Posts Tagged ‘Ultimate Bet

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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13
Oct
09

Practising avoidance

It has been a week of big news stories: Barack Obama has won the Nobel Peace Prize, Boyzone singer Stephen Gately has died, and – perhaps most importantly – Prahlad Friedman has released a new hip-hop video.

Los Angeles pro Friedman (a.k.a. ‘Spirit Rock’), one of poker’s more colourful characters, is best known for the Poker is Fun rap which he debuted at the 2006 World Series Main Event.

However, thanks to a rather more unsavoury incident at the same tournament, his name will remain synonymous with poker’s darker side.

With fewer than 40 players remaining from the record starting field of 8,773, Prahlad accused Australian pro Jeff Lisandro of failing to post an ante, equivalent to a tiny fraction of his chip-stack.

Four-time World Series of Poker bracelet winner Jeffrey Lisandro

Four-time World Series of Poker bracelet winner Jeffrey Lisandro

What should have been a trivial and easily resolvable matter escalated into a full-blown, childish row with Friedman accusing Lisandro of robbing an opponent and the 2009 player of the year responding by threatening to ‘Take [Friedman’s] head off.’

The accusation, epitomised by the now infamous utterance ‘I don’t trust you, sir’ was proved wrong by CCTV, but that is not really the point.

Poker is fun, for everyone?

In an age where governments, particularly that of the USA, remain sceptical about the virtues of poker, it is crucial that the game is able to carve a new image and separate itself from the stereotype of reckless gambling in darkened rooms involving less-than-reputable personalities.

Online poker has often struggled to keep up this image, with the Ultimate Bet scandal proving that even former world champions are not immune to corruption and dishonesty, so it is left to live poker to keep up appearances.

And just as online poker looked to be dragging itself out of the mire, recent stories involving Pitbull Poker and eurolinx have thrown it right back in.

1994 World Champion Russ Hamilton was deemed primarily responsible for the Ultimate Bet cheating scandal

1994 World Champion Russ Hamilton was deemed 'primarily responsible' for the Ultimate Bet cheating scandal

Future problems?

Thankfully, the live game has not witnessed a repeat of the Friedman-Lisandro incident on the world stage, and fans are free to enjoy the game’s lighter side without worrying about what darker truths exist behind the scenes.

But poker players still have a long way to go to clean up the game’s image, whether rightly or wrongly, and they cannot continue taking two steps back for each step forward.

Timeline of Ultimate Bet Scandal




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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