You don’t have to go far in the online poker world to find a discussion about rigged games, inaccurate deals, collusion and cheating. It seems that every forum, site or blog you visit will have people arguing over how prominent cheating is in the online games, and whether the poker sites themselves rig the games to their advantage. So let’s look at both sides of the argument, and get to the bottom of this once and for all.
Are the poker sites crooked?
The first thing to look at are the poker sites themselves. From the “big boys” like Full Tilt Poker, and PokerStars to the smaller sites like Bodog or Cake, they all have one thing in common – they make their profits by taking a rake from the games. That means they take a small percentage of every dollar bet on the site, so they make a profit no matter which players are winning or losing on their tables. The more players who come to play poker on their site, the more they make so it’s in their interest to keep those players happy. Lose the trust of the players, and a site will go bust which is why the major poker sites invest millions in security measures and software to ensure their games are as fair as possible. So the answer is quite clearly no, poker sites (or at least the large, well established ones) are not crooked, and in fact they are very active in keeping the games fair and preventing cheating. They also invest heavily in software to ensure that their deals are fair which brings us to the next point…
Is the dealing fair?
In a casino card room a human dealer shuffles and deals the cards. In online poker, the software does this which is another aspect of online poker often attacked by opponents who believe it to be rigged. The argument goes that since a random number generator (RNG), which is the software used to shuffle the cards, can never be truly random (due to the way a computer works) then it must be rigged. However, there is a very simple way to prove that online dealing is very fair and that is to look at statistical analysis of hand histories. PokerStars, having recently dealt their 50 billionth hand, gives an excellent sample size, and checking it proves that the odds of getting dealt a particular hand online is just the same as getting dealt that hand offline. In other words, the software that shuffles and deals the cards on the big poker sites does its job very well, and deals a fair game!
The other side of that argument however is the fact that, since it’s a computer shuffling and dealing the cards, and since computer’s cannot generate a truly random shuffle, it could be possible for a talented and determined individual to predict cards before they are dealt and gain an edge. Well, that brings us to our third point…
Do people cheat at online poker?
OK let’s make one thing clear from the start – yes, some people do cheat at online poker! But wait a minute, here’s another shocker for you… some people cheat at offline poker too!
The plain fact is, whenever there is a potential for profiting there will always been unethical people who try to cheat the system. Whether offline or online, certain people will try every trick in the book to gain an edge, and whether offline or online the card rooms will always do whatever they can to stop them.
The fact is though, that it’s actually much easier to catch cheaters online than offline. The card rooms use sophisticated software to track every hand played by every player on their site, and that software can quickly and easily detect players who are cheating. Whether they are colluding with another player, or somehow using “inside information” the software will pick up on it very quickly, and when a cheater is found their accounts are immediately closed.
So while there certainly are people who try to cheat, it’s really nothing worth worrying about, which brings us nicely to my final point.
Whether people cheat or not makes no difference!
OK, I know that sounds illogical but please let me explain. If you are a solid player, winning on at your usual stake then why would you care if someone else is cheating? You’re making money whether someone else is playing by the rules or not, so what difference does it make to you? Can you do anything to stop them? No, you have to leave that up to the poker sites so don’t waste your time worrying about it – spend your time working on your own game so you can move up in stakes and start earning even more!
Similarly, if you’re a losing player it really doesn’t matter if anyone else is cheating. One way or another you’re going to have to improve your game if you want to start winning, so that’s all you should be worrying about. Read some books, watch some videos, and practice, and leave any thoughts of rigging or cheating to the programmers working behind the scenes at the poker sites!