Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Absolute Poker Scandal

| Armando Romeo |

In the Summer of 2007, a disturbing trend was occurring on the poker site Absolute Poker. Four accounts were consistently winning large amounts of money in high stakes games by playing a clearly losing style of poker. Players complained at first and when nothing was done to answer their concerns, the players started their own investigation. This led to uncovering the super user account scandal at Absolute Poker.

From Megaloser to Megawinner Overnight

Four accounts that were significant losers in 2006 returned to play in 2007. This time, the players were posting huge wins although they were playing what should have been losing poker. The accounts were those of "potripper", "Steamroller", "Doubledrag", and "Graycat." The accounts were play very short sessions, post huge wins, and then leave. The accounts also never played together at the same time.

Players started doing analysis of hands and win rates and saw that the win rates were well above what even the best players on the site should be able accomplish. On September 13, 2007, potripper won a $1,000 buy-in event on Absolute Poker and Marco "CrazyMarco" Johnson insisted that there was cheating going on. What convinced him was when CrazyMarco moved all-in with a 9-high bluff only to be called by potripper, who was holding ten-high.

After his loss, CrazyMarco contacted Absolute Poker requesting a hand history. What they sent by mistake was a copy of all the hand, including all hole cards of all players. Upon looking at the data it was determined that potripper won every showdown in the torunament, he folded when he was behind and raised when he wasn't, and saw nearly every flop in the event unless an opponent held at least pocket queens.

User363

The file that CrazyMarco was further analyzed and the IP addresses and emails of the players and observers in the tournament are traced. It is noticed that during potripper's torunament run, user363 joined potrippers table and stayed at his table during the entire tournament run. The account is then traced back to the offices of Absolute Poker in Costa Rica.

Absolute Poker First Denies and Then Recants

At first, Absolute Poker denied that there was any wrongdoing going on at the site. On October 12, 2007, they stated, "We have determined with reasonable certainty that it is impossible for any player to see the hole cards as was alleged. There is no part of the technology that allows for a '¨superuser' account."

Allegations of a cover-up flew and as the company's name was continually smeared around the world, Absolute Poker finally came forward and admitted there was a problem. The following is part of a statement admitting the security breach:

"Based upon our preliminary findings, it appears that the integrity of our poker system was compromised by a high-ranking trusted consultant employed by AP whose position gave him extraordinary access to certain security systems. As has been speculated in several online forums, this consultant devised a sophisticated scheme to manipulate internal systems to access third-party computers and accounts to view hole cards of other customers during play without their knowledge."

Kahnawake Investigation

The Kahnawake Gaming Commission ran an investigation and released their findings on January 11th, 2008. They confirmed that the potripper account as well as several others had indeed used a superuser account to gain access to opponents hole cards. They required Absolute Poker refund players for any money lost to the accounts and also fined the company $500,000. In addition, they would continue to monitor the site for two years.

As we know, this was just the beginning as another scandal would unfold with Absolute Poker's sister site UltimateBet.com. Since the findings of the Kahnawake Gaming Commission, Absolute Poker and UltimateBet have joined the Cereus Network to ensure better security and gaming integrity.

The parties responsible for the cheating have never been brought to justice and it is suspected that they never will be. As a result, Absolute Poker has taken a black eye in public perception. The site still has a loyal following and has tried to move forward since the scandal, however the nagging thought will always be in the back of people's minds wondering if there will be a SonofPotrpper in the future.

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