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Online Poker: Trust, But Verify

Two Queen of Spades in a deck of cards! Awful. But, is it a reason to distrust a cardroom?

Let’s talk about it.

Why should you trust a cardroom?

Must you trust a cardroom?

A delicate balance of power exists between poker players and poker providers. Those who have only been on one side, often don’t have the full picture. Understanding and maintaining a healthy balance is critical for a healthy poker economy.

Poker providers need to have a healthy business so they can continue dealing cards.

Poker players need a fair gaming experience at a fair price.

Changes on a poker software impact this balance. Poker providers have the power to make changes on the software, and they always do.

Players often are up in arms at changes that are virtually meaningless. Meanwhile, they shrug their shoulders at happenings that should have them raging. The ability to know the difference is a matter of education and experience

Poker players should have a role in ensuring their fair gaming experience. The role of players policing the gaming industry should never be underestimated.

Players have played a major role in uncovering every major poker atrocity. Superusers, bots, ponzi schemes, collusion, etc. Players are at the helm.

And why not? In the end, it’s players protecting the game they love. Ensuring their fun is fair. Ensuring their hard work in study and discipline gives them a fair chance at showing their skills and reaping the benefits. If players don’t do that, who will? The provider? Certainly, they should. Will they? Who knows?

What’s certain is without the balance of power with players policing providers and providers policing players, history has shown that one side will eventually try to screw the other.

In this balance of power, the provider has the advantage. Why? What is the key to this game? Data.

As usual, knowledge is power. The provider has all the data. The player only has the data given to them.

When a provider takes information away from players, they reduce the power the players have. They reduce the players ability to police the provider. A player has only trust remaining.

Example:

Player: “I get rivered every time! This can’t be fair! Your RNG sucks! You’re cheaters!”

We’ve all seen these posts in forums. And this is the crux of 50% of customer service emails. The player is losing and is emotional. That’s understandable. But, let’s talk about the RNG.

For those unaware, the RNG stands for random number generator. This ensures you’re being dealt from a fair, well-shuffled deck of cards. Third-party companies exist to test RNGs for gaming companies to ensure the RNG is fair. A gaming company can get a RNG certificate. And most companies do.

Do you trust the process? Must you?

What if the company gets the certificate, then simply changes the RNG code? Worse, what if the RNG test is part of the scam? Far fetched? Conspiracy theories?

Maybe. But, why bother. It’s easy for players to ensure a fair deck if they have data.

When a provider gives players hand histories, they give the player a treasure of data. This data can be imported into databases commercially available to players.

Players can simply use this data to ensure cards are being dealt fairly. Getting AA often enough? A five-minute filter will tell you. No need for certificates.

Learn from Chris Farley:

I don’t mean to devalue RNG certificates or 3rd-party verification or regulation. However, the fact is, no one will do a better job at policing providers than players.

And all they need is data.

I’ve seen players rage about RNGs. They rage about expired licenses. They rage about no RNG Guarantee Seal on a site. This is borderline meaningless.
However, I’ve watched players stand by silently while providers remove hand histories from players. They quietly allow the provider to remove the greatest treasure of data they have. They’ve been stripped of their power. They no longer have the only way they can verify the data. But hey…the provider still has a certificate…all good.

Every time a provider denies players data, the player should be fighting it. It’s an imbalance of power that forces players to trust. Here are examples of places players should fight for data:

  • Hand histories: I’m not playing on a site that doesn’t provide them. It’s too much to trust to anyone, and that includes a 3rd party.
  • Screennames: I insist they’re displayed and should not be changed. That’s my way to track my opponents and ensure they’re not cheating me, colluding, etc.
    Bots: Providers claim they ban them. Claim they gave refunds. How do I know? I insist you tell me who the accounts were and how much money and why that much. By the way, why did you let them on your site in the first place? Refunds are a start, but not the best. Get them off your site.
  • Lottery SNGs: Spin n gos, Jackpot Poker, Spins, etc. These things are amazing fun. However, how do I know sites are awarding the large multipliers with the correct frequency and not cheating players. I want data. Players deserve the data.

It all boils down to data. With data, players can verify. They don’t have to trust.

Bugs vs. Power Imbalance

Let’s get back to two Queen of Spades on a flop. How should a player feel about it?

No question: It’s unacceptable. If I’m in a hand and two Qs are on the flop. I deserve compensation for the money I had in that hand. If I contact the provider and they don’t rectify the situation, I’m taking my business elsewhere until I feel something has changed.

That’s a nasty bug. All sites have bugs. A player waiting list doesn’t work correctly, a column is too thin and some data isn’t displayed, a satellite isn’t showing in the qualifiers list, etc.

Some bugs are manageable, some aren’t. If a site has too many bugs that impact me, I’ll consider elsewhere. Some other site more polished where playing is more convenient. These things must be weighed by each player.

  • Site A has a 10k GTD, but I have to click on raise twice to get the button to work.
  • Site B has a 7k GTD, and the raise button works correctly.
  • Site C has a 12k GTD, the raise buttons works correctly, but the font is difficult to read and hurts my eyes.

The player has a decision to make. No site is perfect for every player, and all sites have bugs. Some sites have more than others. Some bugs impact certain players more than others.

Running a successful poker site is incredibly difficult. There’s a reason there are only a handful of successful online poker rooms in the world. Bugs happen.
However, bugs themselves are not a reason to distrust a poker site. Bugs are not a reason to believe a site is a scam. They may be a reason to take your business elsewhere, but that’s another topic.

More importantly, providers need player feedback. Without player feedback, the provider doesn’t know a bug exists to fix. Providers welcome posts showing two Queen of Spades even though such a bug is embarrassing. It shows a bug exists and must be immediately addressed. Without that feedback, the provider can’t improve the situation for both player and provider.

Shooting Yourself in the Face

Recently, many online marketers, bloggers, etc, have been pouncing on the popularity of highlighting bugs and flaws on poker sites.

“Look at this! How can this happen! You can’t trust online poker!”

“There are bots in online poker! Bots are everywhere!”

And the clicks pour into their sites. Meanwhile, they damage the reputation of the game they claim to be promoting. Then they talk about how games have dried up. They complain about how new recreational players no longer come to the game.

Wonder why…

A better approach is to be a healthy part of the poker community. Be critical of sites, but in a way that is healthy for the community. Demand data. Fight when data is removed. Report bugs. Suggest features, new game ideas. Promote a love for the game.

Be #goodforpoker.

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