Is Online Poker Rigged?

by Lou on May 26, 2005

This is a question that gets asked all the time, sometimes out of frustration, and often out of a sincere belief that these big, faceless sites located somewhere in cyberspace just have it in for the average player. Here’s an excerpt from an email I received today:

“But when I play internet poker some of the strangest things happen, people holding cards that nobody would play in Vegas WIN! I’ve lost holding hands that would win in a live casino At the free tables I win a lot, but at the money tables it seems like everyone gets a pat hand and every one bets. Three of a kind doesn’t mean much on the internet. Can you tell me what the difference is? I think internet poker is rigged. So more people get better hands so they’ll bet more so the site can get more rakes per hand.”

And here’s how I responded:

For whatever reason, players are more aggressive online, and you’ll find more players per hand than you will in Las Vegas. That means hand values can differ from what you find in traditional, conservative, casino games, and you might want to consider making a few adjustments to the hands you play. Play pocket pairs in hopes of flopping a set or getting out (and from late position you can play any pocket pair as long as you can see the flop for one bet), play A-x suited for one bet only in late position, and avoid getting involved with the majority of hands you’re dealt from early position because it can be difficult to determine where you’re at relative to opponents who act after you. If that’s not bad enough, you’ll be out of position the entire hand.

If you’re playing in five-and six-handed games online, the guidelines change even more dramatically, because in these games any ace can be playable and you’ll have to gamble more. With the blinds coming around much more rapidly in short handed games, there are a number of other adjustments you’ll need to make too. But online poker is not rigged, believe me; it’s just a different game and a lot more like poker in California than poker in Las Vegas. The leading sites, Party Poker, PokerStars, the Prima Network (including Royal Vegas Poker, where I’m the host), are all making money and it’s in their interests to maintain the most scrupulously honest game they can.

You are dealt so many more hands per hour online than you are in a traditional casino, and you can double or triple the number of hands you see per hour if you’re playing multiple games. You’ll see more of everything: the good, the bad, the boring, and the ugly. But it’s the unusual or extremes that stick in the memory, and that’s one of the reasons players think online poker must be rigged. It isn’t. The seven or eight leading sites are all growing so fast that their challenge is creating software robust enough to accommodate all their players, not figuring how to tweak games to retain them on a one-player-at-a-time basis.

{ 4 comments }

mouse September 18, 2008 at 7:25 am

I have a problem with the two sites I’ve played on, Bodog and PokerStars, which isn’t the bad beats, it’s the obviously artificial hot/cold streaks.

On both sites, I’ve multitabled: up to nine tables on PS, five or six on Bodog. On both, I’ve noticed my hand strengths running the same across all tables, and often the hands are identical or nearly. For example, on six of nine tables on PokerStars, or three out of four tables on Bodog, I might be running suited connectors (all clubs) in the 6-10 range. Or 72 offsuit and the like, or Kx or Ax.

There’s no way that variance is random. It’s rigged to run hot and cold swings. Which of course is enough to send a player’s mood swinging from elation to despair to redeposit to swinging from a rope.

On both sites, I have also experienced the good day playing tight, won ten or fifteen or even twenty bucks, the next day, I play exactly the same way, and I can do no right, the bad beats are endless.

On Bodog, I got from zero at one point after my deposit ran out to forty bucks. Well, I’m eating my way back down through that money now, I can do no right again, yet I know I’m playing better than before, not worse. I’ve learned a lot, I play tight, I raise high on the premium hands because if I don’t, I know some yo yo will suckout by the river if I don’t get them out of my hand.

So, the worst thing for me isn’t the aggravation and lost money on these sites. The worst thing is, it’s going to make me a bad player. Extremely overcautious, folding valid starting hands and getting out of flops worth seeing through. It’s going to make me, in short, a bad player, when the whole reason I deposited was to get out of play money donkey Hades so I could learn to play better.

If what I think I’m seeing is correct, and not false pattern recognition plus insane coincidence, it’s a darn shame, because online poker is fun and an otherwise great way to learn by playing an enormous number of hands for relatively little money in a very short period of time.

George June 22, 2009 at 7:58 am

It's folly to trust the random card generator and assume that you are playing with the equivalent of a live deck-just because the site says you are. I think as humans we tend to inherently trust math and statistics that are fed to us. I applaud the anonymous commenter for attempting to work some of the math out on his own.

To people who say that systemic online cheating/rigging would surely
be exposed by a disgruntled employee, let me ask you, if you knew how to take advantage of certain patterns, would you really tell everyone about it or would you try to make some money off of these secrets? Poker players are not an altruistic bunch-they're in it for $$ and I don't picture them acting as whistle blowers. I'm sure that if there is systemic rigging, its only known about by the higher ups who are making way too much $$ to squeal.

stoner111 April 12, 2010 at 3:15 am

Of course it is rigged. Everybody was saying it wasn't and the potripper (absolute) Russ Hamilton ultimate came along. I once played in a tourney at pokerstars 972 entrants. I got 29 table changes and my original tables never broke down. It's easy to check. I was moved from A full table just to fill up another table. And some was always moved into my original seat. And the gaming commission looked into Russ Hamilton and found he had 31 accomplices and 16 usernames. Why wasn't those other names ever released? they gave the list of names to ultimate bet. Russ damn near destroyed that site. I'd be A little angry if that was me. But no they chose to conceal the names.

stoner111 April 12, 2010 at 3:20 am

I just read somebody's post about bigger stacks winning the pots more times than not against smaller stacks. I noticed the same damn thing. you would figure the smaller stack would make A hand sooner or later but no. They rarely do.

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