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The other night I was playing in an online no-limit tournament (Bovada) and had the following experience: My pocket cards were 9K (suits don't matter here) and the flop was TJQ to give me a straight right there. I know from experience that is rare good luck so I went all-in. Everybody folded except for one guy so we had the showdown. His pocket cards were QA so I can understand why he took me on, but the turn and river turned out miraculously well for him with QA to give him a full house of queens and aces to beat me and I was knocked out of the tournament a short time later.

I've been playing for money online for several months now and have had only mixed success. My question is should I consider what happened to me the other night to be a legitimate defeat or does it seem fishy? I am not yet convinced that online poker is not rigged. I would appreciate any input that anyone can give me. Thank you!

  • Just because you lose, it doesn't mean that poker is rigged. You got a bad beat. IT HAPPENS. You deal with it and move on to the next hand. Playing for "several months", as you put it, doesn't even come close to the experience you need to feel out the game. There is absolutely nothing wrong with what happened to you. – Unknown Coder Oct 6 '14 at 14:45
  • Okay, I accept that. Thanks for the response, Jim! – Max Wells Oct 6 '14 at 15:23
  • The answer here is a little different topically to your question, but at the end of it I provide links to how a site audits it's play. It might be useful. – Toby Booth Oct 6 '14 at 23:47
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    I would be curious what the action was preflop. – Jon Oct 7 '14 at 12:34
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First, as people have stated on another recent question here, there may well be cheating by players in online poker. But what you're describing is not all that fishy.

You don't describe the pre-flop action or how many players were in the hand. You also don't describe the suits of your hand, the flop and the villain's hand, which I'd argue has at least a little bearing here, since flush draws can be very attractive to people and having even a back-door flush draw can make a difference between a call and a fold being correct. You also don't describe the relative stack sizes at the table, which are important in determining the odds a player would be getting to call you. All those things would help in determining just how crazy (or not) the villain's call was.

Next, you flopped a straight, which is a great hand on that board to be sure, but:

  • It's not the nuts. AK is the nuts here, and if there was substantial pre-flop action, you can't easily discount that someone already has you beat.
  • There could also be players with a set or two pair. Since that flop is rich in broadway cards, it's likely to hit many players' hand ranges. JT, QJ, TT, JJ, QQ are all hands that might both withstand a pre-flop raise and love this flop. All of these hands have draws to beat you.
  • A hand like KQ has top pair and an open-ended straight draw, which is also a strong holding on this board.
  • Any flush draw out there would be attractive. For example, top pair and a flush draw is often a pretty good hand. Might that have been what your AQ villain had? There are lots of outs for this player to beat you, even if he knows what you have. Any flush card, any king, a back-door full house, or the unlikely back-door QQ beats you.
  • At lower stakes, people often love top pair and will take it to the river, no matter what you bet into them.

So, you have the case where you're not nutted, and the board is attractive to all sorts of holdings. You go all-in and you get called. Here's what PokerStove says about your odds. First, on a non-suited board:

Board: Qc Jd Th
         equity   win     tie     pots won  pots tied   
Hero:    84.032%  83.58%  00.45%  158864    864.00  { K9s, K9o }
Villain: 15.968%  15.51%  00.45%  29488     864.00  { AQs, AQo }

You have an 84% chance of winning the hand. That's pretty good, but your opponent has about a 1-in-6 chance of winning even so -- any K wins it for him, plus his back-door draws. Now, if the villain also has a flush draw (note the diamonds on the board and in the villain's hand):

Board: Qc Jd Td
         equity   win     tie     pots won  pots tied   
Hero:    55.063%  54.72%  00.34%  8668      54.00   { K9s, K9o }
Villain: 44.937%  44.60%  00.34%  7064      54.00   { AdQd }

In this case, the villain is getting amazing odds. He's got a 45% chance to win. It's almost a coin flip, and given the money already in the pot, it's unlikely to be a mistake for him to call you even if he knows exactly what you have.

So, you have a right to be disappointed in the result of the hand, but these things happen, and it wasn't even a big outlier. You might also question the wisdom of going all-in there given the number of other players in the pot and the fact that they were all likely to hit a piece of that board, but that's a question for another day.

Is it rigged? Maybe, but probably not. Did the guy get lucky? Maybe, but not that lucky. The more you play, the more you will encounter hands like this and worse. All you can do is get back in there and try to make good decisions with your future hands.

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    Thanks a lot for the great response, Chris! I can see now that I let myself get too excited by the flopped straight and I overplayed my hand. You're right that I have to get back in there, hopefully a little wiser now--with your generous help. Thanks again! – Max Wells Oct 6 '14 at 15:17
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    I'm not sure you overplayed it per se. If you could somehow exclude AK, then you were a favorite to win. But you just shouldn't be terribly surprised when the cards don't fall your way, since that board left lots of draws for the other players. Bad luck happens, but it averages out! – Chris Farmer Oct 6 '14 at 16:03
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Knowing more about this hand would be very helpful.

A few thoughts on what I do know, K-9, is basically a trouble hand. K-9 is a hand Doyle Brunson refers to in his book in an off the cuff way with negative attitude, saying something to the effect that good NLHE players do not play K-9. (My copy is in a box so I can’t quote directly). So I am wondering why you were in the hand with K-9 in the first place?

I typically do not play k-9 unless there are extenuating circumstances. Those circumstances would be I am in the big blind and no one has raised, I am in the small blind with lots of players limping and I do not think the big blind is likely to raise, or I am in late position and believe that raising will most likely result in everyone folding and me taking a small pot. I might also limp late with a lot of players committed, but that depends on the texture of the game more than anything else. I can also successfully play 9-2 under most of those circumstances.

The things that make K-9 trouble are, If you flop top pair, you have a lousy kicker. If you flop two pair, the board is full of cards that generally give players likely to stay in the hand, lots of outs*. You can rarely make the nuts, and the hand is usually problematic on the river when you have made a hand.

*the answer Chris gave demonstrates this fully.

Your villain also may have had another thought about the quality of his situation, why did this guy (you) push? There are only two general conclusions your villain is going to come too, you’re bluffing or you believe you have the best hand. In either case he is going to tend to call. If your bluffing he has got you were he wants you. If villain believes you think you have the best/better hand that does not mean to him that you have the very best hand at this point. A lot of his reasoning is about the range of hands he is going to put you on, and the way villain is going to weigh your range is based on what happened before this point was arrived at.

There are too many variations to list and comment on here about what may have gone pre-flop. However generally speaking, if you raised or cold called the raise in less than optimal position he is going to place you on a better hand. If you limped then called the raise, or raised uncontested in late position he is going to put you on a wider range of hands. Also a lot of his decision to make this call on the flop is in the context of what he had observed of your play in previous rounds.

Your villain here played his hand just fine. You may have played yours ok, I can’t really tell. If he raised and you called pre flop, I would up my rating of the way he played the hand, and downgrade the way you played the hand. At any rate the way this hand played out is really common, and nowhere anything that is a miracle suck out. You took a hand that does not tend to hold up well, and discovered one of the many reasons it does not.

I am going to also say, that whenever you lose a hand, you will do much better in the long run trying to figure out what you did wrong instead of dwelling on what your opponent did wrong, or the bias in the shuffle or that dealer that never deals you a hand. In the context of k-9 what may have went wrong is that you played that bad hand in the first place. We can really help you a lot more if you tell us how you got to the flop and tell us what you were thinking about this hand.

To help poker got out of beta, vote early and vote often on posts and answers!

  • I don't know who you guys are. You sound very reasonable, but I have to wonder if you somehow represent the online poker industry. Since and before my "K9 experience", I have been screwed so many times in showdowns on Bovada that I am absolutely convinced it's rigged. It doesn't matter how good my pocket cards are, I get beaten 9 out of 10 times to knock me out of games. – Max Wells Oct 9 '14 at 15:52
  • Continuation to previous comment: In mid-summer, I quickly turned my $20 investment into $400 with solid play. After that, seeing very bad pocket cards & bad beats drained my account & I haven't gotten above $70 since than. Internet is right that it's a scam. – Max Wells Oct 9 '14 at 16:02
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    Its a tough game. – Jon Oct 9 '14 at 21:47
  • I agree that the game is tough as any highly competitive game will be, but the fact that they find a way to defeat me in virtually every showdown defies all laws of probability. No explanation suffices other than the one which is easily and frequently found with a Google search: Bovada and probably all online sites are rigged and are cheating people out of their hard-earned money. – Max Wells Oct 10 '14 at 4:06
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    That may be true. I have a rule I impose on myself, if I am losing, it seems weird, I keep getting strange beats, I leave the game. I will apply this rule online and off. Poker is full of cheating, really no point on dwelling on it or even trying to figure it out if you suspect it, just get out of the game. – Jon Oct 10 '14 at 7:40
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Just because you get your money in with the best hand and end up losing does not mean the game is rigged.

As has been previously posted, you lose about 1 out of every 6 times in this spot. You are more likely to lose this hand than correctly guess a number someone is thinking of between 1 and 10. Surely you have seen that scenario occur where cheating was not involved, right?

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