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