Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Is Online Poker Rigged ?

Ok here we go again. The big question that you see at all the poker forums. Is online poker rigged? Someone starts making claims that such and such site is rigged for action. They are thoroughly convinced of it because of all the large pocket pairs that show up within the same hand or there are to many flushes. They claim there is no way a site is fair because of the statistical improbabilities they have witnessed during their sessions at the site . The response is always the same. You stupid newbie don’t you know that poker is naturally rigged for action. You see more bad beats online because you play more hands per hour. The poker sites have nothing to gain by rigging the deal because most small limit tables are so loose they reach the maximum without any help...... Bill Rinni, in his blog goes into great detail responding to all the accusations made about online poker being rigged. Most of Bill's arguments revolve around the premise that if a online casino were to juice the action they would be exposed by review of hand histories via Poker Tracker and I agree, but what about poker sites that don't provide hand histories?

How could they juice the pot and would it be blatantly obvious. Well for starters lets look at how a computers goes about producing a random shuffle. I am by no means a expert on the subject but here is how it has been explained by the Lotteries an Gaming Commission of Malta which regulates online casinos operating from their country. I got this from Cooler's site.

It starts with a software algorithm used to shuffle a set of numbers. This algorithm will produce different outcomes (known as permutations) of the same set of numbers for different "seed" values. Suppose f(x) is the shuffling function, where x is the seed and the set of numbers is [1,2,3,4] then the following may be possible permutations:

f(1)= [2,4,1,3]
f(2)= [1,3,2,4]
f(3)= [4,1,3,2] and so on ...

The problem with this algorithm is how to determine the seed since a PC, like any other machine, are quite precise and deterministic. To solve this problem programmers use a RNG (Random Number Generator) which is a "device that generates random values from chaotic sources". Such sources can be quantum energy in solid state electronics, white noise in electronic devices or radioactive decay to list a few examples. These
device generate a bitstream of values (i.e. 1's and 0's) at random. A sequence within this stream, usually 128 consecutive bits, are placed into the algorithm as the seed. For the case of a poker game with one deck of cards the set is from 1 to 52 to represent every card in the deck.

What if the programmer introduced additional decks into this algorithm to increase permutations. For example lets look at the odds in a normal deck of 52 cards, 10 handed game:

52 total cards, 2 cards dealt to each of 10 players for a total of 20, The flop and turn equal 4 more cards. So now there have been 24 cards dealt from 52 which leaves 28 cards. At this point let's say you have 4 cards to a flush. You would have a 9 cards of your suit of the remaining 28 cards or a 1 in 3.11 chance of hitting your flush on the river.

Now lets look at the same scenario, only this time using a 2 deck shoe. The algorithm would simply discard any duplicate cards dealt. We start with 104 cards, 20 dealt to the players, 4 on the flop+ turn. This time we have dealt 24 cards of 104 which leaves 80 cards and 22 of these are of the suit you need. The odds arenow 1 in 3.6 of hitting your flush. the same would be true for all cards draws. If you had a pair of kings on the turn you would have 6 outs in a 2 deck shoe versus 2 outs in a 1 deck shoe. 5 % chance versus 13%. Would these differences be enough to be noticeable with out the statistical review by Poker Tracker? I don't know but it sure makes you wonder.

Bottom line is that most online poker sites are probably legit but without the benefit of empirical data in the form of a large sample of hand histories there is just no way to know for sure. My experience of many years in business have shown me that greed is a powerful force and it would not surprise me if a site was to be
exposed for juicing the action. If your playing at a site and you feel like its just not quite right, find another to play at. One of the more well known sites that offers hand histories would be a good bet.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It is blatantly obvious that online poker is rigged as it is just so easy to do a bunch of mugs out of their money. This includes all of the large well known sites as well.They have their own players sitting getting cards dealt out to them when they need them. If it looks suspicious thats because IT IS ! Get wise folks dont fall for this crap and lets work towards getting rid of these leeches and parasites who prey on weak and easily fooled twerps with too much cash.