Friday, June 04, 2010

Ted Forrest is a rigtard

Pretty remarkable hand dealt at the WSOP a couple of hours ago. I first read about it on Daniel Negreanu's Twitter feed. Then a tweet from F-Train pointed me to the full post he wrote about it for PokerNews, which you can read here. The bottom line is that Forrest escaped elimination from the $10,000 stud event only because of a dealer error, compounded by a questionable floor decision, combined with a four-outer. Keith Sexton took the bad end of that one-two-three punch.

But I was most interested and amused by the account of the ensuing conversation:

"I hate poker for sh*t like this," said Sexton.

"THAT's why you hate poker?" asked David Grey. The table then started discussing how, at least online, there are no dealer errors. That prompted Forrest to state his wish that Full Tilt Poker would use a "real deck" the way PokerStars does.

"How can Dustin Wolfe beat me heads-up playing limit hold'em online every single time? The worst player in the world should win some. I won't even play him online anymore. Live is a different story." Forrest felt that some people have learned how to "time the algorithm" online, or at least have a good feel for it.

That conversation caught the attention of Perry Friedman, sitting one table behind. "Unless you can outsmart quantum randomness, it's impossible to time it," said Friedman. "If you hit the button at the exact same millisecond in a parallel universe, you'd get a different card."

Forrest didn't seem so certain about that, but it's hard to argue Friedman's knowledge of the FTP software. Whatever the story, Forrest is still in the tournament due to Kojo's error. He has 15,800, and a very pissed off Sexton has about 36,000.

A little background is in order. It may seem that Forrest is talking in oxymorons when he refers to a "real deck" for an online site. What he is surely referring to, though, is that PokerStars randomizes the entire deck at the beginning of the hand, then deals cards out sequentially from the top of that shuffled deck (I keep wanting to put all those words in quotation marks, because obviously it's not a real deck with a real top or a real shuffle, but it gets monotonous to put them everywhere they would be needed) wherever and whenever they are needed without further randomization.

Full Tilt, conversely, deploys a randomization algorithm to select a card every time one is needed, without first doing a virtual shuffle of the entire deck. Put another way, on Stars the deck is "set" after the "shuffle" before any cards are dealt, while on FTP a card is selected at random from the remaining available cards only when one is needed. One method is not intrinsically better than the other; they're just two different ways to skin a cat. For all you'd ever want to know about this, see Shamus's posts here and here.

So apparently Forrest, knowing this, has come to believe that he gets beat when playing on Full Tilt because somebody out there has figured out how to time the click to close the action (and thus have the next card put out on the board) in such a way as to get a favorable card dealt.

As Shamus reported four years ago, PokerStars uses multiple seeds (input variables) for its random number generator, one of which is the thermal noise in a resistor with a voltage applied across it. This is just one of many ways that one can get some sort of signal that is ultimately determined by the randomness of quantum mechanics. (See here for an intro to that subject.) I assume that Friedman's remark means that FTP does something similar. (If memory serves, he was one of the founding members of Tiltware, the company that wrote the software that underlies Full Tilt Poker.) Assuming he is right about that--and I have no reason to doubt him, and reason to think he's being truthful--then it would indeed be impossible for anybody to knowingly influence what card the RNG spits out next.

It is, frankly, pretty hard to believe that FTP would have such an obvious security hole as letting a player get the card he wants by how he times his mouse click. So it starts off being pretty stupid for Forrest to have bought into the idea in the first place. For him to doubt Friedman's explanation, however brief, and assurance that what he's imagining is impossible is, well, borderline loony.

But apparently Forrest would rather believe something that implausible than either of the alternatives: That he has just run very unlucky, or that somebody has played better than he has. Thus we must conclude that Ted Forrest is a rigtard--the term commonly used in online poker forums for the looneys who believe that online poker is rigged, but (1) keep playing anyway, and (2) never have any hard statistical evidence to back up their wacko theories.

Because I kind of like Ted Forrest, and deeply admire his astonishing poker skills when he is in top form, I have done him a favor and made him his own virtual tinfoil hat. It should help keep the government--or his online opponents--from reading his thoughts. It's the best I can do.

(If you all knew what a stretch of my digital technical skills that little bit of paste-up was, you'd be impressed. Let's just say that it was rather akin to getting a chimp to draw up the machine code for Windows. Photo of Forrest lifted from here. Tinfoil hat image found here. Basic idea of tinfoil hat for rigtards borrowed from Shamus here.)


Conan776 said...

FWIW, I prefer PokerStars set deck. I just can't stand the idea that if I fold, then one board is dealt, and if I don't another board is dealt.

Ted's got a point. After all, it's not until the result of a quantum collapse is observed that the particles go back in time and... ah never mind, it's 4AM here.

Memphis MOJO said...

The bottom line is that gamblers are superstitious.

The Poker Meister said...


I'm an ex-software engineer (now systems engineer). While not an expert in gambling algorithms and the like, I certainly can see much more merit to the FT deck over the P* deck. Utilizing the FT deck, it is impossible to "cheat" *EVER*, as far as knowing the future cards. I can never peek at the top card or cards of the virtual deck in code or otherwise with FT, whereas the potential to do so is there with the P* way.


Champ said...

A+ post

Big-O said...

Thank you so much for this post. I had tried previously to learn how deck shuffling was done, and couldn't find out anywhere how it was done.

Conan776 said...

@MOJO yeah, but quantum mechanics are spooky!

briguyx said...

I will proudly stand up as a rightard, based on my play on both sites. I find Poker Stars seems more real, whereas Full Tilt seems to have more unusual rivers and last minute reversals.