Poker Automatics, Part 1: Likely Return of the Remote Poker Ponzi Scam
Remember the ‘Poker by Proxy’ Ponzi scam?
Back in late 2013, FlushDraw and your loyal poker writer filled the lead role in exposing Poker by Proxy, a Ponzi scheme based upon the premise that investors would profit by investing in a pool of poker players who would play for them on the world’s online poker sites. The Poker by Proxy scheme was laughable in its lies (Part 1 / Part 2), and quickly collapsed when we here at FlushDraw broke down the site’s claims and ads, exposing the fraud at work. However, a new effort has emerged, called Poker Automatics, and it appears to be built upon the bones of the old, failed Ponzi. Think of it as a new Poker by Proxy scheme on steroids, in the process of claiming a whole new generation of gullible victims.
This latest HYIP (High Yield Investment Program), Poker Automatics, uses the same basic approach that Poker by Proxy used back in 2013: Encourage non-poker-playing investors to drop a few bucks into the project, which is then “guaranteed” to make money based on the premise that the people beyond the project are better at poker than everyone else, and will therefore earn profits for the investors.
Some things change, some don’t. In this version, the vehicle to better play, as claimed by Poker Automatics, is a fleet of poker bots. A big fleet, mind you… lots and lots of poker bots, all mechanically grinding away at the world’s online cash games with little need for human intervention.
Poker Automatics states in its advertising that it now has a vast network of 773 (now 784!) active poker bots playing on all of the world’s largest online-poker networks, including “888 Poker, Revolution Gaming Network, PartyPoker, PokerStars, Microgaming Network, Winning Poker Network, Ongame Network, iPoker Network and Merge Gaming Network.”
Since the Revolution Gaming Network, just to pick an example, hasn’t even existed for some time now, that’s quite a claim. But let’s just chalk that one up to lazy editing and move on to the Poker Automatics site, its online footprint, and the likelihood that what it states is real.
Most of the records for the Poker Automatics site (pokeram.com), are concealed behind proxy registrations and programming exclusions designed to block the site from deeper examination, but the records that do exist point to this being an old domain that was resurrected in August of 2014, at which time the current marketing scheme and promotions on various HYIP sites commenced. DNS registration does show the contact person for the site as being an “Evgeniy Marchenko” via a Belize-based ISP, though little more than that is available.
The site’s largest promotional push came on the HYIP discussion boards at moneymakergroup.com, in this thread, where it was first mentioned (and touted) by several Russia- and Ukraine-based HYIP investors. Many of those investors have subsequently been included in a list of “representatives” on the Poker Automatics site, denoting their own heightened level of investment in this vehicle. As to where the genuine investors end and where the scammy part of the scheme begins is anyone’s guess, because unlike the earlier Poker by Proxy, this is a complex endeavor whose fraudulent nature isn’t necessarily evident to a casual observer.
It’s as if, to run with an idea, that the people behind the Poker Automatics scheme saw all the hilarious mistakes that torpedoed the old Poker by Proxy scam, and then set about to correct those mistakes and try again. Such reasoning becomes even more likely when one realizes that the old Poker by Proxy scheme, including its 2013 outing and collapse, was prominently featured in a 59-page discussion thread at the very same moneymakergroup.com boards.
What’s the chance that another thread utilizing the same general concept of investment in remote play on the world’s largest poker networks would emerge on the very same HYIP site, less than a year later, and expand to 236 pages and 3,500 individual posts? And, with nary a mention, as far as I can see, of the earlier Poker by Proxy scam? That’s what’s this thread and this HYIP site present: An utter lack of awareness of all previous history — which is exactly what Poker Automatics would need in order to be launched.
The info blast at moneymakergroup.com was accompanied by similar blasts on other English- and Russian-language sites, all soon showing initial investments from a small handful of HYIP enthusiasts who quickly received daily payments from Poker Automatics — sometimes pennies and nickels, sometimes a dollar or two — that continue to this very day. This rapid, daily flux of micro-payments going -to- investors represents the vast majority of the reporting posts on moneymakergroup.com and the other HYIP sites. That’s typical for such schemes, legit ventures and frauds, both. After all, it’s important for these things to show returns quickly, to keep generating interest from new investors.
Technically Possible, But not Globally Feasible
So why does Poker Automatics have to be another scam, albeit a much more thoroughly developed version of 2013’s Poker by Proxy farce? In the grand scheme of things, it’s the law of large numbers at work. When all the elements are considered, the claims that the site’s operators make don’t add up.
First, let’s give some credit where credit is due: As scams go, this one is pretty well thought out. Whoever came up with the revised concept had to know enough about online poker to create a somewhat believable system. Let’s excerpt some of the technical declarations from Poker Automatics’ lengthy FAQ page, if just for posterity:
Q: How many poker bots are there in your network? Are you ready to manage large capital? Will there be enough poker accounts for it?
Currently Poker Automatics operates 573 [now 773, in recent claims] active poker accounts.
Gradually we increase their number in each poker network depending on its popularity and performance parameters as well as on overall funds under our control.
We have a large stock of poker accounts that are currently upgraded and are ready to be added to the main network.
Total capital under our control can be increased in several ways:
– By adding new poker accounts
– By increasing the sum (bankroll) on each account
– By increasing stakes at poker tables
Current capacity allows rising capital under our control in a few dozen times.
Q: Can your bots play as a team against other players?
No. They don’t share information between themselves. Each one plays for itself.
Q: Why your bots aren’t blocked?
It happens very rare, but our bot account may be blocked. This happens very rarely. Not more than 0.5% of total poker accounts are affected.
This is mainly happens not because of bot discovery but due to those players who played with it at the table.
If you play poker online, you will probably encounter situations when conventional players are blocked.
Typically these blocks are temporary. After checking and communicating with technical support service we are able to unlock these accounts.
If this happens, these small temporary losses are compensated by profit gained by a variety of other bots in the network.
Last time our bot was detected in 2011-2012 when we started to test them in online poker rooms.
Since then thousands changes have already been made in software. We continue to improve our bots every day.
Q: I would like to buy your bot to install it by myself. How much does it cost?
We don’t sell our software. This is a private solution. We don’t need competing bots.
Market launch will provide an opportunity to study algorithms and methods of software closely as well as to reduce its protection against detection.
If bots will be sold or distributed, then sooner or later they will cease to be effective and profitable.
You can look for purchase at private bot-master forums.
Q: I saw bots sold online for $100 – $200. Isn’t it easier to use them?
The best that these bots can do is to play with little loss, sometimes to zero at micro stakes during small period of time.
Additionally they are quite easily detected and blocked by poker rooms.
No one would sell a bot that makes profit for $100 – $200.
If you want to, you can find and buy effective bots at private communities of bot-masters. The cost of these bots ranges from $10,000 to $30,000 and above.
Then the site’s FAQ deals into yield and earnings, both collectively and on a “per bot” basis. Might be worth taking some notes…:
Q: What’s the yield of your bots?
The average yield for a long period of time (from 10.000.000 hands) is 1-1.5 bb/100 hands (1-1.5 big blinds/100 hands)
That’s quite a low figure but we consider security, minimal risk of each individual poker account and stable winning to be more important.
Q: What’s the real profit? Can you calculate the approximate percentage of yield?
It’s difficult to calculate yield for one bot because we have to take into account many factors (and these factors are variable):
– The number of hands per hour (~ 40)
– Average yield (1-1.5bb/100 hands)
– Number of simultaneously playable tables (2-3)
– Number of playing hours (3-5 hours a day)
– Number of playing days (4-5 days a week)
– Different yields at different stakes
Let’s try to calculate the approximate average yield for one bot:
~ 40 hands per hour per 1 table (the average speed of the game)
2-3 tables = 2.5 (average number of poker tables)
40 * 2.5 = 100 hands per hour
4 = 400 * 100 hands per day (maximum 3-5 hours of active play per day)
400 * (1-1.5) bb/100 ~ 4-6 big blinds per day (average yield per day)
If bankroll is ~ 300 bb, then yield is ~ 1.3-2% per day
4-5 days per week = average yield per week ~ 0.7-1.3% per day …
And even later, some statements about how all these bots are able to evade detection, among other concerns:
Q: In what games your bots can be met? And where there is none of them?
Our bots are present virtually in all Limit games where risk is limited in contrast to no limit ones. However, that doesn’t mean that they can’t win in no limit games.
In the long run bots have an advantage over people, but we tend to limited risk.
Refusal to play no limit games reduces profits, but also significantly reduces risks securing from impulsivity of players.
Our bots don’t participate in tournaments either. At least for now they don’t.
In the initial stages of a tournament bots are much more successful than the majority of players, but the closer to the end of the tournament is, the more the tactics and behavior of players change.
Q: What are the ways to find a poker bot and how do you protect yourself from them?
We can’t disclose exact methods because it may harm the security of our poker accounts.
We have developed a 7-level protection against detection and blocking for each poker bot account (apparently a bot can’t be distinguished from an ordinary player).
Protection includes both appearance of poker account, and behavior at the poker table, as well as simulation of emotions (special small mistakes, chat messages, etc.)
Q: Can you show graphics and statistics of your accounts?
Even if we remove all the names and identifications of accounts, they can be found and determined by special software (for graphs or statistics) using sites like PokerTableRatings.
For security reasons we can only publish the total daily yield of our entire bot network.
Poker Automatics site shows yield statistics for the last 3 years.
During this time several hundred people have already invested in the project and received regular income.
All Poker Automatics employees have major investments in the project, which brings them steady income.
If one reads through all this stuff, line by line, you know what? A lot of it indeed makes sense, at least in terms of the types of technical declarations that stand up to at least a casual scrutiny. One to 1.5 big blinds profit per 100 hands? If that’s an after-rake figure, and when considers that rakeback deals are also included, then yes, a bot — or any live player, too — could eke out tiny profits at even the smallest stakes.
However, it’s in the scale, the enormity, of the entire enterprise, that the claims become suspect. That claim about yield per big blind is supposedly derived over 10,000,000 hands, and that’s an awful lot of hands to have only one half of one percent of the site’s bots sussed out by the networks on which they’re employed.
And then there’s the declaration in the third of the three excerpts above that these bots are playing limit (hold ’em) only. I’m not going to go count them, but it’s fair to question whether there are even 773 (now updated to 784!) distinct limit HE tables actively running with hands being dealt on all the world’s online-poker sites combined, though the way the site describes its activity, -only- a couple hundred bots would be playing simultaneous.
There probably are that many limit HE tables, but keeping track of tables breaking and starting anew while claiming not to have more than one bot at any table seems a ridiculous, Herculean task. Yet that task has nonetheless being undertaken for pennies, if you believe Poker Automatics’ claims, given the stakes at many of the tables involved.
It’s a failure of scale. And we haven’t even started talking about the need to create well over 100 individual identities to serve as the real-life counterparts to all these online accounts. Oh, and separate computers, too, since most modern sites are able to track players by each computer’s device identifiers (MAC addresses and such), in addition to screen names, player IDs, and maskable IP addresses.
That’s a ton of legwork. All those bogus individuals would also have to supply bogus support information, such as utility bills, drivers licenses, whatever it takes to hook up banking info to the poker sites. Sounds like a cottage fake-ID industry right there.
Still not convinced? Then keep on reading in Part 2, when we start deconstructing how Poker Automatics has been marketed to its likeliest audience, not poker players, but gullible HYIP advocates.