Online poker “scandal”
Monday February 20th 2006, 2:38 am
Filed under: Opinionated,PartyPoker

As the whole poker blogospehere (and poker forum scene for that matter) is buzzing unlike I’ve seen it in my short stint in the community, I thought I would add my 0.02$…

The situation: For all of those who might have missed it a quick summary…online player JJProdigy was caught with his hand in the cookie jar. He played with two accounts in the same MTT…sure enough he won with one of the accounts (“ABlackCar” – 140k in the PartyPoker 500k guaranteed tourney on February 12th 2006). As he was stupid enough to tell some friends about his win, one of those was even more stupid and posted congrats on the pocketfives forums…which in turn led to complaints to the PartyPoker support, which investigated and subsequently banned both his accounts and took all of his money sitting in there. All his tries to cover up the whole thing with the “grandma story” were futile and he came clean in the mean time.
Two sides of the same story:

  1. Sorry to say it that harsh, but “Yes!”. He was cheating and got caught and punished. Hat tip to the PartyPoker support.
  2. You gotta ask yourself something though: do you really believe that this is a singular occurence?
  • I highly doubt it. It’s just that this is the first major case that spread fast around the web.
  • The reaction of PartyPoker is good, but what worries me more is that the chances are high that there was and still is the same thing going on. After all the logic behind it is quite simple: The player(s) tell themselves that they’ve got a bigger chance to cash (true) and they’re willing to pay the buyin numerous times. The company (which poker room it might be is quite irrelevant) could be thinking the same thing…more buyins, more profit for us.

If you look at it that way, there’s a whole set of other questions to ask: Why aren’t there proper counter measures? Why isn’t there a (real-time) monitoring of events? Are they even interested in busting those guys?

I guess there’s some different possibilities here:

1. I think that even a simple monitoring process would be enough to find most of the cheaters – and don’t tell me it’s “too hard” to do. Little example: I played a little online game (“Die Staemme”) for quite a while and although it’s a free game (ad supported) they had a simple monitoring process: If > 1 player connects from same IP at the same time start investigating (after all you could be behind a private or corporate router, at a dorm or similar, so this isn’t total proof yet). If > 1 player connected from the same IP + machine – immediate questioning of the player and temporary ban until situation is evaluated. etc etc – the latter should be quite easy to accomplish and it would at least identify the most obvious cheaters! (I know that it’s much harder to catch the other cheaters – same IP but different machines, possibly two accounts registered on a married couple and similar cases…but at least try to catch the blunt cheaters for crying out loud!) So if a free game site can afford to monitor > 20k players at any given time, why can’t billion-dollar-companies do the same for some 100k at any given time?
2. The company isn’t really interested in catching them! There, I said it. How could someone come to such a conclusion? – (Yes this is just a theory and no accusation due to lack of evidence, but hear me out) – What if both of the accounts are playing regularly in high buyin tourney and maybe even in mid/high level ring games. Then those accounts are really interesting for the company, because of the rake (read: income for the company) the produce on a steady basis. The company couldn’t care less about who wins the tourneys or sngs or ring games. As long as they’re playing on a regular basis (read: generating revenue). – On another note: such a theory isn’t limited to online poker by any means…I have witnessed similar occurences with other only sites (i.e. ebay) as numerous powersellers were (and probably still are) running numerous accounts in an effort to bid on their own stuff…to my surprise, almost NONE of them were ever contacted or banned. Why? Because higher sales prices = higher comission…
3. …is related to 2. with a twist: Consider 2. to be true, but after all they need to keep the “normal” (read: non-cheating) players happy, too. So they’ve got the means to catch (at least the) obvious cheaters, but they won’t unless there’s something to be gained from it and/or if the public outcry makes it necessary…think about it: Outcry in the community…possible and existing customers might jump ship…catch one “big fish” and deal with quite quickly…company shines in the limelight, customers are feeling better again…etc…

4. The are very well interested in catching the cheaters. After all there seems to be something like an “Investigation / Fraud detection / … – team” on every major poker room, but they do their work in the background hidden from the public eye and there’s nothing more to it. It’s just that this time all the information was made available by the users themselves (and/or the staff), because the interest in the whole matter was so big…
Decide for yourself which explanation is the right one…that’s just my 0.02$ for now…so feel free to join in on the ongoing discussion.

I’m off to watch the NBA All-Star game…Go West!!!

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