Poker Automatics, Part 3: Not-Quite Legit Payments and a Ready-Made Exit Strategy
One of the key elements in launching a “successful” online HYIP (High Yield Investment Program) scheme, fraudulent or not, is the ability to quickly show investors receiving tangible returns. The probable Ponzi scam claiming to be operating a fleet of nearly 800 automated poker bots on the world’s major online-poker networks, Poker Automatics, has been remarkable in those claims.
As we initially referenced, back in Part 1, a major thread touting Poker Automatics on the moneymakergroup.com HYIP investment forum has been dominated by investors putting in small amounts of money — $50, $75, on rare occasions even as much as $500 — and then reporting back on as often as a daily basis on how promptly and frequently the Poker Automatics site is paying out returns on their investments.
As of March 5th, 2015, the relevant thread at that HYIP site contains 236 pages and 3,532 posts. Virtually all of them are deposit or withdrawal posts, and probably more than 90% are withdrawals in tiny amounts, usually less than $1.00. Here are some sample withdrawals, freely screen-grabbed:
All of these are likely legitimate payments, and note how they provide random amounts of pennies, though always more than $0.10, the stated Poker Automatics minimum.
But in the same thread, and posted by people with what appear to be prominent connections to the HYIP site (and the industry itself), appear some sets of withdrawal reports with magically even numbers of pennies. Here’s the beginning of one very prominent poster’s reports of successful withdrawals:
And on and on throughout the thread, always in increments of 50 cents, every week or less throughout the thread. Those are consecutive posts within the thread as made by this specific poster.
One of the benefits of this Poker Automatics project is supposed to be the ability to set up automatic daily payments, but these are clearly -not- that, appearing in such even increments. These have to be manually-generated payments using the Perfect Money micro-payment service, which seems to be the online processor service of choice for these HYIP enthusiasts.
Who would go to the effort to stick to such a regular schedule of withdrawing and then taking the time to report manually-generated payments of fifty cents or a dollar? It’s just not worth the effort on its face. Therefore, that’s not reporting; that’s promoting.
And that leads us to some of the big, big problems with this supposed scheme, and why it’s really not a workable premise, despite its grandiose claims. In order to allow for the production of all these regular scheduled, daily payouts for all its investor-members, Poker Automatics would also have to be pulling very, very regular withdrawals from its supposed vast network of poker-bot accounts. Such frequent and regular withdrawals should eventually trigger flags at major online sites, bringing these accounts under additional scrutiny.
That in turn leads to an even larger, more obvious problem. In online poker, most people are losers. Sometimes a little, sometimes a lot, but true net winners are only a small percentage of players. Perhaps 5-10% of all online players can truly be described as profitable.
Yet if Poker Automatics’ claims are to be believed, they’re running nearly 800 poker bots at limit hold’em tables only, and the vast majority of those accounts must be winners to support the scheme. Even funnier is this realization: Because they’re bots, they’d have to be running the same basic strategy at the tables, since no-way-no-how could anyone ever manually develop 784 different winning robotic strategies for playing limit hold ’em.
That in turns mean that all these bots would be easily detectable by any site that chose to run the complete hand histories of its limit-hold’em winning players through any decent hand analysis program, such as Poker Tracker. All these bots would show up in a statistical clump, playing the same basic core strategies. And remember, none of them would ever be playing significant numbers of hands against each other, another element that sites would find trivially easy to check.
There are even more complicated and detailed ways to detect robotic activity; the above just scratches the surface. Still, it’s an incredible failure of scale. It might be possible to employ a handful of such bots, maybe even a few dozen, but there’s just no way to put nearly 800 of them out there and not have large numbers of them be found out. Yet Poker Automatics claims that less than 0.5% of its bots have ever been found in years of use. Bollocks on such a preposterous claim.
Note also that Poker Automatics claims that its bots are running on the largest sites and networks, since it’s really only those sites and networks have significant limit-hold’em games to even allow the possibility of such an operation. And maybe some of those networks put most of their so-called “security” efforts into other forms of security, like preventing credit-card fraud, but certainly not all of them.
Poker Automatics lists PokerStars as one of the sites where its bots are employed, and Stars’ security measures should easily be up to sniffing out this sort of bot activity. I even checked with Stars in the process of assembling this piece, and was told that Stars was already well aware of Poker Automatics’ claims.
PokerStars even provided a brief statement. Per a Stars rep: “There appears to be no credible evidence that PokerAm.com have ever tried to operate a bot on PokerStars, let alone are succeeding in doing so.” That indeed is what the evidence suggests.
Then again, there is proof that Poker Automatics has swiped at least -something- from PokerStars. Enjoy it while you can: Here’s a link to a Poker Automatics promotional video with background scenes stolen from a recent “We are PokerStars” commercial, featuring appearances by all your favorite Stars pros:
(You can find the authentic version of the PokerStars commercial being pilfered at this Stars page. That server footage in the Poker Automatics vid does not come from Stars, by the way; it’s been swiped from somewhere else.)
Don’t believe any of it. Despite being very well crafted and highly detailed, the sheer immensity of the supposed enterprise all but guarantees that it just does not exist.
So what will happen with this likely Ponzi? At some point, it’ll burn itself out. The 2013 Poker by Proxy scheme was such an obvious fraud that it collapsed within 48 hours of its being exposed here. This Poker Automatics scheme is likely to run on for quite a while yet, with plenty of aggrieved complaints from investors and promoters of the site claiming that it’s a for-real business.
Yet when the collapse comes, the bogus project already comes with its own pre-crafted mode of collapse. After all, the site’s owners and operators can’t actually show all these poker bots in action; as they freely site, doing so would open them up to being detected.
Check these false claims made on the Poker Automatics site:
Q: Are poker bots lawful?
There is no country where laws prohibit using poker bots.
Rules of poker rooms prohibit using poker bots, and they try to cope with robotic systems. However, that’s possible only with low-quality, simple and common bots.
Q: What happens if the poker room detects bot?
If the poker room detects bot (if the room proves the fact of using), the former can only block the account and return all money won to players who have lost.
Nope. They aren’t lawful; lots of jurisdictions prohibit them. Also, poker rooms and networks can and do seize the funds from ID’d bot accounts.
Therein lies the eventual Poker Automatics exit strategy. At some point, the site’s operators will simply claim that their vast network of profit-producing bots has been discovered, and the money in the accounts seized.
Jilted investors will have no luck in retrieving their funds. Among other things, as noted in a small thread on 2+2 where the supposed “crowd funded bot ring” is being discussed, the Poker Automatics operation makes use of a well-known UK drop-box address long associated with boiler-room, fraudulent schemes. That’s one more nail in the coffin, one more piece of the puzzle. If this was legit, it simply wouldn’t be set up to fail so readily, when that day comes.
We don’t offer predictions as to when this fraud will explode. All we can do is expose the varied evidence that exists in the hope that the circle of fraud will be broken sooner, rather than later. The less people hurt by this sort of stuff, the better off the poker world will be.