I have questioned the integrity of poker sites in the past, but not for the reason I will talk about in a moment. My main problem with some sites was their software. I feel their Random Number Generators (RNG) are not good enough. (The RNG is in place to give the online cards a random shuffle). I have played many sites, but there are some that you can practically predict the cards – especially on the turn and river. When giving this some serious thought though, I came to the comclusion that it wasn’t any kind of ‘cheat’ in the software or the RNG, but was in fact just the way the software acted. And remember, we see way more hands on the virtual tables than at a live game, so you are bound to see more ‘bad beats’ or suckouts. For the sites I questioned, I realised that you just have to work with the software and exploit the weaknesses as best you can.
But, in the last few weeks, two sites have had their integrity questioned. Pokerstars has suspended a players account after he won one of their biggest tournaments – the WCOOP main event. The player in question – thought to be a British poker pro who has since been banned from pokerstars – played under several different accounts at the same time during this tournament, and more likely any tournament he participated in at pokerstars. Luckily, he was caught and lost his $1.2m for winning this tournament as Pokerstars have an indepth review of any players’ activities when they win such a large amount.
But what about all those others who paid their money and may have been put out by this guy or any of his aliases? Should they not be re-imbursed? I would certainly want my money back!
The 2nd site – Absolute Poker – is a site that I play at quite regularly. This scam is a lot more worrying than the pokerstars incident. An insider at Absolute made thousands of dollars at higher limit tables, but obviously underestimated his oponents. He played virtually every hand and won the majority of them. And why?? Because he could see ALL the other players hole cards! His opponents cottoned on that something was amiss and requested the hand histories for their game. Absolute, sent the histories and to the complainants amazement they included the hole cards for every player for every game, along with all the betting history.
After analysis and discussion in poker forums Absolute were contacted but they denied any wrong doing. Only when the games had been re-created using special software, and Absolute given the evidence, did they start to look into it. By this time the media had cottoned on to the problem, which is probably why Absolute decided to investigate.
It turned out that one of their own staff was the culprit, although he hadn’t withdrawn any of his illicit wnings. He may now face criminal charges for fraud. Absolute has since admitted cheating by one of their own staff members had taken place and all monies lost by the other players has since been reimbursed.
But the main questions coming from these two incidents is this….. Are online poker rooms safe? Can they guarentee integrity. Will our money be safe? Can we expect an immediate investigation if suspicion of cheating has been observed?
For Pokerstars part, they investigated only because it was standard paractice to do so when concerning such a large amount of money. But what about when smaller amounts of money are involved? Would they conduct an investigation if someone complained to them? Or would they dismiss it like Absolute did?
When we are spending money at these sites we should be assured that any complaint we make should be taken seriously. Absolute, in particular sems to dismiss any notions of cheating without any investigation (if this incident is anything to go by).
I just hope that every poker site out there has taken note of these incidents and have stepped up their security. More importantly, I hope they act on concerns made by their customers instead of instantly dismissing them. It may save them from ‘shooting themselves in the foot’ in the future.