PokerStars Cracks Down on Bots4 years ago
In a move which was hinted at back in November, PokerStars have frozen the accounts of multiple high-stakes players in their crackdown against the use of online bots.
This latest attempt by the online poker giant has seen 6-figure sums of money locked-up in players’ accounts as they attempt to weed out those who are genuine poker players and those who are using artificial help to beat the high-stakes games.
Poker pro Jason Mo took to Twitter to find out what was going on:
anyone else get there pokerstars account locked today?
— Jason Mo (@cuntycakes123) January 16, 2016
Which he followed up later, having apparently had no success in getting to the bottom of his problems, by tweeting:
— Jason Mo (@cuntycakes123) January 17, 2016
The seemingly extraordinary move by PokerStars is not quite so surprising given a recent blog post from Director of Corporate Communications for Amaya Gaming and PokerStars, Eric Hollreiser, back in November.
Titled a ‘Comprehensive Plan for Enhanced PokerStars Experience,’ Hollreiser spoke of many changes to the T&C’s regarding the use of ‘3rd party software, stating: “PokerStars also plans to roll out new policies that will reinforce the fundamental elements of human competition by limiting certain software programs that may provide an unfair advantage to some players.”
This seemed to be in keeping with the general move by online sites to either ban, or severely restrict, the use of such things as seating scripts, HUD’s (Heads-up Displays), and various other ‘tracking’ software which have been regularly used by pros and grinders online to give them an edge over less-knowledgeable players.
“It shouldn’t be about clicking a button because harvested stats tell you to,” said Hollreiser. “For this reason, we are on a path to eliminate many of these technological advantages that are used by a minority of players.”
The subject of bots and ‘illegal’ 3rd-party software has been high on the list of discussion points over the past year or so, and just recently Tommy Chen was found to be using software to aid his play on WSOP.com.
As reported on PokerTube last month, Chen – playing under the screen name ‘BTCBLADE’, dropped himself right in it by uploading his playing session to Twitch – with his HUD clearly displayed for all to see!
On the bot front – which appears to be the reason for PokerStars checking out, and freezing the funds of, Jason Mo and others –a huge scandal broke last year when it was found that an Eastern European consortium of cheats had taken over $1.5 million (a conservative estimate) from PokerStars mid-stakes PLO games.
This investigation led to calls for proper compensation for those affected, although little seems to have happened in that direction since PokerTube brought this to light.
Many players have asked just how ‘bot detection’ would work in practice, and the suggestions have ranged from the serious to the bizarre. On CalvinAyre.com, some of the suggestions seem Orwellian in their extreme nature.
“A post on the popular poker forum 2+2, by ‘TooCuriousso1’, suggests they have found one way of attempting to identify the bots, and create a safer environment for their players.
Post in full :
“However, we require a video recording of you playing. This recording has a few mandatory requirements:
– At the beginning of the recording, we must be able to clearly see your face in order to confirm your identity
– Before starting to play, you must rotate your camera 360 degrees to show us all of your surroundings
– You must start your playing session from an empty computer desktop, whereby you initiate the PokerStars client and log into your account
– After logging in, you must play a regular session of yours
– Your playing session at the tables must be for a minimum of 70 active minutes
– During your play at the tables, the recording must be of sufficient quality to see and track the activities that are taking place on your desktop. In addition, the recording must capture your surrounding environment including your monitor, keyboard, mouse and the movement of your hands
– Audio must be included in the recording
– You must minimise the amount of individual video files. Longer, continual recordings are preferred
– You have 10 days to complete this task
It is important that your playing session is conducted in the same manner as one of your typical sessions as your tendencies will be contrasted with your regular play.
You must supply the resulting recording to us via email. In the likely event the files exceed attachment limits, please utilise file sharing services such as Dropbox, Google Drive or whichever service you prefer. We’ll largely leave this option up to you.
Failure to follow these instructions or if the video is of sub-par quality, will result in this task needing to be repeated.”
Others have suggested less invasive techniques, and although PokerStars and other sites will natural be reluctant to divulge exactly how they plan to detect such ‘anomalies’, there have been moves within the industry to counter the effects of technological advances and cheats.
As reported on PokertTube recently, the Online Poker Security System (OPSS) from Poker Innovations - described by its developers as “the world's most advanced online poker security suite, capable of detecting cheating, collusion, and bots," - claims to “offer poker sites the cutting edge in player protection.”
Whether PokerStars have implemented this – or a similar system – will perhaps never be known, but for the time being it is clear that anyone at the higher-stakes is in danger of being ‘considered a cheat until proven otherwise. This may, in the long-run, prove to be a sensible move by sites to crack down on unethical and illegal behaviour, but is unlikely to endear them – once again - to the best poker players on the online world.
As Hollreiser stated, again back in November, “Today, we want to make clear that the line will be drawn to preserve poker as a battle of wits and a test of heart. This will only have a direct effect on a small proportion of players and builds upon our responsibility to provide a level playing field for all players.”
In a response to CalvinAyre on the subject of the recent investigations and account freezing, the reply was fairly standard:
“PokerStars takes the enforcement of our Terms of Service very seriously. That’s why we routinely seek additional information from players who are under suspicion of breaking our rules,” adding that, “We conduct thousands of proactive reviews of accounts every year and some of these reviews are completed for players who we discover during the course of our investigation have done nothing wrong.”
“We understand it is inconvenient for players to comply with additional requests, but where we have reason to believe that a player may have broken our rules and possibly won money fraudulently from other players we are obliged to investigate as fully as possible in order to come to the correct decision.”
“PokerStars has used such investigatory techniques for more than five years now, and will continue to do so in the future. A complete and comprehensive investigation is the fairest way for PokerStars to enforce our rules.”
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