Is the Site Crooked... Don’t Bet on It

Carl Sampson 'The Dean'

There was an interesting thread on the forum this week about the mechanics of random number generators and the inner workings of online poker sites in general. Now I have absolutely nothing to add to that discussion by way of technical input as my level of knowledge on these things could easily be fitted onto the back of a postage stamp with room left over.

There are obviously some very knowledgeable people on this forum on this topic and I leave it to them to discuss such things. However, I do have a very strong grasp of probabilistic concepts. Many thousands of players have adverse opinions of poker sites and some even go as far as to call them crooked for a multitude of reasons.

Some of these accounts can seem very convincing especially when they originate from strong winning players who have a record of winning substantial sums over highly significant sample sizes on other sites who then fail to replicate that on another site. All conspiracy theories suffer from the same problem in so much as there are actually too many people offering opinions on the subject and the actual core truth somehow gets lost.

I myself am guilty of sometimes offering opinions on things of which I have little expertise and this kind of action only serves to confuse an already confusing issue even further. But sometimes when you look at things by way of probability then you can arrive at a likely answer much easier.

Diverting for a split second... let us look at the phenomena that we have come to know as “ghosts”. Now whatever your opinions are on the existence of such entities, what you cannot ignore are the huge amounts of sightings that have been made the world over. Now... despite the fact that at this time there is no physical evidence on the existence of ghosts... this does not alter the fact that a very strong core element of intelligent, level headed, responsible people are seeing things that science as yet has failed to properly explain.

Even if you have not seen or experienced anything personally, it is very difficult to dismiss every single sighting as delusion, mis-interpretation, lying, being drunk etc etc. There are just too many sightings by people who don’t fit these categories and the only remaining conclusion is that something credible and “real” is being witnessed some of the time. The next question is... what are these credible witnesses actually seeing?

This in my opinion applies to what was discussed last week. In my opinion, there are just too many people claiming that there is something not right with certain online poker sites for all these reported cases to be wrong. The large number of losing players and players who simply do not understand variance then serve to cloud the issue and disguise the truth.


But not all of these people fit that category, there are cases made by players who are proven winners over large sample sizes on some sights but just cannot seem to win money on others. Now using simple probability, you cannot have any conclusion other than that it is in the interests of any online poker site to be a hundred per cent honest and up front.

So if you have lost on any poker site or are simply failing to make money despite being able to do so on other sites at exactly the same limits then you are skating on thin ice if you think that the site is crooked. The probability of it being so when all the other factors are considered make this possibility an extremely tiny one.

Don’t mistake what I am saying now with what I said in the thread, there is a big difference with something being possible to it being probable. But yet the analogy that I made with ghosts earlier is relevant because there are too many credible cases being made by poker players so something “real” is happening some of the time to some people... the sheer weight of credible (and that is the key word) cases dictates that this be the case.

So I believe that these people are actually experiencing something and in many cases, I think the answer is one of style. Every single poker site in the world right now has its own unique personality in the same way that a human being does. One of the primary skills of any poker player is the ability to adjust rapidly to changing game conditions. But how many of us actually do this when switching sites? I know that I don’t most of the time, I simply keep to my same style of play irrespective of where I play.

But the “typical” poker player on one site may be totally different to the “typical” poker player on another. The number of reasons behind this are both complex and numerous. A difference in marketing from one site to another can attract a certain type of person, an abundance or lack of players who use tracking software, rakeback levels, loyalty bonuses, sign up bonuses, software and ability to multi-table all contribute to make the dynamics of poker sites different and no two poker sites can or ever will be identical.

I think that this can lead to problems as certain styles may be more conducive to winning on some sites over others. If you don’t ever change your style from one site to another then its possible that the good record that you had on site A was merely fortunate in that your style of play just happened to fit around the “typical” player at the level that you were playing on that particular site.

Maybe if you don’t use tracking software, you may get away with it on some sites more than others... the reasons are almost endless. But if you are not winning money at a certain site even though you have enough reliable data to suggest that you are already a successful winning player at a certain level, its probably not the site that is to blame and the answer may just be that your style is less effective amongst a different configuration of players... this may not be THE reason but it certainly needs to be one that you should take a serious look at.

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