Probably all online poker players have deliberated whether or not online poker is fixed. This thought often crosses the mind of an online poker player after a prolonged period where everything has gone against them.
What poker players have to remember is that poker is a game that involves probability, and when you play online poker you get through a lot of poker hands in a short period of time – much more than you would if you played live poker in a casino. It is this high frequency of poker hands that increases the likelihood of a long run of bad beats, which will in turn bring into question whether online poker is fixed.
Thankfully, it would appear extremely unlikely that online poker sites in the UK are fixed.
To start with, if it was uncovered that a poker site was fixed its reputation would be in tatters. This should be enough of a deterrent for any manipulation itself! However, probably the biggest preventative factor to any fixing of cards would be the very stringent regulations that all online poker sites in the UK must comply with.
Who regulates online poker sites in the UK?
If you want to operate an online poker site in the UK you must hold an operating license with the UK Gambling Commission. This is a requirement of the Gambling (Licensing and Advertising) Act 2014. All sites advertised on our website hold a license with the UK Gambling Commission.
Whilst, as you would imagine, there are a large number of criteria that must be met to hold an operating license with the UK Gambling Commission, Remote Technical Standard (RTS) 7 will probably give online poker players the most piece of mind that online poker in the UK is not fixed.
What is Remote Technical Standard 7?
RTS 7 is all about the generation of random outcomes. This is extremely relevant to online poker because if the cards being dealt are not fully random, someone might be able to predict how the cards are dealt and benefit from it. This could cause other players could suffer a financial loss as a result, which is what RTS 7 aims to protect.
Online poker sites will distribute cards in a game of online poker using a random number generator (RNG). RTS requirement 7A specifies that these RNGs and game outcomes must be “acceptably random” or be random with a “high degree of confidence”. In order to do this RTS 7A stipulates that a RNG should be able to demonstrate that:
- It considers the full deck of cards
- It’s output is be unpredictable
- It doesn’t re-produce the same output repeatedly, and that it won’t produce produce the same outcome over two different games of poker.
- Re-setting the RNG does not introduce predictability
- Scaling the RNG does not introduce any of the factors above
Please refer to the Remote Gambling and Software Technical Standards document for full details of the RTS.
You might be thinking it is all well and good having a standard around fairness, but how do we know its being complied with? Well, all online poker sites with a UK Gambling Commission operating license must be subjected to testing by an independent third party.
What independent testing must be performed?
All poker sites that have new RNGs must have them tested by a test house (which is approved by the Gambling Commission) prior to it being released to customers. Furthermore, evidence of the test report must also have been supplied to the Gambling Commission.
As well as having the RNG tested when it is first introduced, any changes to a RNG must also be independently tested. This is because the Gambling Commission will consider changes to a poker site’s RNG a ‘major change’, given it’s impact on the fairness of the game.
To check that the online poker sites are not covering up ‘major changes’ to their systems, all online poker sites operating in the UK must also be subject to an annual games audit by an approved test house. Testing of an online poker sites RNG will include:
- Gaining an understanding of the gaming system through review of the RNG documentation.
- Research around the RNG algorithm/ hardware used to check if thee are any known faults.
- Ensuring the RNG source code adheres to the RNG documentation.
- Testing of the RNG
- Reporting of any identified issues & re-evaluation to confirm the issues have been resolved
Wrapping things up
Whilst you may be frustrated that things haven’t gone your way in online poker, it is very unlikely that this results from anything more than bad luck.
So long as you are playing poker at a poker site that is registered by the Gambling Commission you can rest assured it must follow very strict rules, and it will be independently tested to check it complies with such rules.
If you want to check whether the poker site you are using is a registrant of the Gambling Commission, you can check the register here.