Absolute Poker Cheating Scandal

Okay, so, anyone who follows 2p2 or P5s or a lot of other forums has probably noticed all of the Absolute Poker uproar. If you don’t know about it, here’s the basic idea…

CrazyMarco, a well-known online tourney player, played in a 1K AP tournament on 9/12/07. The tournament was won by a player named POTRIPPER who made a crazy call with T high against Marco’s 9 high flush draw. In the following days, Marco emailed with AP support and asked for a hand history so he could review POTRIPPER’s play at the final table. There were rumors that POTRIPPER could see hole cards and he wanted to follow up because of the possibility that he was cheated. On Friday Sept 21st, AP sent Marco a huge excel file (10 mb and a full 65,536 rows, the excel limit for most versions being used currently). He didn’t think much of it and it was too scambled and complicated to analyze, so he put it on the backburner for the time being.

Fast forward a few weeks. Marco, along with his roommate Jared “TheWacoKidd” Hamby, decided to take a look at the file. This happened sometime around October 12th or 13th as I understand it. They realized soon after that AP had send Marco ALL of the hole cards in the hand history. This, of course, allowed them to watch how POTRIPPER played and to examine what hands were at the table when POTRIPPER was/was not playing hands. It quickly became apparent to all who saw the history that POTRIPPER was cheating and, somehow, knew peoples’ hole cards. You can view the hand history on PokerXFactor here. One thing to note is that the spreadsheet only had the first 2 hours and 20 minutes of the tournament because of the Excel line limit, so the hole card access somewhat cuts off around hand 94.

Anyway, I noticed posts talking about this Excel file. On Saturday, MrTimCaum sent me a copy of the spreadsheet. I started to play around with it and noticed that there was random IP/email/user id data interspersed with the player actions. It wasn’t clear at first exactly what the info meant. It didn’t seem like the info pointed to people at tables for the following reason (click image for full size):

Absolute Poker Cheating

The IP info looked something like that. It told me when someone “entered” a table, what their email was, what their IP was, what their user id was, etc. Note that I changed all of the info in this line to protect the privacy of the real data. I put in my email address for the hell of it. Anyway, there were 845 lines with either “TABLE_ENTER” or “TABLE_LEAVE” and through some analysis, I realized that there were tons of players in the event who I knew and they never appeared in the “TABLE_ENTER” or “TABLE_LEAVE” lines. Eventually, we figured out that Enter and Leave lines were recorded for people who were logged into the software and opening or closing the table, but not seated at the table.

Next, I analyzed the lines related to table 13, where POTRIPPER was seated. 2+2er snagglepuss, who I forwarded the spreadsheet to, had already pointed out to me two sketchy observers, one of whom opened up table 13. And when I looked at the data, I noticed something a little weird. One of the sketchy observers opened up table 13 and he was user number 363! This number is incredibly low and I instantly knew that the account had been created by AP or someone who was associated in some way with AP. It had to be a test account of some kind to be made that early in the system. Here’s a screenshot (click image for full size):

Absolute Poker Cheating

I am still hiding some of the sensitive info, but this line in the spreadsheet was probably the key to cracking the case in my opinion. It showed a number of things:

  • A Costa Rican IP address (and this IP address becomes more important)
  • An observer entering the table and never leaving the table until at least 11:20 PM (or over two hours later when the spreadsheet cuts off)
  • A very very low user number that indicates AP involvement in some way — not that the company as a whole knows, but that SOMEONE on the inside was involved.

The next step was to cross reference the IP address within the file. When I did that, some info on the other “sketchy” guy came up (click image for full size):

Absolute Poker Cheating

Once again I blacked out some of the info, but the important thing is that SCOTT@RIVIERALTD.COM had the same IP address as user 363. He stopped by table 9 for whatever reason for about 20 seconds. The only real significance of table 9, as far as I know, was that Mark Seif, an AP sponsored player and AP co-owner (I think?) was playing on it. That doesn’t mean that Mark was involved, but it is a relevant fact with regards to table 9.

The next step, which I think I did the next day, was to figure out some info on rivieraltd.com. I pinged the domain and found the IP to be 66.212.244.147. Note that someone has since changed this, but the IP can still be connected to the mail server as of this writing. Then upon doing further research on that IP address, I traced it to what I believed to be the Kahnawake gaming commission. I posted my findings on 2+2 and P5s. Then a poster on P5s named JackBileDuct pointed out the following:

66.212.244.147 is mail.riveraltd.com telneting to it on port 25 gets a greeting from a mail server. It *IS* a mail server.

Also that IP is NOT the Kahnawake Gaming Commission. Are you ready for this… It is AP.

Mohawk Internet Technologies MIT-BLK-01 (NET-66-212-224-0-1)
66.212.224.0 – 66.212.255.255
Absolute Entertainment S.A. MIT-ABPOK-02 (NET-66-212-244-128-1)
66.212.244.128 – 66.212.244.255

Go to http://www.arin.net and enter the IP address in a whois search. That connection is from one of their own IP’s….

CustName: Absolute Entertainment S.A.
Address: Plaza Mayor 2nd building 2nd floor
City: San Jose
StateProv:
PostalCode:
Country: CR
RegDate: 2006-08-16
Updated: 2006-09-26

That might be kind of technical, but the general idea is that the email address was hosted by Kahnawake but actually belong to AP! So this SCOTT@RIVIERALTD.COM fellow was actually connected to AP. This was overwhelming evidence in my mind… remember:

  1. There was a low numbered user watching the table (and probably sharing hole card info) with the suspicious player POTRIPPER
  2. The low numbered user was connecting from Costa Rica
  3. An AP-associated person was on the same IP address and even though he wasn’t watching table 13, he revealed himself nonetheless

My head was spinning. I kept posting more and more of these revelations online. One issue was that I didn’t know who Scott was. So I sent out a feeler email (PM in some cases) asking various places to check on the IP address that was used by the two sketchy accounts.

Sure enough, I woke up Tuesday morning to find a rash of evidence sitting in front of me. 2+2 moderator Adanthar found that the IP address was used by a 2+2 account with the login name scotttom. P5s admin Adam Small told me that he knew one of the AP owners was named Scott (although he didn’t say the last name). A few other sources who do not want to be named told me that Scott Tom was associated with that IP address. It was also pointed out to me that there was an online blog post where some girl said that Scott and Phil Tom (brothers I think, although only Scott seems to have been implicated) were AP owners and executives. Adanthar posted his findings on 2+2 and revealed that he’d connected the somewhat mysterious IP address to an actual person. Also, other sources that do not want to be named confirmed that the IP address was a residential cable modem tied specifically to the Tom family.

So that’s how everything was tied together on as simple a level as I can make it. I am not including a ton of various leads that I’ve followed or some of the inside info that I received, but this is the general gist of it. I’ll post more as time goes on, especially on things like the media, AP and community reactions to this stuff.

64 thoughts on “Absolute Poker Cheating Scandal

  1. David Kashouty

    Excellent work. I hope justice prevails in this case. As a poker enthusiast do you think there is any way to select a more credible site to play on? I think that the cheating site should be exposed in the Poker Player magazines that they give away at the Casinos and Card rooms across the country.This may help in alerting players on these sites. I for one will probably never play online again.

  2. Roger R

    I saw the report on 60 Minutes tonight, so I am reading this for the first time. We all like SMART poker playing, so long as it’s fair. It’s a travesty that that these crimes can go on for so long.

    According to the 60 Minutes report, all this cheat got was a warning and no prosecution from AP in change for how he did it. The sleuth work done here was alluded to.

    Unfortunately there’s is no one we can complain to in the US. The US does have jurisdictional control over Costa Rica or Canada where one server is based.

  3. Stoney B.

    Thanks a lot for sharing this information. You did a great job of sniffing out the cheats. (some of them, at least.)
    I too have seen some hands that seem to defy logic but since I am a low-limit player I find it hard to believe the thieves would spend time at the tables I frequent.

    I am fairly confident that bots are fairly common because I see people playing 13 games at once and not holding up play. It is hard for me to believe that anyone can play “live” under those conditions for hours on end.

    I sure hope Barney Frank keeps the pressure on for regulation and taxation in the U.S. and I thank PPA for all of their good work.

  4. Pingback: 60 minutes - Ultimatebet / Absolute Cheating Scandal | 4king poker blog

  5. TRASHMAN65

    ok i hit the royal flush at hollywood poker twice 2 nights in a row hearts the first night paid me 4800.00 spades the next night paid me 2600.00 the minute i cashed any of it out that day i had it seemed every table id play on from that point there was always at least 3 observers and they would follow me to what ever table id move to and i couldnt buy a fricken hand for over a year so i finally decided i was getting scanned by the site and of course i lost thousands before i relized i was getting shafted although i left still a little up as far the site wise i am very glad to read all the info about ap and ub cause im thousands down at both of them

  6. Todd Stetter

    Hey, I used to play on absolute poker back when it first started in 2003. There was this player who used to take me for every time I had, I thought it was a bot at first. Now I realize maybe it was an employee who could see my cards. I would keep losing and he would continuely suck out on me so I would redeposit thinking I would adventually get this guy. No such luck. Anyways, I think the guys username was Clearwater500 or something along those lines. He would be sitting at the 5/10 no limit all day at times. If you know how I can find access to my hand history it would awesome. Thanks. My username was todds18p

  7. jan

    Nice but more pokersites actually pay people to play in this case it was just noticed by someone … i atleast know mermaid does

  8. Jessica

    Most people who play online poker are just your average everyday person. Most, not too bright at all. I am a reformed gambler who hasn’t had a real bet for nearly 3 years now but I do enjoy playing online poker just for fun. I get to meet people from all parts of the world and pass a little time with some poker. However, the other night, I played AP omaha 5/10 NL where there is a $2000 maximum start limit, and after 4 hours, I had built my bank to $350,000. As I was about to leave, I was accused of cheating and having a program or a scanner. For the next 10 mins, five players were against me saying I had to have cheated. I argued with them but you can’t win against uneducated people who cannot think outside the square. Why is it that losers always say that winners are cheaters. I’m very selective when I call, fold, bet, raise and re-raise. As I won more money, I became more powerful as chip leader but that’s all part of the game. I only play for fun now and have never ever banked. After all, it’s just fun money we are playing with. I actually lost the whole lot the following day but who cares. However, it upset me that I was subjected to accusations of cheating but that just confirms what average and uneducated people we do have playing on these sites. I’ve played poker for nearly 30 years now. In our days, manila was all the rage. Poker and most money card games is all about mathematics and probabilities. Sometimes, its just about betting and bluffing where cards mean nothing, it’s that mental edge. I have always done ok in poker but lost all my real money at the track. Nowadays, I just play poker for fun and I never have the urge to have a real bet nor do I engage myself in any other betting activities. I have paid the price for being a real loser. I just wish you losers out there, whether real or fun, take in it your stride and accept the fact that there may be players out there who just happen to be better than you in poker. Stop complaining and accusing people of wrongdoings just because you are a LOSER !

  9. RAS

    I have played at AP for years. I am very dismayed that this would go on. I wonder if I had been cheated myself at times. I WILL NOT play there anymore. I even emailed them, and they avoided the issue.

    Thank You for keeping us up on what is going on, on the internet game sites.

  10. ken

    I have been unable to get absolute poker up for about a week now. I have no problem with other web site but when I go to the absolute poker it want load.

  11. Daisy Ror

    well, any time money is involved (whether it’s live gambling, buying stocks, getting a contractor to do work for you, etc), there will be a few bad seeds out there that try to cheat you out of money one way or another.

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