Is Online Poker Rigged ?:

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Cheating at poker

Although we don't really know whether online poker is rigged by the rooms (well, except for Absolute Poker and Ultimate Bet), what we do know is that poker is sometimes rigged by players themselves... This is what one calls cheating.

How can one cheat at online poker ?

There are three main ways of cheating at poker online, altough none can be considered a martingale, and none allowing cheaters to win big time nor to get rich.

Passive collusion

The first method is what we could call passive collusion. It is the simplest one, and probably the less efficient, but any group of beginners can use it to cheat, and you have to know that some do.

They just need to share their hole cards, and possibly the other informations they have, such as their notes about the other players at the table.

By knowing the hole cards of one or several friends, cheaters immediately get a lot of informations you don't, which allow them to make better decisions.

For example, take a cheater playing a SNG. Let's imagine he knows a friend of his has, say, K8s and another friend has, say, 48o, and both friends folded. Know, let's imagine the cheater has QQ and gets overpair with an 884 flop.

If an opponent agressively raises, any normal player would fear a three-of-a-kind 8. But our cheater knows this can't happen, because both missing 8 are in his friends' hands. And it is very unlikely the opponent has three-of-a-kind 4.

So, the opponent might have KK, or might be playing a gutshot straight draw... he might even have a three of a kind 4. But it's unlikely.

Anyway, he already has enough informations to know that many of the most dangerous possible situations won't happen. He knows the most likely is that his opponent is bluffing.

If he hadn't cheated, there was no way he could have told, and the risk of a three-of-a-kind 8 was way too high for him.

By knowing the hole cards of his friends, a cheater has a better knowledge of what's happening post-flop, and can minimize the errors.

Knowing the hole cards of one's friends also allow to know when they have better hands than one does. Which brings us to another kind of collusion :

Active collusion

In this scenario, all the cheaters play like one. They play as if they were one player, share the winnings, and take the money from people not in their friendlist.

Cheaters playing active collusion will avoid agressing each other, avoid going all-in against each other at all cost, and if everyone still playing in a hand are from the same gang, they'll avoid betting more chips, except if they want to stack one player from their gang.

When they're playing together, there are many other techniques they can apply to take the money from their opponents :

A typical case implies that if player A knows that his friend has good hole cards, he will minraise so that many people will call, which will make the pot grow bigger. At the other side of the table, his friend player B can reraise big time and most players will fold, which'll allow player B to take a big pot. And even if some players call his raise, his expected gains became much higher thanks to this technique.

There are numerous possibilities : active collusion allows for a better calculation of the risks and the gains, allows for friends to avoid getting in a fight, and allows them to use their agressivity toward other people.

As soon as two or more players play together, it gets much harder for all the other players at the table.

Cheating alone : bots

Is it really cheating ? At least, most poker rooms strictly forbid the use of bots and consider it to be cheating.

What's a bot ? A bot is a program that will replace a player. Instead of playing with his own brain, a player will use a software that will play for him, using predetermined statistics.

A bot isn't really different than any poker player : he uses the informations he has to judge how he should play. And a bot doesn't hold any secret information that a human wouldn't have.

However, bots can be considered cheating because they have no leaks. Or more exactly, they do, but nothing that's not written in their program.

For example, a bot only needs a millisecond to calculate the odds and outs of every hand, in any situation, every plausible hypothesis about what's happening, the precise associated risks for each possible situation, and so on...
A bot can store absolutely all the useful informations on a player. It can know his mean response time to the millisecond, it can store how his response time changes after a bluff, and compare. It can store and know by heart which cards one player bets or calls with (at least each time it goes to the showdown), it can know exactly who's a loose player and who's a tight player, who's playing agressive and who's slowplaying...

While a human being tries to memorize part of these informations and keep a basic idea of who does what, a bot is able to remember absolutely everything, about everyone, with perfect precision.

So basically, a bot is a superman : it plays along the same rules, but it has cognitive capacities a human player can't even get close to.

A bot, however, is not unbeatable. Even in a game with no randomness at all, that's to say Chess, Garry Kasparov beat Deep Blue. Poker bots can also be misprogrammed and may not play a perfect poker. They may have leaks due to the way they were programmed. Besides, most of the time, its playing style is scripted once and for all, and it seldom changes strategy right in the middle of a tournament, even if it should.

Poker bots aren't very adaptative. They learn a lot of informations about what's going on at the tables, but very little informations on better ways to use these informations to play a better poker. Their poker style can't really get any better than how they have been programmed in the beginning.

And as I said earlier, they may have leaks. Just like a human with an incredible IQ could be a very weak poker player, just because he'd take the wrong decisions from the right informations.

Actually, few to no bot can win in long term against pro player in NL Hold'Em. Bots earn money against casual poker players only.

But the vast majority of poker players are casual players, over which the bots are very likely to win because of all the informations they can store and all the data they can compute in a fraction of a second, which makes them unfair players to play against.

And since bots are strictly prohibited in the vast majority of online poker rooms (PokerStars, PartyPoker, Full Tilt, Titan etc.), you won't get any link from us to download such a bot. And anyway, most are commercial softwares, and the rest mostly performs poorly.

Beyond cheating...

Poker HUD - for Head-Up Display
No relation with playing Heads-Up

A HUD, standing for Head Up Display, isn't really a cheating program, but a decision helper program.
A HUD adds informations over the table graphics, from statistics gathered and computed in real time.

With a typical HUD, you'll see in real time, under each player's avatar, from the informations the HUD gathered in your Hands History (HH), informations like the player's VPIP (Voluntary Put money In Pot : rate at which a player tries to get into the game preflop), his PFR rate (PFR for Post Flop Raise), his AF (Agression Factor), how many times he 3bet, and other useful informations which'll allow you to take better decisions.

Although having a HUD is a huge bonus for players using it, most rooms don't consider it to be cheating and they are generally well accepted. A few rooms prohibit the use of HUDS though, such as Cake Poker.

There are several HUD and most are integrated with a "Tracker". For example, PokerTracker 3 (commercial software), or PokerStrategy Elephant, free for all PokerStrategy members.

The odd calculator

An odd calculator is a kind of Ultimate HUD, in-between a HUD and a (basic) bot.

Whether such softwares are accepted or not vary from one room to the other. The main difference with a HUD is that it also displays informations about how you should play, by judging from the statistics it gathered from the other players, by the community cards, your hole cards, and by your position.

Some go as far as observing whether your opponents are tight or agressive, and then tell you what to do by judging from the cards, your position, and the pot size. They will compute your odds and suggest an action (fold, call, raise and if raise, how much).

Some others don't sugget anything, but only tell you your winning odds and the long-term profitability of your choices.

If you're interested by an odd calculator software, do know that this is a jungle out there, and you will be offered many different softwares, some free and some not, some good and some not, with many many scams, many warez software filled with viruses... and a few efficient programs (but hardly ever for free).

If you ever decide to pay for an odd calculator, I'd highly suggest that you check first with your poker room to verify the use of such a software is allowed. Because they'll know you're using one, and if it's prohibited, you'll get your account closed with no refund within a minute.

Otherwise, keep in mind it's likely that many players around you use some of the aforementioned tools to play better than you do.

If many players around you use these kind of tools while you're playing old school poker, you don't need the room to be rigged to be at a disadvantage, even if you're a good player.

So you have to keep that in mind. And if it ever worries you, don't forget to have a look at our article about risk-free poker.

Random Room

24hPoker is a scandinavian online poker room.
In our opinion, scandinavian means less risks of rigging, because the companies there are more monitored than in many other countries, and because of the scandinavian culture which doesn't condone any form of cheating at all.

So all in all, although we didn't get a lot of feedback from...