Saturday, February 14, 2009

Why I Almost Never Play Online Poker

Clearly, online poker should be regulated to make sure kids don't play, the software is legit, and the tax money.

I believe that online poker Random Number Generators have been altered to allow for more interesting hand confrontations and bigger pots. The bigger pots generate a bigger rake for the online companies. Yes, they have an incentive to jiggle the software--it means a lot more money.

There are simply too many bad beats online--and big hand versus big hand confrontation--compared to B&M.

The excuse has been that you see more hands online. That is nonsense. Play online poker for 15 minutes, and you can't doubt the bs in the game.

The one thing people point out is that the sites have no incentive to do that for tournament play. Yes, these people are right that the sites take the same buy-in fee from everyone. But, they miss something very important.

If the RNG is adjusted for cash play, they are not about to re-adjust them for tournament play. There is no incentive needed. The program is already rigged for bigger showdowns and more bad beats. There is no reason to make it more accurate for tournament play.

I admit that sometimes I do play online poker. And I admit that I tend to play heads-up games rather than any other forms of poker. The reason is that while the software is still rigged, it eliminates collusion and I feel I have an edge against many players who plays heads-up like they do at a full table.

Only 4% of the people prefer to play online. My guess is that these people probably like the convenience and/or muulti-tabling.

Frankly, if they actually regulated online poker it would be a boost for everyone in the poker business. More players would participate in poker overall, and more players mean more games and bigger prize pools.


Easycure said...

One problem with legalization: It would be much harder to make money. You have to beat the rake and the taxes. Am I right?

AKQJ10 said...

There are now millions, probably billions, of hand histories out there. While I realize that there may be small sample problems even in a sample in the millions, surely a statistical analysis of all of those for frequency of bad beats would be more convincing than your or my impression from playing for 15 minutes, right?

Ed Miller had a good, IMO pretty balanced blog entry on the topic that you might have read:

I much prefer live, but until I can work up a reliable bankroll that I feel comfortable deploying in live NLHE games, I'll be playing quite a bit online.

Thanks for the Twitter follow BTW.

Mitchell said...


As to taxes, you can take off your loses against your wins. Overall, I'd rather know the game is an honest one and pay the rake and taxes.


I'm a fan of Ed's and even advertise on his home page! Thanks for the link to his blog entry. I read that post a while back. It's funny but my take was that he thought the site's could rig the deck, but he didn't have proof there were doing it.

The analysis is a great idea, but it's not just about bad beats. It's also about too many big hand confrontations.

I've seen so much poker stuff online that is so so sick. Bad beats and stupid big hands occur way too often. This does not happen as often in a card room.

If horse players knew that every race was set up, would they still go to the track? Answer: Yes. Because they would hope to find someone who was in on the fix.

If poker players knew that the deck was rigged so bigger hand confrontations would happen more often, would they still play online poker? Answer: I think a lot would still play...because they hope they have the winning hand.

I am one of those players that has cut back dramatically. I read that a new online poker site is coming that is going to address this issue with something totally new in dealing. I'll post about it when I find out more.

RoSeeker said...

"The bigger pots generate a bigger rake for the online companies. Yes, they have an incentive to jiggle the software--it means a lot more money."

Don't be an idiot. Pots are capped, so there is more rake for the companies if all pots are mid sized and NOT big all-in coolers, also a higher variance will actually make money move faster and dry up the economy, so pokersites don't want that.

It FEELS like there are lots of bad beats. Please come back to us when you've calculated the number of time certain coolers and such will happen, include reasonable standard deviation, then find hand histories of SIGNIFICANT sample size (500k+ hands) and analyze the hands to see if there's anything beyond the norm.

Come back and start talking trash when you've done that.

Mitchell said...

Of course the rake is capped. You've missed the point.

It is not all about big all-in coolers. It is about those big hand versus big hand pots that result in more action and excitement.

Also, about "a higher variance..make money move faster and dry up the economy..and poker sites don't want that." You are way-off on that as well.

Online poker succeeds because it taps into many things, such as the enjoyment of the game, players belief in their own skill, convenience, and of course, to win money.

Online poker companies goal is maximize their profits. Since they are not regulated, they are free to rig the game accordingly.

As to the 500k+ hand calculation. It is not difficult to play online poker and b&m to see the difference after one session.

Tell me how often have you lost with a full house to quads online? Too often. How many times has that happened at a B&M casino. Never?

Overall, I don't think I am the one talking trash here. I'm providing my observations about online poker--which is similar to probably hundreds if not thousands of other players.

It doesn't mean you can't win playing poker online. Based on my observation, I just don't think the online game is 100% legit.

@marthasadie said...

Thanks for the twitter follow Mitchell. Have been enjoying reading through your posts, but this one I have to disagree with.

Firstly, as I understand it, poker site's RNGs *are* independently audited e.g. Also, as another commentor has pointed out, the hand histories of billions of hands are out there for analysis, and despite this, no-one has found a bias.

On a personal level, in the thousands on hands I've played online I haven't noticed any bias myself. I don't get bad beats any more than I would expect to given the odds, and I genuinely don't remember the last time my full house was cracked my quads :)

The thing about randomness is: it doesn't usually feel random. People expect random to mean 'evenly spaced' but the fact is, you are likely to experience clusters of similar results. At the much higher rate of hands in online poker as opposed to B&M poker this will become more noticeable.

Also, confirmation bias is a problem. If you already suspicious, you are likely to notice the bad beats more and they will stick in your mind, *confirming* for you the validity of your theory. The other non-remarkable hands will fade from memory.

Finally, I think it's just too risky and unnecessary for the big sites to do this, they are raking in so much money anyway, and it would be too easy for some of the statistical and programming geniuses who play poker to spot a bias and catch them out.

Be interested to hear your thoughts on the above! Would also be interested if anyone *had* found a statistical analysis of hands which suggested otherwise.



@marthasadie said...

Actually, following on from my previous post - two more thoughts.

Is it even possible to create an algorithm that would generate *apparently* random numbers but with a bias towards allowing big hand confrontations and bad hands to suck out? As I understand it, just getting one which 'randomly' generates the next card is difficult and very complicated, so I would expect trying to create one that does what you describe to be nigh on impossible. I could be wrong, I'm no programmer, I would just be so very impressed if this could even be achieved. Anyone able to say for sure?

Secondly, in some ways, I DO think you get more bad beats online. I'm not doing a U-turn here! What I mean is this; you get a lot more bad players online than you do in a casino. A lot of people with a much wider pre-flop raising range, who don't fold when they should after the flop and therefore who are in a position to get lucky on the river and catch you out because you don't factor in their stupidity. You are far more likely to have someone, say, raise under the gun with 10 5 suited and then hit a lucky straight to your top pair. As happened to me yesterday. Thankfully, I put him on top pair with possibly better kicker, and kept the pot small so didn't lose much, but I would never have dreamed he was raising in that position with that rubbish. Given the poor hands I've seen people call and raise with online so far, I should have known better.


Mitchell said...

Thanks for the follow and your comments.

Here is a company that is starting a new online poker site and addressing the not-so-randomness of RNG's. I don't know if this new site is going to be any good, but much of what I have read on the site, rings true to me.

As to independent audits, what value are audits? Madoff, Enron and a host of other companies had independent audits and all these companies were cheating.

You haven't noticed any bias online? Wow! Usually I notice something within the first 15 minutes of playing at full tilt poker. On a good day, 30 minutes.
I guess these strange hand duels only occur when I sit down. Maybe I should just have you play online, when I play online poker:)

I do agree that you notice things more when you are looking for them. But it just happens way, way too often for me, not to take notice.

As to the risk point. I've heard that point since I started playing online. At first, that was the main reason why I doubted that any online site would try to rig things.

But, let's assume they are rigging the program? Has that hurt play so far? Who is going to know?
It's not like a Ubet scandal where it's being done by humans. It's within the programming itself...

Random to Focus said...

i've been playing online recently and I have to say that i've noticed big hand confrontation in high quantity more so than B&M. As a result, I also distrust their randomization of the deck. I'm amazed also at the number of suck outs and how the flop hits players to create action.

Mitchell said...

Random to Focus. You've said it better than me!

Funny, but I just entered a sit'n go online, and won every hand I played. It was unreal. It wasn't like I was waiting for the nuts, either.

I posted a new blog entry about it. The non-RNG just turned me into a Poker Pro for 30 minutes:)

What's Your Poker IQ?