Scott's Column
Zynga Poker

June 3, 2013
By Scott Lewis

UPDATE: This article was updated on 6/9/2013 to reflect additional information on how Zynga cheats by taking a rake, and not telling you. Please read below for the details.

I have been spending way too much time in Lightroom over the last few weeks. I am really digging it. But I did not want to bore you with more on Lightroom, so I am moving the rest of my Lightroom info to my Photography column.

So what else have I been doing. Not much. So let me rant about the one other application I have been using second to Lightroom, Zynga Poker on my iPad.

I both love it and hate it. More hate than love. I do like playing poker... a lot. And I do not have the chance to play with people as much as I would like. So I resort to playing on my iPad.

Zynga cheats... and so do some of the players.

Let's start with what I have to assume is people cheating in Zynga Poker, before we get into how the game is bad.

The number one thing I see players do that I cannot, no matter how hard I look... they bet odd-ball amounts. For instance, I will be in a game where the blinds are 10k and 20k. I can only bet even multiples of the big blind. Say the big blind is 20k, I can only bet 40k, 60k, 80k, etc. Yet I see people almost every day betting 57k, or worse... 62.5k. How is this possible? And no... they are not going all in with all the money they have. I have seen people at a table with over 1 million in chips bet 129k with blinds of 20k & 40k. If fact, today I saw someone with over a million in chips... and blinds of 20/40K bet 63.1K. How is that possible unless they have a way to cheat the system?

The next cheat that people do is stay at a table with no money. When you enter a table you are asked how much of your bankroll you want to take to the table. People will go into a high stakes table with only 200k. This may seem like strategy. You go into a high stakes table with 200k and go all in... with other players that all have over 1 million in chips. You get a few callers and you are set. If you win you double, triple, quadruple up or more. And all you had to do is risk 200k. I hate this myself, because these people bet recklessly for a quick profit and make the game less fun for the rest of us.

However, that is not the cheating part. The cheating comes when those people lose. They are still at the table showing 0 chips. When the deal comes around to them and while the time is counting down for them to think... they put up an amount of money. That is a cheat.

How can they do this? When I go all-in and lose, the game takes me away from my seat and I must re-enter a seat with an amount and wait for the next hand (and I have to put up a big blind). These cheaters are dealt to with 0 chips, and only have to put in if they feel like it. They also get out of putting in a that big blind, and they also get to decide how much to put at the table after the deal. That is just plain wrong. If someone before them bets 900k and all they really want to do is put up 100k as an all in... they get to decide that after the person bet the 900k. So the lead better does not know how much to bet against you to push you out, if they so desire.

How can you develop a betting strategy against someone when you have no way of knowing what they have at risk at the table?

Now that I have described how people cheat... let's talk about how the game cheats.

I have seen way too many high hands in Zynga. Full Houses, Four of a Kind, Flushes, Straights. These hands come up much, much more often in Zynga then they do in real life. That means there is some kind of algorithm to Zynga and the cards are not random. I can only assume they do this to appease poor players who get tired of not getting the high hands. But in reality all it does is remove the skill factor of poker and replace it with something worse than chance. It is one thing to lose a hand because you did not get the card you want. It is quite another when your opponent gets the card he needs because some formula decided it was time to give him his card, rather than leave the entire thing up to the randomness of the cards like it should be.

My next couple of rants are more glitches with the game. I have been burned a few times by what I can only assume it a bug in the application. You have Fold, Check/Fold, and Check buttons you can click on while the players before you are thinking (with the line running around them to show you how much time they have). I have clicked on the Check button and then the game Calls me... for a lot of money, sometimes calling me All-In. That is horrible.

I try to remind myself of this... don't click any of the buttons while the person to my immediate right is thinking. But I end up being bored and start doing it... and eventually I get burned.

The next bug happens when your connection is an issue. At least I think this is the case. Sometimes it will put me in as All-In, but without any chips being added. I think it does this when there is a timing issue with when your time to think runs out but you have a bad connection at that moment. So instead of Checking or Folding, it puts you All-In but with no addition chips. This means that if your hand wins... at least you have a chance to win something (a split pot is created). This rarely happens to me, but it does once in a while. I usually get Folded out... if there was a bet on the table when I was trying to call or raise but the connection prevented me from acting in time.

UPDATE (6/9/2013): A couple of days after publishing this article I realized I left out the worst part of what Zynga does to cheat. What I consider the worst offence is that Zynga takes a rake, and does not tell you!!! If it does not tell it is taking a rake then that is cheating.

How does it do it... and not tell you. Simply put... it takes the rake from YOUR BACKROLL. As an example: I was in a hand (on my iPad, which shows my bankroll as well as how much I have at the table. Please note that on my iPhone I cannot see my bankroll without clicking on me). I happen to have exactly 100K at the table, and I had 13.1 Million in my bankroll. I had Ace/King and I went all in with the 100K. Three people called, and no body bet as the hand went on. I won, and the pot of 400K. My chip stack at the table was 400K. However, my bankroll only increased to 13.36 Million. I am not making this up. My bankroll increase 260K instead of 300K. Zynga took a 40K rake out of the pot... without telling me!!!

If Zynga wants to take a rake they have that option. But if they do not tell you then that is cheating. If Zynga wants to take a rake... it should take it from the pot itself, just like the casinos. Casinos take the rake out of the pot, so the chips handed to you when you win are yours... and you know exactly how much you have really won in that hand.

I was sitting at a table once. I entered the table with 1 million in chips, I built up my table amount to 5.5 million chips. Then I started losing and stopped playing when I had 1.5 million in chips... at the table. When I left the table my bankroll went down by 200K. Even though Zynga showed me I was ahead at the table, in reality it was taking chips from by bankroll, and I was down because Zynga took approximately 700K in rakes from me over the course of a few hands. (This ends the 6/9/2013 update.)

Once last thing I do not like... When I select a table to go into (for example, a 200K table of 9 players at fast speed) and there are no tables to put me into, it puts me into a lower priced table, like 100K or 40K). Why? Why not just put me in a table by myself and allow me to decide to wait for other players. Shouldn't it be my choice? How does a table start if they don't get at least one person to start it?

I hate Zynga Poker. Unfortunately I am a poker addict, so I keep playing, regardless of how bad the experience gets. And I did not even talk about how bad the players are. When it is free poker people play stupid & reckless, and it makes it much harder to enjoy playing smart poker.


I went to the start of the 2013 Hot Rod Pour Tour and I have a ton of pictures to go through. That means spending a lot of time in Lightroom. So I have no idea what to write about here next month. We'll see.