The legitimacy of online poker remains a question for some players. The “poker boom” era of the mid-2000s brought online poker to the mainstream, and nearly two decades later many players prefer online poker over its live counterpart.
The great “is online poker rigged” debate has persisted throughout the modern era of the game. Without physical cards and a human dealer as part of the action, how can players know that an online poker site isn’t choosing specific cards to deal to particular players?
If you’ve ever wondered if online poker is rigged, this article is for you.
Is Online Poker Rigged?
The short answer is no – online poker isn’t rigged. The companies behind online poker sites have too much to lose from rigging the games.
Modern-era players enjoy access to a wealth of poker database software that can keep track of every hand played at some poker sites. Even if a site doesn’t allow tracking programs like PokerTracker 4, the platform (if it’s a legitimate site) will at least provide hand histories that can be analyzed.
Poker players as a community can be some of the most thorough investigators on planet Earth. If you’ve ever read the TwoPlusTwo forums threads on the Absolute Poker or Mike Postle cheating scandals, you know it’s virtually impossible to pull off long-term cheating in poker.
A rigged online poker site would certainly fall into the category of cheating. While poker villains like Postle and Russ Hamilton have been essentially proven to be cheaters, we’ve never seen the poker community come up with definitive proof of a rigged online poker site.
Major operators like PokerStars, GGPoker, and partypoker would instantly see their reputations ruined if proof of a rigged deck came forth. All regulated poker sites use an independent auditor to prove that their random number generators (RNG) are truly random.
A site like PokerStars makes more money in the long term by simply running a fair poker site.
Why Are There So Many Bad Beats in Online Poker?
This is the question that generally leads players to question whether a poker site is rigged. Online poker sites seemingly deal out far more bad beats than a live poker room.
Online poker platforms can sometimes deal out so many bad beats that it appears you’re seeing mathematically improbable events happen far more often than they should. Online poker plays at a much faster pace than live poker, however, and with that you’ll see improbable events happen much more often.
An average full ring poker game deals 25-30 hands per hour, while a 6-max online game can deal around 75-100 hands per hour. If you’re playing four tables at a time online, you’re seeing up to 400 hands per hour.
A four-table online 6-max session is roughly equivalent to 16 live poker sessions, in terms of number of hands dealt. That means you’ll see pocket aces vs. pocket kings, set-over-set, two-outers, and other mathematically improbable occurrences much more frequently when playing online.
Improbable doesn’t mean impossible, and the more hands you see per hour, the more improbable events you’ll witness.
How Can I Be Sure an Online Poker Site Isn’t Rigged?
Online poker sites have everything to lose, and very little to gain, by rigging the RNG. If you’re playing on any kind of reputable poker site, you can rest assured that the RNG is dealing a fair game.
In general, however, sticking with legal, regulated online poker sites is a good practice. If you have a choice between a recognizable online poker platform and a brand you’ve never heard of, choose the reputable poker site.