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.


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.