Is online poker rigged?

Many players, when starting out with online poker, question how legitimate it really is. After all you’re gambling online and you have no clue how safe the gambling environment is. Are you getting cheated? Is the deck stacked against you? These are all questions that can drive you mad, especially if you are on a losing session and wondering when it will end.

However, having a skeptical attitude to every single poker room that you visit can take a lot of the fun away from the great game of poker. On the other hand, it’s a good idea to have your radar up and be on the lookout for anything that’s fishy – especially when money is on the line. Perhaps by understanding how the game works you can begin to have confidence regarding if it’s rigged or not.

How does online poker work?

From a technical sense online poker is exactly the same as playing poker in person. The chances of getting deal pocket aces, catching a flush or hitting three of a kind on the flop is the same. An algorithm is used by the poker room to randomly generate the cards during the game. The programming of the algorithm ensures that the odds and chances of winning mimics the real world environment.

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There are checks that are done by organizing bodies to determine if the random generators work as they should. However, you’ll still hear players in the chat say things like, “I never win with Aces here”, or “I never hit my flush”. This kind of talk is emotion based and not factual. Typically players tend to remember the times they lose a lot clearer than when they win, which consequently skews the perception of getting lucky or unlucky.

Black Friday

Online poker isn’t without its fair share of controversy, remember Black Friday? The worst day in the history of online poker. On April 15, 2011, the U.S. Department of Justice basically shut down online poker in the entire US, and sites such as PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker and Absolute Bet were shut down entirely. Pokerstars had to modify their operations to provide action to the rest of the world, but Full Tilt Poker was offline, and all player funds locked up. Some players had millions of dollars on the site, and as you can imagine it was very stressful times. Especially for those who played online poker for a living in the US.

Full Tilt Poker eventually got revealed as a pyramid scheme, where the total funds owed to players was more than what was available in the cash reserves of the company. Lawsuits were filed and the online poker industry took a reputation hit. For the skeptics among you, it didn’t give much confidence and you might easily conclude that online poker is rigged.

However, that would be short-sighted. The misleading activities of the Full Tilt Poker executives and the DOJ’s decision to stop online poker in the US has nothing to do with the overall integrity of the game. In every industry people abuse their power, but that doesn’t mean you cannot enjoy fair gaming.

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Current industry leaders such as PokerStars (who subsequently bought out Full Tilt Poker and paid back player funds), 888Poker and PartyPoker are all companies that have been around for many years and have excellent reputations. They are monitored by governing bodies that check the poker rooms of legitimacy, and you can expect nothing but fair poker action.

Online Poker Pros

Thousands of online poker professionals from all around the world have made use of tracking software so that they are able to see if online poker is rigged. This is done by comparing the expected win rate versus the real win rate. For example, if you go all in with pocket aces against pocket kings you are expected to win 80% of the time. When this scenario is repeated thousands of times by multiple poker professionals, data can be built up to verify that indeed pocket aces holds up 80% of the time. This is just a basic example, but this methodology can be used for any poker scenario out there where you want to verify that the expected odds are in fact what happens in practice.

The overall conclusion by poker professionals is that there is no sign of any poker room providing an unfair playing environment. That’s great news if you’re considering to give online poker a try and want to have the peace of mind that you aren’t going to get cheated.

It doesn’t make sense for poker rooms to cheat

Do you think if a company like Nike could get away with a cost-saving scam like using inferior materials in some of their products they would do it? Of course not! That’s because they wouldn’t risk their reputation to make a few extra bucks.

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The same goes for the online poker rooms. They make money from rake and tournament fees, so they wouldn’t risk their reputation by attempting to rig the games. For that reason alone you can have the peace of mind that a poker rooms isn’t trying to cheat you.

When it comes to cheating the bigger risk is the player sitting next to you at the tables rather than the poker room. There are a few players around the world that have attempted to cheat. For instance, they could play with a few buddies at a table and collude. Which means they basically play together to outmaneuver you in pots – you wouldn’t stand a chance.

Even though some people have attempted to cheat and probably always will, the number of these players is like a drop in the ocean. That’s because the penalties for cheating are steep. Depending on the circumstances it can be anything from a misdemeanor to a class B felony.