Online Gaming - Game Fairness and Disputes

Reason #3 why the Wizard likes Bovada: Excellent Odds

In my opinion many online casinos are too stingy when setting the odds on their games. They think they will make more money that way but I believe they are misguided, because when players lose too quickly it's not fun, and those players might not come back.

Bovada is one of the few casinos that understands this. They offer generous odds to let you play longer and get you a better chance of winning. Among their generous offerings are Full-Pay Jacks or Better returning 99.54%, five other video poker games paying over 99%, single-zero roulette, and my favorite, Double Jackpot Poker, returning 99.63%!

Kudos to Bovada for not being afraid to give their players a good gamble.

Visit Bovada

Great site. Do programs like Microgaming "learn" to defeat the player? I was under the assumption that the answer is no until I played the don't pass in craps. Out of 39 bets resolved, 28 were Pass, 10 were Don't Pass and 1 was a 12 on the come out roll. I realize that this can happen, but it made me wonder. I had read elsewhere that the software can "learn". I didn't really believe it. No, I didn't lose a lot, my betting unit is $1. I'm "testing" online for myself.

Rosalyn from South San Francisco, California

No, programs like Microgaming do not learn to defeat the players. Reputable companies like Microgaming do not need to play any dirty tricks to make money but realize that there is more money to be made long-term by offering a fair game. Even if they did want to cheat the players, there would be much easier ways to do so. However, there is a lot to be said about computer teaching themselves to play. I'm not an expert, but I do know that computers can learn from past experience in games like backgammon and chess to improve their play. Finding the Edge (Edited by Olaf Vancura, Judy A. Collins, and William R. Eadington) has a paper titled A Computer Teaches Itself to Play Blackjack by Olaf Vancura, if you are interested in learning more about the topic.

Thank you for you website, it answered a lot of questions. For online casinos that are downloaded, are the games played from the server or on your personal computer. The reason I ask is that you suspect some casinos of cheating. So does the downloadable games protect you from cheating because the game is played off your computer. Specifically, in roulette for example, the number that pops up, is it determined by the online server or the downloaded program on your computer? And if there are cheats, do you suspect that the programs were written to cheat or are there live people regulating your play?

Tom from Los Angeles, California

No, when you download software you are still playing a game based on a server elsewhere. The day may come when people can play on their own computers but casinos would have to worry about you cheating. Whether downloadable or Java, the number that pops up in roulette is determined by a remote server. The software on your end just presents the graphics and establishes communication with the online casino's server.

Unfortunately, casino cheating does happen. I keep a list of some incidents I suspect in my blacklist.

I have just started gambling online and I am having a difficult time believing that these online casinos are really fair. Although I have tried just three different casinos, they seem to be very hard to beat. I am a fairly consistent winner in Vegas at Blackjack, but these online guys are tough. So the question is -- are the online blackjack games really fair. Thanks and by the way, I really enjoy your site. I have learned a great deal and am looking forward to applying some of your knowledge during my next trip to Vegas. Thanks again!

Larry R. from Nucla, USA

Thanks for your kind words. I think that the vast majority on online casinos are fair. However I won't claim that all of them are. Check out my casino blacklist for casinos I had problems with. Assuming you aren't playing just the bad ones, I would suggest your losing is just the result of bad luck.

What other options are open to an online casino player if they are dissatisfied with an online casinos response to a problem? My particular gripes are removal of a bonus for inactivity and requiring a copy of a credit card statement to cash out winnings.

Rod from Newburgh, U.S.

There is not much you can do in the way of complaining to a higher authority. Some of the better jurisdictions have a government body to oversee the online casinos. However, if you ever bring a specific complaint to their attention, then they seem to either do nothing or side with the casino. It is much more effective to raise a stink on Internet bulletin boards. Even if it doesn't work, at least other players will be warned.

Are these very fair rules:

  • The dealer deals from an infinite deck
  • Dealer stands on soft 17
  • No surrender allowed
  • Player can split any pair
  • Player can re-split, except for aces
  • Insurance offered only when player has two cards
  • Player can double down on any hand
  • Player can double after a split

These are the rules at 4 Aces casino, where I always seem to bust if I hit a 12 or 13 and the dealer wiped me out with a mind numbing over 40 21’s including twice 21’s four times in a row. They do allow late surrender even though it states otherwise in their rules. What is an infinite deck? If these are good rules could you point out a good strategy.

Douglas from Cumberland, Maryland

According to my blackjack house edge calculator, the house edge with these rules, assuming eight decks, is 0.45%. The effect of infinite decks, compared to eight, is 0.10% in the house's favor. So, the total house edge would be 0.45% + 0.10% = 0.55%.

You also seem to also imply that this casino is not dealing a fair game. Unless you provide some hard data I can't comment on that.

I recently won a VERY LARGE jackpot on an on-line casino, and immediately cashed out. The casino is now claiming that it will take them about three weeks to "audit" my account before they will process the payment. Once they begin processing the payment, it will take 5 to 10 business days before they send the funds to me. They will not pay more than $4,000 per week. Further, they are charging me $15 per $1,000 to perform a wire transfer to my bank account. Or, if I elect, they will charge $10 per $1,000 to mail me a check, which they claim takes 2 to 6 weeks to process. If I wish I can pay an additional $35 per check (remember checks are no greater than $4,000) to have the check FedEx'd to me. They never had much difficulty taking money from my credit card accounts. I am wondering if this is standard fare for on-line casinos... and if there is anyway around these delays and exorbitant charges?

Mike from California

I figured this was a Microgaming casino based on the fees for a payment. This is news to me so I called three Microgaming casinos to ask about it. The River Belle said they pay any jackpot in its entirety up front. The Golden Palace did as you describe, paying $4000 per week. The English Harbour pays $5000 per week. You have a legitimate complaint about paying the service fee on every payment, as well as the show payment processing time. Unfortunately, there is nothing you can do to change it. As I have said before, there is almost no regulation of most online casinos so they can do whatever they want.

What do you know about the randomization process that online casinos use to simulate shuffling? How closely does it approximate the actual manual shuffling of cards in a casino? And finally the obvious: wouldn't it be fairly simple to write a randomization (shuffling) program that would give the house a bigger edge -- sort of stack the deck? Enjoy your site. Thanks.

Jim from Cincinnati, USA

I know that one software company randomly picks two cards in the deck and reverses them, and repeats this numerous times. Since learning of this technique, that is also how I shuffle in my random simulation programs. As long as any method of shuffling is done enough times the deck should be properly randomized.

Manual shuffling is more vulnerable to a biased shuffle and consequently some players try to exploit this by shuffle tracking and card clumping. There are numerous ways an online casino might cheat, but a bad shuffle I don't think is one of them.

Wanted to know if you have ever played Vegas Palms. They use Microgaming for their blackjack. I have never seen such a streaky game. I have lost 18 out of 20 hands and 1 hour later won 23 out of 30. It seems that every time I play it turns out to be a streak one way or the other. I am just happy that I have had more winning streaks than losing streaks. I also like their Cyberstud Poker. It is close to Caribbean Stud, but I think the payouts are a little different (i.e. 2 pair is 2-1, but 3 of-a-kind is 4-1).

I have yet to have a losing session playing this game. Knock on wood! One hand I did lose. I would like to get you to figure the odds of it happening. I had a diamond flush king high and got beat by a spade flush ace high. What are the odds of 2 flushes in one had?

Bert from Richmond

I have never played at the Vegas Palms. However, I have a lot of faith in the fairness of Microgaming and believe that it is just chance you are having streaky games. Cyberstud poker is the same thing as Caribbean Stud Poker, with a slightly more generous pay table. The expected return is 5.01%, as opposed to the usual 5.22% with Caribbean Stud. The probability of two flushes is (4*(combin(13,5)-10)/combin(52,5)) * (3*(combin(13,5)-10)/combin(47,5)) = 1 in 203,725.

I was playing roulette last nigh using the "Martingale" method of doubling down twice after the 1st loss. Dumb, I know, but I usually don't lose much and I gamble a long time. Anyway, what ended the game for me was I was betting even, and in four rolls the number 9 came up in three of the spins. What are the odds of that? Does that sound suspicious? For that matter, have casinos ever been caught cheating?

Jim from St. Peters, USA

The probability of getting any number three times out of 4 is 38*4*(1/38)3*(37/38) = 1/5932. However, if you play long enough you almost can't help but notice unusual events like this. This does not nearly rise to the level of being suspicious. Cheating does occur in real casinos. It is usually a rogue dealer who is caught by casino security. There have been some strong cases of cheating made against online casinos but no governmental authority has ever convicted anyone to the best of my knowledge.

I like the Boss Media casinos, but I never "see" anybody at Cowboy Casino (multi-player). I have more frequent long streaks of losing hands there than, say, at Gold Club. Is it possible for Cowboy (or any Boss Media venue) to opt for a tighter game or to selectively manipulate the game against a particular player?

Gordon from Charlottesville, Virginia

I have noticed that too about Boss Media casinos, I seldom see other players playing. It is possible for any online casino to do whatever they want. However, I seriously doubt Boss Media would resort to cheating. They are a legitimate company and know they have more to gain in the long run by playing a fair game.

I notice that some Internet Casinos give you two cards right away one on each hand before you begin to play each hand, unlike a live casino which play the split, one hand at a time. Is this a house advantage dealing two cards before beginning play on the split hands?

Karter from Calgary, Canada

Mathematically speaking, it doesn't make any difference.

I was playing craps at www.gamehouse.com and bet $20 on the horn and won $60 on a roll of 11. If the horn bet is spread out between 2,3,11,12, shouldn't I have won $75 ($5X15)?

Chance

No, you were paid correctly. The 11 does pay 15:1 on the $5 of your bet. However you lost the other $15 on the 2, 3, and 12. So $75-$15=$60. Instead of taking the $15 from your bet, they take it from the winnings.

Would it be possible to use a Java decompiler to look at the source code of the Unified Gaming blackjack applet (and determine whether the game is fair or not)?

Mark from Allston, Massachusetts

I would hope they put enough encryption on their game to make that difficult. Nevertheless, I wouldn't say it is impossible.

I won recently at eWorld Casino. They said they would send a payment Western Union 6 days after I withdrew it. It has now been 7 days and every time I call their support line they tell me they don’t know when they payment will be made. Should I worry? What should I do?

David from New York, US

First let me say that eWorld is okay as far as I know. I’ve played them and had no problems. I’m think they will pay you and this is just ordinary inconvenience most players suffer with. Unfortunately Internet casinos in general are not known for paying winners quickly. I’ve seen the range myself from 3 days (Net Club) to 33 days (Casino on Air) of those times I kept track. I would say 2 weeks is about average. After two weeks I would ask about it every 3-5 days until they pay. Perhaps they will tire of the nagging and expedite the payment. Don’t get threatening or abusive until it seems there is no other hope. I would wait until 45-60 days have gone by before getting to this stage. Once you do get tough they may shut off all communication. However if you feel things are hopeless give a final strongly worded warning. Wait a few days and then do your best to get some justice by warning others of your experience at the bulletin boards. This advice is not specific to eWorld but all Internet casinos. Keep in mind most of these casinos operate out the Caribbean and Central America where people take their sweet time to do anything.

I notice that all Boss Media multi-player casinos have a trend of dealer showing a face (10) the majority of the times, and other users complain about that as well. I figure that on average the dealer should show a face 4/13 of the times, does that make any sense? This is mostly while playing 1-3 hands vs the Dealer.

Jumbo from Canada

Although I address this kind of question in my FAQ and in past columns I’ll still comment. You need to give me some hard numbers to have this taken this seriously. For example if you played 1000 hands you would expect the dealer to have a 10 or face card up about 308 times. The probability of the actual number being within 50 of 308 is 99.93%. If you were outside of 50 then we could raise our eyebrows and if you were outside even more we could really get serious. However I can’t do much with "the majority." I indicate how to gather data a test for online cheating in my FAQ. Finally, I want to say that I strongly feel that Boss Media is playing a fair game.

I have heard of casinos not paying players, accusing them of being or using "robot" player. What exactly does this mean?

Adam

In an effort to exploit games with a small player advantage some online players have used robot players to play the games for them. With downloadable software robots can be programmed to read the cards on the screen, make a decision on how to play them, and then click the screen in the right places. Using a robot can be easier to perform on Java casinos where the URL indicates all the pertinent information. These robots take a lot of expertise and time to use but if done properly can turn a computer into a money making machine. That is why some casinos don’t like them and prohibit them. They may be suspicious if they see an unusually fast rate and consistent rate of play over a long period of time. I also think that sometimes less reputable online casinos looking for any excuse to not pay a winner will falsely accuse the player of using a robot player. Thus they list the rule as a possible last resort to not pay.

I was recently put on the "list" and can not play at the casinos. Could you tell me how I got my name on the "list" and how do I get my name off of it? Thank you for your response.

Brian from Milpitas, USA

I don’t the reason in your particular case because I don’t have access to the blacklists. The fastest way to get on the list is to make a chargeback. That is making a credit card purchase, blowing it in the casino, and then reversing the charges. This is something the Internet casinos do not mess around with and they share lists with each other of players who have made even one chargeback, regardless of the reason. There are also blacklists for bonus abusers. These are harder to get on and are not circulated as widely. Once on a list there is just about nothing that can be done about it. Internet gambling is still mostly unregulated so there is no higher authority to turn to.

The Question I have is about Microgaming Blackjack. I have played the for fun version of about 10 online casino trying to determine the best one and I run into a question I have yet been able to understand. Out of about 1000 games or more at each casino I found out some days using the basic strategy for the casino from your web site I stay just about even with the dealer and some times show a small credit profit. But other days I am lucky to win 20 hands out of 100. And I never stray from the strategy and just bet an even bet. Is this normal that some days the random generator is set up to sway the dealers way for a long period of time and if so does it ever sway the players way that much too? I sure would like to know more because I really enjoy the game and am not wanting to make a lot of money but when you are betting min. and it eats away 200 credits in no time this does not seem normal odds. Please if you can educate me on this I would think you very much.

Dean from Winston Salem, USA

In my strong opinion the variation you’re observing is the result of random variation in the cards, not where you’re playing. I suspect you are exaggerating about sometimes only winning 20 hands out of 100, that would be very unlikely. Some people believe that Microgaming has a "take down" mode in which the player will lose like crazy for a period of time. It is to be expected that in any game the player will occasionally have bad losing streaks, as well as good winning streaks. So these alleged "take down" periods I think are just normal bad luck and that all Microgaming casinos deal a fair game.

Love your site! It’s amazing. My question is regarding on of your answers about "robot players" for online casinos. You said: "These robots take a lot of expertise and time to use but if done properly can turn a computer into a money making machine," and that essentially, this is why casinos sometimes don’t pay out. What I don’t understand is, you’ve insisted, as any statistician will, that no matter what you do, you will end up losing in the long run. So, my question is, how can using a robot make any difference? Who cares, and why would the casinos see this as a problem? Even if they play perfect BS, the house still has the advantage, right? Regarding expected outcomes in BJ, I’ve seen your tables in appendix 4 about standard deviation and found it very helpful. I’m curious to know though, what are the chances of going down as soon as you start playing, and not coming back up to an average of 100% (after factoring in the loses due to the house edge)? What would the chances be over 100, 200...1000...10000...100000, etc., hands be?

And last, could you please help me understand why it’s a "fallacy" that a win becomes more probable after a series of losses? The way I see it, since the expected outcome is an approximately 99.5% return, then if after 1000 hands, you’re at 78%, then, by definition, it would necessitate that the next hand being a win must be more likely to occur. People say that cards "don’t have a memory", but isn’t the natural curve, in essence, its memory??? Please help me understand this point! Thanks a lot.

Steve from Canada

You’re right, if you used a robot player against an ordinary game you would only lose more. However some casinos do offer games with a player advantage if played properly. Unified Gaming had a blackjack game with an 0.5% player edge for several months, but no longer. Many Real Time Gaming casinos offer a joker poker game with an expected return of 100.18%. Other casinos have promotions in which the player who plays the most hands in a period of time wins a prize, in which a robot player would have a clear advantage. About your second question the bell curve is a forward looking estimate of the sum of many random variables. You can not mix together past and future events. Once an event has happened it is no longer a random variable but a cold hard outcome. If you played 1000 hands of blackjack with a return of 78% then you fell on the tail end of the bell curve during that play. Starting from hand 1001 your results could fall anywhere on a new bell curve. I hope this helps, but it really takes a course in statistics to truly understand.

Most online casinos offer bonus offers but do not allow wagers on games like roulette, craps and baccarat to be part of the necessary wagering requirements. I am wondering about the exact reason for this. They usually state that no risk wagering is not allowed and a player’s account would be audited before any payout so it wouldn’t make sense to do this anyway. Are they trying to stop players playing games which offer close to even money options then? It seems to me unfair to stop new players to a casino playing such popular games such as these after offering a bonus.

Also you answered a previous question about player abuse by saying you should play 100% more than the minimum requirement to cash out the bonus. As I see it if the casino lays down the rules for minimum wagering then that is all that is required by the player and if he can wager 8x the bonus without losing it then he deserves to be able to cash it out without being labeled a player abuser! Thanks for your time Wizard.

Chris from Palmerston north, New Zealand

The reason they do this is that before they implemented this rule some players would bet equal amounts on red and black in roulette, or the pass and don’t pass in craps. This would allow them to earn a bonus without putting much money at risk. So the online casinos added this rule in an effort to keep these bonus players out. Casino on Net does allow play on any game but reserves the right to refuse the bonus if the player bets on opposites, which I think is a more reasonable solution.

You are absolutely right that a casino should honor a bonus even if the player bets exactly the player requirement and not $1 more. Unfortunately many Internet casinos owners don’t think they have to abide by their own rules and make them and break them as they go. Two years ago the Golden Palace rounded up all the players they considered to be not be giving enough free play and locked them out of their accounts. I know this because I had one of the accounts. After a lengthy audit they reopened some accounts but seized the funds of others and donated them to charity. This was despite the fact that the players followed every rule. It just goes to show that there is no credible regulation of Internet gambling and that appearances are very important. That is why I advise players to not even look like they are only after a bonus and to provide plenty of extra play.

Hi, have you ever heard any complaints about "SLOTLAND casino" because I am a bit suspicious about their space jack game. Playing the perfect strategy the expected return is 101.7%. But after playing many and many hands I have not made any profit. So, I would like to have your opinion!

Stephanie from Les Clayes Sous Bois, France

Actually I get a player return of 101.62%. Buried within their rules is this statement, "Please note that all games share the same mechanism which determines the jackpot win. Thus, with card games, the probability of hitting the jackpot combination is not natural but controlled by this shared random mechanism in the same way as slot machines' wins." It is my understanding that they offered this game for quite a while before posting this warning. I just don't trust any casino that would rig a card game, even if they admit it in the fine print.

At bingogala.com they offer a $500 prize for a coverall within 54 calls. You told me earlier that the probability of that at least 1 card in 600 will get a coverall in 54 calls is 3.21%. So in 380 days (to date) at 8 sessions per day they should have 97.58 $500 winners, right? However I counted only 76 winners on their home page. When I brought up my question about this in chat my husband and I were both banned from the site which really sent my antenna up? Sorry to be a pest but if they are running an unscrupulous site I want to know how to figure it out so that I can shout it far and wide with facts. Thank you for any help you can give me in this matter.

Anonymous

First let me explain that this is a rather old question that I put on the back burner, bingogala has now been in operation for two years according to their home page. The probability of a coverall within 54 calls for a single card is combin(74-24,54-24)/combin(54,54) = 0.000054. The probability at least one card in 600 will get a coverall in 54 call is 1-(1-.000054)600 = 0.032121. The expected number of winners over 380 days at 8 sessions per day is 97.65. The standard deviation is (380*8*0.032121*(1-0.032121))1/2 = 9.72. So this is (97.58-76)/9.72 = 2.23 standard deviations south of expectations. The probability of 76 or fewer winners in a fair game is 1.30%. So this could either be explained by bad luck on the part of the players, or fewer than 600 players on average. Perhaps they didn’t get as many in the early days. So the evidence doesn’t warrant an accusation of foul play in my opinion.

I have down loaded many black jack games from internet both stand alone and on-line. Had played for long time and felt the games are different in difficulty to win especially the slot, (pardon me if I am wrong). If it is true than is there any way to find out if the online games are truly random or any trusted organization we can get truly depend on?

Clint from Singapore

It is a good sign if a casino has an independent auditor to review the log files for fairness and randomness. I used to provide such a service to online casinos myself.

For those games which returns higher than 100%, have you thought of writing computer programs to play against them? I saw this idea mentioned somewhere else so I bet you must have known it. What is the problem with it then? No big return? Too many people have already done it? Casinos can easily find out and bar you?

Anonymous

I addressed robot players in the September 20, 2001 column. Assuming you could create a robot then it should do well against a game with over 100% return. However I would recommend programming it to play at a human speed and reasonable sitting times. Some online casinos have been known to blame players for using robots even when they weren’t, as an excuse not to pay in my opinion.

I read about someone winning 1.3 million at an Online Casino in Caribbean Stud and not being paid because they used robot play. What is robot play, how does it win, and why is it illegal?

Anonymous

First, the game was Caribbean 21, not Caribbean Stud. The casino this money was won from alleges that the player used robot play, which is against their terms and conditions. If this is true (the player denies it) then it is within their rights to forfeit the winnings. Robot play is a program that can read the cards on the screen and can play against the casino by itself, by simulated mouse moves and clicks, or keyboard actions. Some casinos don’t allow it because they have some games with a theoretical return slightly over 100%. Robot play could ensure nice expected hourly profits for the person using it, but not enough to bother actually playing. A good example is Boss Media’s single deck blackjack game with a player advantage of 0.11%. Some casinos with no positive expectation game allow robot play and others do not. I do not know why those with no positive expectation games prohibit robot play. Some skeptics claim they retain the right to avoid paying big winners, simply by alleging robot play. In this situation the casino has released a taped confession in which the player offers to sell the robot. However the player says it was taken out of context. It is a long story, for more details follow this link to Casinomeister’s forum on this topic.

How does an online poker sites protect its customers from collaboration?

Anonymous

I’m not sure, but they swear that they have tests for this. They wouldn’t want to explain exactly what they test for, lest the collaborators take countermeasures. However an easy sign would be when 2 or more players always play at the same time.

Do Internet casinos deliberately let you win in fun mode?

Anonymous

I have heard this allegation a lot of times but have yet to see any proof either way.

Brilliant Site. My question is whether or not free online demo games follow the same system as their money playing counterparts. I ask because I was playing Netgaming's free roulette and it appeared as though the system was purposely letting you win in order to bait you into playing for money. Do online sites do this? I was basically trying the Martingale, which I know is false, but I turned the 1,000 very quickly and easily into 10,000.

Anonymous

To answer your question I gave Netgaming a try. In their single zero roulette game I placed 200 bets on red. My results were 133 wins and 67 losses. The probability of 133 or more wins in 200 spins is 1 in 3,788,515. So obviously they were letting me win. Let the record show I do not approve of manipulating the odds for any reason. So to Netgaming.com, and any other casinos that do this, I say shame on you. For this and other reasons I have added the software provider Elka System Casinos/Oyster Gaming to my blacklist.

Hi, I found a Double Exposure game where the ties push. The full rules are:

  1. 6 decks.
  2. Dealer hits soft 17.
  3. All ties push, except player wins tied blackjack.
  4. Player can double on hard 9 to 11 only.
  5. Player can re-split, including unlike tens, to four hands.
  6. Double after split allowed.
  7. Draw to split aces allowed.

This must have a player advantage, can you tell me what it is?

Anonymous

As I'm sure you know this game is offered by Lucky Chance casino. Using the appropriate basic strategy for these rules the player advantage is 7.2%! Wait it gets even better. You can bet three hands at once of $5 or more each and if you get a blackjack on all three you win a progressive jackpot that is currently at $18095. The probability of getting three blackjacks in three hands is 1 in 10552. So the progressive is worth an extra $1.71 per hand. On two days while I played they also offered 15% rebate on losses, calculated whenever you exited the game. So I simply exited after every hand, except on a push.

However I'm suspicious if the player advantage is too high. I checked Winner Online and found they allegedly used to offer a video poker game with a 120% return, although they use a normal pay table now. That is two red flags. Lucky Chance offers a 100% immediately bonus up to purchases of $500, so I put them to the test. It was my goal to either make a fortune on their Double Exposure game or prove the game was not fair. Following are my results:

  • 313 of single hands: net win of 32 units.
  • 1959 hands of 3 spots at once: net loss of 29 units.
  • 2272 total hands: net win of 3 units.

Given a 7.2% advantage my expected win was 163.6 units. The probability of only winning 3 or less is 12.4%. This is using a standard deviation of 1.17 for a single hand and 2.68 per hand for playing three at time. My source of the 1.17 is a random simulation using Stanford Wong's Blackjack Count Analyzer and I multiplied that by 2.28 for 3 hands, based on the standard deviations for regular blackjack for 1 and 3 hands as found in my blackjack appendix 4.

This certainly does not rise anywhere near enough to make any accusations. In addition I recorded results all sorts of ways but every test came out looking normal. I would have played longer but the game play is extremely slow and I went broke. The reason I went broke is I did worse on larger bet sizes and my first few hours I didn't record results but they were not good.

So I failed on both my goals. I was too skeptical to deposit again and already wasted several hours on the game. However, if you wish to take a crack at it then be my guest.

Do you think online poker room is "fair" in general? Yes? Maybe? Or don’t ever touch it. I figured it is almost impossible to find out if the casino or other players are cheating you.

Anonymous

I doubt the casino would cheat, why would they? The bigger concern is the other players. It would be very easy for players to collude over the phone or instant messenger. Whether they actually do or not I don’t know. There is probably a greater risk for that at the higher limit tables.

Hi, I’ve been playing in two online casinos for about one month. I have been lucky and I have won about $1500 so far. I want to ask how much do you think that is save for me to win in 1 online casino a day so I wouldn’t be labeled like an advantage player or casino wouldn’t just closed my account because of my luck. I am worried that if I would win let say $50-$100 a day in one casino they would find the reason to close my account. I don’t use any robot I am just lucky. Please help me.

Anonymous

Much like trying to identify card counters it isn’t how much you win, it is how you play. The biggest red flag that a player is a bonus abuser is that he stops playing shortly after completing the terms of a bonus. It also doesn’t help if the player is flat betting and playing low house edge games. You didn’t mention bonuses at all so if you didn’t get one then you should be fine. If you did get a bonus but gave the casino at least 50% more play than required then you should also be okay. Anyone in the gambling business with any sense would see the big picture, that in the short run there will be some winners, losing days, and maybe even losing months, but in the long run the house edge will prevail and the casino will win.

I bet on the Internet on soccer games. The games are supposed to start at 10am but I was able to make my bets at 10:25. All my bets were accepted at 10:25. So if the bets are accepted there is nothing we can do about it. The Internet casino doesn’t have a right to cancel those wagers, they are supposed to pay my winnings.

Anonymous

First, the vast majority of Internet gambling is unregulated. So there is likely no higher authority you can turn to. The word of the casino/sport-book is final. I would imagine that somewhere in their lengthy terms and conditions is a rule that says that wagers made after the beginning of an event are not official, even if accepted by the system. Even without that most have a general rule that if a line is obviously in error then even if the system accepts it can be voided. Such I think could be the situation here.

When I play in free-play mode at an online casino does it have any effect when I play for real money? I think definitely not, but I wanted to check with you.

Anonymous

It shouldn’t. And I will vouch that any casino advertising on this site plays a fair game. Any casino I find cheating, whether in fun or real money, I will have no compunction to add to my blacklist.

I think the seller of blackjackwealth.com should be blacklisted. I told him that on your page I could get the same information, given in his "system", for free. Furthermore the seller denies me a refund, which according to my experience is very rare among serious sellers, although he WOULD give me a refund, provided I show him some gaming log thus proving that I have lost money following his "guidelines". He even mocks me in his emails, when I've been asking for refunds. Check out the system that I got access to for almost $20 and see for yourself. Is that a good system? Is it worth the money?

Anonymous

Thank you for giving me the login to read this guide, but of course I can't repeat it here. This product basically says to go from Internet casino to casino milking new player bonuses playing blackjack basic strategy. The basic strategy chart was obviously stolen from my site. There is some value in his list of bonus offers, which you don't have to pay for, but that is about it. Milking Internet casinos for bonuses is a common knowledge advantage play. Back in 2000 or earlier it was very lucrative but today it is a tough grind due to smaller bonuses and increased play requirements. I don't have a blacklist for this type of thing but am thinking of adding one. Sorry you wasted your $20 but I hope this warning will give you some justice.

What should I do if an online casino refuses to pay out winnings?

Anonymous

If the casino is one of our advertisers and you signed up after clicking an ad on our site then I will help as a mediator. However it is unlikely you would have trouble getting paid by one of our advertisers since we allow advertising from only the most reputable casinos in the business. The number of times I have had to intervene because a player did not get paid by one of our advertisers is extremely small.

If the casino is not one of our advertisers then I can’t really do anything for you. In that case you should give the casino at least a month and three warnings to pay. It goes without saying that you should make sure you have complied with all the casino’s requirements for a withdrawal, especially any ID requirements. If you have been communicating only by email and haven’t heard from them then make sure to call them too. It may be the case that your spam blocker is preventing you from getting their email explaining what they need from you in order to process your withdrawal. If all else fails go on the bulletin boards such as Casino Meister and warn others about your experience. Be sure to include plenty of detail -- posts that say only, "Casino X won’t pay me, don’t play there!" are not very helpful.

VegasClick has an article about disputes with online casinos.

If a casino doesn't pay you your winnings, and you meet all requirements, and then they turn around and say that you've done something, but will not give you proof, what is that considered as? Fraud? Illegal? What? I'd really like to know.

Anonymous

Nothing is illegal in the mostly unregulated world of Internet gambling. Based on only your side of this I'd call it fraud. One of the purposes of my site is to advertise only reputable casinos so that you can find a safe place to play online without running into this kind of problem. If you click an advertiser's banner on my site, open an account with them, have problems, and are unable to resolve them with the casino, then I'll help arbitrate. But I'm almost never called on to help because I pick only reputable casinos in the first place and players by and large don't have problems there. I know this doesn't help for your current situation but it may help for next time, and it can certainly help anyone reading this who needs help picking an online casino in the future. Since online gaming is mostly unregulated it's extra important to pick a reputable casino in the first place. Good luck with your dispute.

I would like to know how to test an online roulette game, to know the odds and if the odds are honest?

Anonymous

First let me say how not to test any game. You should not record all your play and when you are done look for any kind of anomaly, and then write to me complaining that the casino is cheating. The correct way is to state a hypothesis for how the casino is cheating FIRST, then gather data, and finally see if the data fits your hypothesis. If you don’t know what kind of hypothesis to state I would suggest simply testing for the number of wins and losses, and then bet the same thing every time. If you do the first two steps properly and need help on the third then feel free to write me.

A colleague of mine was recently playing at [an online] casino playing 10-line Jacks or Better Video Poker. Money was deposited and 10 hands were played. All 10 hands (and thus all 100 lines) failed to bring up a single win. Please can you calculate the probability of drawing a blank on 10 hands of 10 line JoB. Also, would the probabilty you calculate be evidence of a rigged game? Thanks in advance and keep up the (very) good work.

Anonymous

Here is the probability of winning zero per game according to the number of plays.

Probability of Winning Zero in n-play Video Poker

Plays

Probability

3

0.26260274

5

0.1301204

10

0.02591377

15

0.00649444

25

0.0007854

50

0.00002178

75

0.00000076

100

0

The table is based on a random simulation. I know it is theoretically possible to get a win of zero in 100-play, but in 15,820,000 games it just never happened. So please don’t write about that. The table shows the probability of getting zero in 10-play is 0.025914, or 2.59%. The probability of this happening ten times in a row is 0.02591410 = 1 in 7,323,073,295,177,980.

I tried the software in question in free-play mode and my results seemed fine. In particular in 10 games I won something every time. However as far as I know no casino offers this software and takes real money players from the U.S. I’ll plan to do some further investigating but don’t want to explain how in this forum.

I was playing blackjack online. I bet all of my money on a single hand, and was dealt a pair of eights versus the dealer’s three. Since I could not split, I exited the game, went to the cashier, and bought more chips. However, when I returned to the hand, my newly purchased chips were not at the table. I spoke with customer support, and was told that once a hand is in progress, additional chips may not be brought to the table. However, there is nothing on this casino’s site stating that rule.

Patrick from Jersey City, New Jersey

If I had written the software I would have allowed this, as it is allowed in the land casinos. However remember that in most casinos Internet gambling is unregulated and the player has essentially no rights. The terms and conditions always seem to say that the casino is always right in any dispute. In cases where a rule is not addressed make no assumptions that it will go your way.

I signed up at the one of the biggest and most recommended online poker sites. In the beginning I could not lose. I am not that good and almost got the impression they were letting me win. After a few winning sessions, I could not win to save my life. Moreover, it seemed like in a number of instances after I threw away lousy cards pre-flop, the flop would have been a gold mine. It happened more times than one would expect. When I was down to my last nickel, I miraculously got good cards which enabled me to play longer (although I eventually lost). I saw this happen to someone else at the table. There are a couple of other things that seemed suspicious, e.g., more times than not if I or someone had a pocket pair, there always seemed to be another pocket pair. I was playing for not alot of money in a $2/$4 game. I just could not shake the feeling that something was off. I am not going to mention the site name but it is one of the largest premier sites that everyone recommends. Am I paranoid?

Jeffrey from Coral Springs, Florida

I think you’re just paranoid.

I have been playing online poker for a while and I have noticed that premium hands and especially premium pocket pairs (As,Ks,Qs,Js) come up very often. I am aware that you should be dealt pocket aces on average once every 220 hands, but I think it occurs more often than this. I have friends who have (allegedly) tracked their pocket ace occurrence and have an average somewhere in the neighborhood of once every 125-150 hands, over 10,000 hands. I have a feeling this may below standard deviation and may in fact be very unlikely in an honest game. I was wondering if you have ever conducted any research yourself on this subject? Also what are the odds of having an average of pocket aces every 150 hands over the course of 10,000 hands (67 pocket aces in 10,000 hands)?

Jonah from Davis, California

The probability of pocket aces is combin(4,2)/combin(52,2) = 6/1326 = 1 in 221. Over 10,000 hands you could expect to get pocket aces 10,000/221 = 45.25 times. The standard deviation over 10,000 hands would be (10,000*(1/221)*(1-(1/221)))1/2 = 6.71149. 67 pocket aces would be (67-45.25)/6.71149=3.24 standard deviations above expectations. The probability of results this skewed or more is 0.06%, or 1 in 1673.

Thank your for your informative column. I have been using the "Fun" mode to practice the basic blackjack strategy online (Golden Palace and Grand Online Casino). I generally do well on the fun mode, but when I go to "Real Money" mode I start losing quickly using the same strategy. Do the online casinos change the software randomness for "Fun" mode letting us win, only to entice us to deposit real money.

Mike from Prescott, Arizona

You’re welcome. It’s rare for online casinos to intentionally let players win in free mode. I know the Elka casinos used to do this (for which I blacklisted them), but fortunately they seem to have vanished. If anyone can show me hard evidence that a casino is intentionally allowing players to win in fun mode I would be happy to investigate it. Hard evidence means, at a bare minimum, a record of hands won and lost in each mode, for several dozen hands. Simply telling me that you lost "a lot more" when in real mode is useless.

I have been playing for "fun" at online casinos and am considering playing for real. However, some casinos state that when playing for fun the Windows RNG is used and when playing for real the UNIX RNG is used. Will the difference in RNG’s affect my win probability? Thank you!

Vicki from Mechanicsburg

That shouldn’t change the odds at all. The Windows RNG is probably not very good, but good enough for free play. However when real money is on the line a smart operation would use a proven good RNG on their own end.

How can I prove an Internet casino is cheating at blackjack?

Ed from Indianapolis

As I’ve said before you need to gather some evidence. If you’re not sure how they are cheating then a simple tally of total initial bets made and units lost will suffice. You should flat bet one hand at a time, play perfect basic strategy, and do not count money bet doubling and splitting towards number of bets made. If based on your results the probability of your losses are less than 1 in 10,000 I think there is reason to be suspicious, and would be interested in seeing your evidence so that I may try to corroborate it. Based on a house edge of 0.5% and a standard deviation of 1.15 here is how much you need to be down according to the number of hands. This is based on total hands played since you started keeping track.

0.01% Losing Percentile in Blackjack

Hands Net Loss
100 43
200 61
500 98
1000 140
2000 201
5000 327
10000 478

The formula for being down x units of y hands played is shown in my FAQ.

Re buy bet vig. in craps. Most online casinos on a $10 4/10 buy bet return 19.00, they claim a 5% vig. I always thought this was on the bet amount, not on the win amount which means the return should be 19.50 which is how Bodog does it. Are the other casinos wrong?

Al from Calgary

Yes. Assuming the commission is paid only on a win then it should be applied to the bet amount, not the win amount.

I have searched high and low to find a governing body of Internet gambling. Is there one?

John G. from Barrie, ON

Short answer, no.

Hi wiz, as always, thanks for the great site and love your columns and especially the relationships questions. I have a question about my online blackjack play. I have been playing for quite a while and keep a record or my results. I play two $5 hands against the dealer, thus a total initial bet of $10. My total amount wagered, including doubles and splits, is just over $680,000 at this moment. I calculate my expected loss to have been $3,000 (after factoring the number of total bets into initial bets/hands) at a house edge of 0.5%. However, my actual loss is a far greater amount of $8,500. For such a reasonable sized sample, that seems to be a fairly large discrepancy. I don’t know if that means the game is less than fair (I have no reason to believe so) or I am just experiencing an unfortunate result. What do you think? Are there any reasons to be suspicious based on these results? PS: fortunately, I am still making money due to the bonuses but not as much as I would have expected, and that is the disappointing part. Thanks and all the best.

Mick from Port Kembla

Thanks for the kind words. So you have played 680,000/5 = 136,000 hands. According to my blackjack appendix 4 the standard deviation per hand, playing two hands at a time, is 1.91. So the standard deviation of 136,000 such hands would be 136,0000.5*1.91 = 704 hands. Your losses above expectations are $5,500, or 1,100 hands. So you are 1,100/704 = 1.56 standard deviations south of expectations. The probability of doing this badly or worse can be found in Excel as normsdist(-1.56) = 5.94%.

I lost a lot of money playing Cryptologic Blackjack today. While I don’t think anything is fixed, one aspect of my play seemed well outside the range of probability. Within 35 hands, the dealer showed a 6 seven times and won each time. This was verified through the logs. If the probability of a dealer bust is 56% with a six, my calculation suggests the odds of this independent event happening six consecutive times is 0.23%.

Adam from Toronto

At Cryptologic they use 8 decks and the dealer stands on a soft 17. According to my blackjack appendix 2, the probability of the dealer busting with a 6 up is 0.422922. So the probability of not busing is 1 - 0.422922 = 0.577078. The probability of not busing 7 times out of 7 is (0.577078)7 = 2.13%.

I’ve found an online video poker game with a ridiculous payout structure. What are some good (simple yet reliable) hypotheses to test to find out if the game is unfair?

Jon from Knoxville

First play optimal strategy using software such as Winpoker, Video Poker for Winners, or Frugal Video Poker. Then keep track of how much you get each hand compared to expectations, which both programs can calculate. Finally do a chi-squared test of the results. If you need help with the last step you can send your results to me, as long as you have a sample size of at least 300 hands.

I have been playing roulette at the X Internet casino and I feel there is some foul play involved in their random generation system. I wanted to report this to your website so other people are also aware of it. I have a screenshot of how the numbers appeared - 6, 6, 22, 22, 30, 22, 30, 9, 22. In 7 turns 22 appears 4 times. I would like to upload that screenshot to show this. Would this be considered a flaw in their random number generator, which by the way is audited by Price Waterhouse Cooper?

Ashwal from Waterloo

The probability of getting any number exactly four times in seven spins is 38 × combin(7,4) * (1/38)4 × (37/38)3 = 0.000589, or 1 in 1698. Assuming 200 spins per hour, you should see this about once every 8.5 hours. I’m sure you cherry picked this sequence out of lots of ordinary looking spins. So I’m afraid this evidence doesn’t nearly rise to the level required for a kind of case of foul play.

I visited Bodog and tried out their roulette wheel on the free site. In a box in the upper corner it records the last ten numbers that hit. I spun the thing fewer than 20 times, I am sure. The numbers recorded there are as follows: 9-9-29-21-11-11-20-28-32-1 Interestingly, two spins before this there was another hit on 32. Meaning that the numbers 9, 11 & 32 all hit twice within 12 spins. As I said, I am not a statistician, but the frequency of these three numbers coupled with the minimal number of times I spun the wheel seem to indicate something is wrong.

Anonymous

The probability of three pairs and six singletons in twelve spins is combin(38,3) × combin(35,6) × combin(12,2) × combin(10,2) × combin(8,2) × fact(6)/3812 = 9.04%. The math gets rather messy asking about the probability that this could happen in any 12-spin span over 20 total spins. Suffice it to say that it is significantly more than 9%, more likely than not, I would guess. So these seem like very normal results to me.

Recently my room-mate got into my online casino account and lost a great deal of MY money. I would like to "charge back" all the transactions he made through the site. Besides being put on a global list are there any other negatives to disputing charges of this sort?

Evan from New York

I think being put on the chargeback database will be the only drawback. So that will pretty much end your online gambling. However, I don’t think it is fair to the casino to charge back. It was not their fault that your room-mate used your credit card and lost your money. The right thing would be for your room-mate to pay you back for what he lost. I feel strongly about this, having been stiffed many times myself. It is not a coincidence that "Thou shalt honor thy gambling debts" is the first of my Ten Commandments of Gambling. If your room-mate refuses, and you go ahead with the chargeback, be honest with any investigation. It will be easy to see the charges came from the same I.P. address, and you may be asked about it. Give him a chance to pay first, and if he refuses don’t protect him over this.

At BetJamaica I played 30 hands and lost 21.5 units. What is the probability of that?

T.P. from Medford, NJ

The standard deviation per hand in blackjack is 1.15 under Vegas Strip rules (source). This can vary, depending on the rules, but since you didn’t state them, we’ll go with 1.15. So, the standard deviation of 30 hands would be sqrt(30) × 1.15 = 6.30. I don’t know what their blackjack rules are, but let’s assume a house edge of 0.4%. So in 30 bets, you would expect to lose 30 × 0.004 = 0.12 units. Your losses exceeded expectations by 21.5-0.12 = 21.38 units. That is 21.38/6.3 = 3.39 standard deviations south of expectations. The probability of that is 0.000349, or 1 in 2862. I’m afraid this doesn’t rise to the level to make any kind of accusations. If you still suspect something fishy, I would gather a larger sample size.

Hi Wizard, I came across a new online casino, and decided to give it a try. I was playing at their craps table and noticed that on 20 rolls of the dice, the field bet lost 16 times, and won only 4 times. The sequence went like this: L6,W1,L1,W1,L1,W1,L2,W1,L6. I realize this is a small sample, but is it enough to pass some sort of assessment as to whether this new casino is legit or not?

Mark from Ottawa, Ontario

The probability of an event with probability p happening x times, out of a possible n, is combin(n,x) × px × (1-p)(n-x). In this case, p=4/9, x=4, and n=20. Here is the probability for all possible number of number of field rolls out of 20:

Bad Beat Combinations

Wins Probability
0 0.000008
1 0.000126
2 0.000954
3 0.004579
4 0.015567
5 0.039851
6 0.079703
7 0.127524
8 0.165782
9 0.176834
10 0.155614
11 0.113174
12 0.067904
13 0.033430
14 0.013372
15 0.004279
16 0.001070
17 0.000201
18 0.000027
19 0.000002
20 0.000000
Total 1.000000


Taking the sum for 0 to 4, the probability is 2.12%. So, this could have easily happened in a fair game.

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