CoinPoker Hands-Played Promo Creates Farcical Traffic Per GameIntel
Something’s amiss at one of those new cryptocurrency-based online poker sites, CoinPoker, where a hands-played promotion designed to lure more players to the site with the promise of crypto-coin giveaways looks to be crashing and burning even as outsiders watch.
This story begins with a pair of pieces authored by GameIntel Managing Editor Alex Weldon, who looked into the game-play activity at CoinPoker’s tables and discovered something more than a bit unusual. Weldon has since published two pieces on the CoinPoker situation; one’s a fact-based brief update offered in GameIntel’s B2B newsletter, while the other is a longer, more questioning piece served up yesterday at PartTimePoker. We don’t normally serve up links to other companies’ affiliate sites, such as PTP, but this is an unusual circumstance, so here ’tis.
We’ll trim down Weldon’s story a bit, as you can get the longer version yourself, but the gist is that CoinPoker recently announced a promotion through which 5,000,000 coins of its own in-house cryptocurrency, CHP, will be distributed to the promotion’s winners.
How was it supposed to work? Well, this promotion, called the “5 Million CHP Leaderboard Race,” was just launched on March 12th, and it involves play on CoinPoker’s cash-game tables. And there was another promotional event, also ongoing, in which CoinPoker has been offering rake-free play. (We’re going to come back to this in a big way in a bit.) The combined promotion was set to run weekly for four weeks, covering three cash-game buy-in ranges and awarding that total of 5 million CHP based on total hands played.
See some problems brewing? Let’s do some more digging and back-filling. Weldon’s investigation into CoinPoker’s recent traffic patterns showed that there was a small ring of high-volume users occupying CoinPoker’s cash games in the buy-in ranges involved in the promotion. These players were actively playing large numbers of tables — led by a player screen-named “1st”, who Weldon spotted playing on 42 or 47 different cash tables for over eight hours straight, depending on which piece doesn’t have the typo.
Wrote Weldon, at PTP, “The most obvious answer would be that most if not all of the players are bots, but after watching them play, I’m not convinced that’s the case. It could be, but it’s not necessary to explain how and why they would be playing so many tables.”
They’re bots, alright, even if Weldon didn’t quite want to state it with absolute certainty. He went on to write this:
I opened sixteen of those tables at random, the most that could fit conveniently on my screen, and watched for about half an hour. The preflop play was tight, but not unreasonable. Postflop, however, almost every single pot was either checked down or won by a single bet. The two exceptions I saw were one hand involving a player who definitely wasn’t part of the group, and one where a King-high flush lost all-in to an Ace-high flush on an unpaired board. That latter case may simply have been a token effort to not be completely obvious.
Furthermore, all of the players bought in for 40 blinds whenever necessary, and none ever got much about 200, despite playing 27 tables for hours and hours. In other words, the players were clearly soft-playing each other, just swapping chips around in order to satisfy the promotion’s 10% voluntarily put-in-pot requirement while racking up an insane number of hands. …
Yes, the promotion has a 10% VPIP requirement for those played hands, which means this is almost surely a team of bots, programmed identically and allowed to play each other at tables filled up by the team’s accounts. Weldon noted one table where a non-bot seemed to be present, but with the qualifying bets so small, it hardly matters in light of the bot team’s greater goal, snagging those coins.
So who’s behind it, and isn’t CoinPoker stopping it? Weldon’s analysis of the peak hours of play for the suspected bot farm pointed to a possibility of Southeast Asia, assuming typical afternoon and nighttime play. That makes perfect sense, given the relative low personal incomes of some of the nations and economies in that region. For heaven’s sake, does no one remember the Chinese gold farmers stories or the great Chinese DON (“Double or Nothing”) team-play scam on PokerStars a few years back?
No one knows (publicly) who’s behind the bot play, but checking through the comments on this Medium.com PR on the promotion might serve as a starting point.
As for CoinPoker stopping this escapade, that’s where things get interesting. It appears that for the moment, there is no game security at CoinPoker. Weldon’s calls for an explanation went unanswered, and it appears the site’s front-end development and security may have been done by third-party contractors who aren’t even with the site at this precise moment.
As Weldon notes, CoinPoker does have a new security protocol called “Fairplay” that’s coming online at some point. However, that’s not slated to be integrated until October, and it’s not for sure if it will even apply to a situation such as this.
The takeaway: The powers-that-be at CoinPoker had no business running a promotion like this if they really care about the long-term viability of the site and the ICO, especially with little or no security protocols actually in place.
No, we’re not done yet. Not by a long shot.
Why CoinPoker’s Debut Wasn’t Covered Here
CoinPoker announced its debut last November, just about the same time that another crypto-based site, Virtue Poker, also proclaimed its arrival. I wrote a story about Virtue signing Phil Ivey as a spokesman last November. I nosed around CoinPoker at the same time and it just didn’t pass my personal smell test.
There were two big reasons why I skipped it. First was CoinPoker announcing that it would launch its own ICO, which indeed it went on to do, for a 125 million CHP. This was the same model the Breakout Gaming crew tried and I thought it stank every bit as much as that one, for the very same reasons.
There is utterly no need for a special crypto coin for any of these sites, and all those ICOs do is transfer more money from your pockets to those of the site’s owners and developers. You buy into something like CHP, you get the short end of the investment stick, and if you make money playing poker, it might be worthless anyway if the site goes to crud.
Any crypto site can run just fine on Bitcoin or Ethereum (which CoinPoker partially uses as a technology) without the need for a special site ICO. In CoinPoker’s case, as Weldon noted, the front-end distribution for the coins from the ICO also left nothing readily apparent for ongoing operations. That’s trouble, writ large.
And that second problem: A little digging around showed that me that CoinPoker appeared to be heavily backed by Tony G and by PokerNews, the latter of which has done most of the site’s promotional work. It’s not this site’s job to promote one of Tony G’s or PokerNews’ undisclosed side businesses. And whether the G might still have a little piece of PN somewhere or not, he was and is the champion of undisclosed side businesses and two-handed dealing.
So, yeah, skipping the sketchy CoinPoker debut wasn’t that tough of a call. The whole thing had a whiff of pump-and-dump to it, and my opinion hasn’t changed.
The Magical Disappearing PN Promotional Story
Think we’re done? Oh, no, not yet. Some sort of coverup regarding this misbegotten promotion seems to be afoot. CoinPoker has not issued any formal statement about this situation, which appears to be a case of monumental stupidity, if not more than a bit of a shuck to newly depositing players.
But, eh, PokerNews, your soiled panties are showing. PN ran a glowing push piece for the CoinPoker promotion on March 12th, which included an affiliate link and sales pitches such as this:
“As if rake-free cash games aren’t enough to get your mouth watering, the CoinPoker has another amazing reason to grind away. On March 12, CoinPoker launched the cash game leaderboards where the highest-volume players will be awarded a share of 5 million CHP, the cryptocurrency used in the online poker room.”
Technically true, I guess, Real humans need not apply, of course, for the top prizes.
Except… that story is no longer available, except via Google Cache. Instead, the original link for that story, titled “CoinPoker Giving Away 5 Million CHP at its Rake-Free Cash Games,” now redirects to a wholly unrelated promo for an 888Poker “Golden Pyramid” promo from last July.
The redirect appears to have been put into place shortly after Weldon’s first questions about CoinPoker and the botched promo were published. What’s going on here seems an attempt by PN to bury its promotional connection to all of it. That’s unethical and unfair to that site’s readers and depositors, to lure them in through your brand’s prominence and then run for the hills when the fuck-up comes to light. One should be providing coverage, apologies and more, instead of programming a redirect and pretending the mess didn’t happen. That’s the Tony G PokerNews I grew to despise and, whether he’s still there or not, it’s clear that some things never truly change.
(Author’s Note: The opinions published here are solely those of the author and may or may not represent the opinions of the owners and publishers of Flushdraw.)