Thursday, October 16, 2003

Russ Georgiev - Poker Mafia

Online poker collusion.

How prevalent is it? This is a tough question, one that I'm not fully prepared to tackle without a Guinness in my belly. But after reading some threads this morning, I tend to believe it's much worse than I ever imagined. I used to think that cheating packs mostly sat at mid to high limit poker tables - why would they bother us low-limit poker types? Honestly, that's why I play small stakes online - I don't trust online poker at the upper limits - it's just WAY too easy to collude. The money is too big and is easy pickings if you were able to sit three and four deep, which I'm sure you easily could. My bankroll is sufficient to sit high, but I'll only do so in B&M.

This being said, I sat in a 2.4 game a few weeks ago that was BLATANTLY being whipsawed by three, possibly four players. Look, I'm not the paranoid type (a healthy skeptic, yes) but this game was brutal. I really wish I had the nerve to post the hand histories here but I don't feel this is the proper forum to do so. Anyway, the abridged version of this story is that I sent an email to "security" at Party Poker asking about said players and hands. They asked me to detail any hands I was questionable about.

Good God, it was obvious to me and I certainly don't know much about collusion - why were they asking me? But I was diligent, pored over the Party Poker hand histories and outlined the obvious hands where certain players manipulated the outcome - I was able to isolate three guys for certain. It took me awhile to document all this and was frustrated because I can only see a players hole cards if the hand gets shown down at the river. Part of colluding on a shared bankroll would be to manipulate things so you could scoop a pot WITHOUT having to showdown your cards, because then it would be obvious. And let's face it, the security folks at Party Poker have access to these hole cards.....why are they asking ME to do all the detective work? Is that part of the rules? Only investigate after a player bitches?

Anyway, I finally got a response:

We thank you for writing to us. We would like to inform you that we have received your e-mail, and we are investigating into the issue. From the hand numbers you have provided, it had given us a start.

We would like to inform you that at this point, we have ruled down to 42 hands that involved heavy betting and raising patterns. We will be updating you about the status of this once we complete the investigation.

"Heavy betting and raising patterns" aren't exactly out of the norm on Party Poker, but if I provided the data that I did to Party security, say on RGP or TwoPlusTwo, I gotta think there would be some outrage at the blatant cheating.

Sigh. I'm still waiting to hear the results of the "investigation." The players involved are still online at Party Poker, often still playing together, just at higher limits. My personal theory is that they were practicing on a low limit poker table before moving up, possibly with new identities. It would be pretty damn easy to do.

So here I am, still banging away at the low limits, catching shit from some higher limit players that I know (you are costing yourself money - your game is at 10.20 - why are you wasting your time?) and even though I think I'm protecting myself from cheaters by playing lower poker stakes, it's likely not the case. And that sucks. If Party Poker would come back to me and explain why those players are still allowed to play (not only at all, but with the others I tapped) then I would be placated. But this hasn't happened yet.

I've previously written off Russ Georgiev - Poker Mafia as a wacko. But maybe he's onto something here. I can't recall Party Poker ever publicly busting an online poker player. Not even once. I know PokerStars has - maybe I should just move my game back there.

Sigh again. Even having to think about this pisses me off. Ultimate Bet is offering a 20% deposit bonus so maybe that's my next move. Go fold for a few hundred hands and get a $100. There are worse hobbies.

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