Posts Tagged ‘Jean-Robert Bellande

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.

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20
Jul
10

World Series of Twitter?

A few eyebrows were raised when ESPN chose not to provide a live stream of this year’s World Series of Poker main event. After all, they had done so for some of the earlier events, and it goes without saying that the demand for the main event would have been far greater.

But maybe they knew something the fans didn’t. This year news of every bet, every knockout and every chip-count was available quicker than ever, and I’m not just talking about the oft-inaccurate Pokernews updates.

No, I’m talking about Twitter, which has grown in scope over the last twelve-to-eighteen months to the extent that if there is a major event in sport, politics, entertainment or pretty much anything else, there will be a way of following it on the social networking site.

Twitter was integral to media coverage of the 2009 Iranian elections

In the same way the recent general election in the UK was dubbed “The Twitter Election”, it is reasonable to describe this year’s World Series as the event which finally brought top-level poker in line with the twitterverse.

There were a handful of updates last year from the official World Series of Poker Twitter account, and its involvement in proceedings had grown incrementally by the time the World Series of Poker Europe came about, but the idea of bringing the competitors’ own accounts to the fore only really took off this year.

Pokernews has arguably had a significant role in this, tracking the tweets of various top pros regardless of whether a major tournament is taking place. Of course, not everyone will be interested to hear about Evelyn Ng’s love of Glenfiddich or Daniel Negreanu’s opinions on The Real World, but even in circumstances like this there are some fans who are happy to find a personal connection with people whose careers they have followed on television for years.

But the role of Twitter is not limited to Pokernews, especially during the final stages of the World Series. Every morning, anyone following @WSOP could get a rundown of the Twitter accounts of those players remaining in the tournament. This has been beneficial in two ways.

Firstly, it has brought a number of poker’s lesser lights to the public’s attention. Only a handful of big-name professionals (i.e. those who fans have regularly seen on television) made it to the final three tables: Michael Mizrachi, Hasan Habib and Phil Hellmuth’s former nemesis Adam Levy to name but three.

Yet what of the lesser-known players with a role to play? Players like internet pros Matt Affleck, Joe Cheong and Jason Senti, who are relative unknowns unless you happen to play regularly at their stakes online.

Thanks to this easy access to their feeds, poker fans worldwide could choose a player to root for without simply picking a name out of a hat. They could sweat every hand and feel every bad beat, feeling a genuine sense of sympathy for someone they wouldn’t recognise one week or even one day ago. And for the more fickle among us, the nature of Twitter allows you to follow someone for the duration of the event and then – when they are knocked out – unfollow them and find a different horse to back within seconds.

Matt "mcmatto" Affleck was tweeting regularly throughout the main event

The second way in which Twitter played a huge part concerns the speed of updates. Instead of constantly refreshing Pokernews or WSOP.com, going several minutes with no news and then being greeted with five or six updates simultaneously, you can ensure every available update comes your way as soon as is humanly possible.

With a number of players making use of phones or iPads at the table, some were tweeting the hands almost instantly. One player to make use of this tactics was Jean-Robert Bellande, with some speculating that his desire to update fans on his progress minute-by-minute affected his concentration as the sixth day drew to a close.

And indeed the impact of Twitter does not end there. In the months leading up to the final table, we will come to find out a little more about the November Nine. Profiles, articles and human interest features will flood the internet, and now – thanks to Twitter – it will be easier for us to find the articles we want to read.

As well as continuing to follow @WSOP for retweets from poker journalists, the hashtag #WSOP will lead tweeters to more information on the November Nine than they could possibly need, all available at their fingertips. In fact, were it not for Twitter I may have never discovered this brilliant article from Howard Swains.

With all this information available to poker fans, there is no excuse not to follow developments in the World Series. I wait with baited breath to find out how all this has progressed by the time we reach November, let alone the 2011 series.




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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