PokerStars Demands Video Proof of Clean Play, Prompting Privacy Concerns

January 21st, 2016 | by Brian Corlisse
PokerStars requests video evidence to tackle bots.

Players question PokerStars’ data collection methods after it requests video evidence from players. (Image: PokerStars.com)

PokerStars’ bid to clean up online poker by bearing its very soul via complete player transparency came to light recently after select players reported that they were asked to provide video evidence of their sessions.

Players using bots and (once legal, now illegal) software to gain an unfair advantage has always been a part of the online poker world, but how to combat these realities has been a tougher matter to get a handle on.

But now, according to 2+2 member TooCuriousso1, PokerStars is taking steps to eliminate the problem by requesting video evidence from accounts they may suspect of unfair play.  

Show Us Your Poker Face

Citing an email that was sent to a fellow high-stakes player, TooCuriousso1 explained that his friend was asked to submit a video covering the following points within ten days or risk having their funds withheld. In PokerStars’ own words:

  • At the beginning of the recording, we must be able to clearly see your face in order to confirm your identity.
  • Before starting to play, you must rotate your camera 360 degrees to show us all of your surroundings.
  • You must start your playing session from an empty computer desktop, whereby you initiate the PokerStars client and log into your account.
  • After logging in, you must play a regular session for a minimum of 70 minutes.
  • During your play at the tables, the recording must be of sufficient quality to see and track the activities that are taking place on your desktop. In addition, the recording must capture your surrounding environment including your monitor, keyboard, mouse and the movement of your hands.
  • Audio must be included in the recording.

Since posting the email, dozens of players have aired their concerns online. Data protection and privacy is always an issue, but many players feel this request is a step too far. There are also suggestions that this method of collecting data could contravene data protection laws in certain jurisdictions.

Although PokerStars hasn’t been accused of this by any governing body as yet, people are suggesting that the latest story could highlight some potential issues.

Old Method Coming Back Into Limelight

While many are suggesting this latest request is a new tactic by PokerStars, it’s actually been in use for a number of years.

Back in 2007, Hevad Khan was accused of running a bot program because he was playing hundreds of SNGs each day (at least 26 at once).

After freezing his account, PokerStars asked Khan to record a video of himself playing SNGs under his alias RaiNKhaN to prove he was doing it without assistance (which he was). Similarly, the account rs03rs03 was also investigated by PokerStars back in 2010.

Despite investigating the account using a number of data collection methods, PokerStars was moved to request a “controlled demonstration” from the user which showed that they were in fact a human player, using a series of “self-written” hotkeys.

After discussing the issue with PokerStars, a representative explained to PokerSites that periodic checks have been in place for a number of years.

“PokerStars has used such investigatory techniques for more than five years now, and will continue to do so in the future.  A complete and comprehensive investigation is the fairest way for PokerStars to enforce our rules,” said the spokesperson.

As PokerStars continues its push to appeal to more casual players, methods such as this should help to make the game appear less threatening.

However, with certain players unhappy at the latest requests and some still intent to gain an edge, the battle against bots and other forms of superhuman assistance will no doubt continue to rage on for the foreseeable future.

Keep Your Enemies Close

As the video controversy rages on, Amaya Inc. invited several high-level players to its Montreal headquarters this week to discuss said players’ disapproval of the recent VIP program changes.

Presumably invited because of their popular (and at times, vitriolic) tweets about said changes, longtime PokerStars players Daniel Dvoress and Dani Stern, as well as recently departed site pro Ike Haxton, apparently met with Daniel Negreanu and Amaya CEO David Baazov himself this week to discuss the issues.

In a rather brilliant tactical move, PokerStars had the three pros sign non-disclosure agreements, meaning they can’t discuss anything that transpired in these meetings. Which essentially shuts down their angry tweets. Well-played, Amaya, well-played indeed.

Negreanu said that no changes to the VIP switch up will be forthcoming, however, so presumably the meeting’s goal was to smooth some ruffled feathers and win over the PokerStars antagonists.

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