I know you probably don’t do it or know it’s even possible, but some players do. This poker cheat is a serious issue for another reason. The data of the cards is stored on the platform’s server. Therefore, to indulge in this online poker cheating method, one must bypass the security of the poker.And my answer is always the same: if it is rigged, then it is definitely rigged for me. Because I have made a lot of money playing this silly little card game on the internet!
In all seriousness though, this is big concern that many people have. In fact my recent 'Is PokerStars Rigged' post has quickly become one of the most popular articles I have ever published.
So here's the short of it:
Online poker on the whole is not rigged. The financial incentives for the poker sites to maintain the integrity of their games are just too important. However, there are some legitimate concerns about some of the smaller poker sites in particular. The bottom line though is that you are the customer and you hold all the power. If you think a certain poker site is rigged, then you should withdraw all your funds and absolutely refuse to play there.
However, this is a fairly simplistic answer. So let's dig into specifics in the case for and against online poker being rigged. I will also talk about issues like bots, collusion and superusers.
Alright, let's go!
Is Online Poker Rigged? What's the Deal!
So let's get right into it. Is online poker rigged or not? What the heck is the deal here? Why do I get so many bad beats?!
When people talk about online poker being rigged the most common complaints I hear are a mathematically improbable amount of 'setups' (example: AA vs KK) and bad beats (example: you have AA, bad player with 74 offsuit hits two pair on the river).
Here is a good example of a so called setup hand:
But anyone who has played poker longer than a few days, knows that eventually these always go both ways. They are simply a part of the game, so it's like complaining about the rain.
People also often talk about a 'big stack advantage' in poker tournaments as well. This means that they believe the poker site rigs it in order for the bigger stack to win more all-in preflop coinflips (example: AK vs 99).
The logic behind what exactly the poker sites gain by rigging these hands and allowing the big stack to win more flips is a little bit less clear. Especially since most of the people who complain that online poker is rigged play incredibly low stakes, like $10 games.
Some people however claim that there is widespread collusion, bots or 'superusers' in many games. Now this is a bit of a separate issue because this sort of cheating (if true) is more likely to be perpetrated by the players themselves, not the poker sites.
However, let's put that to the side for a moment and discuss the case for and against online poker being rigged first.
The Case For Online Poker Being Rigged
So let's look at the facts for why online poker is rigged then shall we?
Well, unfortunately the facts for online poker being rigged are few and far between. The arguments in favor of online poker being rigged would be much better classified as 'anecdotal' instead.
For instance, if you go read any 'poker is rigged' thread on Reddit or a poker forum you will find that most of the comments are actually just angry, incoherent and expletive laced rants.
And they are always missing that one massively important pesky little detail:
Instead their arguments usually go something like this instead:
'OMGGGZZZ, my pocket AA got cracked 3 times in a row, on the RIVER, every time STUPID JOKERSTARS, rigged, I will get my lawyer and sue POKERSTARS!!!, OMFG so mad right now, how can anyone play on this RIGGED poker site???'
Now, the problem with 'arguments' for online poker being rigged like this is that while they certainly demonstrate a large amount of emotion, they just aren't supported with anything close to what we would typically deem as evidence.
And unfortunately, when making such seriously allegations and threatening lawsuits against a multi-billion dollar company you are probably going to need some of this!
The main problem here is that 'my pocket AA got cracked 3 times in a row' just doesn't mean anything. Like at all.
In fact this is such a completely commonplace and mathematically likely occurrence in poker that it is trivial to even consider.
You would need a sample size of thousands of instances where your AA was getting beat too often in order to have a real and substantive argument here.
And luckily for all of those who believe that online poker is rigged, this is actually really, really easy for them to do.
You can just use a program like PokerTracker, import your poker hands, and then filter for all instances of AA to see your winning percentage.
Pocket Aces should win approximately 85% of the time versus a random hand.
So, if you had a sample size with thousands of instances of AA where you are only winning at 70%, 60% or less, then you would have a real and legitimate complaint!
However, I have never seen anyone who claims that online poker is rigged actually produce a statistically significant sample size like this. Instead they have sample sizes of 3 hands, 10 hands or 100 hands.
Incredibly small sample sizes like this would be quickly refuted by any amateur mathematician as well within the bounds of simple variance and standard deviation.
And for all those threatening lawsuits against the online poker sites this sort of 'evidence' would also be quickly dismissed from any court of law as pure silliness.
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The Case Against Online Poker Being Rigged
The evidence for online poker not being rigged is far, far stronger. And the reason why is because once again, you can just go check it for yourself!
Most poker sites these days will allow you to download your hand histories as you play. Hand histories are a small text document which includes every bit of information about a poker hand.
- Exact time the hand was played
- All player's stack sizes
- Who bet, folded, called etc.
- Who was the winner of the hand
- Who was the loser of the hand
And as mentioned before, we have highly sophisticated online poker tracking programs these days like PokerTracker and Hold’em Manager.
Using the pocket AA example again, you could simply go into either of these programs and filter for this hand only. Then you could see if your winning percentage differs dramatically from where it should be.
Furthermore, it wouldn’t even take that many hands to figure this out. In order to get a sample size of 1000 instances of pocket AA for instance, you would only need to play 220,000 hands of poker.
You get dealt pocket AA 1 out of every 220 hands. 220 x 1000 = 220,000.
Now this might sound like a lot, but for anyone who plays online poker seriously and multi-tables this is not really that many hands. Any serious poker player could easily do this in a couple months.
In fact, I have actually played this amount of poker hands in one single month several times throughout my poker career.
By the way if you are curious about how I play this many hands of poker, and still keep track of all my opponents, yes I do use several poker software aids and tools.
For the complete list of all poker software and tools I use as a pro at the tables, click here.
However, my suspicion is that many of the people complaining about their pocket AA being cracked too much have not even played this many hands in their entire lifetime!
After all, it is hard to play a lot of poker when you are too busy writing angry expletive laced comments on Reddit and threatening hare-brained lawsuits.
Look, if you truly believe that your pocket AA is losing way too often then you owe it to yourself to at least do your homework first so that you know for sure.
Play a statistically significant sample of hands (i.e. 200K+), run it through a tracking program, and then post the evidence for all the world to see!
Opinions are great. Everybody has one. But what we need in order to solve the debate once and for all about online poker being rigged or not are facts. Clear verifiable evidence.
Unfortunately for all the people claiming that online poker is rigged, they never seem to have much of this. However, I know that I can look through my own database of millions of poker hands and prove them dead wrong in a second.
Another thing that would help a lot of the people who believe online poker is rigged is to simply get better at poker.
Because when you have an extremely high win-rate you won't worry about the routine ups and downs as much anymore.
This is something that Daniel Negreanu actually mentions specifically in his brand new advanced poker training course. Instead of worrying so much about the losses, just focus on winning more!
Poker Sites Have a Direct Financial Incentive NOT to Rig Online Poker
The other big problem for the online poker is rigged crowd is that the poker sites actually have a direct financial incentive to maintain the integrity of their games.
In other words, they have a clear motive NOT to rig online poker.
PokerStars for instance made $877 million dollars in revenue from poker in 2017. And that is actually a 4% increase over 2016 for all the people who think the popularity of online poker is trending downward.
What these numbers really prove though is the point that I have been making on this blog for many, many years now.
And That Is:
The poker sites themselves are the real big winners in poker and they always will be. They are the real 'sharks,' not the players.
If you disagree please tell me the name of a poker player who is making nearly a billion dollars a year. I would pay anything to get coaching from this guy!
So simple common sense and logic will tell us that when you are already crushing it beyond belief in business the last thing you want to do is change anything or risk your reputation.
No of course not. You just want to keep the gravy train rolling!
You really have to ask yourself what PokerStars for example has to gain by rigging the river in your $10 tournament. Nothing. But they have everything to lose.
You Are The Customer, You Have All the Power!
But hey believe me, I get it. Some people will never be convinced no matter what I or others say.
Even though there is absolutely no evidence to support their claims nor even a motive for many of the poker sites to rig anything, their minds are already made up.
And that's completely cool.
You can believe pink monkeys orbit the moon too and Tupac Shakur is alive and well living on an island in Malaysia with Jim Morrison.
At the end of the day though it doesn't matter what I believe or what you believe because the bottom line when you are playing poker (online or live) is that you are the customer.
And therefore, you have all the power.
Online Poker Player Cheating
So if you believe that a certain poker site is rigged against you then you should vote with your feet and simply withdraw all your funds and never play there again.
Something that I can never understand is how many people complain that a certain poker site is rigged (let’s just use PokerStars as an example again) and yet they continue to play there!
Why on earth would you continue to play at a poker site that you are convinced is rigged? This defies all logic and even just common sense.
There are literally hundreds of other online poker sites to choose from. And if you are convinced that all of online poker is rigged against you then you can just go play live as well!
Also, remember that when you withdraw your funds and go play somewhere else this is a huge loss for that poker site. They rely on the rake that you pay to keep creating those multi-million dollar profits.
So if you are convinced that an online poker site is rigged, hit them where it hurts, in the pocket book. Withdraw your money and never play there again.
What About Poker Bots, Collusion and SuperUsers?
Alright, let’s get into the much more serious discussion now of poker bots, collusion and superusers.
This is a legitimate concern because unlike poker sites rigging the river against your pocket aces, there is actually real evidence that this sort of cheating has occurred.
But the difference here is that the cheating is almost always done by the players themselves.
They are often the ones who are trying to run poker bots, collude with other people at the the table or find out somebody's hole cards (superuser).
In the past several years there have been allegations of bots in particular being used on nearly every major online poker site.
And this isn't just speculation. There have been many high profile cases of poker sites publicly refunding players because their security teams uncovered gross rule violations.
Now while they rarely spell out the exact details of what type of actual cheating occurred (for pretty obvious reasons) it is clearly some sort of bot ring or collusion in many cases.
Now should you be concerned about playing against poker bots, colluders and so on? Absolutely. But here's the thing. You are battling against human nature here.
Whenever there are significant amounts of money on the line, a small amount of people are going to engage in shady practices or even outright cheating.
Remember that little global financial meltdown we had about 10 ago? Ya, enough said.
Look here's the thing. There is always going to be some form of cheating or angle shooting in poker no matter what games you play in. And it doesn't matter if you play live or online.
Does this mean that you should never play poker again? No of course not. You just need to be realistic and vigilant when playing poker.
I would also be a lot more concerned as a mid or high stakes poker player about this sort of cheating because of the much larger amounts of money in play.
However, less than 5% of the people reading this article right now actually play in these games. I know this because I asked 1,124 of you what stakes you play a few months ago!
But look here is the bottom line once again. You are the customer. If you feel that something isn't right, then send the poker site an email, and give them some specific names and details so they can investigate.
If you do not find their reply to be satisfactory, then withdraw all of your funds immediately and never play there again.
So should you trust online poker? Is online poker rigged?
Online Poker Cheating Software
Well, I think the glaring lack of any real evidence or even a motive for most of the major online poker sites to be rigging anything speaks volumes.
But as we all know some people will never be convinced.
I get hands sent to me every single day like this one where people are convinced that it is 100% rigged against them:
However, it is much easier to just say that something is rigged against you rather than to address the real core problem: Not understanding basic fundamental poker strategy.
After having coached 100's of low stakes students before in the past, this is the real issue in my experience working with other poker players.
But since there is tons of high quality advanced poker training programs available these days to help you improve, this really shouldn't even be an issue anymore.
As for the much more serious and realistic issue of poker bots, colluding and superusers I think there is a reason to have some level of concern about this.
You should be vigilant about any poker games you are playing in and don't be afraid to report any suspicious behavior either.
All major online poker sites have a security team dedicated to maintaining the integrity of their games. It is their job to investigate your concerns!
But as I have said again and again throughout this article, at the end of the day you don't have to listen to me or anyone else. You are the customer and you hold all the power.
If you think there is something amiss with a certain online poker site (for any reason whatsoever) then my advice is to immediately withdraw all your funds and never play there again.
Lastly, if you want to know how to consistently make $1000+ per month playing low stakes poker, make sure you grab a copy of my free poker cheat sheet.
Table Of Contents
The poker world hates a cheater or a scammer, but over the weekend, Daniel Negreanu brought up an interesting question about where the community draws the line in regards to one issue of 'cheating' in particular.
With poker's Black Friday, the rug was pulled out from under many poker players making a living or a supplemental income playing online poker. For some of those individuals, relocating to another country was in the realm of possibilities. Many did so to continue to have access to the sites no longer available for players residing inside the borders of America.
Negreanu: 'There really is no victim here outside of the player using the VPN when he gets caught.'
Those who could not leave had a tough choice between quitting online poker, playing on unregulated sites that couldn't compete with the volume or guarantees on the now-forbidden sites, or using a VPN — a virtual private network — to break the rules and gain access to the same sites as before.
Can You Cheat On Online Poker
Against the rules? Yes. But is it 'cheating' or 'unethical'? These are the questions that the former long-time PokerStars ambassador brought to the fore in his tweet on Saturday that spurred quite a bit of discussion among the community.
The VPN Debate
Negreanu kicked off some discussion by comparing the use of VPNs to conceal your real location with some other technically illegal poker-playing activities, though the one on playing poker in Texas was much disputed considering its existence in a legal gray area.
It’s illegal to play poker in Texas, are those that do unethical or cheaters?— Daniel Negreanu (@RealKidPoker)
Negreanu put out a poll to gauge players' thoughts on the matter, and the results from 15,919 respondents overwhelmingly favored the opinion that playing on a VPN from the U.S. is not considered 'cheating.'
Do you consider players using a VPN to play online poker from the US to play on sites that forbid play from the US… https://t.co/WzXvNIxIGn— Daniel Negreanu (@RealKidPoker)
Players Chime In
Many players like Niall Farrell argued the act does not necessarily cheat other players, so long as they are playing on their own account.
Do you really win money on lucktastic. @RealKidPoker As someone lucky enough to live somewhere where I’ve never had to face this issue; I couldn’t give a… https://t.co/yNnFniPUCY— Niall Farrell (@Firaldo87poker)
Still, others provided some fodder for the other side of the argument, namely that playing on a VPN gives players who do so an unfair advantage over those who follow the rules.
@RealKidPoker The most compelling argument I've heard that it's cheating is this: Two players both from Vegas, A an… https://t.co/uGQd5c3YHq— Chris Kruk (@KrukPoker)
Others had a problem with Negreanu's moral stance altogether, Norman Chad one of the most vocal among them:
1. When voting for Poker HOF, you say you ONLY consider the criteria; nothing more. Sounds right. 2. When Hellmuth… https://t.co/zexX5lDt4J— Norman Chad (@NormanChad)
What developed into a lengthy argument about ethics along with countless tangents, seemed mostly one about semantics. After all, there's no question that using a VPN to play from the U.S. on sites where it's both illegal and against the Terms of Service (TOS) to do so, is clearly against the rules and the law — whether you agree with said law or not.
Does that mean it's an unacceptable practice among poker players? It depends on who you ask.
As Negreanu sees it, players who choose to deceive poker sites in regards to their physical location are simply assuming their own risk without affecting others.
'So are the other players in the tournament being 'cheated' by a player using a VPN? I don’t think so. Is the online operator being 'cheated' by this player? No. There really is no victim here outside of the player using the VPN when he gets caught. He pays the ultimate price. No one else is affected whatsoever.'
Important to just about everyone in the conversation, is the distinction between players who play via a VPN under their own account, and those who create a new 'burner' account when playing from the United States. The difference is illustrated by two marquee examples in Brian Hastings (who played not from his '$tinger88' account but under 'NoelHayes' when he reentered the online poker world in 2015 - detailed here and here) and Gordon Vayo (who played under his own '[email protected]' account from Florida via a VPN, detailed here).
You can read Negreanu's detailed arguments for why he doesn't see a problem with players choosing to use a VPN to play online from the U.S. here on his blog.
What Do You Think?
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TagsDaniel NegreanuBlack FridayOnline PokerVPN
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