Americas Card Room has come under serious fire over the last two months in connection with allegations of a bot problem running out of control and flat out cheating via the use of multiple accounts. As if this wasn’t bad enough news for the online industry, an iPoker member of staff has been caught defending the network while posing as a regular TwoPlusTwo forum member.
So Much Potential
While certain sites over the years have been tainted with bot allegations more than others, Americas Card Room – ACR – wasn’t one of those at the beginning. They had their issues on other fronts, for sure, but when podcast king Joey Ingram published his video detailing what he thinks is going on, the industry sat up and took notice.
ACR is an unregulated online card room. That alone should set some alarms going off. If they’re happy to stick their middle finger up at the US authorities after the legal fall out from Black Friday that should tell you something about how they do business.
In October 2011, six months after Black Friday, ACR/Winning Poker Network purchased what was then Doyles Room in an attempt to fill the void left by Pokerstars and Full Tilt Poker who were no longer servicing US based customers. Very quickly they became the flagship site for the Winning Poker Network, but then sadly it all started to go wrong.
Joey Ingram came out with his allegations in a way that made you think he was 100% convinced he was right. After ACR was born, and the honeymoon period was over, the complaints started to come in thick and fast. If it wasn’t dodgy software it was a poor connection. Somehow though, everything kind of worked well enough that the customers were sticking around. Then the bot problem began to get worse, but according to Ingram that didn’t matter because they were just so bad! Now, in 2018, ACR looks to be possibly the most toxic site out there.
Ingram’s complaints are not only focussed on botting, he is also convinced that outright cheating through multi-accounting/collusion and possible superusing is going on too. Not only that, but he has highlighted a loophole concerning late registration in MTTs that can be used to turbocharge your win rate. All-in-all this is a serious situation that the entire industry will be keeping its eye on.
From Bad to Worse
The bot problem over the last few years was evident, if you know what you are looking for, but for the regs at each stake level it wasn’t so bad as they were beatable. In recent months, however, it has been increasing at an exponential rate to the point where whole bot farms can now be spotted. The worst part about this is that the management don’t seem particularly concerned, nor are they motivated to actually do anything about it.
Ingram says he has recorded many hours of footage to back up his claims. He also said that he had contacted Phil Nagy, the CEO of ACR, to forewarn him that he would go public with this story if nothing was done. Ingram and Nagy have had some kind of personal relationship in the past, so it wasn’t an issue to pass on the evidence, but when it took Nagy six days to even acknowledge this Ingram said their friendship was over and he was going public.
To stick the knife in right away, Ingram dug up an old video of Nagy promising to ban bot users for life. Embarrassingly, he went on to profess that ACR does more than any other network to deal with this problem.
The next set of details were quite sketchy but at the same time worrying. Ingram is now telling us that a group of new accounts from Eastern Europe and the USA are popping up and clearly playing in a style that doesn’t look as if it can make money over the long run. Without deep analysis this is impossible to verify, but Ingram says they never seem to lose and more tellingly they never seem to pay off value bets. His conclusion here is that we may be facing the first superuser scandal in over a decade.
The fallout from these accusations is obviously causing quite a stir. On TwoPlusTwo Ingram posted a lengthy response after people began to ask a lot of questions.
“I understand that some are looking for 1000% smoking gun evidence on some of these things. I do feel like the evidence for botting has been provided on 2p2. I’ve personally witnessed two events take place. Bots have been banned in the past on the site at NL and PLO. If you have observed the games at plo10-plo200/400 over the past months, you would say “lol what the **** is going on here?” If you have played with some of these accounts, you would say the same thing”
As far as the superusing is concerned, he went on to say that we will only find out for sure if we can get concrete evidence from inside ACR. He also pointed out that he has recommended ACR to the public for a long time and wants to make it totally clear why he can no longer do this.
Plain collusion is not a new issue, but the manner in which ACR ignore it probably is. Mainstream sites that don’t struggle for traffic will ban you in an instant as well as confiscate your funds. At ACR though, Ingram claims this practice has now infested the very highest stakes available. He says he has recorded evidence that three players “create my own energy”, “green spirit”, and “44bars”, are all the same person and regularly play at the $50/$100 PLO tables.
On a similar vein, Ingram say he has spotted a loophole in the MTT late registration system that is being exploited. Players that register at the same time during this period will be seated next to one another. With seemingly no repercussions for owning unlimited accounts, groups of accounts are chip dumping from the start of a tournament in order to give themselves a chance of an unrealistic ROI% long-term.
Time to Clean Up This Town
As galling as all of this is, we should remember that we haven’t had much in the way of scandals since before Black Friday. The original superuser disgrace was over a decade ago. Has the poker community become complacent with policing it’s providers?
The last three years has been clouded with all of the criticism being directed at Pokerstars for their policy changes post-Amaya buyout, and quite deservedly so, but has it made us take our eye off the ball? It’s possible that this news could end up being a catalyst for the players to start putting more pressure on the sites where they play. With the rakeback scene changing dramatically over the last couple of years, the poker providers look as if they have all accepted their rung on the ladder and have given up trying to attract more players. Obviously they do on some level, but it’s nothing like it was a decade ago.
So, could ACR being forced to clean their act up help the rest of the industry? It makes sense that providers would be afraid of a ton of bad publicity. The organised walk out at Pokerstars following the cancellation of Super Nova Elite didn’t have much of an effect, but on the flip side of that, we can expect the market leaders to be doing a better job of policing their tables. It’s the networks with middling traffic figures that are at the most risk. Today’s poker media is ruthless in going after any kind of controversy, much more than you saw during the poker boom. Some of these smaller networks harbour a lot of ambition and widespread rumours about unsafe games could kill that off in a heartbeat.
ACR is a slightly different case as the American player pool obviously has limited options. Even so, some of these sites should be approaching this situation with the attitude that they could take over if they make a well-publicised effort to keep their tables clean.
The TwoPlusTwo forum went as far as contacting ACR with some questions, and after no response was received within a week they banned any adverts from the Winning Poker Network.
Along the same lines, they also recently banned a forum member who was exposed as an iPoker member of staff. In a long running thread over bot use on iPoker this staff member participated in the discussion without revealing who they were. iPoker has long been regarded as a lost cause as far as bot use is concerned, but the same reasoning used above is relevant. If we can make as big a storm about this subject as possible then we stand to gain the most when the clean up comes.