Poker Automatics, Part 2: Deconstructing a Faked Launch?
In Part 1 of our three-part look at what is likely a second-generation Ponzi scam based on remote online-poker, we began looking at how a site calling itself Poker Automatics (pokeram.com) has been recruiting dozens, perhaps hundreds, of investors into backing a supposed fleet of automatic poker-playing programs, called “bots”.
Yes, these poker-playing bots do exists, but it is unlikely that they exist in the form claimed by Poker Automatics, which states in recent social-media posts to be operating at least 773 bots (oops, now 784!) concurrently on many of the world’s major online poker networks. Last time out, we began exploring the reasons why Poker Automatic’s claims appear to be garbage, and we’ll return to that in Part 3.
In this post, however, we’ll focus on how such schemes are launched in the modern online era. Poker Automatics echoes an earlier poker-related scam, Poker by Proxy, which we busted in 2013. However, Poker Automatics is like Poker by Proxy on steroids, a scheme put forth with magnitudes more marketing thought and muscle. In part that’s a tribute to the site’s probable Russian and Ukrainian origins, a region that has been for years a hotbed for HYIP (High Yield Investment Program) schemes and scams, and the resultant pitching of many other online moneymaking opportunities.
As one can see by this traffic-history map, generated by Alexa, nearly half of all historical traffic generated by Pokeram.com traces to those two countries. This is despite the fact that Poker Automatics has for months, since its debut last August, been heavily engaged in English-language marketing. It’s also supported by the predominance of representatives of those two countries on the Poker Automatics reps page; however, six months into this well-thought-out scheme, a lot of those names are likely legitimate investors who really believe that Poker Automatics is what it claims to be.
Countries of origin alone don’t denote a scam, of course; it’s the totality of all factors, particular those involved in the launch of a project. Poker Automatics’ faked origins become collectively obvious when one examines the site’s social-media presence. Let’s run down the usual list of giveaways, all of which seem to apply:
The site includes at least 25 video testimonials from supposed investors; a handful of even more recent ones appear on the site’s YouTube account and Facebook/Twitter feeds. Many of the more recent ones may well be real, offered by recent investors being deluded by daily returns of pennies on their investments.
The earliest ones, however? Fakes a-plenty. Whereas the old Poker by Proxy scam employed two cheap Fiverr-bought, bogus testimonials, Poker Automatics has served up at least eight such fakes purchased from Fiverr alone, and maybe more from similar sites. Here’s a rundown of the known Poker Automatics fakes. For instance…
Meet “Mike from New Zealand”…
… who is actually Fiverr user “alexsheard”:
Or “David from the UK”…
… who is actually Fiverr user “chaduk”:
Here’s another UK-testimonial dude named “Shimmy” (no relation to the online player of the same nickname). On Poker Automatics:
… and as Fiverr user “shimmym”:
Here’s “Tony from China” pimping Poker Automatics:
… otherwise known as Fiverr user “chinahelper”:
One for the ladies! Here’s “Katya from Germany”:
… an easy find as Fiverr user “jelenakraji”:
Let’s not forget the good ‘ol poker playin’ boys from Texas! Yee-haw! Here’s “John”:
Who goes by “Godfather” when pitching $5 gigs on Fiverr:
This is the only one of the eight that I’m not 100% sure on… featuring “Dmitry from Russia”:
… who I believe is Fiverr gig-er “swerkl”. Swerkl calls himself “Michael” in his Fiverr video intro:
This account also shouldn’t be confused with any of the “Dimitry/Dmitri” representatives otherwise listed on the Poker Automatics site.
Last but not least, French-speaking testimonal provider Yannick. Might even be his real name:
Here he is on Fiverr as user “yan07340”:
In case you haven’t figured it out, Fiverr is an absolute pisshole for this sort of garbage. And to what extent some of these users or Fiverr itself might bear any legal responsibility in providing false testimonials — despite the fact that Fiverr attempts to disclaim the entire category by labeling it “actors” — has yet to be determined.
Fake testimonials, and lots of ’em. But that’s not all.
Fake Social-Media Followers and Timelines:
Here’s another element from the scammer’s playbook which is often used by some cheesy “legit” companies as well, though never with too much success. If you can load up your company’s Twitter and Facebook accounts with thousands of followers, it’ll seem legit, right?
TwitterAudit.com reports that of nearly 24,000 Twitter followers, only 32% of the @PokerAutomatics number can be confirmed as legit. Most of the legit ones appear to have been generated by the scheme’s last six months of promotional pounding on the HYIP circuit, while thousands of others are cheap Russian-language fakes, such as these:
Weirdness indeed. Some of the likes appear to be computerized pickups based on the word “poker” in the account name, but really, outside of a couple of threads discussing this in the past week, has anybody ever heard of Poker Automatics? I only discovered it after seeing a post by Thomas “SryslSrius” Keeling over at the PokerFraudAlert forums, and as these things, they tend to unravel quickly, once the real poker world learns of them.
On to Facebook. Facebook fakes are somewhat more difficult to determine, but the company’s Facebook account shows something strange — entries dating back to 2011! But wait, wasn’t the company heavily promoted beginning in August of 2014?
It appears that the jimmying of Facebook, with all these posts pretending to go back to 2011, is connected to Facebook’s relationship with VK.com (formerly VKontakte), which appears to be Russia’s version of Facebook and bills itself as Europe’s largest social-media network. Facebook allows posts to be backdated, but all of Poker Automatics posts are also duplicated at VK.com, which shows an account creation date of… July 21, 2014.
From Facebook, supposedly from April of 2011:
And from VK.com, on July 21, 2014, the very same post, which shows both the date it claims to be from (in 2011), and when it was actually posted in 2014:
So the Facebook history is a fraud… . So what? The Poker Automatics site makes a point of telling a complex story of the company’s background, including that it the company’s origins go back eight years, and that it was run in “manual mode” from 2011 to 2014, at which point the decision was made to automate and streamline, with an eventual goal, mentioned elsewhere, of creating a 2,000-bot network.
HISTORY OF POKER AUTOMATICS
About 8 years ago we started to develop private software for a poker game. Since then, we have being continuously testing and improving it.
Initially the test was performed offline using purchased databases of already played poker hands; then we tested Play Chips at various online poker rooms.
Since 2011, our bots are playing at online poker rooms for real money. First, there were micro stakes, but they gradually increased.
At the moment, our bots beat most online players at various stakes.
From 2011 to 2014 all client accounts in Poker Automatics has been maintained in manual mode.
All customer transactions have been carried out manually by operators after clients have called support.
In 2014 it was decided to automate these processes and expand Poker Automatics.
Each Poker Automatics client has its account balance (deposit + all profits from previous years) paid in full.
We’ve updated the site, created a new database, added new payment system, created an affiliate program and much more.
17 people from 6 different countries (United Kingdom, China, Spain, Russia, Germany and the U.S.) are working in Poker Automatics.
Software is developed by the team of five: 3 programmers and 2 analysts.
Other 12 people maintain system and monitor its work.
Those are Head, 3 managers of Finance Department, 5 managers of Technical Department and 3 managers of Marketing and Help Desk.
Currently, our bots can be found at various stakes of almost all well-known online poker rooms:
888 Poker, Revolution Gaming Network, PartyPoker, PokerStars, Microgaming Network, Winning Poker Network, Ongame Network, iPoker Network, Merge Gaming Network.
No, not likely. None of it. Though Poker Automatics has carefully crafted a complex past, it’s likely all a multi-level mirage. In Part 3, we’ll look at what appears to be a bogus collection of payout reports amid a larger, legitimate assortment of real payments, then summarize the whole thing with even more reasons why a large fleet of so-called “bot” players would quickly become unworkable.