Online Poker

Online Poker Multi-accounting Debate Resurfaces

stock-image-1Online poker’s neverending debate over multi-accounting by players has once again burst into prominent view, this time featuring several of the game’s notables. Multi-accounting (often abbreviated as MA’ing) is the practice of registering several different accounts at a given online site — often using the IDs of relatives and friends — and using those accounts at the tables to gain edges in various ways over one’s opponents, most often by taking advantage of another player’s known style by appearing to be a new player themselves.

The latest flareup came from a series of accusations against erstwhile New Yorker Jared Bleznick; Bleznick, according to a prominent thread on the matter on 2+2, has been accused of being behind several different accounts on Pokerstars and Full Tilt at nosebleed stakes, and has also been accused of playing on the accounts via VPN from New York.

The controversy reignited with a post on 2+2 which quickly burst into a heated thread involving many prominent online players arguing on both sides of the debate. As for Bleznick, he declined to comment on any of the allegations, despite sharp-eyed observers noticing that he was monitoring the thread, and the acknowledgement by other prominent pros that Bleznick likely was engaging in the MA’ing seems to confirm that most of the original post’s allegations were true.

Many of online poker’s stars came out to argue, including Tom “durrrr” Dwan, David “Raptor” Benefield, Ben “Sauce123” Sulsky, Ben “MilkyBarKid” Grundy, and others.

Sulsky, who is presently viewed as one of the best players in the online world, offered one of the most concise views of how MA’ing works to a player’s illicit advantage:

Just want to clarify exactly how big of an advantage MAing is/can be.

MAing is a pretty solid advantage, and it gets to be a bigger advantage the better the player you are. It also is a much bigger advantage MAing on Stars/FTP because until recently regs expected each player to have one account. It’s only a small advantage to MA on Ipoker (or any site where there are tons of skins to make accounts on) because anyone can have tons of accounts at any time anyways.

The reason why MAing makes you more as you’re a better player is that people have a decent idea of what the pecking order is online, and if you MA (and people believe you are a new account) then you get to start at the bottom of the pecking order and play whomever you want. You also get to use any kind of reads you have on people, or you might know how they’d tend to perceive a “fish” playing and then level them for awhile.

And there’s no reasonable argument that multi-accounting, as presumably practiced by Bleznick as outed in this thread and by dozens of other players in recent years, isn’t cheating.  It’s clearly against the Terms of Service (TOS) of PokerStars and most other sites, and the fact that it can be difficult to detect doesn’t make it any more “legal” (from the viewpoint of the site’s rules) or honorable.

Much of the debate centered around the perceived severity of the activity in relation to other forms of cheating activity, with the practice’s proponents trotting out all the old saw, from “Everybody does it” to “Some losing players do it too”.

Perhaps the biggest misstep was by Dwan, whose ambiguous comments on the topic back in March were quickly attacked by other posters.  Dwan, despite having emerged from the Full Tilt situation largely unscathed and having also quite deliberately dodged the question of whether he’s used VPNs to play on sites not servicing Americans, offered this comment a couple of months ago, which was rehashed of late:

Multiaccounting isnt cheating. its a flawed rule that the sites try to enforce partly for their own benefits. that said in the current climate u shouldn’t do it, just like u shouldn’t angleshoot in a poker game. but angling and throwing in a chip that looks like a raise intentionally, while scummy, is way different than marking the cards and knowing all of them. — Tom “Durrrr” Dwan

It was something of a silly statement for Dwan to have made, and he quickly appeared amid the latest debate to try to clarify his intent, if not exactly to back away from his earlier words.  There’s really no argument, after all; despite what Dwan said, multiaccounting is cheating; if it wasn’t, it wouldn’t be in these sites’ TOS to begin with.  For Dwan, who remains a prominent representative of the Stars-owned Full Tilt Poker, to be seen in anyway appearing to condone a practice banned by the site’s TOS sends a terrible message.

Arguments about how endemic the practice is at nosebleed stakes are interesting as well.  As I’ve noted elsewhere and as other commentors noted within the 2+2 thread, multiaccounting in online poker is of roughly the moral equivalency as doping to gain an edge in sports.  Neither the multi-accounting nor the doping has a direct impact on the actual activity, but is instead a way of skewing a supposedly level playing field beforehand to make the contest unfair.  Ethically, that’s why it’s bad, and why it’s frowned upon by honest competitors.

So what can be done about it?  Besides increased diligence by affected sites, numerous security implementations have also been proposed, from anonymous tables to frequent name changes to some form of proactive ID verification, such as fingerprint scanners.

Opponents of the last option, fingerprint scanners or use of webcams or something similar, argue against the perceived intrusion against personal freedoms involved.  That’s best described as a red herring served up by those who’d prefer to cheat.  There’s nothing preventing any site from implementing such a measure in a voluntary way; that is, to create a section of nosebleed tables where one could only gain access by confirming one’s identity in order to play.

Under such a system, players could participate in these segmented tables only by actively affirming their identities, and if they chose not to  — whether for personal-privacy reasons or because they’re really a multi-accounter playing on a bogus account — then the rest of the site would still be available.  Such a voluntary system would offer some sort of protection to the perceived “fish” of poker’s ecosystem, which is one of the complaints served up most often in the entire multiaccounting debate.

Thoughts?  Comments?

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