Ever since the advent of online IDN Poker there has been arguments on both sides claiming that online poker is rigged. While one side maintains that there is no truth to the rigged poker sites debate, the opposition claims that way too many anomalies occur for the sites to not be rigged.
For a further understanding of the debate, this article will take a behind the scenes look at the software that controls many of the major online poker sites. Examining deeper into what motivates the debate and an attempt to explain what is really happening.
Online poker differs to a great extent from live IDN Poker simply because the deal of the cards online is controlled by a software program that can be changed, manipulated and altered by the programmers. In a live game the cards are shuffled by a human and then dealt out without any possible interference from any outside force. (Barring cheaters, mechanics or persons setting the deck) The cards in a live game are ‘predetermined’ once the shuffle and cut is completed.
In internet poker, the shuffle is controlled by a Random Number Generator (RNG) program, which uses a sophisticated set of protocols to simulate a random shuffle and cut. The RNG, by all accounts, is supposed to ensure that the cards are not predictable, that players can not manipulate them and that it will simulate a true-life experience.
In addition to the RNG, internet poker sites also include controls that prevent cheating, collusion and formulate a variety of potential action hands to encourage players to get involved in the game. Some of these controls (or poker algorithms) are designed to specifically create an exciting atmosphere for players by producing draw heavy boards.
These action-inducing hands create the majority of constant bad beats and subsequent claims that online poker is rigged. When a player is the victim of what otherwise would seem to be a highly improbable bad beat, they will undoubtedly believe that online poker is rigged.
The fact that poker sites choose to add in any controls, algorithms or other software outside of the scope of the actual game would indicate that there is a potential that online poker is rigged. Changing or altering true life facts and statistics lend credibility to the fact that the software creates an unfair advantage to less inferior hands for the sole purpose of encouraging action among players.
Some claim that the poker sites would not risk their profits to rig the game and therefore would be foolish to do so. However, as witnessed in the well-publicized cheating scandals involving several online poker sites, it is evident that the operators of the online IDN Poker sites are not so quick to solve or even admit when there is a problem.
The primary purpose of any poker sites is to turn a profit. The bottom line is the rake they charge in the cash games and tournaments. Therefore, because profits are easily a motivating factor, there is plausible reason to believe that a site might rig a game for their own benefit. Especially since a regulatory body is nonexistent and therefore the poker sites do not have to answer to any higher authority.
From the perspective of a programmer, it is quite easy to rig online poker. Primarily because the cards and the deal as well as the shuffle, and the outcome is all determined by a computer program that can easily be controlled by any number of additional programs or codes set up by the operators of the poker site.
For example, it would be simple to pre-program the deal to give a high pocket pair to seat 7 every 25th hand, simply by adding in a few lines of code. Furthermore, the programs can easily be manipulated to deal winning hands to any particular player just as well as to deal losing hands to any specific seat or player.
All of this is easy to accomplish, since the deal of the cards are controlled by a computer program and not truly randomized as is the case in a live game or poker. The truth of the matter is that by adding in additional software and making their game less true to life, online poker is rigged.
One advantage that players may have in the online poker world is the potential to spot these anomalies and patterns that occur. If you are aware of a potential situation wherein the online poker is rigged, and you are familiar with how to recognize it, you can take back the advantage by not falling into the trap set by the poker site.
Paul Westin is a professional poker player on several poker sites and a former software engineer for a gaming company. His latest research reveals the inner workings of the online-poker sites and how the software programs used on the poker sites affect the outcomes of your play.