Monthly Archives: May 2008

Ultimate Bet Scandal Q&A

In a short period of time, Ultimate Bet will release a statement regarding the rumored cheating scandal. The statement confirms that former employees had access to hole card data for a period of about 21 months. In addition, Ultimate Bet says they are going to be paying players back for their net losses to the cheating accounts.

EDIT: The statement is available here.

I was able to get an early look at the statement and Ultimate Bet agreed to answer some of my questions. I am not sure if I will be able to ask followup questions, but obviously post any questions you may have in the comments and I’ll see what I can get answered.

Here are my 10 questions and Ultimate Bet’s answers:

1. The “individuals worked for the previous ownership of UltimateBet” — does this mean they were employees of UB only pre-sale but not post-sale? Were any of them owners at any point?

All individuals involved worked for the previous ownership prior to Tokwiro acquiring in Oct 2006. We have learned through our investigation that one of the individuals involved was a liaison to UB post sale as part of the transition, but that person has not worked for the company or had access to systems for roughly a year. The previous ownership of UB was a publicly traded company and we do not believe anyone involved was an owner of the business.

2. When you say Tokwiro is pursuing legal options, does this in anyway include an attempt to have legal charges (either civil or criminal) brought against the individuals responsible?

Yes. We are reviewing all of our legal options, both civil and criminal.

3. Do you expect the names of the individuals responsible to be released at some point?

At this point, we are uncertain how the legal action will ultimately unfold. We have turned over all evidence and information to our regulatory body the KGC.

4. When you say Tokwiro is taking full responsibility, does that mean all of the refunds are coming out of Tokwiro’s pockets? Was any money able to be recovered? If nothing was recovered, do you expect to recover any at any point?

No money has been recovered at this point. All refunds are being paid by Tokwiro. Whether or not we recover any funds depends on the outcome of any legal action.

5. Obviously, people are not happy that it took such effort on the part of the players to notify UB and, for all intents and purposes, harass the site for months and months with the only response being a short statement confirming abnormal winning activity. What would you say were the biggest factors that contributed to the delay?

The most important factors that contributed to the delay were:

First, the complexity of this investigation. We are dealing with a third party software provider and previous software development shops, old versions of the database that complicated our analysis, our regulatory body and their auditors, as well as many years of data.

Second, our desire not to release information until we were certain of its accuracy and thoroughness.

Third, our priorities throughout this investigation have been to make sure the vulnerability was fixed, to make sure that we understood everything that happened. We didn’t want to make any statements before this. Now we are making a statement and refunding players, and the company will continue to do everything possible to prevent anything like this from happening in the future.

6. What sort of information can you give us on the total dollar amount in question?

At this time we are not ready to provide a specific amount.

7. Some of the account name changes happened post-sale. This seems to mean that some of these employees were still involved in the AP-UB enterprise. Either that or they still had friends willing to help them out. Assuming these employees have been fired, when were those responsible for the name changes fired and what sort of further action does Tokwiro have planned?

Unfortunately, some of the account name changes did happen post sale. One individual who was employed by the previous ownership appears to have aided the perpetrators by changing account names. This individual served as liaison to UB through a transition period post sale. After the transition period, this individual continued to send name change requests to our customer service department. The person has not been involved with the company for approximately a year and we have since implemented a no name change policy.

8. I’ve been helping you a little with the Security Center for UB — I think it’s going to be a great tool when it’s finished. When do you reasonably expect it to be ready? Will it apply to both AP and UB?

This Security Center application is a top priority for Tokwiro and this will be used for both AP and UB. We expect the first release to be in production in 6 to 8 weeks.

9. Are you going to have the entire software source code reviewed for any other loopholes? While GA says this loophole is gone, it certainly seems possible that there are other loopholes that current management might not know about.

Gaming Associates has confirmed that the vulnerability has been permanently removed. We are confident that the site is entirely secure. Currently, Gaming Associates is in a continuous audit.

10. If I recall correctly, the AP refunds were completed in under one week (or something close to that). Do you expect the same sort of speed here? Also, will the refunds carry interest in the same manner as the AP refunds?

We expect to have all refunds completed within several days. Tokwiro will be refunding players their net loss for every hand played against the cheating accounts without interest.

Jailbait Gallery

When doing SEO on a website, once of your jobs is to figure out where you rank for certain keywords, which ones are potentially valuable and figure out strategies to get those mediocre keywords to rank higher in Google. For instance, let’s say PocketFives ranked 13th for “poker forum” when you typed that into google. Logically, you’d think to yourself, well, P5s is a big poker forum, so it should be able to rank higher and 13th is pretty close, so why not try to do what you can to get it up into the top 10. On the other hand, P5s might rank 87th for “Paradise Poker Review” which isn’t all that important anyway. And it would take a ton of effort to get up to the top 5, so why even bother. So basically, you figure out what is relatively easy to get higher, what actually makes sense within the theme of the site and how you can get it ranked higher using white-hat SEO methods such as optimized page construction and whatnot. Anyway, enough with the SEO lesson…

So I was looking at the P5s keywords today. What is one of the highest traffic google keywords for P5s? Actually, jailbait gallery and derivations of that word. Some examples: jailbait gallery, jailbait galleries, jailbait pics — They all deliver pretty significant traffic to P5s. Of course, the traffic isn’t valuable in any way other than getting bigger hit numbers, but it’s a pretty big keyword as it turns out. As you can see, P5s ranks top 10 or near it for all of those keywords. Of course, we won’t be “working” on that keyword in any way, but it’s still interesting to see what people are searching for and how people are getting to P5s via google.

I think I’ve posted about this before, but one of the biggest keywords on BLUFF is thong of the day.

I also know some poker sites who get a crap ton of traffic from their Shana Hiatt pictures. And lots of people have gotten a lot of traffic over the last few months from the Jennicide playboy pictures.

I guess all this really does is prove what people are searching for online. God bless the internet.

Victory is mine.

I’m on a trip with some poker affiliates, one of them being Nick from CardsChat. He’s a 19 y/o SEO genius/baller, but he didn’t believe me when I said that UB.com was registered in 1986 according to the whois database. Despite my insistence that I had looked up the domain in the previous few days and I had seen the creation date, Nick STILL insisted on betting $20 that 1986 wasn’t possible. This is despite the fact that he hadn’t looked up the domain in the whois database. Ship the $20.

While I didn’t know this at the time of the bet, UB.com is actually tied for the 18th oldest domain. That’s impressive…

This bet is on the heels of two bets with Eric. The first was when I insisted that a pool shot was makable and Eric insisted that it was impossible. So I bet even money that I could make it and I did. Then Eric said that WordPress Matt’s blog was a pagerank zero and I said that it was a pagerank eight. Of course, a few weeks ago, it WAS a pagerank zero because Matt moved his domain from photomatt.net to ma.tt, but Eric didn’t realize that there had been a pagerank update a few weeks ago and Matt’s pagerank of 8 had been restored by google.

I’m not trying to brag when I say that I win a really high % of my bets, but I do. I think it’s because I only bet when I’m pretty sure I’m right or when I’m pretty convinced that I have an edge, but whatever I’m doing, it seems to be working.

Right now I’m sitting in my hotel room at Tabac√≥n looking out the window at the Arenal Volcano. If you ever get the chance to come here, definitely do it. The hot springs and views are awesome.

Eric visiting Costa Rica

As I’ve mentioned previously, my friend Eric from thepokerfilm is visiting me in Costa Rica for 10 days. He got here a few days ago and we’ve been taking it pretty easy. Mostly just playing pool, hanging out and going out to eat. In a few days, we’re going on a three day trip to the Arenal Volcano and some other cool places. I’ve already been to those places, but this is Eric’s first time in Costa Rica, so I got us some spots on a short trip mainly so he could see some parts of the country outside of the area where my condo/office is located.

Oddly, Eric has gotten pretty into poker over the last few months. He’s been playing a lot on FTP in the $30 HU SNGs. If you check out his sharkscope, you’ll see that he’s doing okay. Since he’s new to actually playing poker regularly, it’s cool to see him holding his own. The other day, this hand came up…

Full Tilt Poker Game #6460807397: $30 + $1.50 Heads Up Sit & Go (49125488) Table 1 – 15/30 – No Limit Hold’em – 1:28:01 ET – 2008/05/18
Seat 1: Jim1926 (850)
Seat 2: exstrax (2 150)
exstrax posts the small blind of 15
Jim1926 posts the big blind of 30
The button is in seat #2

Holecards:
Dealt to exstrax [ ]
exstrax raises to 60
Jim1926 calls 30

Flop:
[ ]
Jim1926 checks
exstrax bets 60
Jim1926 calls 60

Turn:
[ ] [ ]
Jim1926 checks
exstrax checks

River:
[ ] [ ]
Jim1926 has 15 seconds left to act
Jim1926 checks
exstrax bets 146
Jim1926 calls 146

Showdown :
exstrax shows [ ] three of a kind, Jacks
Jim1926 mucks
exstrax wins the pot (532) with three of a kind, Jacks
Jim1926 is sitting out

SUMMARY:
Total pot 532 | Rake 0
Board:
[ ]
Seat 1: Jim1926 (big blind) mucked [ ] – a pair of Jacks
Seat 2: exstrax (small blind) showed [ ] and won (532) with three of a kind, Jacks

I’d kinda forgotten how crazy some people can play. I mean, I know the guy thought that Eric was full of shit, but c’mon, that’s just terrible. Trying to pick off a 9 high bluff barely seems worth it.

Then, literally as I was typing this blog entry, this hand came up…

Full Tilt Poker Game #6475469790: $30 + $1.50 Heads Up Sit & Go (49230784) Table 1 – 10/20 – No Limit Hold’em – 1:28:49 ET – 2008/05/19
Seat 1: Aurel90024 (1 340)
Seat 2: exstrax (1 660)
Aurel90024 posts the small blind of 10
exstrax posts the big blind of 20
The button is in seat #1

Holecards:
Dealt to exstrax [ ]
Aurel90024 calls 10
exstrax checks

Flop:
[ ]
exstrax bets 20
Aurel90024 calls 20

Turn:
[ ] [ ]
exstrax bets 80
Aurel90024 calls 80

River:
[ ] [ ]
exstrax bets 240
Aurel90024 calls 240

Showdown:
exstrax shows [ ] three of a kind, Fives
Aurel90024 mucks
exstrax wins the pot (720) with three of a kind, Fives

SUMMARY:
Total pot 720 | Rake 0
Board:
[ ]
Seat 1: Aurel90024 (small blind) mucked [ ] – a pair of Fives
Seat 2: exstrax (big blind) showed [ ] and won (720) with three of a kind, Fives

Seriously? What the hell was he thinking? And why does Eric always have trips? Seriously though, for all the people saying “online poker is so tough these days” — I seriously hope you’re talking about games above $30 HU SNGs. Because these things seem like a joke to me.

Anywho, that’s it for now, I hope everyone had a good weekend.

Start of thepokerdb

I have never published this anywhere else, but I figured this is as good a place as any. There’s one person who no one in the poker world has heard of, but actually had a brief but pivotal role in the creation of thepokerdb. His name is Richard Reich and he registered in Feb of 2005 on PSCrew, the forum that I used to run a long time ago. Oddly enough, the email chain started because of a policy that I made regarding profile pictures on the site, but I took a look at his website and saw a technical background in his resume. I was having technical problems trying to create thepokerdb, so I fired off the following email on Feb 18th, 2005 at 10:22 AM:

Richard,

I took a look at your site and couldn’t help but notice the technical expertise in your background. I am hoping you might know someone who can help me with this problem that I have…

We are try to implement a cardplayer-like tournament tracking system for stars MTTs — ie., links tournaments & player names and allows one to drill down, but it would only show final table results. I have a database component for my portal that will allow me to set this up, but I don’t know how to get the data from stars. We could input it manually, but that would be incredibly time consuming. If we were forced to do this, we would have to restrict the database to higher buyin tournaments only because of the number of tournaments being run on a daily basis. Ideally, of course, an application would grab tournament results on its own. A downgrade, but still better than what we have now, would be a program that grabs the info from a table that is open on the screen. It would be fine if the program automatically generated an excel file or something like that. The problem is that I just don’t know how to write such a program. I’ve tried looking at the packets being sent from stars (using packet sniffer software) and I’m not sure if it is even possible to write such a program.

Do you know how to do this? Or do you know someone who might know how to do it?

Thanks a lot,

————————-
Nat Arem
aka N 82 50 24
————————-

Only years later do I realize what a noob I sound like. I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. Bringing up excel files for storage (LOL) is just a huge joke, but it’s what I understood at the time. All I knew was that I wanted the data and that once I had the data, I would be able to do cool things with it. At the time, no one had any idea how much the big tournament players made or even who was really winning in tournaments. I just didn’t know how to get the data and more importantly, I didn’t have much disposable income to pay someone a lot of money to build a program to get the data.

Lo and behold, I get this response about two hours later:

I don’t know how to do it. (I just did a little experiment and was surprised by the outcome. I had thought that PS would not email me the results — not the hand history, but the results — of a tournament I was not in. Wrong. They will email any tournament’s results to anyone. That is an essential start.)

Poker Tracker knows how to hit on PS automatically for hand histories for ring game stats, so it might be instructive (or maybe useless!) to try to figure it out. It requires that the poker room client be running, so it apparently uses some kind of windows application puppet-string manipulation (I am not a Windows guy! :). If that is in fact the case, then changing that string-pulling to get tournament histories instead of hand histories should be relatively easy. Certainly easier than doing a direct invasion of the client-server protocol!

You might ask the Poker Tracker folks how they do the automatic hand collection. Maybe they’ll just tell you. Alternatively you should ask a Windows god how to sniff the interprocess communication that PT uses to pull the strings on the PS client. Or maybe the techniques of messing with another app’s menus is well-known?

Moving from the emailed hand histories to a tabular representation of your choice is an exercise in Python, Perl or even C or Java programming.

I don’t know enough to productively help you with the Windows-specific part, but I (and a zillion other people) can help you with the transformation from email tournament results to usable data.

I hope this is helpful to you.

-r

I learned a number of things in that email. First, I learned that it was pretty hard to actually intercept anything passing back and forth from a poker client and that I might as well give up on that for the time being. Second, I realized that Richard was right in that I could just use the tournament histories to get the thing built — I hadn’t realized that yet, as dumb as it sounds now. Third, I started to read up on ways to parse the text data into a database using the regular expressions (Perl) available in php. I’d never really known about text parsing … I’d just assumed I would use some Excel to MySQL converter, which is obviously really dumb looking back on it.

Of course, it was still a very long road from there. I did, in fact, email PokerTracker about working on the project with me. They never responded. I started getting tournament histories in bulk from PokerStars … at the time, there was no limit to the number of tournament histories that you could request. I imagine that the activities of myself and some others caused a limit to be put in place later that year. I then found a business partner who was a php/database expert and he wrote the parser and we took it from there.

But that email from Richard taught me a lot and put me on the right path. Definitely a huge turning point.

Thanks Richard. :)

ActionJeff auditions for American Idol

[YouTube video used to be here...]

Possibly the best video in the history of YouTube?

Adam Junglen took this video earlier today… I promptly ordered that he go to an electronics store and buy a card reader so he could unload it onto his computer and put it on YouTube.

Well worth it, right?

UPDATE: Jeff made Adam delete it.