Collusion Ring Detected at partypoker; Offender Accounts Banned and Seized
On Oct. 21, a TwoPlusTwo forum poster named "FarseerFinland" posted a thread titled "Huge collusion ring in High Stakes MTTs at PartyPoker" that unveiled suspected collusion within high-stakes tournaments at partypoker, prompting response and action from the online poker site.
According to the thread, the original poster (OP) has played online poker for 13 years and now plays under the screen name "DukeOfSuffolk" at partypoker, where they have been "grinding their highstakes leaderboards" for the past year and a half, playing $109 and higher buy-ins.
The poster detailed two specific situations that came up during play in which collusion was suspected, which then prompted this player to do some investigation of his own. A partypoker spokesperson later confirmed the collusion following an investigation, leading to bans of those involved and repayments to those affected.
The first situation explained in the thread referred to a Wednesday Turbo Highroller final table that "DukeOfSuffolk" played on Oct. 18. The poster explained some suspicious behavior among his opponents, including the fact that in 48 hands "with somewhat short stacks," none of his opponents were all in and called by each other, while he busted three players. The poster also gave a specific hand example that seemed curious, and noted that the tournament finished in three minutes once he busted.
Suspecting collusion, "DukeOfSuffolk" did some investigating and found some suggestive concurrences. These included that six of the top seven started playing on the site this year, mostly in May. They also all play tournaments primarily $109 and higher, and in August, the suspected six players participated almost exclusively in tournaments together which consisted mostly of tournaments called Clubber IIs.
The six suspected players were identified by the screen names "Sorcian", "domingo661", "SciorXxx", "dimitriax", "GASSGUSS" and "PowerCarl". The poster mentioned alerting "Party_Rep", the intermediary between the forum and partypoker staff, who assured him on Friday, Oct. 20 that the site's security department was conducting a full investigation.
On Oct. 20, two days after the first incident, "DukeOfSuffolk" noticed four of the aforementioned players enrolled in an early high roller event, with the other two joining before registration closed. He noted that four of the players had not played another tournament since the Wednesday Turbo high roller, while two had played high rollers on Thursday.
"DukeOfSuffolk" discovered eight more players with similar tournament histories as the other six-- playing mostly since May 2017 with some minor variation and having played mostly or only multiple Clubber II tournaments. He added these names to the suspected collusion ring: "pesnokviv", "ven.pax.soy", "fausfalser" (started July 2017), "diabolicox900" (19 tournaments pre-May 2017 in January and February 2017), "coccopaga090", "cheflol" (16 tournaments pre-May 2017 in January and February 2017), "A10cooming" (started playing July 2017), "PR3PEzzz" (started playing July 2017).
While "DukeOfSuffolk" did not notice any specific instances that would hint at collusion, he noted that four of the suspected colluders finished in the top four of the Turbo Highroller.
Proof of Collusion?
The OP provided links to each suspected players' tournament history to show which ones they have played, as well as a text file with hand histories from the Turbo Highroller final table where collusion was suspected. A video from the two-table bubble play from that same tournament was posted in a subsequent post on Oct. 22 within the same thread.
In another thread on Oct. 22, the OP posted an update, saying he found 12 more players likely involved based on players who cashed in Clubber II tournaments in August, which he reported to "Party_Rep" and posted those screen names the following day.
Closing Offender Accounts
On Oct. 22, "FarseerFinland" wrote a post saying that while he was told by "Poker_Rep" that "accounts mentioned in the OP were suspended and under investigation," he provided a screenshot that showed "PowerCarl" in a $215 multi-phase tournament.
In an Oct. 24 post on the thread, "Party_Rep" provided a response, saying the information is being investigated by the relevant teams. Also, "The OP and myself have been in discussion and all details have been shared with the Risk team management for review. We treat the accusations of collusion very seriously and will ensure relevant action is taken pending investigation."
partypoker Managing Director Tom Waters talked to CalvinAyre.com about the collusion case and he confirmed, "A group of accounts were found to be playing in teams in order to collude against other players."
Waters also explained the process for investigating collusion accusations and the account blocking process that ensued after the TwoPlusTwo Forum post.
"It depends on the case, every case is different. In this case, the security department reviewed the initial complaint from the player and began a full investigation to 1) Verify that collusion was taking place and 2) That ensure all accounts involved were successfully identified and blocked."
While he admitted to CalvinAyre that some accounts may have remained active for a time by mistake, Waters assured that all accounts identified with the collusion ring have been shut down. He added the importance of conducting detailed investigation before closing accounts due to a high rate of false accusations when it comes to collusion.
"It's also important to note that 99% of collusion accusations are proved to be false. A lot of people get suspicious based on the emotion of losing pots, running under EV in general and against specific players. It is important that our security team is as informed as possible to be able to quickly identify if it is indeed collusion or not. We cannot simply close every account that is emailed to us as being suspicious of collusion."
Fraud Protection at partypoker
While partypoker and other online poker sites have fraud protection mechanisms in place, this collusion ring seemed to go undetected until it was brought to light by "FarseerFinland".
Waters explained, "We always welcome proactive feedback from our players as it often helps us to identify issues faster.
"Sometimes players are able to identify suspicious activity faster, depending on what they have experienced at the tables."
"BOT and collusion detection techniques can require a large number of hands in order to accurately analyse the information and identify rogue accounts. Therefore sometimes players are able to identify suspicious activity faster, depending on what they have experienced at the tables. We have sophisticated fraud control mechanisms in place that are continually being updated to counter new and more advanced fraudulent techniques."
In addition to the fraud control already in place, Waters described further efforts going into effect to deal with the current group of offenders and moving forward to help detect instances of cheating and collusion like this one.
"We have set up a new email address, [email protected], where players can send their suspicions directly to an expert team who will review the case immediately. We have also formed a player panel of elite online players who will review hand histories in difficult cases and make a fair and impartial decision.
"We are already working closely with a number of players for certain matters. Over the coming months we will be rolling out some highly advanced detection techniques that we are building with the help of some of our players."
Punishment and Reparations
While the exact number of offenders and affected players in the collusion case in question is yet unclear, Waters assures that partypoker will do what it can to reimburse players who were victims of the collusion, saying, "All seized funds will be redistributed to the affected players."
Though in an ideal world, partypoker would be able to share these online perpetrators' real identities with both the poker community and with other online poker sites to prevent further occurrences, Waters explained that it's not so easy in practice.
"Although, in concept, this is a good idea, in reality, it's very difficult due to the Data Protection Act amongst other issues.
"We cannot comment on legal matters, although all players will be permanently banned from playing on our site."
For the time being, the online poker playing community may have to settle with that, and hope that the online poker sites we entrust our money to and the authorities that regulate online gaming put practices in place to help protect innocent players. But all players can also follow the example set by the proactive "FarseerFinland", who brought this issue to partypoker's attention, prompted action and also urged fellow players to remain vigilant.
In the thread, he tells readers, "If you've been playing small field $22-$55 MTTs I would keep my eyes open. If you see anything that looks like probable collusion (not just in tables but their game history etc.) you should contact Party_Rep imo."
He also provided a link to Official Poker Rankings where players can check to see which tournaments other players have registered in case of suspected collusion.
It seems that if the great many parties who seek to make online poker safe for innocent players work together for that common cause, these instances will become more sparse. Or at least we can hope.