Player Scams - Money Transfers

One of the main threats in online poker rooms are player scams. Poker sites themselves are frequently dealing with players making fraudulent deposits, money laundering, and other acts which attempt to steal money from the poker site.

Player scams threaten other playes as well. One such scam is tricking players in money transfer schemes.

ONE APPROACH TO THIS SCAM

A player contacts his victim using a table invite or a general plea in the online chat box. His dilemma is that he needs $xxx to join an event/tournament at a poker site, but all his bankroll is tied up at another site (or somewhere else.)

The player asks the potential victim to transfer him money via poker site transfer or Western Union or some such, and he will will re-transfer the victim more money on the other poker site or using another means.

A recent poster at Two Plus Two explained what happened to him.

In this example, a table observer at Poker Stars asked if anyone was familiar with Western Union (a means to transfer money) and would like to make a few dollars. A player responded that he could help.

After luring this player using the poker site, the scammer then moved communication to MSN Messenger.

The scammer's proposal was to send the victim money on PokerStars using the internal transfer method. Then the victim would transfer slightly less via Western Union.

Everything went as planned at the beginning -- the scammer transfered the funds to the victim at Poker Stars first. Feeling comfortable the then victim made a money transfer to return funds back to the scammer less his take for doing the favor.

A few days later the victim was informed by Poker Stars that his account was suspended and being investigated. Poker Stars security said the money transfer he received from the scammer was a fraudulent deposit. This means the scammer made a deposit to Poker Stars that "bounced" or which he quickly reversed, or the charge was done using a stolen credit card. Therefore, the money wasn't cleared at Poker Stars yet.

When you deposit money at Poker Stars, they make funds available for your use in play immediately. However, the funds may take some time to clear. During this time, poker sites are vulnerable to fraud.

The victim lost the entire amount of his Western Union transfer.

HOW TO PROTECT YOURSELF

1. Do not participate in funds tranfers with other players unless it is someone you know and trust. These scammers are taking advantage of others who are trying to make a quick buck. If it sounds too good to be realistic, then it is. To be safe, avoid all money transfer situations like this.

2. If a player or observer approaches you and solicits funds at any poker site, you should immediately notify the site's support team. Don't just ignore this player. If this scammer has an account with fraudulent funds, it is better for everyone that the scammer be stopped immediately.



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Ads and This Site

A few days ago we decided to experiement with some ads from an online ad purveyor. This company runs "on the network" text ads which are targeted to the content of the site. Because this site has poker content, all the text ads were about poker.

The irony is that some of these ads promote items which we believe are misleading and which run directly counter to the purpose of this site.

One of the items advertised was "CHEAT AT ONLINE POKER." We believe this is a misleading advertisement and not welcome at this site. We will no longer display these ads until we can control their content.

In the meantime, if you wish to support our efforts, please consider signing up with one of the fine poker rooms by clicking the banners on the right hand side of this site.

We apologize for displaying these ads.

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The Pair vs Pair Paradox

One of the most frustrating things in Hold 'Em is getting a good pocket pair, seeing all lower cards come on the board, and still losing at showdown to a higher pocket pair or a lower pocket pair that hit a set.

After a while it can seem odd. You don't get pairs that often, and when you do it seems that other players have pairs more often than what "feels right."

The odds you'll be dealt a pocket pair in Hold 'Em is once out of every 17 hands, or 5.8%. So you don't seem them that often.

Because you only see a pocket pair 5.8% of the time in your own hand, the mind naturally assumes since this is an infrequent event, you will not be likely to face another pair. Plus with any ten handed Hold 'Em hand, the odds that more than one player is dealt a pocket pair is 11.4%.

So -- the odds of you getting a pocket pair is 5.8% and the odds of more than one pocket pair on the table is only 11.4%. So why do you see opponents with pairs so often?

The simple reason is that it happens more often than you think it should. Once you receive your cards and see a pocket pair, the odds another player has a pocket pair are 42.5%.

You read that right. The odds of more than one player on a ten-handed Hold 'Em table receiving a pocket pair is 11.4%. But when YOU see your pocket pair, the odds of another player holding one is 42.5%

This is what we call the Pair vs. Pair Paradox. Its not really a paradox -- this is just how numbers work. And when these things happen, some players begin to suspect foul play or that the site is dealing rigged hands.

Lots of players who worry about a site dealing rigged hands typically complain that a site "doesn't feel right." As we've discussed, the evidence coming from people worried about poker sites cheating by scripting how the cards are dealt is scant. Most of the concern is based on "hunches." And "paradoxes" like this create those "hunches" and "feelings."

But the "feeling" that opponents too often have pairs the same time you do is wrong -- unless you "feel" that it should happen about 42% of the time -- typically far above what many would estimate.

The REASON for this is that once you look down at your pocket pair, we've already reached the first step in the probability equation that showed the 11.4% chance more than one player have pocket pairs. Once you see your pair, there is now a 100% chance that YOU have a pocket pair. And now there are nine other players who each individually have an approximate 5.8% of having one.

Think about it this way:

What are the chances of you flipping a coin HEADS three times in a row?

Simple answer: 50% * 50% * 50% = 12.5%


What are the chances of you flipping a coin HEADS three times in a row after you've already flipped HEADS twice in a row?

Simple answer: 100% * 100% * 50% = 50%

The bottom line: When you have a pocket pair in Hold 'Em, the chances another player on your 10-player table also has a pocket pair is over 42%. When you see those hands, don't think the site is rigging the deal to build pots. Think that this is how things work in a random system.

Credits:
Brian Alspach's article on multiple pairs being dealt.
BruceZ's Post on 2+2 Probability Forum

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Why We Doubt the Online Poker Rigged Theories - Too Complex?

The greatest number of "rigged" believers assert that poker sites rig hands to increase the rake and improve profits. We introduced our doubts about whether this theory actually increases rake HERE.

But a growing rigged theory from long-time poker players is that poker sites are rigging the deal to "help the fish." [Editor's note -- quotes used because we don't use the term "fish" for poker players of any ability.] The theory suggests that online poker sites are identifying losing players and somehow setting the cards so that their hands win a few more hands at showdown. We like to call this the "Deux ex Machina" theory.

Presumably without such rigging, a small group of advanced poker players would bust the "fish." The assumed motive for the poker site is to keep more players playing on the site and keeping the money moving, thereby helping to increase revenue for the site.

Complexity

The reason doubts on this theory immediately arise for us is that an undertaking like this would be very complex.

It should first be understood that a card deck shuffling algorithm is not very complex from a programming standpoint. Creating a truly random RNG and a robust algorithm, testing and getting them certified is not a simple task, but from a programming standpoint it is not a massive application.

To succeed with this type of rigging, a site would need software that monitors player wins/losses and identifies some as "needs help" so that favorable deals can be given to him. Then the site would need some way of releasing those rigged deals to that player's table.

But what happens when ten "needs help" players sit at the same table? Who is forced to lose to them? So beyond the initial idea the site would probably need to account for other "needs help" players at the same table.

What happens when the "needs help" player wins some money back, when do the favorable deals stop? At games like No-Limit Hold 'Em, a player's fortune can swing dramatically in just one hand. The site surely can't let a player get favorable deals for a length of time. The player might make too much money on a rush and break other players who will end up leaving the site (defeating the purpose of helping one player.) So now the site will also need to be constantly monitoring these players in order to "turn it off."

So now we have a poker site with a program that constantly monitors all players for wins and losses. The program will turn a "needs help" switch on and off as a player's wins or losses accumulate. With the major sites dealing games to over 10,000 players at a time, this will need to be a hearty application.

After handling all the player management, the site would need a program of rigged hands and deals. And it would need to be able to interject or "take over" from the standard dealing program and the associated shuffling algorithm. So the software would need to be integrated into the dealing routine and circumvent the random deck selection only under certain conditions.

We are not convinced this is something a poker site can pull off.

Handling the Complexity

When someone presents us a thoughtful argument we could probably be convinced that a poker site could convene a team of solid programmers to handle all the above issues and go beyond it in power and ability.

Of course, as with any powerful application, there would be bugs. Several poker sites have still not mastered their waitlist management -- how will they master the management of this? Some of those bugs could be disastrous. We wouldn't be surprised to see "needs help" players raking in too many pots in a row or the same hand being dealt repeatedly.

Also, by assembling a team of programmers, the site now has a number of potential "whistleblowers," on staff. When a significant number of people are involved in a conspiracy, it is likely that the information will come out or be told to authorities.

The risk is real: If any even marginally credible testimony emerges that a particular poker site is rigging the deal in this way, the site will see traffic and revenues fall off immediately.

Variance is the Natural to Hold 'Em

Texas Hold 'Em doesn't need deck rigging to distribute wins to underdogs. You can see underdogs beating better hands every week on televised poker tournaments. Texas Hold 'Em by nature is a game where even the very best starting hands are not assured of winning the pot.

Here's a pre-flop odds calculation
You Hold: As Ks
Player 2: Kh Td
Player 3: 6c 2h
Player 4: Jh Th
Player 5: Ac 4d

Your opponents have poor holdings. What are the odds that you will win this hand? Only 31.6%. Now, don't get me wrong -- 31.6% is good because you've only put 20% of the money in the pot.

Plus, if a K or A falls, you're likely to keep one of these players calling you bets to showdown. Of course, some of those times the A or K will hit and the other player will hit two pair despite your dominant position pre-flop.

But the key point is that the nature of Hold 'Em itself will occasionally distribute money to the player who calls a pre-flop raise with Ac 4d without any help from poker site programmers.

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Why We Doubt the Online Poker Rigged Theories - Is It Profitable?

Enron. Adelphia. ZZZZBest Carpet Cleaners. Your local slimy car repair shop. Big and small, companies cheat and behave unethically and illegaly.

So why wouldn't Online Poker sites?

Specifically, why wouldn't Online Poker sites rig the game and create "action flops" to get more money in the pot and increase rake? After all, bigger pots means more rake means more money. Or does it?

ON MOTIVE

The belief that poker sites are at least as equally unethical as typical companies and are thus likely to rig the game is very common. In a poll of over 400 respondents in a post at the 2+2 forum, 15% agreed that online poker sites are "juicing the game." (Selection bias / unscientific poll warning)

It should be understood that when there are generalities in the articles we present about Online Poker sites, they are intended to refer to the major companies with a large player base and reliable track record.

We are ready to agree that Online Poker companies are no better than other companies in the world when it comes to ethics. But our concern in this article is not about their IPO prospectus or how they treat their employees. Our concern is whether the goal of increased profits results in the game being rigged.

CASINO GAMES VS. POKER

This article and our entire website is focused on Poker, which has key differences from other Casino Games.

When a player is betting on blackjack or pulling a slot machine lever, the "house" is his opponent. These are "zero-sum games" in which the "house" has a vested interest in who wins each game.

In Online Poker, the site takes a small percentage of most pots, called a "rake." The ownership of the site profits when any hand is resolved, no matter the winner.

One result of this is a less direct correlation between rigging the games and profit. If a casino site rigs a hand of Blackjack in their favor, the site takes ALL THE MONEY from that hand. If an online poker site rigs a hand of poker so that the pot is increased, the site only benefits from a slight increase in rake for the hand.

In other words, without even considering any other issues there is less immediate profit from rigging a poker game than rigging a casino game.

JUICED FLOPS -- GAIN OR LOSS at Low-Limit Hold 'Em?

Most of the time, it is simply assumed that "juiced flops" will result in increased profit for a poker site. But does it really? Certainly a game with an "action flop" will take longer to play out than a typical hand of poker. So let's consider some examples.

GAME: .5/$1 Limit Hold 'Em Full Ring on Party Poker - Without Rigging

An average hand at this game on Party Poker will have 3 to 5 players seeing the flop. The pots average $5 to $8, so there will be a $0.50 rake on the average hand. The hand will typically last a little more than one minute and have a rake of $0.50.

Without even rigging, there will naturally be big hands that take much longer, but produce a little more rake. When pots go beyond $10, the rake increases by $0.25. There will also be hands that go very fast with no rake at all.

Our estimate is that without any rigging, total Party earnings would be approximately $0.40/minute which at 50 hands per hour equals $20 per table-hour at $.5/1 Limit Hold 'Em

GAME: .5/$1 Limit Hold 'Em Full Ring on Party Poker - WITH RIGGING

Those who propose a site has rigged games also often suggest scripted hands are dealt rarely enough to be unnoticed in a statistical review.

But for the sake of this example we will propose that Party Poker might be rigging hands even at a huge 10% rate.

If this is the case, then we can suggest that 4 to 5 hands per hour are "action hands." But "action hands," by definition take longer to play.

If 5 hands are rigged from the above example, and each of those hands takes twice the time of a typical hand to play (that may be a conservative estimate), then Party gets less hands per hour at that table.

Let us assume that those rigged hands take an "average" $0.40 rake and bump it up to an average $0.80 rake (rake at $10 pots is $0.75 and rake at rare $20+ pots is $1.00)

Our estimate without rigging:
50 pots at average $0.40 rake per hand.
Result: $20 rake per table hour

Our estimate with rigging:
40 un-rigged pots at average $0.40 rake per hand
5 rigged pots at averate $0.80 rake per hand
5 less hands because rigged hands take longer
Result: $20 rake per table hour

Given our assumptions and table estimates, which were made before doing the math, there would be ZERO GAIN on average for Party Poker to create action flops on their most popular game.

JUICED FLOPS -- GAIN OR LOSS at High-Limit Hold 'Em?

It is also far from certain that a rigging strategy aimed at "juiced flops" would benefit the house in high limit games.

Thanks to a theory proposed by a player named "MicroBob" in a post HERE, it appears that deck scripting would reduce the rake in high limit games.
It is my theory that if they wanted to generate more rake at 15/30 and higher then they would do the OPPOSITE of 'action-flops'.

They are almost guaranteed to have a $3 max-rake as long as they get to ANY flop. So if there is ANY post-flop action then it is just taking them longer to get to the next hand.

They would want totally dead flops to end the hand faster if they REALLY wanted to generate more rake (which is a theory that nobody seems to be expressing). Action-flops would actually HURT the site's intake of rake.

CONCLUSION

If given enough time we are certain to be able to propose a game scenario where theorized rigging might increase a site's rake.

But it will be difficult. In the low-limit Hold 'Em example above, an exorbitant 10% rigging percentage was used and the numbers still don't show a profit for the site.

By definition, such rigging must be done at a rate that is imperceptible to the review of a site's dealt hands. Otherwise we would have seen some empirical evidence in the years that such conspiracy theories have been offered.

The first entry in this "Why We Doubt Online Poker Rigged Theories" series is titled Why We Doubt the Online Poker Rigged Theories -- On Evidence


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Why We Doubt the Online Poker Rigged Theories - On Evidence

There are plenty of conspiracy theories floated about online poker sites. By far the largest class of conspiracy theories are those that suggest poker sites are dealing predetermined hands which create lots of action.

This class of conspiracy theories is manifest in many comments:
  • Party Poker deals too many flushes

  • I've seen too many runner-runner suckouts on Poker Stars

  • Party Poker keeps weaker players in the game by rewarding their drawing hands

  • Paradise has way too many pocket pairs

  • Absolute Poker creates huge showdowns

  • Party Poker deals action flops to steal the our rake
The core premise of all these comments is that the game is rigged. We remain doubtful about all of these theories for a variety of reasons.

EVIDENCE - One Hand History Doesn't Do It

The first problem with those who espouse one of these conspiracy theories is that they produce no substantial evidence to back up their claims. Single hand histories prove nothing.

Here's a hand history that is quite rare, but alone it proves nothing. Note: this hand history has been truncated and edited for brevity.

Player 1: JHARM
Player 7: ZEIDMAN
BB: BDAVIS

Dealt to JHARM: Qd Qc

JHARM Raises to $200
*SEVERAL FOLDS*
ZEIDMAN Calls $200
BDAVIS Calls to $200

FLOP: Ts Jd Qh

JHARM Bets $500
ZEIDMAN Raises to $2000
BDAVIS Folds
JHARM Calls to $2000

TURN: Td

JHARM Checks
ZEIDMAN Bets $1000
JHARM Raises to $3000
ZEIDMAN Calls

RIVER: 7d

JHARM Bets ALL-IN
ZEIDMAN Calls

JHARM shows Qd Qc Qh Ts Td Full House
ZEIDMAN shows 7d 8d 9d Td Jd Straight Flush

ZEIDMAN wins pot

One could easily envision the online chat box after this beat. When something like this happens, some players light up the chat with their complaints.

Of course this hand was actually from live action at the World Series of Poker Main Event. This is the hand where Corey Zeidman's rivered Straight Flush beat Jennifer Harman's Full House.

EVIDENCE - How to Get It

Conspiracy theorists have a lot of potential evidence at their disposal even without playing the hands themselves.

Many of the assertions about sites being rigged are based upon the flop, turn, and river. This data can be collected from a major site like Party Poker without playing. For the data collection step, it would take just a few days for a researcher with Party Poker and Poker Tracker to collect data on many thousands of board cards.

If there are too many flush or straight possibilities being dealt, then prove it with data mining. If the board is pairing too often, then show it with evidence.

EVIDENCE - The Response

The typical response when those of us who are unconvinced of "rigged" theories ask for evidence is complete silence. Collecting lots of hand histories and building an argument is hard work, we truly understand. But players have been complaining about sites being rigged for more than five years. This is plenty of time for someone to track a large number of hands dealt and present a case.

Another recent response goes along these lines:

"The game will always appear fair when looking at a large group of hands because the site only deals an 'action hand' occasionally."

In fact, here is an exact quote from a post on Rec.Gambling.Poker by poster "BossTweed:"

I am no statistician by any means but it seems possible that over millions of
hands dealt the probabilitys could be completely within the correct %'s and yet
still be rigged. There is plenty of leeway in the odds to "favor" certain
hands in certain pots without raising any red flags.


Translation: Rigged deals are so infrequent as to be imperceptible statistically.

Result: A virtually meaningless argument that by definition can't be disproven.

Presenting a thesis on card dealing that can't be disproven -- "no publically available evidence will reveal the manipulation of the deck" -- is a flawed argument. When holding such a position which is loaded against rebuttal, the burden of proof must be on he who proposes the thesis.

While it is possible such a conspiracy exists, it is incumbent on those who believe it and wish to convince others to present some evidence. Since statistical evidence is argued to be unsatisfactory, those who propose this thesis must find other information to support their argument such as a whistleblower.







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Selection Bias when Evaluating the Board

Board cards in real Hold 'Em games (as opposed to theoretical probabilities) face some sort of selection bias -- but we are unable to conclude the impact of this yet.

What do we mean by "selection bias?"

Many studies can suffer from this. For example, if you run a poll via e-mail to determine conclusions about the populace at large, you might experience selection bias. This survey groups is unlikely to be representative of the population as a whole, since it is more likely skewed toward those middle-class and up who are more likely to have internet access. I would also be skewed toward a younger demographic more willing to participate in an online survey.

We can't yet prove that this impacts poker Hold 'Em boards, but we have an early hunch that it does. One example may be that actual five card boards are slightly less likely to have an ace show because of a long-run trend for those hands played out to showdown to include one or more players holding an ace.

If hands played to showdown are more likely to be hands where players are holding aces, then the board is less likely over the long run to match the theoretical number of aces showing up.

Similarly, it is possible that more five-card boards show flushes at a very small statistical increase over the theoretical probability numbers. Because when a flop shows two cards of the same suit, it might be feasible that some players may call to showdown when they would otherwise fold earlier.

Early folds mean less river cards are dealt (and not included in our sample.) Players who call down with flush draws may give a slight statistical bump to flush probability.

Also -- the stakes in poker hands will probably influence board cards. If the average online mid to high stakes limit hold 'em game has many less hands played to showdown and more pre-showdown folding, then the board results might also differ from theoretical probabilities. Especially if all that is being evaluated are full 5-card boards.

Note: This was first posted as an addendum to a prior post. Edited to make it a standalone post.

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Party Poker Flush Boards

One of the most common conspiracy theories among online poker players is about flush frequency. So we decided to take a sampling of over 30,000 five-card boards to determine how often a flush possibility is dealt.

Every so often in chat, you'll hear a player complain about flush frequency, particularly in Limit Hold 'Em.

After losing a hand:
CHUMPLAYER: Oh ****, another flush F***s up my set!
CHUMPLAYER: This *&^CHUMPLAYER: This *&^$&#ing site has too many #&$*#$ing flushes
amp;#ing site has too many #&$*#$ing flushes
CHUMPLAYER: They should call this place PartyFlushes
CHUMPLAYER: What a bunch of bull$#!@

The next few hands:
CHUMPLAYER: Oh, surprise another flush!
(later)
CHUMPLAYER: There's the heart on the river! I'm sure someone has it!
CHUMPLAYER: Of course you had it! The boards ALWAYS show a flush here.
(BUSTS OUT)
CHUMPLAYER: I f@#@*&ing swear, top pair is never good here.
CHUMPLAYER: From now on, I'm just holding suited cards

There are lots of reasons people go on tilt from seeing flushes turned over by their opponent. Flushes usually win, and people tilt when their flopped set gets beat by a player calling bad odds to the river to win with the flush.

Here are some reasons why we may "feel" that there are too many flushes in an online poker game:
  • Flushes usually win so the hand is shown down instead of mucked. When you beat bottom two pair with your set, the loser mucks his hand unless he led the betting.
  • Four players seeing the flop in ten handed Hold 'Em tables usually have better hands than four players seeing the flop in your five handed Hold 'Em game at home.
  • Players online in limit Hold 'Em will often hold any two suited cards and will almost always hold any suited Ace. Lots of players are flush chasers.
  • Boards that have 3, 4, or 5 cards of the same suit actually aren't very rare.

Flush Boards = Theory vs. Reality

We wanted to do a study to determine if Party Poker had a significantly greater number of flush boards. We're looking for a percentage that might show some evidence that there are too many flushes on Party. If you averaged the Party Poker rigged conspiracies, you would expect at least a 10% increased chance of a flush board.

We took all the hands we have logged from the Party Poker engine and extracted only those boards that had five cards dealt.

Sample size: 31,889 Texas Hold 'Em 5-card boards

Total possible combination of cards on a five-card board: 2,598,960

Total percentage of boards that contain three, four, or five cards of the same suit: 37.11%

Given our conjecture above, if there is a 10% greater chance of a flush board dealt at Party Poker, we can expect over 40% of the boards to show 3-flush, 4-flush, or 5-flush. This would be a 10% increase over normal frequency.

All the theoretical math was done by Brian Alspach in a Poker Digest Article.

The results:

In our sample size, the total percentage of boards that contain three, four, or five cards of the same suit: 37.76%

Conclusion: In a limited size sample of 31,889 hands, there is no indication of any bias toward flushes on Party Poker.

In the coming year, we plan to do a further study of flush frequency on board cards to include a larger sample size.


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Cardroom Conspiracy Theories - Not Just for Chat Boxes Anymore!

Online poker is infested with people peddling conspiracy theories. These theories are typically part of table talk in the chat box at your favorite poker site.

You can also see these theories bandied about in poker message boards and in the rec.gambling.poker usenet group.

But today I received my first unsolicited email that suggested a particular poker site was cheating.

Here is the mail I received (link and poker room removed.)
Are you having a problem with xyzpokersite? Why not come and post about it on www.xyzpokersiteproblems.com

* Are you sick of the Bad Beats?
* Are you sick of the Bad cards others play?
* Are you sick of xyzpokersite setting up 2 players with great hands to enduce betting so they can steal the rake
* Have you ever had a problem with xyzpokersite?
* Have they froze your money for no reason
* Have they blocked your account?
* Have they given you a chat ban?

Come and let others know about it and read the nightmares that others have experienced. Come and join the community forum and post away.

Get a FREE poker strategy guide ebook for signing up in the forums!

www.xyzpokersiteproblems.com

The link goes to a site with affiliate banners and a sales pitch for another poker room surrouding a complaint about a particular poker site.

Here are some excerpts from this player's complaint
XYZPOKERSITE PROBLEMS

Currently my account is blocked and I have no way to get my funds that are in that account. Let me explain the full details and you will see the whole situation.

(snip)

I had cashed out many times before with no issues, but this time it stated that my account had been blocked from cashing out, as my account was under investigation. I immediately went through to live support to find out what the problem was. The only thing they could tell me was that the account was being looked at and will be blocked until further notice.

(snip)

My account stayed in blocked mode for about 10 days. During that time I decided to open another account and play with. Finally after the 10 days I received an email that stated my account was fully opened again.

(snip)

I received an email On October 19, 2005 stating that my account has been blocked, due to having multiple accounts. In the email it asks me to reply with all the accounts I have opened and tell them which one I would like to keep, which I did immediately. I received an email back about a week later, stating that I now have to send them my drivers license for them to take action on my account. I replied that I do not drive and to just release my funds to my Neteller account, since I will never play with them again and that I did not need them to open the account. They replied stating that there is nothing they can do until I sent them my drivers license, which I do not own.

There will undoubtedly be people who read this person's missive and worry. It is true that there are innocent players caught up in investigations of accounts. And it is also true that many poker sites have poor communications skills in the customer service department. These factors can make sorting out problems difficult.

Almost every problem like this I have read about ends fairly. Poker sites routinely ask for information confirming your identity. Once this fellow sends in a copy of his identification, he will be paid.

However, there are some lessons here for those of you who will be joining the world of online poker.

When a poker site tells you your account is under investigation, contact their security team and ask "why" and be patient and calm.

Poker sites investigate accounts for activity that may be suspicious or may be normal. Some behavior triggers site oversight. Some examples might be:

*Activities such as a short time between a credit card deposit and another form of withdrawal.
*Winning a lot of money heads-up against one other player
*Cashout to account with different contact information.
*Playing a lot of hands with another player
*Multiple accounts for the same person.
*Money transfers of recently deposited money.

Don't open more than one account on any poker site.

If you open a second account on any particular site, chances are the software will prevent you from registering. If you circumvent this step by using a different e-mail address, you may still have problems funding your account with the same online banking account you used for your first account. If you are still able to do this, you may experience delays in cashout, like our friend here.

Send in identification when asked.

Its really quite easy for any adult to copy a state ID card or driver's license and fax to a poker room to confirm identity.

Typical reasons people refuse to do this are that the person is underage and is violating the site's terms and conditions by playing there. Other reasons that some have trouble sending in ID are that they've opened accounts in other people's names such as their father, brother, etc. Sometimes players do this because they are underage. Others seem to do this to take advantage of site bonuses.

If you don't have a driver's license, but you are otherwise compliant with the site's rules. Then contact support and establish their acceptance of another form of identification.

Bottom line: This fellow will have no problem getting his money if in fact this story is true and he does not have other account irregularities.


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Online Poker Card Shuffling is Fair

This article will summarize the ground we’ve covered in this series on how cards are shuffled in Online Poker rooms. Our conclusion is that the major online poker sites are shuffling the “cards” fairly.

This series has just dealt with the fundamentals of poker site shuffling. I am aware of the many theories about poker sites dealing scripted hands, creating “action flops,” and otherwise rigging the card ordering. We will address those specifically in future articles.

All evidence available to us about the major online poker sites shows that these sites are shuffling the deck appropriately. The “cards” in a deck in an online poker room such as Party Poker, Paradise Poker, Absolute Poker and others are distributed equally randomly as the decks of real cards in your local card room.

We are not limiting approval to the sites listed above. Those are just the sites that get a majority of our play. This site will eventually have links to small articles on each poker site with a review of their shuffling methods and an explanation on why you can trust that shuffle to be random.

In the article on how cards are shuffled in live games, we saw that there is the possibility of a lazy dealer who runs only one or two riffle shuffles. In these cases, you are certainly getting better distribution of cards online than live. It is highly recommended that poker room dealers scramble the cards before riffling them.

The comparison of an online poker shuffling to poker room shuffling is important for people to understand. Some people have a vague concept of randomness that leads them to be suspicious of events such as a flop with all Aces or someone hitting quads to beat their full house. Some players draw conclusions that sites are cheating when they witness this online but don’t think a second time when they deal it themselves at a home game.

Randomness doesn’t mean that an event will not happen – only that this event is not predictable and occurs about the expected number of times over a very long number of tries. If you flip a coin enough times, there will be a time where you flip "Heads" ten times in a row, even though this has a 00.097% chance of happening if you pick a starting point.

Online poker sites are shuffling the deck at the beginning of a hand such that any of 52! (That’s 52-factorial) orderings are possible. This means that any possible order of cards in a deck could be used at the start of your next hand.

They key factors in ensuring that any possible deck ordering can be offered to the player are: a robust algorithm and a proper RNG (random number generator).

The algorithm is typically fairly simple and efficient but it must be robust enough to support numbers as high as 52! (52-factorial) because this number is very, very, large.

The RNG must not only support a value as high as 52! (52-factorial), but it must also have input that is truly random. Most sites are using a hardware-based RNG that combines several data sources such as processor behavior, customer mouse movement, and telecommunications traffic.

These factors are very important, and if you plan to play at an online poker site that is new or not one of the big name sites, you should ask for information on these issues.

It is true that bad algorithms and bad RNGs have been a problem. Someone may tell you that they know of a site where the shuffle was cracked. They are correct -- an online poker site had their shuffling algorithm and RNG solved in a way that made cards predictable during a hand. I have a much more thorough explanation HERE.

Even back when that site was cracked, other contemporary sites did not have the same problem. And today, all large reputable sites have algorithms and RNGs that don’t have these problems. For more detail on how current poker sites are different, go HERE.

Poker sites also have certifications on their site that claim to verify the trustworthiness of their games. As discussed in our article HERE, those certifications can be quite informative and valuable but not wholly conclusive. Always consider the source of the certification and weigh their credibility.

Several players have kept logs of the hands they are dealt at an online poker site. This author has every hand he’s ever played at Party Poker, Paradise Poker, and Absolute Poker stored on a computer. Some have privately compared their dealt cards to ensure they are being dealt randomly. One poster made his review public, which is discussed in this post HERE.

This site will eventually host a project of combined card databases that makes a very large sample available to audit poker site card distribution.

At the beginning of this series, we listed our expectation of randomness for online poker card shuffles as the following:

*After the shuffle, the order of the cards is placed so that I can have confidence that any single unused card is as potentially likely to be next in the deck as any other single unused card.

*There is ZERO predictability at any time during the hand beyond likelihood percentages easily calculated using probability.

Based on our review so far, these criteria are met by the major online poker sites.

Your comments and suggestions are welcome.


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Results from 37k Hands Dealt

So far we've reviewed the conceptual issues which should illustrate that major online poker sites are dealing from a random "deck of cards."

And we've learned that third-party certification sites have reviewed actual hands dealt and come to the conclusion that they qualify as the results of a random, unpredictable, unbiased shuffle.

But all those certifications are based on data we can't see.

Fortunately, a player kept a log of over 37,000 hands he was dealt and reviewed all the hole cards and board cards to determine if there was any noticeable bias in the cards dealt.

You can read all the details for yourself in his Usenet post:
TonyH Cards Dealt Analysis for Paradise Poker


I'll cover some of the basics. First, let's look at pocket pairs:

Paired starters dealt: 2264 (5.979%)
Paired starters expected: 2227 (5.88%)

Each pair expected: 171 (0.452%)
A's dealt: 157 (0.415%)
K's dealt: 140 (0.370%)
Q's dealt: 184 (0.486%)
J's dealt: 168 (0.444%)
T's dealt: 183 (0.483%)
9's dealt: 167 (0.441%)
8's dealt: 185 (0.489%)
7's dealt: 182 (0.481%)
6's dealt: 192 (0.507%)
5's dealt: 178 (0.470%)
4's dealt: 186 (0.491%)
3's dealt: 162 (0.428%)
2's dealt: 180 (0.475%)

All this looks pretty good, and what you'd expect. There's a lot of room within only 37,000 hands for this to vary a good amount. But the numbers are all "in the ballpark" for being dealt from a random deck. Poor Tony ran pretty dry on AA and KK, but had more than expected QQ, TT, and others. We've all gone on rushes of cards and dry spells of cards.

Several Party Poker is Rigged theorists claim that the board creates flushes too often. I plan to address these theories later, but at first glance, the data compiled contradicts such speculation

Three cards on the flop make up a:
3 straight:293 (3.43%) expected: 272 (3.18%)
2 flush:4698 (54.97%) expected: 4710 (55.1%)
3 flush:463 (5.42%) expected: 446 (05.22%)

He also compiled data on how often he flopped a flush draw and then how often that flush made it home on the turn or river:

USER HAS ANY TWO SUITED CARDS (dealt 6293 times):
Four flushes flopped: 729 (11.58%)
expected: 689 (10.9%)
When flop four flush, got flush:251 (34.43%)
expected: 255 (35.0%)

The entire post is worth a read. Many people who play frequently on the Internet have tallied many more than 37,000 hands. But none have been nice enough to compile the data and make it available to the public. Thanks, Tony.

You can find prior entries on this topic here:

Do Online Poker Site Shuffle Certifications Mean Anything?


How Poker Site Shuffles are Different than Planet Poker ‘99

Online Poker Room Cracked (not a hoax)

Basics of Online Shuffling

Live Cardroom Deck Shuffles

Online Shuffling - Setting Expectations

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Do Online Poker Site Shuffle Certifications Mean Anything?

Somewhere on most poker sites, you can find a letter from an independent company which certifies the site's game as "fair." Of course, we all know that in big business where there is big money, anyone can get some sort of certification stating anything.

So do these poker site audits actually mean anything?

My series on online poker site shuffling continues. If you haven't read my prior articles on this topic, consider paging down to the bottom of this article and reading them.

In this article, I'll look at site certifications for two main sites, Party Poker and Paradise Poker.

On a link off the home page, Party Poker claims their game software is audited by iTech Labs, an independent company.

iTech Labs is good enough to place a summary of their Standards for Internet Gaming on the web.

From this document, we can see that iTech as four different levels of certification. Since Party Poker does not make it immediately clear which certification level they have met, we will focus on what is covered in the most basic, "Level One Certification." This is actually the most relevant part to our ongoing investigation of the randomness of shuffling at online poker sites.

Excerpt of certification criteria from iTech's Standards Document:
Evaluation of Random Number Generator

The RNG is evaluated for statistical independence, uniform distribution and unpredictability by undertaking the following tests and reviews:
  • Algorithm is identified from source code and researched for any known problems;
  • Sample output from RNG undergoes Marsarglia’s “Diehard” test;
  • RNG seeding and background cycling are checked by source code review;

The use of RNG by games is evaluated to confirm:
  • Correct scaling and mapping of the RNG output to produce game symbols, cards, or other game outcomes;
  • Game outcomes (symbols, cards, etc.) are statistically independent, uniformly distributed and unpredictable.

This means that even if Party Poker has only recieved the most basic, Level One certification from iTech labs, they have still had a full review of their RNG and shuffling algorithm. The focus of iTech is on uniform distribution and unpredictability -- which are the key elements to a virtual deck of cards being fair.

Paradise Poker's certification is by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC), a noted business advisory and auditing firm. Paradise Poker gets fresh certifications quarterly, and they can be viewed at a page dedicated to their independent shuffling reviews.

After their review, PWC generates a letter. The latest letter has this key conclusion:
Based on the results of our testing of these log files covering the period 1 January 2005 to 23 February 2005 in our opinion:
  • Cards dealt in each poker game during that perioed were selected from a standard deck of fifty two playing cards.
  • The cards were dealt from the deck such that each card had an equal chance of being selected unless it had already been dealt in the same poker game.

One common objection to such audits is that the poker site "could have only given the auditor fair hands to review, only to 'flick the switch' when the audit was complete." In response, it should be noted that in Paradise Poker's case, PWC compared games submitted to them with hand histories available from the Paradise Poker Website. So there are some controls for this.

In summary, both sites have certifications stating their shuffles are fair. The question remains: Do those certifications actually mean anything?

My conclusion: Site shuffling certifications are relevant but not conclusive on their own.

Independent audits are absolutely relevant. I would not play at a site that has not at least made an effort to have a third-party auditor review their RNG and shuffling algorithm. It can be argued that the absence of any third-party review of a site's shuffle is more detrimental than a third-party certification is beneficial.

The auditors themselves for Paradise Poker and Party Poker also deserve the assumption of credibility without evidence to the contrary. For example, the iTech Labs website and biography of their principals suggests they are credible investigators. And of course, PWC is a noteworthy global firm.

While these independent certifications are relevant and interesting, they alone are not conclusive as to a site's trustworthiness in gaming.

Certainly corruption or influencing is entirely possible in the world of third-party certifications, even when big companies are involved.

For example, PWC is touted as an "independent third-party," but it is worth knowing that they also do business with Paradise Poker in other areas as well. For example, PWC was the advisory firm serving Paradise Poker on their sale to Sportingbet Plc. One need not be a conspiracy theorist to see a small potential for conflict of interest here.

Furthermore, it is possible that a third-party firm would not be technically competent enough to spot a flaw in a shuffling algortihm or random number generator. Or auditors could be reviewing small enough data sets that long-scale conclusions drawn from them are not credible.

I am confident that the preponderance of evidence shows that sites like Paradise Poker and Party Poker are dealing a "fair game." The independent audits are very helpful and should be assumed to be "almost assuredly correct." But it is not unreasonable that they be viewed with a critical eye.

My series continues with a review of dealt cards done by a poker player.

You can find prior entries on this topic here:

How Poker Site Shuffles are Different than Planet Poker ‘99

Online Poker Room Cracked (not a hoax)

Basics of Online Shuffling

Live Cardroom Deck Shuffles

Online Shuffling - Setting Expectations




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How Poker Site Shuffles are Different than Planet Poker ‘99

My last article reviewed the circumstances behind the cracking of Planet Poker’s shuffling algorithm in 1999. I now will explain how modern, reputable poker sites have algorithms and RNG’s that far surpass the quality of the flawed code.

This is part of my series about how Poker sites shuffle the card decks. If this is the first of these you’ve seen, you may want to start with my earlier postings. See the bottom of this post for a list.

Problem: Planet Poker’s flawed shuffle had an algorithm and rng which structurally could not allow for any of the 52! (52-factorial) deck orderings because each produced numbers below 52!

Solution: Major poker sites have expanded the number support in their algorithm to support any possible deck ordering. For example, Paradise Poker uses a 2016 bit seed.

Problem: Planet Poker’s flawed RNG was based on the system clock, which was predictable.

Solution: RNG generation is now typically based on sets of hardware input. Some sites factor or combine the data with a wide variety of data sources.

Here is how Paradise Poker’s RNG seed entropy is gathered:
We have two main sources of these random bits. First, the rng on the server samples the low order bits of the CPU's time stamp counter (667MHz) at irregular parts of the program and when data is received from client connections, and uses it to add to the entropy in our large seed.

Secondly (and mainly) the client programs send their own 32-bits of entropy with every action they make and with several of the other packets they send to the server. The client's entropy is gathered from both mouse and keyboard movements, as well as the lower 32-bits of their CPU time stamp counters.

Here is how Party Poker’s RNG seed entropy is gathered:
PartyPoker.com uses a secure RNG (SHA-1 cryptographic hash algorithm) implemented by SUN which is cryptographically certified. SUN's SeedGenerator class generates the initial seed. The seed is produced by counting the number of times the VM manages to loop in a given period.The samples are translated using a permutation (s-box) and then XORed together. This process is non linear and prevents the samples from "averaging out".

The s-box is designed to have even statistical distribution. A number of sleeper threads are also created which add entropy to the system by keeping the scheduler busy.These are gathered in the background by a daemon thread thus allowing the system to continue performing it's different activities, which in turn add entropy to the random seed.The class also gathers miscellaneous system information, some machine dependent, some not.
The bottom line is that the flawed shuffling method used by Planet Poker was the result of an algorithm and RNG which were not robust enough to handle the challenge.Shuffling algorithms are not particularly complex, and they don’t need to be. What is vital, however, is that they are able to support the large numbers required in the process.

In summary, mainstream poker sites have far surpassed the limitations exposed in 1999 by the team from Reliable Software Technologies.

In their article wherein they described their cracking method, they made this recommendation:
In concert, a good shuffling algorithm and a 64-bit pseudo-random number generator seeded with a proven hardware device should produce shuffles that are both fair and secure. Implementing a fair system is not overly difficult. Online poker players should demand it.
Since that time, their suggestions have been implemented and surpassed by further steps such as shuffling between dealing rounds and exceeding 64-bits.

If you have read through this entire series on Online Poker shuffling, you should have a great deal of confidence in the randomness of the card ordering at mainstream poker sites.

In the interest of completeness, I will continue to cover this topic. Coming soon will be an article on site shuffle certifications, and a review of Hold ‘Em outcomes to see if the results are within appropriate statistical bounds.

You can find prior entries on this topic here:

Online Poker Room Cracked (not a hoax)

Basics of Online Shuffling

Live Cardroom Deck Shuffles

Online Shuffling - Setting Expectations




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Online Poker Room Cracked (not a hoax)

This is documented fact: an online poker room’s shuffling algorithm and random number generator were so flawed that a player could predict the next card off the deck and know his opponent’s cards.

Before proceeding, you need to know that it is our informed opinion that the people promoting “Party Poker Cracked” ebooks and software on the web, in chat rooms, in newsgroups, and at the poker tables are making false claims. Their claims are absurd on their face. Do not buy their ebooks, do not visit their websites, and do not follow their system. We’ll expose more about these “Party Poker Cracked” claims in a future article.

We recommend reading this prior installment on the basic concepts of how cards are shuffled at an online poker site. Knowing those very basic concepts will make it easier to understand what went wrong.

In 1999, online poker rooms for real money were just beginning to emerge. One of these early poker sites was Planet Poker, which used software from ASF Software, Inc. In order to help instill trust in game integrity, they made the software code of their shuffling algorithm public.

This in itself is not bad – knowing the source code of a shuffling algorithm does not allow a person to know the outcome of running it, because the shuffle will be based on a input which should be truly random and also unpredictable.

The problem was that Planet Poker’s algorithm, random number generator, and random data source were significantly flawed.

The first problem was that the shuffling algorithm actually couldn’t produce every possible deck variation because of numerical limitations combined with a programming flaw.

In this situation, the RNG generated a 32-bit number, which only supports numbers up to approx 4 billion. As you read in the prior article, there are many more than 4 billion possible deck orderings.

Making matters worse was that the source for random data was based on the number of milliseconds past midnight. But there are only approximately 87 million milliseconds in a day. This means there were only 87 million orderings of cards that could be used.

This limitation was significant because this particular shuffling algorithm started each run of the shuffling algorithm with the same deck order. Imagine if you were at a live cardroom with a dealer who had a lazy shuffle, only riffle-shuffling a couple times. Since the cards are mucked in a different order each hand, the effects of that dealer’s lazy shuffle may not be very evident. But what if that dealer started with a new deck of cards out of the box every time? Wouldn’t you at least eventually notice some clumping of suits and card values?

As explained in the prior article, there are approximately 130,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 possible deck orderings for a 52-card deck. Eighty-seven million is significantly less.

This combination of flaws is already problematic enough for concern, and knowing this would cause many players to leave a poker site. But it was worse than that.

The second problem was that the RNG seed was predictable with some effort. A user knowing the RNG seed and the programming function operating on that seed and the shuffling algorithm would be able to crack the shuffle.

The RNG seed was based on the number of milliseconds from midnight. The team that cracked the poker site was able to synchronize their clocks with the poker site’s clock and was able to reduce the number of possible shuffles at any one time to a set of 200,000 possibilities.

Through these dissections of the algorithm and RNG flaws, we’ve seen the number of deck orderings slip from 52! (the huge number above) to 4 billion, to 87 million, and now to 200,000.

Still, that’s a lot of possible deck orderings, and without number-crunching power and more data, that’s not enough to take dramatic advantage of the site. But by combining how Hold 'Em poker is played along with the power of computers this was a fairly easy task for the cracking team.

The team plugged in the position of the dealer button and first five known cards in a Hold ‘Em game. These cards were their two hole cards and the three community cards on the flop. Based on that data, their computer was able to search the potential 200,000 deck orderings for the one that was being used during that hand.

Net result: After the flop, the cracking team knew the hole cards of every single player and knew the turn and river in advance.

How much money did these crackers make? Well, the good news is that the cracking team was part of a group effort to find security holes and alert companies so that they could fix them. They alerted ASF Software, makers of the software used by Planet Poker and they corrected the flaw quickly.

Yes, this really happened in 1999. The cracking team was from Reliable Software Technologies. They are Brad Arkin, Frank Hill, Scott Marks, Matt Schmid, Thomas John Walls, and Gary McGraw. You can read a more technical overview of their effort here:
http://itmanagement.earthweb.com/entdev/article.php/616221

Our next article will discuss how the major poker sites’ current approach to shuffling differs from the flawed approach of a few years ago at Planet Poker. The differences are significant and should give players confidence in the randomness of the cards.

You can find prior entries on this topic here:

Basics of Online Shuffling

Live Cardroom Deck Shuffles

Online Shuffling - Setting Expectations


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Basics of Online Shuffling

Category: Are the Cards Dealt Fairly?

This is part of an ongoing series about whether the Cards you'’re dealt in Online Poker are fair.

In this post, I'm going to try to give a very simplified explanation of how cards are shuffled in online poker rooms. This is a topic that can get very complex.

The goal of a shuffle is card randomization. The player needs to know that any unused card has an equal probability of being dealt next as any other unused card. But in the case of playing cards, random does not mean there are infinite possibilities.

Since a deck of cards has 52 cards, there are a limited number of orderings possible. The number is extremely large, but it is not infinite. If you ever took a higher-level math or statistics class, you'll know about factorials. The number of possible deck orderings is 52-factorial -- noted as 52! This number is around 130,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 -- a very large number indeed.

At the beginning of a hand, a software algorithm picks one of those decks and deals out the hand. So far, that part seems pretty simple. If a software program can get a random number and pick a deck from that number of possibilities and do this honestly and accurately, we must admit that this meets our criteria for a fair game.

For a little more detail, I'll quickly summarize how Paradise Poker accomplishes this.

The first step is getting a truly random number. This can actually be a bit more difficult than it seems. Here is how Paradise Poker handles this:

We have two main sources of these random bits. First, the rng on the server samples the low order bits of the CPU's time stamp counter (667MHz) at irregular parts of the program and when data is received from client connections, and uses it to add to the entropy in our large seed.

Secondly (and mainly) the client programs send their own 32-bits of entropy with every action they make and with several of the other packets they send to the server. The client's entropy is gathered from both mouse and keyboard movements, as well as the lower 32-bits of their CPU time stamp counters.

From all this random gobbledygrokdata, they get a 2016 bit seed and use their 31-bit random function shuffling algorithm to generate a shuffled deck.

If all of this is implemented correctly, you truly do have a completely unpredictable deck that meets our critera for a fair deal.

To learn more about how Paradise Poker shuffles their cards, click HERE.

Where this series is going:
  • Did you know a poker site once had a flaw in their shuffling algorithm and RNG? Does your favorite site suffer from the same problems?
  • What about results -- has anyone looked at dealt cards to see if the game is fair?
  • Are any sites reviewed by auditing firms?
All those entries are coming up soon. Keep visiting.

You can find prior entries on this topic here:
Live Cardroom Deck Shuffles

Online Shuffling - Setting Expectations


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Live Cardroom Deck Shuffles

Category: Are the Cards Dealt Fairly?

This is part of an ongoing series about whether the Cards you'’re dealt in Online Poker are fair.

As mentioned in my prior post on online deck shuffles, I believe before proceeding to critique how virtual playing cards are shuffled in Online Poker games it is important to understand how real cards are shuffled in live games.

Part of my reasoning here is that there seems to be an undercurrent of suspicion about online deck shuffling that isn't present about live game shuffles.

To learn about live game deck shuffling, I turned to an interview with the author of "The Professional Poker Dealer's Handbook," Dan Paymar.

According to Paymar, here is the standard shuffling method for a manual live game card deck shuffle:

1) After a hand is played, the cards are "scrambled." The dealer takes the cards and mixes them up by spreading them on the table.
2) The dealer then "riffle shuffles" the cards twice.
3) The cards are then "boxed" or "strip shuffled."
4) One more "riffle shuffle" pass.
5) Cards are cut.

This sounds perfectly acceptable to me. The question we'll tackle later is whether an online deck shuffle is in any way less random than that approach.

In Paymar's interview, he says some cardrooms are skipping the card "scramble." He is quite critical of this:

As you've noted, some rooms have eliminated the scramble, presumably to speed up the game by shortening the shuffle sequence. Is that a good trade-off? I don't think so! I feel that the scramble is the most important part of the shuffle sequence as it mixes the cards quite randomly. You can prove this for yourself if you like. Take a setup -- that is, two decks of cards that have been sorted by suit and rank. With one deck, do a scramble as described in the book and in the procedures section of this site. Three times around is enough. Square up the deck, and set it aside without any further shuffling. Then take the other deck, do not scramble, and do a shuffle, shuffle, box, shuffle sequence. Now spread out both decks face up, and see which is most randomly mixed. You will probably find that the scramble by itself mixes the cards at least as good as the much longer sequence without the scramble.

Conclusion: If you are a critic of how the cards are being shuffled in online poker rooms, but you play in live room with manual shuffling where dealers skip the "scramble," then I highly recommend you address that issue as well.

Many live card rooms use shuffling machines. Here is some information Paymar adds about those:

These machines use a random number generator to mix the cards, so I feel confident that the result should be as good as for the best dealers…

What's that? Live games are using RNGs also? Those (like me) who generally have confidence in random number generators (until proven otherwise) have no problem with this. But a main pillar of critiques of online poker deck shuffling is the RNG seed for the shuffling algorithm. Now we're hearing that live games also have decks shuffled with an RNG?

I think this information is worth thinking about as a foundation for credible comparisons of how decks are shuffled in online poker. When this issue is discussed in the abstract, people are often comparing online shuffling to theoretical ideas lodged in their brain. But these debates are usually amongst people who accept live game shuffles without objection. Therefore, I think it essential to use live game shuffles as our base point for comparison as we look at online deck shuffles in online poker rooms.

You can find prior entries on this topic here:
Online Shuffling - Setting Expectations


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Online Shuffling - Setting Expectations

Category: Are the Cards Dealt Fairly?

This will be the first in an ongoing series about whether the Cards you’re dealt in Online Poker are fair.

Typical discussions of the fairness of online shuffling focus on the algorithm or the Random Number Generator used in the process. And we’ll get to those issues in detail. But first, I think the reader should focus on these more fundamental questions:

What is my expectation of randomness for Online Poker deck shuffling?

How does such randomness differ from the cards shuffled at a casino?


Here are my answers. Feel free to add yours in the comments section and watch for more on Online Poker deck shuffling to follow.

What is my expectation of randomness for Online Poker deck shuffling?

As a player, my expectation for Online Poker deck shuffles is that:

*After the shuffle, the order of the cards is placed so that I can have confidence that any single unused card is as potentially likely to be next in the deck as any other single unused card.

*There is ZERO predictability at any time during the hand beyond likelihood percentages easily calculated using probability.

How does such randomness differ from the cards shuffled at a casino?

I believe some critics of Online Poker shuffles are comparing such shuffles to an image in their mind of what a “perfect shuffle should be.” Instead, I think it is helpful for criticisms of Online Poker shuffles to compare the results to the commonly accepted shuffling methods seen at live poker games.


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How's Empire Doing? Ignore the Bounced Check, Please.

Category: Is My Money Safe?

A poster on 2+2 received a check withdrawal from Empire which bounced.


According to Empire, there was a problem with the account on which the check was drawn and Empire HAD ALREADY SENT A REPLACEMENT.

I have recently received a Neteller withdrawal from Empire Poker with no problems. But at a minimum, bounced checks do not inspire confidence given the upheaval after Party Poker split their players from the "Party Skin" sites.

I doubt that this bounced check is a sign of Empire failing to make money -- this will be known soon enough as they are publicly traded. However, a business serving a group of customers who already worry about bankroll safety should take more care with this.

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Introduction

In my opinion, the number one reason many otherwise-interested people don't play Online Poker is their concern over safety.

Players want to know if a site is dealing a fair game, or if their bankroll is safe.

Is Online Poker Safe? aims to provide you with enough information so you can make your own conclusion on these matters.

You will find research articles I write and posts with newsworthy items on these topics.

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