60 Minutes Report: Online Poker Cheating Scandal



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On December 1st, 2008, 60 Minutes and the Washington Post published a joint report about an online poker cheating scandal, involving Absolute Poker and Ultimate Bet, two of the biggest online poker rooms. In this investigative report 60 Minutes is quick to credit itself for reporting on "the biggest scandal in the history of online gambling." What history? The whole 5 years of it? Anyway, they further go on saying that their investigation "raises new questions about the integrity and security of the shadowy and highly profitable industry that operates outside U.S. law." Actually, these aren't exactly "new" questions, buy it takes a well-spoken dressed-up reporter to say it, before people actually believe it.

For anyone with any common sense this news should not come as a surprise. Why not? Well, let's see.

These poker sites may look slick but in reality they are offshore businesses,running illegal gambling operations outside of any jurisdictions that care to enforce laws. Additionally, due to the fact that these virtual gambling dens are located in countries that don't really have regulations to oversee these operations, no one is really policing them. So, basically, there is some site where thousands of people pour-in millions of dollars, then a few virtual cards pop up on the computer screens around the world, and money is transferred from one user to another, without anyone ever seeing with their own eyes how any of it is actually being handled. I'm sorry if this offends anyone, but it would really be naive to assume that the people behind these unregulated and illegal businesses are not at least tempted to take some of that loose cash that everyone is just tossing around like there's nothing to it, before their businesses are eventually shut down.

Poker has always been a crooked game. I know most people are not willing to accept this fact, but denial has always been an essential component that made these scams possible. The poker scene has gone through tremendous changes in the past years. Some of these changes and improvements have in fact made a lot of the old scams impossible, but fundamentally nothing has changed. The game is still crooked, just in different ways. And let's not ignore the fact that online poker is a totally different animal. A new frontier, just like the Wild West used to be. But as long as there are enough people that want to make money without working for it, there will always be enough customers that will refuse to believe that their favorite poker sites may be crooked. In fact, those masses have always been quick to ridicule anyone that even suggests that cheating goes on.

This investigative report is definitely fun to watch. But it's always a good idea to filter all the hype and misinformation out of any sensational news reports. For example, the conclusion of this report pretty much states that someone had gotten access to the secure accounts of the suspect poker sites. This conclusion is derived solely from an initial assumption backed up with a log file that was "accidentally" sent by some "incompetent" employee of the suspect poker site, after a customer requested the hand histories of a suspect player. So, the belief is that some incompetent employee of the suspect poker site accidentally sent an internal log file that contained IP address and other key information that enabled amateur "investigators" (i.e. the poker players themselves) to arrive at a conclusion. Hm... what's wrong with that picture?

Also, always bee wary when gambler throw big numbers around. "I caught a fish THIS big." Oh, and how big may that be? When a gambler, or in our case a poker player, says "that donkey cost me $1,000," what does it really mean? Does it mean they actually lost one thousand buckaronis, or are they talking about $1,000 in tournament chips, which is the equivalent of a lousy 10 bucks in actual money, that was entered into the tournament pull. Also, when they talk about their wins, are they counting the losses? And the other way around. Basically, gamblers are notorious for blowing numbers out of proportion, to make a point. So, it's up to you how much of it you decide to believe.