their RNG products to all sorts of end users. Since some of these end users are using these RNG products for scientific purposes one would think that if there was such an obvious flaw that it needed correcting or rigging by the poker rooms that this flaw would have already been exposed by others.

    What you might be referring to is correcting for bias which is a completely different issue. Since we’ve already established that true randomness cannot be created by a machine we assume that whatever method that we use to simulate randomness itself contains some pattern or bias.

    However even if additional software-based whitening is performed it is not to rig the outcome. It is done in order to go even farther in achieving something that is as close to possible as true randomness.

  12. Btw, even if they (the sites) are not profitting directly by this form of ‘rigging’ it is still rigged to some degree.

    This also makes it impossible to show proof of rigging, without an independent audit of the code. If you have a company smart enough to build the technology to support thousands of players, they are not going to leave the hand histories up to statistical variance. My guess is that the ‘smarts’ required for the hand generation algorithms (and included rigging to keep stats in line) is nothing compared to the complexity of the infrastructure to run the games.

    Cheers, Rod

  13. I’m a computer programmer. Here is why poker sites are rigged.

    1. The Random Number Generators can’t be truly random.
    2. If the sites didn’t do anything to bring the stats ‘in-line’ the hand histories would show these anomalies over a long period of time.

    Therefore, all the major sites are forced to manipulate the outcomes of some (or all) of the games/hands to ensure that hand histories are statistically ‘correct’ over time. If they didn’t do this, they risk scandal.

  14. If you think online poker is legit your head is as empty as kermit the frogs address book !!!! you should give up online poker because odds and maths are not your strong point – oops that actually a good reason to continue :) Online poker is not actually poker its Bingo. You win when its your turn , unless your one of the chosen accounts just to divert suspicion. STAY AWAY FROM ONLINE POKER IS ALL A SCAM – POKER IS BIG BUCK BUSINESS ITS ABOUT PROFITS AND NOTHING MORE – WAKE UP SMELL THE COFFEE AND STOP BEING NIEVE.

  15. I have recently stumbled onto your blog and really enjoy it. Even though you don’t “know” me, I am posting this especially for you, Bill. Please excuse me, but it must be shouted. I AM A LOSING ONLINE POKER PLAYER WHO DOES NOT BELIEVE ONE IOTA THAT THE ONLINE POKER ROOMS ARE RIGGED. Like they say; there’s always one … In my own defense, the reason I keep playing is because about 3 months ago I decided to start getting a little more serious about the game and actually learn how to play it instead of bitching about the suck outs. While I am still in the hole, my results have changed dramatically by just skimming the surface of the basics of the game and only devouring two poker books thus far.

    Now, when I say “dramatically” I am measuring that by the fact that during the first 10 months that I played I could not go even 3 weeks without having to reload – ever. Currently, it’s been over two months and more than 60,000 online hands later since I have made a deposit. I’m still a micro player, but I am really starting to love this sport! If the game was rigged (which crossed my mind hundreds of times last year when I began playing) I find it a remarkable coincedence that my game could improve so substantially right at the time when I decide to learn how to play it. Of course, it could just be that all those people conspiring against the “winning players” spied on me, know I bought poker books online, and now must throw me a bone to thwart my suspicion.

  16. @Kobi: Probably more than 10. Finance is going to notice a shift in numbers. Marketing is going to notice a change in the attrition rate. There are a lot of people who would notice a sudden shift in profits.

  17. It never ceased to amaze me how the “Poker Sites are rigged” topic comes to life every once in a while.
    For the sake of argument let’s say we have Company, a well established one, like our hero is playing in, that decides to start manipulating their decks and tables. How many people to you need to get involved in this scum? At least 10? (2 programmers, 2 IT engineers, some managers and even one or two VPs?). How long till someone leaks out the scum? How long since the scum has been out, till the company goes broke…?
    Suckouts are bitch, and if clinging on “This site is rigged” helps you to come to your senses, so be it…every man and his way to find his ommmmmm….:)

  18. @Jay: Actually she is right – to a degree – about tournaments. They aren’t really loss leaders but they are way less profitable than cash games. But since most acquisition and retention managers aren’t creative enough to come up with promotions that shift people over to cash games they keep promoting tournaments (freerolls, money added, layovers, etc). And technically they do put more strain on the servers because instead of having 100 individual games going the server has to keep track of 100 tables and 1000 players all relative to each other (table balancing, chip counts, etc).

    But, even with that being said, you don’t need to induce a donkey to do anything. I remember playing in a tournament that had four people go all-in on the first hand and the fourth player in shoved with KQo.

    She is wrong about the infrastructure costs though. The biggest drain on the server resources is when the tournament begins. Once people start falling out of the tournament it doesn’t matter since you already had to buy the infrastructure to support the beginning of the tournament.

    With that part being wrong, everything else from there on out is false.

  19. I’ve been around the game and in the industry for more than 5 years now, and I’m still mystified by so much of what I read and hear. A friend had a 6-figure score after qualifying for $4. Two months later he was complaining about how badly he was running in the Sunday guarantees.

    People who should know a lot better just can’t seem to reconcile the intellectual understanding of some pretty simple mathematical concepts with reality that, at times, can seem hostile.

    The reason you loose every tournament with Ak vs AJ or KK vs A3 or set under set or top pair to runner runner, or flopped straight to running flush is that because you’re supposed to. The game was constructed so that bad things — and very unlikely things — happen all the time.

    Though I do appreciate LivCov’s comments here. Sure, they show a total ignorance for the industry (tournaments are loss leaders? really?) but it’s a clever tact — a new way to sound totally crazy.

  20. In my experience the discussion about rigged games has always focused on PokerStars. So many old timers (I mean good old live players) complain about “hands from outer space”…
    I’m talking about the big PS tournaments here, where these people experienced too many big pots with hotheads going all-in for a showdown looking like AA vs KK vs a great hand with the flop.
    Actually I’ve never played on PS (strange, uh?) so my opinion is totally theorical and follows the line that if something is good for the cashflows, it tends to be implemented on the short term:
    1. Big tournaments are loss leaders, it’s the focal point of marketing expenses but cashgames are much more profitable
    2. Thousands playing tournaments at the same time means big infrastructure costs, so the faster a tournament ends the more profitable it is (actually you can experience this IRL with rooms sticking to harsh structures for lower buyins and only creating deepstack events above $250)
    3. One way to make one given tournament go faster is pushing for action. Since it’s not possible to get everyone online to drink and tilt, one good way is to induce all-ins
    4. PS is not a publicly traded company and they’re way ahead of the pack, so if they can earn significantly more by just tweaking some algorithm for ramdom generated numbers, why would they stay pat?

    When you’re talking about millions and millions flowing everyday, corruption is sure to kick in. Some way or other.

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