”No matter how the data are sliced, they inevitably suggest one thing:
It is hard to argue that sumo wrestling isn’t rigged.”
-- Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner, “Freakonomics”
Sumo? Rigged? Say it ain’t so, Joe .. uh, I mean Hirohito.
In between poker sessions this weekend, I zipped through “Freakonomics”. Yeah, I know, it was released months ago. Sue me. It was still a fascinating and reasonably quick read. If you can get your hands on a copy (library for me) and you want something that’ll make you think, this book would be a good choice.
Anyhow, I guess nothing is sacred, the whole world is probably rigged, blah blah blah, and, coincidentally enough, that’s the subject of today’s post.
Ever since releasing RIGGED! The Real E-Story of How the People Who Make Billions Running Internet Poker Really Are Out To Get You and How You Can Fight Back and Win, official friend of this blog Dave F. Beatty has received a steady stream of reader email. I assume that people stumble across his little publication via Google or something, since he still doesn’t have a deal to turn it into a full scale book.
As a courtesy to him I agreed to blog the following, which are snippets of actual emails and Dave’s response to them.
Reader: "KK as pocket pair you would think was a good starting hand. Not on party poker where someone HAS to have AA. Otherwise they wouldn't get me to part with my money. This happens all the time. Whenever someone in the game gets a high pocket pair 2 or 3 people also have a high pocket pair. I passed it off as coincidence fot the first couple of times but then i thought this cannot be right. - They only have a pocket pair when i have a pocket pair. I can't believe they are getting away with this."
Dave says: "KK is quite possibly the single most overrated hand in hold’em, exactly for the reason you mention here – it runs into too many situations where you lose gigantic amounts of money. Either you’re up against AA, you’re up against other pairs that flop sets, or you’re up against other hands that make straights, flushes, trips or two pair. Sometimes it’s even set up so they get quads. Why, just yesterday, I saw a guy with QQ make quads to bust a player who foolishly went in with KK preflop.
Somebody once told me, 'don't rely on Common Sense to do all the work, because he will fail. Math can't lie, regardless of what Common Sense says.' We’ve done the math.
The odds of having AA dealt to your opponent are 221 to 1. The odds of having KK dealt to you are 221 to 1. That means the odds of having your KK run into AA should be large. And yet it happens all the time, which ought to tell you that it’s not a coincidence.
Math is your friend – use it to avoid trouble hands like KK. Thanks for writing."
Reader: "However, I do believe there is possibly a potential of 'shuffle non-randomness' and cash-out penalties. But, as I am a scientist, I believe that all conclusions are based on data. My data, for instance, shows that I’ll win 85%-90% of sessions at a live casino (playing varied levels, too. Loose-Agr., Loose-Pass., Tight-Pass and Tight-Aggr. Tables.) Online poker, however, I’ll only win 68%-74% of the time."
Dave says: "I think we’re on the same page here. Intuition and common sense are valuable, but they only take you so far. To be really certain about something, you need data. The digits are our allies.
We’ve collected statistics on a number of players and found that overall online win rates are both lower and more variable than you would expect based on those same players’ performance at home games and other live poker venues. We’ve tried to control for alcohol consumption, the presence of distracting members of the opposite sex and the possibility that live poker may also be rigged – but even with these adjustments there are too many numbers which don’t make sense. The obvious extrapolation is that there’s something fishy about internet poker. Non-believers might say we’re comparing apples and oranges, but we’ve got scientific evidence that the differences don’t matter much.
Anyway, while our current focus is more on the detailed stuff – specific situations, hand versus hand, that sort of thing -- we definitely plan to study the meta-trends in the future. Thanks for writing."
Reader: "You see, in No-Limit, great players CRUSH the competition. This problem is well noted in books by Sklansky and Malmuth. And the problem is that with all the TV exposure on the WSOP, everyone (chumps) want to play No-Limit. (We are an extreme-oriented society and the 'limit' title seems dull.) After a short time without their 'wonder rivers', most players would get discouraged and quit. The billionaire owners of Paradise and Party poker would make LESS money. Just look at Full Tilt Poker. This is run by honest professionals like Daniel Negraneu and it is fair. I almost never lose there…"
Dave says: "That’s an interesting possibility, and one which is certainly been supported by the numbers produced by our work to date.
A subject area that fascinates me and which we home to study in the future is at what point an unsuccessful player would in fact get discouraged and quit. For the good players, who have a run of success before running afoul of the doom switch, it seems that they keep going at it again and again, saying in effect ‘thank you SIR, may I have another?’ over and over…"
EDITOR’S NOTE: I had to cut off Dave’s remarks concerning specific poker rooms. For one, Full Tilt is a sponsor of this blog (link to the right). For another, well, one reason is enough. Carry on.
Reader: "One more observation that I wanted to point out to you is that in tournament play I notice that the short stacks (every time) are given bad beats on the river… when this happens I see a slight pause and then the bad beat card comes out. I’m a computer programmer so I know the programming behind it… in about 1/10 of a second the engine determines the stack size and the cards and selects the card that will give the higher stack the win… sending the lower stack out of the tourney (the faster tourney’s go the more tourney’s that can be held and the more money PP can make)."
Dave says: "Right on, although our simulations have shown that with the electronic horsepower Party Poker and the other sites have at their disposal, the average computational time on the river is actually .055e293311 nanoseconds per hand. It seems like longer than that because of your dialup connection.
We’ve been busy trying to reverse-engineer source code for some of the major sites, and we’ve found some very suspicious river-only subroutines. If you can read C++ and would be interested, let me know and I’ll forward some snippets on to you.
Thanks for writing."
Reader: "I recently turned $250 on fulltilt into 50k in 5 weeks & won a satellite to wsop, then as soon as i cashed some money out, the beats & 2nd best hand setups starting coming. I also agree with you that the illuminati runs these companies."
Dave says: "I don’t think the Trilateral Commission has all that much to do with the day-to-day operation of the internet poker sites, but they definitely are a guiding force. The best example is what Party Poker has been up to lately. I would not want to be running a skin or a competitor without the official blessing of the inner circle.
As for your success, did you shift gears after your withdrawal, or did you continue to play as before? We really need to gather more data on this, but it seems to me that you could outfox the rigging by dramatically changing your playing style after cashing out – instead of playing the dominating hands set up to be cracked, you play the dominated hands. It’s like judo. When the large man charges, the smart small man steps aside, trips him, and kicks him in the jimmy when he’s on the ground. You cannot have AA cracked if you decline to play the AA.
Also, I would think the changing gears strategy would be particularly effective against opponents who have recently cashed out themselves yet continue to play the same way they did before. We should give further attention to how the sites structure things when you have a heads-up battle between two players who have both recently cashed out – who is the game rigged against, the more recent cashout, the larger cashout or is it just both (versus a third player) whenever possible?
If you have an interest in furthering our research, please shoot me an email. Thanks for writing."
I don’t know when we’ll hear from Dave next. My understanding is that he’s headed back to the lab for some heavy duty number crunching on the question of whether the Party Poker Sidebet feature may be rigged. I’m guessing that he thinks Party wouldn’t be satisfied with a mere 5.88% house advantage.
For myself, I’m going to stick to something that IS obviously rigged – the state lottery. $300 million and change tonight. It’s almost +EV. Wouldn’t that be nice?