Saturday, October 10, 2009

Are Poker Cheat Bots the Real Deal?

It is well known that strategy games have been an interesting and challenging domain for computer science research over the decades. Beginning with Tic-Tac-Toe, computer researchers have used games to develop and teach artificial intelligence the application of theoretical concepts to practical situations. The use of games to to develop artificial intelligence was brought to the fore in the 80’s in the movie WarGames, staring Matthew Broderick and Ally Sheedy.

Long argued as a game of skill, the game of poker is a prime candidate for study because it is a conceptually simple yet strategically complex game that offers more dimensions than the one-on-one games such as chess, checkers, and other well-studied games. Therefore, it was only logical for the University of Alberta Computer Poker Research Group (“UACRG”) to set out and develop the adaptive software program named “Polaris” the poker playing robot. Used solely for scientific study, Polaris has been matched up against some of the best players in the world, in controlled environments. And while Polaris has been able to win a game or two in specific scientific settings, it is a work in progress. More importantly, Polaris is the proprietary scientific property of the UACRG and its artificial intelligence programming is not available to the general public.

Since poker players are always looking to get a leg-up in an effort to minimize losses and give poker players an edge, the development and sale of plug-in/add-on poker software has become big business. Typing the words, “Poker Robot” into your search engine of choice will produce several websites with statistics about the use of Poker Bots while advertising their software purported to give the purchaser an upper-hand over other players and other robots. While there are several legitimate programs and services that assist players in tracking play and calculating odds to aid in improving one’s game, any website purporting to sell robot software or other similar “cheating” programs should be overlooked as either illegal or a potential scam.

Poker bots are banned from almost all gaming websites. While they may be increasingly common they are really just poker calculators that run on auto pilot continuously, calling, folding, and or betting based on preset scenarios. While hardly artificial intelligence, the advantage is that the software never tires and can play consistently for days on end in multiple games and sometimes even multiple sites, therefore giving the user an unfair advantage over legitimate players.

Internet forums and social websites are chock-full of postings from disgruntled on-line poker players complaining about bad beats, rigged scenarios, and the suspected use of cheat software. However, the majority of the comments are unfounded criticisms based more in frustration than actual factual evidence so it is difficult to tell if a loss is truly the result of an unfair or illegal advantage. Besides, it is practically a rite of passage for a poker player to take the most unimaginable bad-beat possible by having a monster hand cracked on the last street. Like fishermen and their big-fish stories, poker players gather to compare their losses and eventually learn to wear them as a badge of honor, having survived to tell the tale and play again. And while the majority of the worst bad-beat stories seem to be the result of an on-line experience, given the number of hands per minute played on-line as opposed to in live play, overall the odds should remain the same.

Case-in-point, the 2008 World Series of Poker - Championship Event, when pocket Aces were beat by a lesser starting hand that resulted in quad Aces begin cracked by the rarest hand in the game, a royal flush.

Friday, October 09, 2009

UltimateBet's Sebok On UB's Attempts To Reset Online Poker Table

Recently recruited UltimateBet poker pro Joe Sebok, who appears to have become the online poker firm's spokesman regarding the cheating debacle by former consultants last year, has revealed further details on the company's attempts to satisfy disadvantaged players.

Last month, Sebok used his blog to explain how players who felt cheated by the hole-card scandal could get more detail on their individual play. This week, Sebok expanded on the topic and explained that players will need to contact Ultimatebet to initiate the process.

Sebok describes the process in detail as follows:

1. Once you send in your request to (, include your name, account name, address) or we work our way through the current ones in the queue, you will be sent two spreadsheets. The first will be as before a complete summary of all the cheating accounts that you played again, the total hands you played against each, and the amount that you won/lost against each. This spreadsheet will have 117 lines, one for each cheating account.

2. You will also receive a data sheet with all the win/losses vs. each cheating account. This is basically a breakdown of all the information you could want minus the actual hole cards, which will be contained in the actual hand histories that will be sent out after this first piece of information.

This first spreadsheet will probably satisfy more of the requests that come in to take a look at the data. Of course, many of you want the real meat, the actual entire hand histories, so once you have gotten this first initial summary breakdown and taken a look, just shoot an email back in letting us know that you want the entire hand histories for all the hands you played against the cheating accounts.

The reason for this is that it takes much more time and manpower and thus we want to only get this out to those players who actually want them and will use them. If we fired them up for every request coming in, we would be doing a TON of unnecessary work for players who actually just want a summary. Might seem annoying to have to go this second step but the first request is faster and it covers most players needs and that’s why we chose to do it this way.

Once we get this second email shot in from you after you have had a chance to check out the summary sheet, we will then be shipping along the entire hand histories, complete with ALL cheating accounts' hole cards, whether or not they went to showdown with you. This is obviously a cumbersome process, so please practice a little more patience with us.

Sebok says the exercise has already begun, so players may be about to have their patience rewarded.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

False Jackpot Attacks Plague Pittsburgh Casino to Tune of $500,000!

False jackpots paid at Meadows went unnoticed for weeks.

State gaming officials said the theft of money from a high-stakes slots machine at The Meadows Racetrack and Casino went unnoticed for several weeks because the false jackpots that the machine was paying out to a trio of suspects were not recorded internally by the machine.

State Gaming Control Board spokesman Doug Harbach said that detecting the theft of more than $430,000 would have been easier if the winnings displayed on the machine matched its internal records. The internal records automatically transfer data about the machine to the casino and the state Department of Revenue, which monitors the electronic records.

Department of Revenue spokeswoman Stephanie Weyant said she could not discuss individual machine revenue or data because the information is protected and confidential. Law enforcement officials believe the three suspects were able to steal more than $430,000 over a period from late June until the end of August. The theft was not discovered until a state gaming control board agent became suspicious in late August when one of the suspects attempted to cash in a jackpot.

Although casino and state gaming officials praised the work of investigators in uncovering the theft, a Las Vegas casino security expert yesterday, suggested the casino "failed to respond" quickly enough to the two-month long crime spree and is partly to blame for not doing a better job of monitoring its slots machines.

Andre Michael Nestor, 38, his roommate Kerry Laverde, 49, of Swissvale, and Patrick Loushil, 42, of Brookline, were charged Tuesday with 367 felony counts of theft, receiving stolen property, criminal conspiracy, computer trespassing and other charges. Although the men are from the Pittsburgh area, Mr. Nestor and Mr. Laverde lived in Las Vegas from 2001 to 2007 before returning here. The three are accused of exploiting a software glitch in a draw-poker slot machine at the North Strabane casino, and rigging the machine to display false jackpots. Washington County District Attorney Steven Toprani said the men collected the fraudulent winnings during 15 visits to the casino from June 22 to Aug. 31.

State Gaming Control Board officials said nobody noticed the scam at first because the machine did not register the jackpots. The glitch affected only the display screen of the machine. The jackpot that displayed on the screen did not match internal records of the machine, they said. Officials said that they weren't sure how the men knew about the glitch, which was triggered when the "double-up" feature of the game was enabled. They said Mr. Nestor gained the trust of employees by giving them sizable tips and recounting his successful exploits as a "professional gambler," in Las Vegas.

Police said Mr. Laverde -- known as "Joe Blow" by friends -- posed as a bodyguard for Mr. Nestor, flashing his badge to employees and hinting that he carried a concealed gun. Mr. Loushil, they said, assisted in diverting employees' attention and sometimes cashed in winnings for Mr. Nestor. A technician activated the double-up feature at Mr. Nestor's request, but came back to the machine later after his supervisors told him that the double-up feature couldn't be used without the permission of the Gaming Control Board.

The technician disabled the feature, but inadvertently neglected to save his programming changes, leaving the option available. Other employees didn't notice the oversight, and for the next two months the trio exploited the glitch through a complicated set of keystrokes that would cause the machine to display jackpot winnings that didn't exist.

Eventually, on Aug. 28, state Gaming Control Board Agent Josh Hofrichter became suspicious when he noticed that Mr. Loushil was trying to cash in a jackpot won by Mr. Nestor. Three days later, when Mr. Nestor came back into the casino, he headed for the same machine and tried to claim a $2,350 fraudulent jackpot. But this time, when Mr. Nestor attempted to collect the winnings, he was secretly being watched by state troopers. He was told by casino staff that he could not collect his winnings until staff could verify that the internal controls of the machine were working properly.

Police said Mr. Nestor told them he had to make a phone call and left the casino in haste. What followed was a five-week grand jury investigation, which culminated in the arrests this week.Ken Braunstein, a security consultant licensed by Nevada who specializes in casinos and gaming, and who has taught criminal justice for 29 years at the University of Nevada, said glitches like the one exposed in the Meadows slot machine are "not at all uncommon," and are usually caught by experienced security personnel.

Because slot machines have electronic controls, they are vulnerable to occasional hiccups, much like a computer program or the electronics systems in automobiles, he said. However, Mr. Braunstein was critical of the Meadows management, saying the excessive payoffs should have raised a red flag and triggered an investigation much sooner. "Management failed to respond to the information that was given to them by the machine," he said. "It was their fault."

Meadows spokesman David LaTorre said the casino disputes the claim that they did not act quickly enough, saying that it was an isolated incident and that the problem has been remedied. "We disagree with that assessment," Mr. LaTorre said. "We're confident it's not going to happen again, period. We have taken several internal security steps to prevent that."

The machine's manufacturer, Reno, Nev.-based International Game Technology, is one of the world's leading providers of slot machines and gaming software. Director of Marketing Julie Brown said the company has pulled similar slot machines from casino floors so the glitch can be fixed. She couldn't estimate how many machines were affected or where they were located, but said the company provides products all over the world.

Mr. Laverde was a former Swissvale Borough police officer, and claimed on an Internet site three years ago that he also was a security investigator for a Las Vegas bank. The Nevada Gaming Board said none of the three men worked for any casinos in that state. Swissvale police Chief Greg Geppert said yesterday that Mr. Laverde left the police force in 2001 and that he was ordered yesterday to stop wearing his badge. "It's really embarrassing to have somebody like him ... He hasn't even been here for eight years and he's still giving us a black eye. I have a lot of really good guys here, a lot of professional guys, and this is embarrassing," Chief Geppert said.

Stephanie Waite of West Penn Allegheny, the parent company of Forbes Regional Hospital in Monroeville, said Mr. Laverde has been a security officer there for a year and said it was the company's practice to suspend employees without pay after they are charged with a crime.

Iowa Court Ruling Seems to Say Cheating Casinos is Okay!

The Iowa Court of Appeals has overturned the conviction of man for illegal gambling at a blackjack table. An off-duty dealer at the Riverside Casino reported that it appeared Mitchell Smith was using slight of hand that allowed him to add extra chips to his bet once his first two card were dealt at the blackjack table.

Video of the action on that December night in 2006 confirmed that Smith was adding the chips — or “capping” the bet — when it looked like he had a good chance to beat the dealer. Smith was charged with prohibited gaming activities under a provision that makes it illegal if a person collects or attempts to claim money of a greater value than the amount of money they won. Smith appealed the ruling based on the language of the law.

Smith said he may have won more chips than he was entitled to win if he had been following the rules of the game, but said that his chips reflected his actual winnings because he beat the dealer. The Iowa Court of Appeals agreed with Smith’s interpretation. The court said the language of the law was designed to prevent someone from winning more money than they should have won, but says the language does not address the issue of cheating to win the money.

The Appeals Court said it was not at liberty to expand the meaning of the law to include money that had been won legitimately without cheating.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Rare Reversal of Casino Cheat Conviction in US!

In a first that I know of, a casino-cheating case conviction has been reversed on appeal in the United States. The Iowa Court of Appeals has reversed the conviction of a man accused of cheating at blackjack at a southeast Iowa casino. Mitchell Smith was convicted of prohibited gaming activities for increasing his bet after seeing his cards at the Riverside Casino and Golf Resort in 2006. In Wednesday's ruling, the court says the issue is whether a gambler who engages in this practice "claims, collects or takes an amount of money or thing of greater value than the amount won."

Smith claims his chips reflected his actual winnings.

The court says the state is seeking to rewrite the law as if to read, "of greater value than the amount legitimately won." The court says that's a broader concept, and the court is not at liberty to expand the definition of the law.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

UNintentional Collusion--What About It?

Unintentional Collusion (By Lou Krieger)

California brought up the issue of unintentional collusion, something common to smaller rooms. Regular groups of local players, who have created friendships over the poker table, are often a little casual with the rules and treat their casino game like a home game in Charlie’s basement.

The player who e-mailed me—we’ll call him Jasper—described events that transpired during one session of Omaha/8 at his local cardroom. Jasper was in seat seven and folded before the flop. The player in seat eight raised and proudly showed Jasper his four hole cards. Jasper said, “Please don’t show me your hand, it’s not fair to the other players.”

And he was right. If the player in seat eight won the hand without a showdown, only Jasper would know whether he had the goods or was bluffing. If the player seat eight folded before the showdown, only Jasper would know what kind of lay down he made.

The “only Jasper would know” scenarios are too many to list, and Jasper’s complaint was based on the fact that the exact same thing was occurring between seats two and three at the other end of the table. They weren’t cheating or trying to gain an edge, at least Jasper didn’t think they were, and he knows all the players. Nevertheless, the player in seat three had a blueprint of everything his neighbor in seat two would play, fold, and raise, and knew exactly what gear he was in at all times. Jasper felt like a sucker because information was available to some of the players, but not to all. It wasn’t fair. While Jasper could have continuously asked to see the shown hands, that gets old pretty quickly, especially at a table where all the players know one another.

But that’s not the worst of it. Later that same evening, a player who was shown a hand during play stopped his neighbor from throwing his hand into the muck at the showdown. “Wait, you’ve got a low,” he muttered, which was quickly followed by, “Oops, I’m sorry,” to the player who would have won the entire pot, but was now only getting half of it.

Fortunately, there’s a rule designed to prevent this, and it’s one of poker’s prime directives. It prevents players from calling hands that have not been put face up on the table, prevents players from giving information to some players and not others, and prevents players from encouraging or discouraging their neighbor from making a call on the river.

One player per hand: “Poker is not a team competition, and each player is responsible for playing his or her hand without advice or assistance, either directly given or provided inadvertently by other players, dealers, or spectators to the game. The ramifications of this directive are broader than you might imagine at first glance. Not only does this mean that you cannot ask your neighbor, who may or may not be involved in the hand, what you should do or how you might play your hand—that goes without saying—but your neighbor bears a responsibility not to assist you.

All of the rules and punishments for cheating at poker are, in fact, violations of the one player per hand rule. Collusion by two players, marked cards, signals, cold-decks—you know; you’ve seen all the movies—are methods cheats design to circumvent the one player per hand rule.” Even when players have no malicious intentions, one player per hand—no ifs, ands, or buts about it—is an essential requirement for a fair game and a level playing field. That’s sometimes tough to enforce when a game has adopted a style where card-showing is the norm, but it’s everyone’s responsibility—players, dealers, and management included—to ensure the integrity of the game.

Legal or Regulated Online Poker--What Would It Be Like?

What the Future Could Look Like for US Regulated Online Poker:

A future in which online poker is legalized and regulated is the ultimate objective of the Poker Players Alliance. It's a common goal that has famous poker professionals and amateurs alike making trips to Washington D.C. to meet with their congressmen. And perhaps the most important part of it is that online poker cheating would be a crime punishable by up to five years in prison, though I will believe that when I see it!

This future seems closer than ever, yet still so far away. The cause has built momentum, but the window for change this year is closing quickly, if not just waiting to be locked. However, the introduction of legislation by Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass) and Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) has shed more of a light on what the online poker world will look like if this goal is finally reached.

Site shakeup: It will be interesting to see who the market leaders are after legalization. Party Poker is likely to return to the U.S., but will American players forgive what was once the world's No. 1 site for abandoning them in the first place? Harrah's, the largest casino operator and owner of the World Series of Poker, is likely to enter the online market in a big way, but whether it offers the incentives and customer service of existing sites remains to be seen. Unexpected contenders for market share will certainly arise. As for the current industry leaders, PokerStars and Full Tilt, one has to wonder whether they will have difficulty acquiring a license in the U.S. after years of operating over objections from the Justice Department. Assuming that they do get licenses, one has to wonder whether they will retain their top spots against some heavyweight competition.

Age adjustment: The age requirement to play poker in a U.S. casino is 21 years old, so it only makes sense that this would be the minimum age set by the U.S. government for playing Internet poker. This would be an end of an era for young guns who amass a fortune playing online before they are even allowed to play in the World Series of Poker. Although surely some players will find a way around the requirement -- there is no one to check identification in the home -- expect the rule to be enforced better than the 18-year-old age requirement currently imposed by poker sites. The days when a teenager decides between college and online poker will come to an end.

More taxes: The bills have made it apparent that taxes will be paid not only on winnings but on all deposits, though there is hope that these extra taxes will be absorbed by the sites and not be passed on to the players. As for players not reporting their online poker income or holding back on winnings not withdrawn, that will no longer be an option. The IRS will know exactly what you won or lost on the virtual felt -- and how old you are. Someone will have to provide a social security number for tax purposes!

Processors change: Moving money to and from the poker sites will most certainly be faster. There will be no more need to wait on paper checks. Not only is Neteller, or Neovia as it's now known, likely to return to the U.S. market but so is PayPal. The largest Internet processor in the world, PayPal abandoned the Internet gaming market in 2002. However, PayPal recently moved back into the online gaming sector -- though still excluding the U.S. -- by partnering with Neovia. Envision clicking the withdrawal button on your poker account and using the money to make a purchase at eBay or at a store with your PayPal account.

Settling disputes: Until now, poker sites have been their own judge and jury when it comes to accusations of cheating. If a site said you cheated and confiscated your account, you had little recourse. Two players who were accused by Full Tilt of using bots had their accounts closed recently but they took the unorthodox step of filing a suit in Los Angeles Superior Court in a desperate attempt to recoup their money. If the U.S. legalizes and regulates online poker, it will undoubtedly create a department that will settle disputes between players and poker sites, providing an independent arbitrator that will require that sites prove their allegations.

Poker by state: While legalizing online poker will make things easier for poker players in most of the country, the proposed legislation shows that it is almost guaranteed that states will be permitted to opt out of the program. In opt-out states, it will be more difficult to play poker than it is now. Fortunately, it's not that hard to move from Washington to California if playing online poker is a priority.

Some of these changes will be accepted with open arms and others will anger some people in the online poker community. The bottom line is that legalization and regulation will legitimize the industry. No longer will be there be worries of the DOJ seizing withdrawals or sites leaving the U.S. market, and that piece of mind is most important of all.

Phil Ivy and Mike "The Mouth" Matusow Named In Full Tilt Online Poker Bot Cheat Lawsuit!

Poker Legends Chris "Jesus" Ferguson, Howard Lederer and a Host Of Others Also Sued For Bot Fraud! And I bet Phil Hellmuth just loves it!

Allegations Of Poker Bot Use At Full Tilt Poker

Since its creation, Full Tilt Poker has been heralded as an honest, no-nonsense online poker site. Other than multi-accounting, which is a player caused problem, not one perpetrated by the site, Full Tilt has for the most part been free from some of the more damaging issues that have plagued some of their competitors. However, this week, they were named in a lawsuit which alleges that some players were using automated bots in an attempt to cheat other player out of money.

What is a poker bot? A bot is computer program whose purpose is to play poker against human opponents or other computer opponents. Generally, well designed bots can win at a high rate and the practice of using them is considered cheating.

On October 1st, heads-up online specialist. Lary pokergirlz Kennedy and former Full Tilt customer Greg Omotoy filed a complaint on October 1st accusing Full Tilt with, among other things, fraud and libel, over the alleged accusation of using bots. Earlier this year, Full Tilt Poker, removed over $80,000 from the accounts of the two players, because they believed the two were wrongfully using bots against other players, which is a direct violation of the Full Tilt Poker Terms of Service. After the seizure of funds, Kennedy posted about the situation on Twoplustwos forum. Perhaps not coincidentally, shortly after posting, Kennedy was then accused by Full Tilt of Multi accounting. This is what finally prompted the lawsuit. The official complaint names Full Tilt Poker, Tiltware and Howard Lederer, Raymond Bitar, Phil Gordon, Chris Ferguson, Andy Bloch, Perry Friedman, Erick Lindgren, Erik Seidel, Phil Ivey, Patrik Antonius, John Juanda, Gus Hansen, Mike The Mouth Matusow, and Allen Cunningham as co-defendants.

As part of the suit, Kennedy and Otomys explain that Full Tilt originally consisted of two separate companies, Tiltware and Vert Enterprises and suggests that, despite Full Tilts assertion that they are separate entities operating out of California and St. Kitts and Nevis, respectively, the two companies the same and are illegally being run in California.

What started out as simple action taken out against 2 players from the sea of online poker, could perhaps turn out to be a complete public relations disaster for Full Tilt. It is believed that Full Tilt likely would have to consider the possibility of settling as to avoid exposure to US courts.

Roulette Player Claims UK Grosvenor Casino Chain Barred Him For Simply Winning! Casino Refuses To Say Why They Barred Him!

A gambler's winning streak was cut short after he was banned from casinos across Britain after winning £28,000 playing roulette with his 'no-lose' system. Balvinder Sambhi, from Birmingham, scooped the fortune in just two months using a secret betting pattern which he has spent years perfecting. But he claims he was so successful that bosses have now banned him from every Grosvenor Casino in the country. Balvinder Sambhi's biggest single daily win was just over £4,000. Angry, Mr. Sambhi, 38, said: "I've never lost with my system and the casinos don't like that. They don't want winners in their premises, just losers. I used to go into the casino every day and there was never a problem when I was losing thousands of pounds.
But after using my system to make £28,000, I was taken to one side and told that I was barred. I can't believe it!"

A letter from the director of security of the Rank Group who run Grosvenor Casinos refuses to specify the reason for his ban. Garage owner Mr Sambhi, who does not want to reveal his winning formula, is writing a tell-all book for other gamblers. He said: "Experts have always said that winning at roulette is just down to luck. But I've spent years developing a system based on simple mathematics which helps me win every time I play. In total, I won £28,000 in two months. Some days I won a little and some days a lot. My biggest single daily win was just over £4,000. But the fact is I was winning consistently and nobody has ever done that before with roulette."

But his winning streak came to an end on September 15 when the businessman visited Grosvenor Casino in Birmingham city centre and was told he was barred. Mr Sambhi said: "I've been a member of that casino for a decade and have never had problems before. I spoke to the manager and pleaded to be told why I had been banned but he refused to tell me. I said if they thought I was cheating, or money laundering, then they should call the police. But he said that was not the case, so the only conclusion is that I was banned because I was winning so much money. Yet my system is not cheating; it's all about the maths."

The Birmingham man has since employed solicitors to ask the Grosvenor Casino chain, owned by the Rank Group, for an explanation. But the company's Director of Security, John Butler, refused and wrote back: "You will be aware that we are under no legal obligation to give reasons from excluding someone from our premises. It is therefore not my intention to assist your client further."

A spokesman Grosvenor Casinos, which has more than 30 UK casinos, declined to comment. Mr Sambhi is now hoping to pass on the secrets of his system in his new book, "Sequential Roulette: End Game." He said: "People have been playing roulette for hundreds of years, yet no one has ever come up with a system that consistently wins. But I've proved that my system works. Now I want to pass it on to other gamblers so they can win big too."

My take: Sambhi is full of shit. He may have gotten barred for winning or perhaps for cheating, but he certainly does not have a winning roulette system because one does not exist. It is quite possible that his system was betting on biased wheels he may have found in some Grosvenor casinos.