Tuesday, November 06, 2007

World Upside Down

Absurd developments in the wake of the Absolute Poker cheating scandalOn October 19, 2007, those of us who still played on Absolute Poker got a message from “Absolute Poker Management” letting us know about an “internal security breach” that had occurred at their site. A couple of days later, Joe Norton, the “owner of Tokwiro Enterprises ENRG, which holds a 100% interest in Absolute Poker,” told us “the integrity of our poker system was compromised by a high-ranking trusted consultant employed by AP whose position gave him extraordinary access to certain security systems.”

To date, Absolute Poker has not offered any specific information regarding how long the cheating occurred. Nor have they made public the amount of money the cheaters were able to take off unsuspecting players via their “extraordinary access” to the site’s software. Some have suggested the amount of money stolen to have exceeded $700,000. Such a figure is necessarily an estimate, and, indeed, would not include instances of cheating that may not have been detected as of yet.

No, we haven’t heard much at all from Absolute Poker (or Ultimate Bet, whom AP bought out in October 2006) since Joe Norton’s missive. And I don’t really expect we will be hearing much anytime soon. Doesn’t mean online poker players should let it go, though.

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about how the admission that such a security breach had occurred was sufficient reason for me to pull my funds from both Absolute Poker and Ultimate Bet. Doing so doesn’t make the scandal less important to me, however. How all of this plays out should continue to matter to anyone who plays online poker -- whether or not they play on Absolute or UB.

Touching base, then, allow me to remark briefly on the sheer absurdity of a couple of developments we’ve witnessed over the last couple of weeks in the wake of Absolute’s admission to the security breach.

First, there has been no suggestion (as far as I am aware) of any legal action against Absolute Poker or the “high-ranking trusted consultant” or others responsible for the cheating. Perhaps individuals are being pursued and will be charged for their crimes, but we’ve yet to hear anything along those lines. Rather, the only specific reference to any legal action related to the security breach we have witnessed thus far has come in the form of a paid spokesperson for Absolute Poker threatening to sue someone else for defamation.

In his October 26 appearance on RawVegas’s “The Toke,” two-time WSOP bracelet winner and AP rep Mark Seif first suggested that Todd “DanDruff” Witteles (of NeverWin Poker) “engaged in some civil liability” via his statements about Seif and that he may pursue legal action against Witteles. Then, in a post published on November 1 on his Bluff Magazine blog, Seif again addresses Witteles and his previous suggestion regarding legal action. Says Seif (a Loyola University law school grad):

“I believe very strongly that he [Witteles] has knowingly and intentionally or with reckless disregard for the truth (which are not elements of the offense by the way) made at least one statement that makes a false claim, expressly stated or implied to be factual, that may harm the reputation of an individual, business, product, group, government or nation. That’s all I can say about it for now.”

The reputation of an individual, business, product, group, government or nation? Wha? Who else suspects a bot?

Indeed, this paragraph isn’t a human being speaking his mind as the rest of us tend to do. Rather, this is a lawyer parrotting the definition of “defamation,” in this case directly from Wikipedia, where we learn

“In law, defamation is the communication of a statement that makes a false claim, expressly stated or implied to be factual, that may harm the reputation of an individual, business, product, group, government or nation.”

Okay, I’m no lawyer. And I certainly don’t mean to defame anybody. But is this usually how lawyers go about pursuing such matters? Cutting and pasting from Wikipedia? Doesn’t matter. What’s really absurd is to hear someone representing Absolute yammering on about suing others, not vice-versa.

The second absurd development concerns the number of players who continue to frequent Absolute’s site. According to PokerSite Scout’s statistics regarding Absolute, the site experienced a slight dip in traffic on October 20th and 21st, but quickly recovered and has held steady as the 10th most popular online poker site.

Reasons for this development are certainly worth investigation, though I’ll refrain for now. Instead let me point you to an October 31 blog post by Serge “Adanthar” Ravitch, one of those who had been involved in uncovering the cheating at AP. (Thanks Foucault, for drawing this one to my attention.)

In the post, Ravitch notes how Absolute’s continued popularity “does not bode well for anyone -- either ourselves or the industry at large -- because, for all that AP is reformed, the fact is that there were almost no long term consequences. Once the players are fully paid back, the penalty for cheating turns out to be less than a 100% markup, and no one’s going to jail. In the long run (I am talking a decade plus) this kind of non-responsiveness from the market could very well drive the industry off a cliff or keep it just as shady as ever.”

Makes sense to me. Which is nice. ’Cause not much else seems to at the moment.

(EDIT [added 11/8/07]: Absolute Poker has issued an “interim statement” in which they offer some early findings from their internal investigation, including information about dollar amounts and the period during which the cheating took place. You can see the full statement here.)

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