Introduction

If you simply Googled anything related to poker or whether it is safe, you are bound to encounter a number of conspiracy theories of how the game is rigged. The theorists behind these are fully convinced that online poker is rigged. In fact, this question is as old as the online version of the game: are poker games online rigged?

Reddit or any other poker forum will have hundreds of users debating this topic and offering proof that they’re right, some of which could even make you rethink the fairness of the game. In fact, reputable review sites help players pick fair games, such as this one — a through review of Americas Cardroom. This article discusses both sides of the arguments and the measures poker sites take to ensure their games are fair.

Why People Think Poker Online is Fraudulent

The idea that poker online is rigged originates from people seeing certain situations that according to them, ‘never happen in live games’. Be it crazy hands or losing against weaker hands online, they think it never happens in real life. However, frequent players of the physical version have similar stories to tell. Terrible losses and landslide wins can result from any form of poker, whether online or in-person. So, why do people think that the online version is rigged?

Importance of Sample Size

One important thing to remember especially for those who think the games are fraudulent is that the size of the sample matters when making a generalization as big as that. Seeing 400 to 500 hands in a month while playing poker live once in a week is not of much statistical importance in making a judgment regarding fairness. On the other hand, when playing poker online, you can multiple tables at once and so you will double the number of hands. You can even play more hands in one night online than in a full month in-person, around 1000 hands a night. The more hands you play, the more unlikely situations you’ll face. Thus, since the size of the sample is much higher in online poker, players have seen way more rare situations.

Significance of Numbers

The one aspect common among those who believe that online poker is a fraud is that they all pick out only a few hands. They analyze the weirdest hands where rare situations occur. If their theories were correct, someone would have found some proof or actual evidence. But, what all the conspiracy theorists build their arguments on is hollow speculation and unfactual statistics. When you actually analyze databases (such as Hold’em Manager) that have millions of hands stored in them, you see that, for example, pocket aces will win in each and every database having a large number of hands. But, there have not been any theorists who have been able to confirm their beliefs with some proof with a sample of more than 500,00 or even more hands.

Why Would Poker Sites Rig Games?

Most theorists put forth these arguments when asked why poker sites would rig their own games:

  • In order to create buzz and action, while also making sure no players bags too much
  • So that common players don’t lose too much either and keep putting money into their games
  • So as to make situations where players build up large pots and then they can charge them more rake

These “theories” don’t make a lot of sense and are not backed up by evidence. In fact, all can be refuted by simple logic. Players win big in online poker all the time and the rake charge is usually capped at a maximum amount.

It’s important to remember that just like brick and mortar poker rooms, online sites, too, have regulatory bodies keeping a check on them and their practices to ensure fairness and safety. The risk of losing their licenses is too big a gamble to make marginally higher profits.

RNG: What Makes Online Games Safe

If you understand how online poker works, you will understand how it’s not rigged. While some might think that the sites have a lot of freedom while dealing out the cards, it isn’t so. Poker sites work on an algorithm called RNG. RNG stands for Random Number Generator. This RNG software makes sure that the dealing of cards from the deck is completely impartial, random, and independent of the game or any other factors. 

RNG in gaming operates on pseudo-random results as truly random numbers are difficult to achieve in a controlled setting. However, for dealing cards that are good enough. How RNG in poker works is that it takes a few random numbers from anywhere, such as the current time in some country or the temperature of a random city, and then uses these values to generate which cards will be dealt.

Some Real Poker Scams

Even though now it’s clear that online poker isn’t rigged, that does not mean it can’t have scams. Here are some scams you should try and protect yourself from while playing poker online.

Absolute Poker & Ultimate Bet Scandal

The Ultimate Bet and Absolute Poker scandal are some of the most well-known in the history of poker scams. It happened in 2007 when a group of players was investigated for making unimaginable plays. It was found that they had superuser accounts which allowed them access to other players’ cards. While this is often used as an argument against online poker, no rigging was involved. Instead, it was just a few people who had found a way to cheat and take advantage of the intricacies of the game. Even live games are filled with such cheaters. 

Pot Shaving

In 2009, an online poker website named Pit Bull Poker was investigated for pot shaving, meaning that some part of the pot would disappear. While the site hoped no one would notice, players soon caught on. However, the thing to note for current online poker players is that it was an unlicensed site with no reputation in the market. The site shut down soon after. Occurrences like these are difficult to hide for long periods of time and will undoubtedly be quickly discovered by players.

Many Bot Rings

The most common types of scam are bot rings. Bot rings are made by a number of accounts operating for a common player or players which are usually placed on the same table so as to make money from real players. Many rooms and sites are working to get rid of them but it is difficult as they keep popping up. AI and algorithms have made this bot ring problem even worse. For normal players, you should keep in mind that if you see certain players always sitting together, stay away. 

Conclusion

It is common sense to know you need to ensure that you are on a regulated online poker platform, one with the required licenses and some reputation in the industry. But, you do not need to worry that online poker sites might be rigged. As explained before, this myth has no concrete evidence and so don’t let it dull your passion for poker!