UK poker player Darren Woods was in court this week, charged with cheating at online poker. As reported by the Grimsby Telegraph, a small northern English local newspaper, Woods appeared in Sheffield Crown Court to answer 12 charges of fraud relating to his online poker activities.
The groundbreaking case might represent the first time there has been attempt by the UK to criminally prosecute someone for cheating at online poker.
Much has changed since 2011, when Woods won a bracelet at the World Series of Poker (WSOP) in Las Vegas in the $2,500 Limit Hold’em Six-handed event. The Brit, who was a respected limit hold’em coach at pokerstrategy.com, cashed in three events that year, gained an affiliate sponsorship deal with 888.com, and apparently had the world at his feet.
However, shortly after, reports began to surface on the TwoPlusTwo poker forums that Woods was a cheat and a scammer.
A poster called “feruell,” representing a group of high-stakes limit players on 888, accused Woods, mainly using the online moniker “Dooshcom,” of colluding against them, usually with an unknown player called “Benkaremail,” and taking the group for “hundreds of thousands”Â of dollarsÂ during August 2011.
Circumstantial but Damning
The players sent a report that included detailed hand histories to pokerstrategy.com, who fired Woods, and the 888 fraud department, which later confirmed in the forum thread that it was investigating the situation and had frozen Woods’ account(s). The evidence, analyzed and endlessly debated by Two-plus-two-ers, though circumstantial, looked pretty damning to those with an advanced enough grasp of statistics to understand it.
Months passed with no word from 888 about the progress of the investigation or the possibility of the reimbursement of the players who had allegedly been cheated, until word came through that 888 had passed the results of the investigation to Humberside Police and were thus unable to comment any further.
Encouraging, but that was over two years ago. No more was heard about the case, and we’d assumed it had just gone away, until the report appeared this week in the TelegraphÂ once more.
Case for the Prosecution
While it’s clear that the Telegraph reporter doesn’t possess a clear understanding of the subtle nuances of online poker (and why should he?), he records some interesting aspects of the case, such as the prosecution’s assertion that Woods “… was able to defeat the sophisticated methods employed by those companies to prevent multiple accounting and collusion.”
However, a large part of the trial appears to deal with Woods’ attempt to scam 888 itself by abusing its affiliate system in a clear case of identity fraud. He allegedly used other people’s identities to claim Â£147,266 ($236,994) from the poker site in affiliate commission for himself.
“Woods allegedly made money from the fraudulently-opened accounts by playing at the same online poker table at the same time using different identities, giving him an advantage because he would unfairly know the hands of some of the other players,” explains the article.
It’s unclear, however, to what extent, if any, Wood’s alleged cheating of the group of players forms the basis of the prosecution. Cheating at online poker is illegal in the UK and has been since 2005, and in fact the new UK Gambling Bill, which comes into effect November 1st, will increase the potential sentence from two years’ imprisonment to ten.
Certainly, the identity fraud against 888 is much easier to prove. If the prosecution were able to prove that Woods did defraud his fellow players, however, it would be a landmark case for poker, and would surely mean that those players would finally receive the funds that were taken from them in 2011, funds that apparently languish frozen in Dooshcom account.