Saturday, December 6, 2008

Online Poker Trying Too Hard

If you watched the 60 Minutes expose last week on online poker and the cheating scandal at Ultimate Bet and Absolute Poker, you might
  • believe that it is rigged
  • wonder why anyone would play for real money

I don't believe that it is rigged, although I know that it is possible to cheat. The two most prevalent forms of cheating are (a) groups of people in the same room entering the same game and colluding, and (b) mediocre players "allowing" top players to take over their account late in a tournament in order to increase chances of winning.

The fact that an insider at one of these firms orchestrated the incident that 60 Minutes covered is very troubling, but it's over. The fate of these entire companies rests on that not happening again, so I'll take my chances.

I was reading a poker site today and came across a tongue in cheek email that one poster had sent to Pokerstars, one of the sites that I play on, complaining about the bad beats that he had been taking of late. I'm not sure he was even expecting a response but the over-the-top explanation from Pokerstars proving the randomness of their virtual card dealing program is wacky.

"Our shuffle is completely random - far more random than you could ever hope to get in a "brick and mortar" casino. We use a thermal entropy chip designed specifically by Intel for generating truly random (as opposed to "crackable" pseudorandom) numbers. It is based on movement of atomic particles in constant motion (defined in physics as heat) and is theoretically impossible to predict (see Schroedinger's principles for more information). As if this wasn't random enough, we have added all of our users input into the equation. So when you move your mouse, you are providing truly random input to the random number generator used to shuffle the deck prior to each game."


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