Thursday, June 25, 2015

The Battle of Hastings

This past Sunday, poker pro Brian Hastings jumped on Twitter to allege an instance of angle shooting perpetrated by an opponent of his during a World Series of Poker event. Hastings has won two WSOP events this summer, and this incident occured at the final table of one of them, the $1,500 10-game mix.

“PSA,” tweeted Hastings. “Alexey Makarov aka Lucky Gump (I think) tried to angle shoot at 10 game FT. Floor ruled against him tho. Beware.”

Several sprang to Makarov’s defense as Hastings described a hand in which Makarov had asked for a misdeal following the awkward delivery of the first three cards in stud. Hastings believed Makarov only made the request after seeing everyone’s upcards, including the deuce Makarov had been dealt.

Before long Hastings was reporting that he “may have overreacted” and that “Alexey and I made up and are friends again.” In other words, it appeared a very minor episode and if it weren’t the WSOP where every little dust-up gets extra scrutiny, few would have noticed it.

Discussion about it, though, prompted David “Bakes” Baker -- one of those who has brought to the fore game integrity issues with the Modiano cards being used at the WSOP -- to complain that Hastings himself had been involved in some shenanigans during the weeks leading up to the series, having played high-stakes mixed games (including SCOOP events) on PokerStars under another person’s account.

“So after I FT’d the SCOOP 2k a bunch of well known pros messaged me telling me @brianchastings was behind the NoelHayes account on Stars,” tweeted Baker.

Hastings normally plays as “$tinger 88” on PokerStars, and indeed, a player registered in Ireland named “NoelHayes” had made one of the $2,100 NLHE final tables during SCOOP, finishing fourth and in fact knocking out Baker (a.k.a. “WhooooKidd”) in fifth.

Playing on a second account is of course against Stars’ Terms of Service which explicitly limits players to just one. “In the event that PokerStars becomes aware of additional accounts opened by a User,” says the applicable item in the TOC, “PokerStars may close such additional accounts without notice and may confiscate funds held in such additional accounts.”

Much noise ensued over Twitter as well as on Two Plus Two where a thread to discuss Baker’s allegation was swiftly begun. As some in the thread have noted, the story evokes a much older one involving Hastings and his huge $4.2 million winning session versus Viktor Blom on Full Tilt Poker in December 2009.

Blom -- that is, “Isildur1” (whose identity was unknown at the time) -- lost those millions versus Hastings, then the latter revealed in an interview how he had been supplied hand histories involving Blom compiled by his then CardRunners pro colleagues (something that also skirted close to crossing a line in FTP’s terms, although the site determined Hastings was not guilty of any violations). Here’s a post from then introducing that controversy, if you’re curious.

The 2+2 thread raged onward for a couple of days and more than 240 posts. One side issue brought up by some concerns the highly-publicized bracelet bets Hastings made prior to the start of the WSOP and the idea that some making those bets didn’t realize he’d been playing high-stakes mixed games online during the spring.

Early this morning -- just before 5 a.m. Vegas time -- Hastings chimed in with a fuel-on-the-fire contribution to the thread in which he pointedly avoids addressing the whole “NoelHayes” question.

After making clear “I have nothing to add to the conversation publicly” and dismissing “what strangers on the internet” have to say about him, Hastings laments “something like this being a major story in the poker world at a time in which the WSOP is in full force and we should be trying to promote and grow the game of poker, rather than drag it through the mud.”

He brings up the state of online poker in the U.S. and efforts to bring the game back, calling it “unfortunate that certain people have been on bad runs and choose to take their frustrations out outwardly” -- i.e., by criticizing his apparent multi-accounting. He adds “this will be my last post in this thread,” although he already has come back a couple of times to further the theme that efforts to uncover his misdeeds are hurtful to the game as a whole.

Needless to say, such a post was not received well at 2+2. Indeed it makes little sense as an argument, which for me comes off like Nixon in his 1974 State of the Union stressing the need to put an end to the Watergate investigations (“One year of Watergate is enough”) in order to allow the the nation and its government to start “devoting our full energies” to other important issues.

Certainly yet another story of high-stakes multi-accounting reflects somewhat badly on the game, but not acknowledging it or considering it worth looking into would obviously be much worse for poker. Compare the cheating allegation in the $10K Heads-Up event a few weeks ago (still apparently being investigated). Sure, even an accusation reflects badly on the game in general and the WSOP in particular, but the damage caused by a reputation hit hardly compares to harm caused by actual cheating.

Hard to tell, to be honest, amid all the back-and-forthing what exactly to think about what has been alleged, including whether or not some “may have overreacted” here as Hastings might have done with Makarov. Even so, it will be curious to follow where this battle proceeds next.

(EDIT [added 6/25/15, 6 p.m.]: The thread and story takes another turn, with Baker sharing a direct message from Hastings in which the latter admits to having played on Stars on the “NoelHayes” account [which some have pointed out would have to have been done from the U.S. via VPN, another big no-no]. If curious, click here.)

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Blogger Memphis MOJO said...

Nice title.

6/25/2015 4:15 PM  

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