The PokerStars Hunt for Online Cheaters Continues

The ongoing battle between online poker sites to police the games they offer in accordance with their own TOS’s (Terms of Service), and the continuing attempt by a minority of unscrupulous players to gain an edge by violating those very same rules may have recently taken an interesting turn involving possible video monitoring … if an e-mail as published recent on the topic is as genuine as it appears.

pokerstars-spade-logoThe site in question in the latest furor is again the world’s market leader, PokerStars, which due to its very dominance suffers from more of this attempted rules skirting than any other site.  From the possible use of illegal software programs that assist in making decisions to various forms of team play, a lot of it is supposed to be forbidden.  However, since enforcement against cheaters necessarily involves reasonable proof, it can be hard for the sites, such as Stars, to obtain that very information.

A post made on the 2+2 poker forums in a sub-forum dedicated to high-stakes cash-game grinders indicates that some sort of movement is afoot, with PokerStars and its owner, Amaya Group, seeking to root out some of this suspected illicit behavior.  Forum mod Nick Frame (“toocuriosso1”) reported the context of a letter that he claims has been sent to several high-stakes regulars on the site, which reads in part:

… “However, we require a video recording of you playing. This recording has a few mandatory requirements:

– At the beginning of the recording, we must be able to clearly see your face in order to confirm your identity 

– Before starting to play, you must rotate your camera 360 degrees to show us all of your surroundings

– You must start your playing session from an empty computer desktop, whereby you initiate the PokerStars client and log into your account

– After logging in, you must play a regular session of yours

– Your playing session at the tables must be for a minimum of 70 active minutes

– During your play at the tables, the recording must be of sufficient quality to see and track the activities that are taking place on your desktop. In addition, the recording must capture your surrounding environment including your monitor, keyboard, mouse and the movement of your hands

– Audio must be included in the recording

– You must minimise the amount of individual video files. Longer, continual recordings are preferred

– You have 10 days to complete this task

It is important that your playing session is conducted in the same manner as one of your typical sessions as your tendencies will be contrasted with your regular play.

You must supply the resulting recording to us via email. In the likely event the files exceed attachment limits, please utilise file sharing services such as Dropbox, Google Drive or whichever service you prefer. We’ll largely leave this option up to you.

Failure to follow these instructions or if the video is of sub-par quality, will result in this task needing to be repeated.”

It is not known if Frame himself is one of the players who received the letter, and this report makes no claim in that regard.  (Update: In a follow-up, Frame confirmed that he himself was not one of the players receiving the original letter.)  However, those receiving the letter from Stars are also subject to possible frozen accounts and subsequent seizures if they do not comply.  Frame himself went off on PokerStars for requiring the video files as detailed in the above, writing this:

“Also, they’re keeping the balance hostage unless you complete this video to their liking. It’s so gross because they have way too much power here. They know the mac ID of your keyboard and mouse, they can look at your screen, they can see any programs running at all times, they can track your mouse movements/clicks etc. and now they want a video of people playing in their home. I think it’s going too far as an invasion of privacy and it’s like “jump through these hoops to keep your $ that’s yours.” And you just have to do whatever they say or you’re ****ed. I suppose you like the government listening in on your phone calls because they might sniff out a terrorist threat? Or would you like them being able to show up unannounced to your house and check things out on a whim? Where do you draw the line? Yeah I get it’s a decent way to stop people cheating but it’s certainly not fullproof and I think it crosses the line. Seriously guys I get that everyone knows someone that in a curious/selfish way they might want this measure taken against but look at the big picture here.

“I really doubt they could keep one’s $ legally if they refused to do this. I mean they can’t make you gamble on their command right? I understand banning one’s account but not keeping the $.

“For real this **** is vile.”

Or not so vile, depending on one’s point of view.  Like all online-poker services, Stars is a private company offering a specific service, and in order to participate, players must agree to sign a virtual EULA (End User License Agreement) that indicates acceptance of and compliance with a site’s TOS.  It is probable that sites can likely seize any portion of an online bankroll that they can prove was derived from rules-breaking behavior.  More, it is all but certain that they can make suspect cheaters dance through hoops of any size and shape before being allowed to continue playing on the site.

Some players — and we’re not necessarily including the forum poster, Frame, in this, because he may or may not have been a letter recipient — just don’t accept that because it’s on the internet, it’s not automatically a rules-free zone.  And we’re seeing more and more cases of various sites pushing the enforcement issue.

What the video requirement most likely is an attempt to determine if suspected cheating players are running the Stars client and likely “illegal” software aids in ways that help the illicit software being able to evade detection by Stars’ normal software-sniffing detection methods.  Oddly enough, PokerStars almost certainly does have the right to do this.  It isn’t an invasion of privacy at all, since playing on the site is a voluntary activity, comprised of choosing to participate on a company-owned service of platform.

In other words, this writer believes that such cheating-eradication efforts are just fine.  More power to PokerStars on this one.

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