Is Online Poker Rigged?

With online poker becoming so popular over the past decade, it was inevitable that the conspiracy theorists would come out of the woods eventually. I’m all for a government cover-up of alien corpses being kept in stasis at Area 51 or the pyramids being landing pads for spaceships. Unfortunately, online poker players often take the cake for the most outrageous claims against the online poker sites. It often goes something like this after someone’s pocket Aces just got cracked by a runner-runner flush 3 or 4 times in a row: “Online poker is rigged! (Insert current host site for unjust events) lets the fish win with the worst hand to keep them with money in their accounts! Bah!”

Is there any truth to these outlandish claims? While there have been a few isolated cases of individual player cheating it simply doesn’t make economic sense for the actual poker room to be designed to cheat their players. The argument is deeply flawed for several reasons. Let’s examine some of the fundamental reasons against online poker being rigged:

1. Online poker sites simply make too much money. Do you know how much money online poker sites make every hour? Every day? Every year? If you thought that casinos were rolling in cash, think about the fact that online poker sites have no building to keep clean, dealers to employ, floors to polish, or chips to stamp. Online poker sites are virtual cardrooms with little overhead and an unlimited amount of tables to create at any time. Add onto that simultaneous tournaments, heads-up tables, and other online-only phenomena that keep them so unique (and financially comfortable).

Why would an online poker site risk their entire reputation, credibility, legal status, and their cash flow to rig the results? Who would it help? The bad players? Why the heck would they want to do that? When these sites (many of whom answer to public stockholders and corporate executives) make so much money, why would they do anything so corrupt to risk a virtually guaranteed income?

Online poker rooms make much more money as objective bystanders running the tables than they would by getting involved behind the scenes and rigging the games. So, from a strictly financial point of view (which, of course, motivates most decisions of large companies) fixing the game doesn’t make sense.

2. Online poker sites don’t care if bad players win. Why do people think that these sites would help the fish win? How would it possibly help them? Truth be told, if online poker sites could rig the outcome of hands and have their way, they would keep everyone as close to even money as possible. They’re losing a good, revenue-producing, strategic player by purposely cracking his pocket Aces and making him go broke. How does that help their bottom line? Even if they take more rake from larger pots, refer to reason 1 above.

Online poker sites would rather keep around the solid semi-professional or professional player rather than an impulsive fish that will go eventually go broke much sooner than later. Online poker sites don’t care who wins, but if they really favored anyone it would be the guy willing to go all-in with pocket Kings rather than the guy with 9-6 offsuit.

3. Online poker sites are regulated by independent agencies and governments. The random number generators (RNGs) used to assign values to the cards must be verified by an outside independent organization. These certifications are routinely updated and tested running millions of hands. An online poker site can only operate after it has passed these tests. Also, sites are regulated by their respective governments (usually Canada, Gibraltar, or Antigua) to ensure fairness in operations to their customers. You can find out information on any poker site’s RNG and testing through their homepage and/or support.

4. Bad beats happen everywhere and in every aspect of life! Get used to it so you can recover easier. Bad beats such as pocket deuces sucking out on pocket Queens aren’t restricted to the online poker table. Spend any time at a casino cardroom or even watching the much-edited televised poker tournaments and you’ll see just as many extreme bad beats as you will online. It may seem like it happens more often online because you’re seeing twice as many hands per hour as actual cardroom play. That fact is compounded even further if you’re playing multiple tables. Sure, the odds might be slim of your fishy table-mate hitting that flush on the river, but you’ll see much more extreme bad beats happen everywhere in the casino and in life.

That blackjack dealer is going to draw that 5 to beat your 20 or the guy at the craps table will roll snake eyes 4 times in a row. Odds are just that: odds. They aren’t guaranteeing you an outcome but give you the long-term chances of that particular outcome. Learn to live with the fact that things don’t always go as expected and maybe you can learn to keep your emotions in check and recover faster next time.

The point of this article is to teach you that it is self-defeating to blame online poker sites for bad beats. They definitely sting and can be incredibly unlikely but they will happen to you regardless if you play at the local cardroom or online. I hope that I’ve shown you that it simply isn’t logical for poker sites to rig the results. It doesn’t make sense for them economically, they have no reason to favor bad players, they’re monitored by outside agencies, and things simply go against the odds at times. So, feel comfortable at least in the fairness of playing at your favorite online poker site – just don’t throw away that book on Roswell!

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