Posts Tagged ‘Cardrunners

10
Aug
10

Where do we go from here? – Cake Poker’s vulnerabilities

Online poker has been no stranger to controversy in recent years. Many believe the scandals at Absolute Poker and UltimateBet set the game back a few years, with some casual recreational players – perhaps the most common “donators” in the game – reluctant to trust a system under which seemingly blatant cheating went undetected for such a long period of time. Rather than placing trust in the fact that such cheating was eventually detectable, many may have been more eager to cry foul and explain away their losses – although of course the poker economy will have suffered as much through a failure to attract new players as through existing players dropping off the spectrum.

Perhaps equally significant is the realisation that the support or endorsement of a recognised pro can no longer be taken as a guarantee of safety. You need look no further than former World Series of Poker Main Event champion Russ Hamilton’s involvement with Ultimate Bet to understand that. In an age where television producers are peppering our screens with poker show after poker show, creating celebrities out of the likes of Negreanu, Hellmuth and Matusow (not to mention the appearances of Annie Duke and Jean-Robert Bellande on more mainstream shows The Apprentice and Survivor respectively), one might expect the idea of a name pro drawing punters to a poker site to be little more than a formality. However when some prospective players look, for example, at Antonio Esfandiari endorsing Victory Poker, they may be liable to think “what does he have to gain from this venture?”

It seems as though every time online poker looks to be playing itself back into the public’s good books, it takes another step back towards disrepute. The latest site to fall foul of a scandal is Cake Poker, whose security setup has been “exposed” by PokerTableRatings.com (PTR). The suggestion that “superusers” may be able to profit from seeing opponents’ hole-cards hearkens back to the Absolute Poker scenario, and Cake’s cardroom manager Lee Jones has seemingly been burdened with the task of placating critics.

Jones was – at least until recently – viewed by many as one of online poker’s “good guys.” Formerly occupying senior positions at Pokerstars and Cardrunners, few questioned Jones’ motives for joining Cake. And his supporters have by and large been vindicated in their trust up to this point, with the Bluff columnist taking an active role in answering queries and criticism on the Two Plus Two forums. But suspicions were raised when he was seen to be dodging some of the more difficult questions thrown his way.

Cake Poker cardroom manager Lee Jones

Before any more is uncovered about the situation at Cake Poker, it is only fair to look at Jones’ actions at face value. He certainly appeared to be trying his best to defuse the situation, using all the information at his disposal to respond to the queries of concerned players worried their money might be at risk. His failure to keep up the efficiency of his responses – while not in itself suggesting deceit or anything of the sort – certainly raises alarm bells. In an ideal world, all poker sites should be run with a degree of efficiency which ensures there are no “difficult” questions to answer. At the very least it should be easy for sites to deal with those questions which seem difficult at face value, and provide an explanation whenever pressed to do so. Given what has come before in the world of online poker, one man’s silence can often speak louder than even the most dubious excuse, particularly when preceded by such vocal attempts to provide a rational and thought-out explanation.

It could be the case that Lee Jones is a victim of his own efficiency and cooperation, suffering merely as a consequence of being so helpful and trustworthy in the past. We need to understand that this situation is different from minor faults and quibbles uncovered up to this point, and it is not unreasonable to expect those at Cake to take longer to provide answers in the light of their greatest challenge to date. The issue which perhaps should be at the forefront of our inquiring minds is the question of why Cake refused to cease operating once the flaws had been uncovered by PTR. In the long run, such an admission of concern would exonerate Cake’s management of any suggestions of negligence in allowing potential superusers to continue profiting from flaws which are now in the public domain. The longer behaviour like this continues, the more sceptics will look to put two and two together and make five. It is surely only a matter of time before unfounded cries of “inside job” begin to surface and Cake begins to be discussed in the same light as Absolute Poker or UltimateBet.

***

Cake have taken steps to protect their reputation in the last few days, with a comprehensive statement issued by Lee Jones going some way to clarifying the situation and revealing the reasons for some of the decisions taken. It remains to be seen whether this course of action proves to be well-received by those who initally questioned Jones’ prolonged silence. It is not unreasonable to think the level to which such a response is appreciated will correlate to the future security of Cake. That is to say, if no further problems surface, this explanation may be accepted, but Cake run the risk of further criticism if future problems lead critics to view such an explanation as merely compounding existing issues and sweeping concerns under the carpet.

Sites in Cake’s position should always be prepared to let their reputation take a hit from which they are able to recover, rather than sullying their good name to the point that their errors or misdemeanours spread through the rest of the game. Sometimes you must take a step back to continue moving forward.

22
Jan
10

Beating the rush

This week, Full Tilt Poker made an announcement they feel will change the dynamics of the online poker world.

Rush Poker, the company’s new brainwave, will see the waiting time between hands minimised as players are moved to a different table and dealt new cards as soon as they fold.

Former world champion Chris Ferguson has described Rush Poker as ‘the greatest innovation in online poker since poker started on the internet.’

2000 World Series of Poker champion Chris 'Jesus' Ferguson

Still, putting superlative statements from Team Full Tilt members to one side, Rush Poker is definitely something to be excited about.

Original November Niner Scott Montgomery famously described himself as being part of the ‘ADD Generation’, and this new strand of the game should help to tackle issues of patience and concentration within the game.

Many players get bored playing one table at a time online, and some have resorted to multitabling to get round this issue.

And this emphasises how much of a risk Full Tilt are taking with the introduction of this new system.

With some former-multitablers trying out Rush Poker as an alternative, the site may lose rake on tournament and cash table entries.

But the company must feel confident that they can attract more players from rival sites: players who (a) want to be among the first to try out this new and exclusive system, and (b) have until now seen multi-tabling as a necessary inconvenience, and believe they have something to gain from Rush Poker.

More than just a hobby

There is, however, one element of Rush Poker which I would consider to be a potential stumbling block.

Players like myself, who have something of a superiority complex at the table, value their ability to pick up on reads and patterns.

This is particularly true of players in the higher echelons of the game (myself not included, sadly), as evidence by the amount of money spent on programmes like Sharkscope which give insights into the history or playing style of opponents.

Furthermore, the recent controversy surrounding Brian Hastings and his fellow Team Cardrunners members exchanging hand histories before Hastings took on online prodigy Isildur1 demonstrates how the best players in the world like to look for ‘tells’ away from the live circuit.

Brian Hastings recently won over $4million with the help of hand histories

With the advent of Rush Poker, the ability of players to ‘do their homework’ is diminished. They will face different opponents every hand, leaving them insufficient time to pick up on their rivals habits and eccentricities at the table.

On the basis of this, it is difficult to see Rush Poker having a significant impact on the ‘nosebleed’ games, or even on mid-stakes tournaments.

One can only assume, therefore, that Full Tilt will be targeting the lower-level games, where the rake is higher and their is more money to be made. It would seem that they are confident enough of generating significant revenue to overcome the diminishing returns from multitabling.

It will be interesting to see if Rush Poker takes off. And, if it does, how will Full Tilt’s competitors respond?




Hi I’m Tom. I’m a freelance journalist, and I recently completed a Postgraduate Diploma in Journalism at Cardiff University. In my spare time I like to play, watch and talk about poker. I hope you enjoy reading my blog.

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