Friday, January 04, 2008

Absolute Apathy

'Apathy' by Despair.com“The visible boil on the surface of the human body proves that there is invisible corruption within, and the occasional discovery of frauds at cards practiced by men who up to that time had been regarded as honorable, proves the existence of much undetected roguery.”

That’s John Blackbridge writing about cheaters in his 1880 book The Complete Poker Player. Hit a nearby used bookstore yesterday where I happened across a copy of an anthology of poker writing called Read ’Em and Weep (2004) edited by John Stravinsky. Full of neat stuff, including an excerpt from Blackbridge from which I’m quoting.

For much of the rest of the excerpt Blackbridge describes different examples of cheating as explained to him by a necessarily-anonymous “card-sharper.” The discussion -- particularly Blackbridge’s theoretical reflections on cheating with which he begins -- predictably reminded me of what happened over at Absolute Poker a few months back. The cheating scandal was on my mind again anyway after having read Lou Krieger’s recent posts about it on his blog. About a week ago, Krieger identified the scandal as the top poker story of 2007. Then yesterday he provided what he called an “update, of sorts” on the situation.

I, for one, appreciate Krieger’s efforts to keep this story alive. I’ve already expressed (in several different posts) my disappointment with Absolute Poker, both for what happened and for their miserable handling of the matter. The combination of high-dollar, repeated incidents of insider cheating on the site and piss-poor communication with account holders made it untenable for me to remain a player on Absolute, and so I pulled out my funds back in October. I also (with some hassle) took off what I had over at Ultimate Bet, as the company that apparently owns Absolute (Blast Off Limited) bought out the company that had owned UB (Excapsa) back in October 2006.

As Krieger reminds us, the Kahnawake Gaming Commission had earlier announced the final report of the audit of Absolute Poker -- conducted by Gaming Associates – was due on December 7th. That date came and went without notice, then on Dec. 12th the KGC told us they were reviewing the report and planned to “render a decision in this matter within the next two weeks.” The decision, I assume, concerns whether or not the KGC will once again list Absolute Poker as one of the many “gaming operations that hold a valid and subsisting permit” issued by the Commission. (They currently do not.)

Three weeks later, we continue to wait. Meanwhile, thousands go on playing on both Absolute Poker and Ultimate Bet.

I’m with Krieger here. The revelation of the Absolute Poker cheating scandal did, in a sense, turn out to be the “visible boil” that proved the existence of “invisible corruption” within online poker. What continues to astound me is the apparent willingness of many online poker players not only to tolerate such corruption without objection, but implicitly to endorse it by continuing to play on the sites.

Let’s look back at what Blackbridge is saying about the cheaters. “Now and then card-playing circles are shocked by unexpected disclosures,” he writes. “But the detections must be very rare in proportion to the offenses; being either the result of accidents, or carelessness on the part of the operator, or of long-continued watchfulness on the part of some one observer; all of which are less likely to happen than the offense itself, which is the carefully matured fruit of deep design and laborious education.”

The man is writing over a century ago, but seems to describe uncannily how the AP “roguery” was uncovered. His larger point, though, is that cheaters rarely get caught –- these guys are usually more clever than were A.J. Green and/or whoever else was involved at Absolute -- meaning many more undiscovered examples of cheating probably occur for every one that gets exposed.

Which to me clearly says when we do happen to catch one of these “card-sharpers,” we damn well better do something about it. That ain’t gonna happen if we all just turn away and ignore the problem.

What will happen? Seems pretty obvious to me. The body will get sicker and sicker. And eventually waste away.

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