Is online poker rigged?

I have been asked this question countless times during the past 15 years and my answer has not changed much during that time. This week a student asked me the same question and I refered him to Your Poker Mastermind Vol 4: Software and Statistics. I thought I would include the relevant question and answer here:

9: Do you ever get the feeling that online sites are rigged to generate more action for the purposes of rake?

This question still comes up quite regularly, especially after bad beat stories.

My answer is definitely not.

All companies with licenses to operate online poker software are subject to independent auditors. It is a straightforward test. The RNG software of all the sites is not complicated and is 100% safe and trustworthy in my opinion. They always pass the audits.

I’ve played on scores of different sites over nearly 20 years, have a database of over 25 million hands and I have never encountered any reason to believe that the cards are not being generated randomly.

The game of poker will always involve seemingly incredible stories of bad beats and outrageous one in a million spots. Frankly, if I did not find 25 amazing one in a million spots in my database, I would be surprised.

There are several reasons why players still believe that manipulation may be taking place:

1: Natural human cynicism and a glass half empty attitude.

2: Over millions of hands, outrageous and hugely unlikely occurrences become not only likely, but eventually almost inevitable. People are too easily shocked by events such as losing 10 coin flips in a row.

3: There have been poker scandals (not to do with RNG software). People believe because x happened, then y must also happen, but this is flawed logic.

The only scandal I can recall that was in any way related to the software itself was the one at Absolute and Ultimate Bet - read here.

The companies that own the poker client software have absolutely nothing to gain in rigging games and everything to gain in providing fair games.

What we have seen in recent years is a move from companies like The Stars Group Inc (formally known as Amaya Inc) towards encouraging faster games and games with higher variance. There are many things they can do to try an increase their profits without resorting to a suicidal attempt at rigging their own software.

So really, honestly, no.