Following speculation that a bot made the final table of the Turbo Championship of Online Poker (TCOOP) Event #8, PokerStars says it has found no evidence of improper conduct.
The story hit the headlines earlier this week after a transcript of the final table chat was posted online. After making it to the heads-up stage of the tournament against Russian player IvanHaldi, LuckboxStami raised concerns after his opponent refused to speak for an hour.
As is customary in PokerStars’ tournaments, players at the final table can tick a box that allows them to pause the action and make a deal if everyone is in agreement. Once the final table of TCOOP Event #8 reached the heads-up stage, both players ticked the “make a deal” box, but IvanHaldi failed to respond to any such requests.
With the clock ticking, numerous attempts to contact the Russian IvanHaldi by chat, message, and phone with no response on any medium, the moderator was forced to resume the action. Ultimately, this worked out well for LuckboxStami, who went on to win the event outright.
With speculation rife that the second-place finisher didn’t respond because there wasn’t a human controlling the account, PokerStars was forced to carry out an investigation. But after running a series of tests, including a review of the player’s hand history and a sweep of their system for prohibited software, the gaming giant was satisfied that a bot wasn’t in control of the account.
“PokerStars has investigated this account and we are confident that the game play decisions were made by a human being,” read a statement from PokerStars’ Head of PR, Michael Josem.
However, in answer to the question “why didn’t the player respond to chat box questions or a phone call,” the jury is still out.
At this stage, PokerStars doesn’t have a suitable answer. The poker operator says that it will carry out more checks until it can determine what, if anything, went wrong.
As for the player community’s response, the reactions are currently mixed. Some players are adamant that the lack of communication is a sure sign that a bot was in control of the account, because even the wealthiest of players would respond to a deal worth almost $40,000.
However, other players have argued that it couldn’t be a bot, because it wouldn’t have the capability to select the “make a deal” function.
Regardless of whether or not there was an illegal program making decisions for the player, the story has once again highlighted the issue of the potential for unfair play in the online poker industry.
Although it seems as though sites such as PokerStars now have a range of high-powered tools to detect possible cheats, it seems there’s still a long way to go before bots are completely eliminated from the game, not to mention the perception of their prevalence.