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Players have been debating for years whether or not everything is on the up and up when it comes to online poker, with much of the conversation on poker forums focused on PokerStars.

As the industry’s top online poker site for almost a decade, it’s no suprise that PokerStars faces allegations every now and again from disgruntled players who swear that they’ve been cheated. A number of those players have made their accusations a matter of public record, hoping to either alert others to the alleged scam or to get similar feedback from fellow players who also feel that PokerStars is rigged.

Here’s the Proof!

I became intrigued about this this topic when I stumbled upon several YouTube videos from years passed that were posted by players who went so far as to assemble a collection of bad beats suffered at the PokerStars tables. That led me to read several articles on the topic as well. The general complaint was that an inordinate amount of bad beats means that PokerStars is rigged in favor of certain players.

A step further in that direction came from another YouTube video poster whose collage of bad beats occurred against PokerStars Team Pros.

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His conspiracy theory centered around the assumption that rigging is typically done to benefit players who wear the red spade, as it wouldn’t be in PokerStars best interest to have their sponsored pros suffer losing sessions.

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After watching the various bad beat videos and reading some of the gripes and comments on threads at forums such as 2 + 2 and reddit, I came to a conclusion. But I first had to stop laughing over the ridiculousness of some of the complaints and claims.

I should mention that I’ve been playing online poker since 2002 and have an account at a number of major sites, including PokerStars. I also have accounts at some of the not so major sites. And I had accounts at sites that are no longer in operation.

Bad beats happen at ALL poker sites, just as they do in live poker. Do they happen more frequently online than in live poker? It sure seems that way, but probably only because so many more hands are played per hour due to automatic card dealing and the ability to multi-table.

Selective Memory

Getting back to our main question of whether or not PokerStars is rigged, I’d like to direct your attention to “Inside PokerStars,” episode no. 3. PokerStars’ Head of Poker Communications Lee Jones answers the question rather succinctly in “How does PokerStars shuffle the deck?”

Those bad beats where your A-K in the hole gets crushed by an opponent’s A-4, or your K-K loses to a pair of Jacks, seem to stick in your mind. The times when your A-A holds up and doesn’t get cracked do not. As pointed out by Jones, it’s attributable to selective memory, choosing to remember the bad hands and to disregard the good.

Let’s face it, poker players don’t like to lose. Many need to point the blame elsewhere when they get it in good and get beaten by an inferior hand. But in the long run, the percentages of how many times a hand should win against another hand hold true.

Is PokerStars rigged? The answer is definitely “no.”


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Charles Rettmuller

Charles has been an avid poker player for a number of years, both live and online. He holds a degree in journalism and previously worked as a reporter for a Chicago-based newspaper. Charles joined the PokerUpdate team in early 2012 and writes daily news articles for the site.