A surprisingly large number of players think that online poker is rigged to some extent. A lot of their claims are made after bad beats or heavy losses, when they’re in a dejected state of mind. In such cases they don’t actually believe that the site is rigged and are merely venting their anger, but there are those that take their venting too far. For instance, a simple Google search for “Pokerstars”, the largest of all the poker sites, will eventually lead you to a website that is devoted entirely to badmouthing the online poker giants. The site name itself is rather offensive, and therefore not worth repeating, but the content is certainly worth reading, even if only as a psychological study. It is reminiscent of a conspiracy theory, where many thin “facts” are collected to support a weak overall theory, with little sense made along the way.
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Obviously I cant say for certain that Pokerstars is not rigged, but what I do know is that online gambling is a huge business, one that makes an estimated $30 billion dollars every year, and there is no need to fix things in order to make money. Gambling on the whole is a lucrative business, you only need to look at the behemoth of Las Vegas — a city built on lost bets — to realize that, but online poker can be even more lucrative. Firstly, there is no chance that the poker site will lose money. There are no jackpots, no money taken from the site itself, and all of the money won throughout the site is from other players. Poker websites work by taking a rake, and the more people that play, the more money they make. That’s it. It’s something that Forbes estimated makes Pokerstars nearly $1.5 billion a year, so to suggest that they rig the game just to annoy a few small stakes players is not just outlandish, it’s laughable.
In fact, it’s almost dangerous, because aspiring players see such claims and immediately assume that all calls of “scam” are equally preposterous when concerning online poker, but that is not the case. There are smaller websites that don’t get the traffic they need in order to make money through rake, websites that really are scams and really are out to take your money through unfair means. This is not always done through rigged software, as poker websites tend to use established poker networks and franchised software, but there are those that have unaudited or even malfunctioning software that simply doesn’t do what it is supposed to do.
A good example of this is Betfred, which once offered a “gamble” feature where players in the casino where given a chance to boost their winnings with a 50/50. By law a 50/50 should be what it says it is, but in practice this 50/50 was weighted heavily in the favor of the casino and was more of an 80/20. Betfed are a big brand and a huge name in the United Kingdom, and although they did fix the issue by changing their software provider, the fact that this happened in the first place proved to the poker world that gambling software isn’t always as fair as it professes to be. This can be damaging when it comes to poker, as an unfair random number generator pretty much takes away the only skill element in the game. A skillful poker player is one who understand the odds of each move, and effectively plays to those odds, and if those odds are not as they are supposed to be, then that player’s skill is no longer worth anything.
Whilst we are confident that there are no “rigged” sites out there, there are sites that simply want to take your money and have nothing more to do with you, and more importantly there are sites with poor random number generators that turn the game of poker into a laughing stock. In this article we will do our best to avoid them, looking only at the sites that have the best random number generators, and therefore the fairest software.
The Best Sites
There are those that believe a good way to begin their poker journey is to find out where the poker professionals play and then join them. In theory this is sound, it worked for them so why can’t it work for you? But it’s not that easy. The professionals have bigger budgets than the common player and they also get a lot of benefits from the sites, including free tournament tickets, so you should never take anything on face value. You also have to consider that there are poker pros everywhere, from Gus Hanson and Viktor “Isildur1” Blom at Full Tilt; to Daniel Negreanu at Pokerstars; to Sofia Lovgren at 888 Poker; and to Wayne Rideout at SkyPoker.
As we have already mentioned, Pokerstars is not rigged and is the best site around for the sheer volume of tournaments and players. Despite that, Pokerstars has a lot of statistical long-shots happening on a regular basis, and many players have validated this. These things do happened, and even when monitored over an extended period they still show, but the impression is that Pokerstars’ random number generator is a little too random, and is therefore far from the best out there. The same goes for Full Tilt Poker, which can be even more frustrating to play and at times can feel like a game of bingo, particularly when you consider that many of the lower stakes players on that site really don’t know much about the game of poker.
The Merge poker network has always been very good in this regard, and its software seems spot on. In fact, if anything it is weighted the other way. Whereas a bad hand will beat a good hand 4 or 5 times out of 10 on Pokerstars or Full Tilt, it will only do so 1 out of 10 times on Merge. This makes it a game where the professionals can prosper, where those who play poker by the book can consistently cash in. Carbon Poker uses the Merge network and is by far the best choice on that network, having been flying the flag for Merge for many years. There are many others though and if Carbon Poker is not your thing, then you’re sure to find another site that is.
Another poker network with a very good random number generator (or so it seems) is the iPoker network. iPoker is one of the oldest networks and is very popular with sports books that want a quick and easy poker room as an addition to their site. It was the first poker room adopted by Betfair, and it is also used by many other leading sports books in Europe. iPoker’s motto is “always a full house” and this is something that matches its always-connected and always-full mentality, as there are at least 9.000 players connected to the network at any given time. There are not as many players or tournaments here as there are on Pokerstars or Full Tilt, but if you’re looking for a game that feels and plays like the real thing, then you can’t go much wrong with the iPoker network.
SkyPoker also has some very fair software, although you really need a compatible computer in order to download this on your desktop, as the browser client is very slow and buggy. SkyPoker has several poker variants, but unless you’re prepared to wait an hour or more for an Omaha sit and go to fill, or you’re happy to play a “multi-table” tournament with just a handful of people, then you should stick to No-Limit Hold’em. SkyPoker also has their own TV channel (Sky channel 861) and they sponsor several events around the UK, the biggest of which is the United Kingdom Poker Tour which has stops up and down the country and is considered to be one of the biggest amateur poker tournaments in Europe.