Category Archives: Poker News

The Shrinking World of Online Poker

One of the best things about online poker is the fact that you can be sat on your computer playing against real people from all corners of the globe. I was just playing at Full Tilt Poker and as I sometimes do, I hovered over the avatars to see who I was up against. I was battling it out with players from the United Kingdom, Germany, Australia, Lithuania, and of course America. People from different time zones, different cultures, speaking different languages – all sharing one common goal; to play poker, with rakeback, and win money off one and other. Poker is a truly global game.

It’s quite sad that some countries are now effectively banning their citizens from playing online poker against the rest of the world. New laws have been (or are being) introduced by some countries to supposedly “protect the players” – but their real goal is to increase tax revenue.

Let’s look at France. The French can no longer play on many of the major online poker rooms. Okay, they weren’t supposed to be able to play at the sites legally anyway. To allow for the “opening up” of online poker, poker rooms such as PokerStars and PartyPoker have to apply for a French license if they wish to operate legally. First they have to close all existing accounts for those players. So if you live in France you can no longer player at, you have to go via and play against your fellow Frenchmen. It’s a similar situation in Italy, and there’s talk of more new laws. I’m not sure how these laws will be ratified by the EU, but in the case of France, I’m sure what Mr Sarkozy wants, Mr Sarkozy gets.

I really hope that these changes don’t become commonplace. I fear this might be the future of online poker, particularly for countries that currently have an anti-online gambling stance. Regulation of online poker is the desire of many poker players, particuarly in the United States. But at what price? Do you want to play against only Americans? Or how about only players in your own state? That would suck.

Fixing the Problem of Datamining in Online Poker

Datamining is the process of extracting patterns from data. There are various products and services which datamine online poker sites, the most popular of which is PTR. They are parasites that provide detailed information about players, for a fee. Online poker players can purchase hand histories to build up a profile of people they’ve never played with before. This is clearly a major unfair advantage and the process should be stopped.

I’m 100% against these services. Supporters of these services usually say “only losers complain about them”, but I’m a winning poker player. But regardless, saying “only losers complain” should be the primary reason why they are bad for the long term health of online poker. Do we want the bad players to leave? Some people say “losers don’t care”, and while some probably don’t, I bet there are many losers/break even players who do care. These types of players are what contribute to the profits of winners, so online poker sites have to do more to protect them.

I also think this is true of table scanning software which finds the “fish” at the cash game tables. You see long waiting lists at the tables where the fish reside, with sharks circling their prey. This is unhealthy for the good of the game. Everyone knows that online poker games are tougher to beat than they used to be back in 2006, and fish should be offered better protection. Automated tools that allow sharks to pick off the fish are not good for the game.

What can online poker sites do to help prevent this abuse? There are a couple of things that could be done to prevent this and stop the online poker industry from eating itself alive. Here are a few:

Allow users to change their screen names

I’m not a fan of this option. Firstly, I am not against online poker players using their own data to build profiles of their opponents, be it via software like Hold’em Manager or from the building up notes. Allowing screen name changes would be unfair to these players who play by the rules.

More importantly, it would create an environment that makes it easier for cheats to escape detection. Yes the online poker sites would still know who the players are – but do we really trust online poker sites to regulate themselves? I don’t, and if you do then go and read about the scandals at Absolute Poker and Ultimate Bet.

Limit table observation

Limiting table observation is the answer, since this is how sites like PTR get “their” data. Critics of this approach might say “but we like to watch the pro players at Full Tilt”. Well, how hard can it be to work something into the software to allow the professionals to be observed? I don’t think it requires much effort.

In my email correspondence with PokerStars they said:

Allowing observers to view the games prior to play is a fundamental
feature of the software that cannot be removed. Players like being able to
tell their friends “hey, come sweat me on table so-and-so, I’m winning big!”

It is our goal to minimise datamining via software limitations, without
overly restricting real players who need to legitimately observe a table
which they are not playing. Since we’re unwilling to completely remove
such features (which would be throwing out the baby with the bathwater), we
will always be engaged in a game of cat and mouse with those people that
seek to break our rules.

They say that the feature cannot be removed, but it doesn’t have to be removed. I also agree that it’s nice to watch your buddies play online poker. But there’s a simple answer to this – allow people to have “buddy lists”, and if their buddy approves, they can view tables they’re playing on. The screen names of the other players can be kept anonymous (“player 1”, “player 2”, etc). This allows the online poker sites to keep the social aspect of the game, but eliminates the parasites like PTR.

What are the online poker sites doing about datamining?

Online poker sites have known about this problem for a long time now. They keep coming up with the same generic replies; such as “We’re very close to tackling this” – but they’ve been saying this for what seems like years. I have a feeling that maybe they don’t care, but have to be seen to care. How difficult is it to tweak their table observation feature? I’m sure it’s not simple, but they have the resources to be able to do it, so they should get their act together and fix it.

If you agree then email your favourite poker site and tell them what you want!

Why You Should Avoid The Cereus Poker Network

Would you play poker online for real money at an unsecure poker site? Well if you’re playing on the Cereus Poker Network (Absolute Poker / Ultimate Bet) then that’s exactly what you’re doing.

On May 6th 2010, PokerTableRatings published a report detailing the discovery of a critical flaw in the Cereus Poker software. They found out that it was possible to essentially hijack somebody’s poker account and display their hole cards in real time. Here’s a video they made and posted on YouTube.

Here is the synopsis of the report by PTR:

There is a critical vulnerability in the Cereus Network software which makes it possible for an attacker to hijack poker accounts and view hole cards. The only 100% protection is to stop playing on Cereus Network until they upgrade to using SSL. To our knowledge there are no cases of this vulnerability being used to exploit actual players. We created test accounts for all proof of concept testing done during the discovery of this vulnerability. We do not have passwords to any unauthorized user accounts. The Cereus Network has been notified of this vulnerability. We will continue to report on this as it develops.

The Cereus Poker Network has responded and says “we will not rest until it is fixed. We plan to have this issue resolved within a matter of hours”.

Despite some false reporting by poker news websites and other affiliates who earn money from promoting Ultimate Bet / Absolute Poker, it is NOT safe to play at Cereus at this moment in time. If you do play on these sites then this should make you think twice about it. In fact, there’s absolutely no reason to play at these sites anyway, because they are poor quality and run by very shady companies.

To say that the Cereus Poker Network has a troubled past is putting it mildly. Back in 2007 there was the “super user” scandal at Absolute Poker, in which millions of pounds was stolen from honest poker players. At the time the owners failed to properly investigate, told blatant lies, and basically covered everything up until evidence to the contrary (courtesy of diligent 2+2 forum posters) forced them to admit the scam. Its three years since that debacle and questions still remain as to exactly how much was stolen and who was involved.

This most recent security issue might not be insider cheating like before (although considering there shady history it could be another way to scam players) but it’s still a massive issue that needs fixing and questions need to be answered. In another industry, one that is regulated, these jokers would be put out of business. Instead we’ll just get more spin from their “regulators” the Kahawake Gambling Commission and the affiliate sites that profit from keeping the AP/UB brands alive and kicking.

Amazingly the Cereus Network is among the top 10 online poker sites/networks in terms of player traffic, according to Poker Scout. How much bad press does a company need to get before they crash and burn? Unfortunately you won’t find much truthful coverage of this incident on poker news and affiliate sites if they have a banner ad or two promoting these brands. It also won’t stop Phil Hellmuth or Annie Duke associating themselves with them – just as long as they money keeps pouring in.

If you want to play online poker at sites that are secure and value integrity then I recommend PokerStars.

A Lesson in Damage Control

It came to light recently that a player was awarded a pot with the worst hand, over at Cake Poker. The revelation was revealed on the 2+2 forums – where a player with a king high flush beat an ace high flush. While it was amusing that the first few posters on that thread didn’t even spot the winning hand, online poker software should spot it. We take it for granted that a poker site will award the pot to the best hand. These kinds of mistakes aren’t meant to happen, but as anyone with a computer will know – they do some strange things sometimes.

Software has bugs, and this was clearly a bug in their system. Such a mistake is obviously not great PR for an online poker room (“don’t play there; they don’t know what beats what!” etc). But depending on how you handle the situation, you can either turn it into a huge issue or limit the damage. Cake Poker should be applauded in the way they dealt with this situation. The poker room manager at Cake Poker, Lee Jones, quickly responded to say that it was indeed a genuine mistake, and a short time later came up with a detailed explanation – which is entirely plausible and while I’m no programmer, I’ve no reason to doubt them.

Compare this to Ultimate Bet, where a similar situation occurred. This involved none other than Phil Hellmuth, who won with the worst hand. How did they respond? Well, the opposite to Cake Poker. Of course that’s no surprise to anyone who knows anything about Ultimate Bet – a site with zero integrity and one that should be avoided at all costs (Google ‘Super User’ for more on them).

So, credit where credit is due. Well done Lee Jones. Well done Cake Poker!

It wasn't meant to be for Ivey

If you haven’t heard, Phil Ivey finished 7th in the WSOP final. This was a huge disappointment to the vast majority of poker fans, including me. I wanted him to win it – yet it was always going to be a big ask. Firstly, he was short stacked. Does it matter if you’re Phil Ivey? Of course he has the skill to build up his stack, but we’re forgetting one more ingredient – luck.

Like many of you, I was following the coverage via various poker websites. It seems to me that this final was far more about luck than skill. The amount of suckouts was unreal. Whoever wins it this year (Moon or Cada at the time of typing) will have had huge slices of luck. Moon had it for days 1-8 and Cada for day 9. Who will get the rub of the green on day 10?

While I wanted Ivey to win, I’m now rooting for Moon, who is now the underdog. Yes he may be more lucky than good (he’s not terrible), but I like the guy – even though he knocked Ivey out. What I like most about him is his integrity. He said back in July that he wouldn’t accept a sponsorship deal from any online poker sites, and he stuck to his word. It’s quite refreshing to see, what with every other player at the table displaying logo’s of their “favorite” rooms.

Having said that, my head says Cada will win. Not because he’s probably got the better game, more chips, more energy, more desire, etc, etc – but because he’s sporting Poker Stars logos. That’s why he’ll probably win it. Poker Stars virtually own the WSOP, sending more players to the tournament that all other sites combined – and usually ending up with the winners. Maybe that’s where Ivey went wrong. Next year he should ditch Full Tilt and go with Poker Stars!

Durrrr Challenge – Half Way Stage

Remember the Durrrr Challenge? Yes, the challenge that was hyped up and talked about endlessly on poker blogs, poker websites, forums and communities. Yes you may have forgotten about it too, I know I did. But guess what? They’ve reached the half way stage. At the time of writing they’ve completed 25,145 of the 50K hands. Heck, it’s only taken 8 months (note: I could be wrong as am unsure exact start date – it was so long ago). Oh and Durrrr has taken the lead, and is now $700k up.

I’ve heard Antonious say recently that they’d like to speed things up a bit, and will be playing more regularly. He cites time zones as a major reason for it taking so long, but I don’t buy that. How hard is it to arrange a time to play? The internet didn’t just allow us to play online poker – it’s also provided us with clever communication tools like MSN messenger and Skype.And of course, there’s always email!

I’m not too bothered now anyway. But I do wish they’d hurry up, as I want to see the Durrrr Challenge II – Dwan vs Ivey. At this rate it looks like we might have to wait until 2011 for that one.

Would Julius Caesar Slow Play Aces?

Phil Hellmuth made quite an entrance to this years WSOP Main Event. He came dressed as the former Roman emperor, Julius Caesar, surrounded by a string of beautiful women in white toga-like dresses, and rose pettles were thrown at his feet. It was ridiculous, absurd, and comical! He was clearly embarrassed by the publicity stunt – and if you missed it, here it is:

It’s unlike Phil Hellmuth to play up for the cameras (cough!), but he was here with a purpose. “I came here to conquer like Caesar!” said Hellmuth as he entered the Rio. “I’m here to win my 12th bracelet.” Well he didn’t really conquer did he…finishing 400th of somewhere (I’m not 100% on the exact placing). To be fair, he made the money, but I wonder how the models who accompanied him in his entrance took the news – “400th? I thought he was the emperor of poker”. Of course they probably don’t know about variance.

Phil got busted slow playing Aces, by just flat calling an early position raiser, and allowing two more players to see a flop. All his chips went into middle on the flop, when he was behind (see official WSOP site for more details) to two pair, then a straight. Basically he tried playing too cute and I often here professional poker players say the biggest mistake amatuers make is slow playing big hands. Well I can’t wait to see the ESPN WSOP shows, especially when Hellmuth gets his balls busted. Can’t wait!

Are there too many WSOP events?

The $10k Main Event kicks off today, over a month after the first WSOP event of this year’s series. I must admit that I’ve got a bit bored with the coverage and I believe there are far too many events – particularly hold’em events. Here’s a list of the hold’em events at this year’s WSOP, not including the main event:

No-Limit Hold’em (Event 4) $1,000
No-Limit Hold’em (Event 7) $1,500
No-Limit Hold’em (Event 9) $1,500
No-Limit Hold’em (Event 11) $2,000
No-Limit Hold’em (Event 13) $2,500
No-Limit Hold’em (Event 15) $5,000
No-Limit Hold’em (Event 19) $2,500
No-Limit Hold’em (Event 22) $1,500
No-Limit Hold’em (Event 24) $1,500
No-Limit Hold’em (Event 28) $1,500
No-Limit Hold’em (Event 32) $2,000
No-Limit Hold’em (Event 34) $1,500
No-Limit Hold’em (Event 36) $2,000
No-Limit Hold’em (Event 39) $1,500
No-Limit Hold’em (Event 41) $5,000
No-Limit Hold’em (Event 51) $1,500
No-Limit Hold’em (Event 52) $3,000
No-Limit Hold’em (Event 54) $1,500
No-Limit Hold’em (Event 56) $5,000

Note: One of these (event 52) is a triple chance, two are shootouts (22 & 41) and three are six handed max (9, 19, 56).

I know the lower buy-in events are very popular, but do we really need so many of them? Do we need them at all? Personally I think its ridiculous having so many WSOP hold’em events. It devalues the series, which should be more exclusive in my opinion. If it was like this in the 1970’s then Doyle Brunson would probably have a lot more than 10 WSOP Bracelets.

But anyway, now the warm ups have finished – it’s time for the BIG ONE! Good luck to all the players lucky enough to have a seat!

$30 Million Poker Winnings Frozen

This week it emerged that $30 million of poker player’s funds has been frozen by the Federal Government. This has affected thousands of US player’s wanting to cash out from sites like PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker, something already harder to achieve since the UIGEA bullshit. What surprises me most is that PokerStars and Full Tilt don’t use multiple backup payment processors, and spread the load around a bit more. Maybe they do have alternatives, but they’ve been hit by this to the tune of 30 big ones, which has gotta hurt.

At this time it seems the online poker rooms are covering the money, so don’t worry poker players! Let’s not be scared by this act of aggression, though it’s not a good sign for the future. Just remember that online poker is not illegal, even if we’re made to think it’s a crime by people who want to suppress our freedoms. Let’s just hope that Barney Frank’s regulation bill gets somewhere, which seems unlikely (even if Obama likes poker).

Today I got an interesting email from Party Poker today, which read:

You may have seen the news about the freezing of payment processor funds in the United States and its effect on certain competitor online operators. PartyGaming Plc, the parent company of PartyPartners, withdrew immediately from the United States following the change in the law that took place back in October 2006. As a result, we are completely unaffected by these recent events in the US and your account with us will not be subject to any payment issues or lost revenue streams.

I guess you can’t blame them for this mailer, but it’s a bit of a cheap shot. If they weren’t listed on the London Stock Exchange then you could bet your house that they still be in the US market. Let’s not forget how much money Party Poker made in the days when they accepted US players, and how their share price and player numbers has plummeted since their withdrawal. But yeah, if you can play at Party then they are “completely unaffected by these recent events” – go figure!

High Stakes Poker

I love watching High Stakes Poker, and just finished watching episode 10 of season 5, which is the final episode involving the current group of players. Here’s a rundown on my thoughts of how they got on:

Antonius – In my opinion he was the best poker player at the table. He has great reads on others, and makes some brilliant moves. There is defintely a fear factor about him. It was good to see him lighten up a little in this final episode, as he often looks way too serious. Yeah I know it’s high stakes poker, but poker is a game after all. The final hand was great when he pushed Dwan out of the pot.

Dwan – Another strong showing from Dwan, and while I have championed him of late – he has been very lucky at times. His play is superb and he scares the hell out of the other players, particularly Esfandiari (did you see the look on his face when Dwan joined the game?). His introduction certainly helped pick this group of players up, as it was a little boring before he joined. He creates action and is great to watch.

Hachem – I was impressed with his play throughout. I had always seen him more as a tournament player and thought he might get owned in this cash game, but he held his own. A very solid performance.

Negreanu – Unlike Dwan, Negreanu doesn’t have much luck in this game does he? I think he did well not to lose more money in certain spots. At the start of this season he was a little on tilt at times, but he appeared more relaxed this time around. I’m sure when the cards fall good for him he’ll start turning it around. He’s one of my favorite players – also comes across as a really nice guy.

Laak – I’m not sure what to make of Laak. Overall I think he played well, though he did get a nice rub of the green. Talks a little to much crap for my liking, but entertaining nonetheless.

Esfandiari – While he’s obviously a good poker player, I don’t rate him nearly as highly as the others at the table. He made some donkey moves and talks even more crap than Laak. Maybe he should concentrate more on the game than making stupid side bets. I couldn’t care less how many press-ups he can do. Play poker man!

Lederer – I’m not sure why they invite him on the show, as he didn’t do anything. I know he plays a tight game, but it’s not interesting to watch. The only hand I remember him playing was against Dwan when he had AK, which he was unlucky to lose to Dwan’s junk. But he didn’t play it that well either, in my opinion.

Cassavetes – I don’t have much to say about him as he didn’t really play many hands, but he played quite steady. Nothing spectacular, but no mug either. He’s probably quite happy with his performance against some world class opponents.

I’m looking forward to the next group of players on High Stakes Poker. If you don’t watch the show then head on over to YouTube and watch it. It’s a really good show – probably the best poker TV show at the moment.