September 2009
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Thou shalt not accuse, falsely or otherwise

In a sit-and-go tournament at PokerStars, I’d reported a hand where two players (showing as from the same country) appeared to dump chips to each other to prevent one from being blinded all-in on the bubble.

Naturally, that fate then fell to me.

Blinds were 200/400 with a 25 ante. Villian 1, sitting on about half the chips in play, raised to 1,200 and then folded after Villain 2 moved all in for a total of 1,275.

With the dead blinds and antes, his pot odds were 37-1. It’s an instant call for just 75 more chips, even if all you have in your hand is one 3 and a bridge score card.

A couple of weeks later I got a reply from PokerStars with the result of their investigation.  It said they couldn’t find any history of these guys playing together in the past and concluded that the first player almost certainly clicked on the wrong button and folded by accident.

They even found hands earlier in the same tournament where those two had played hard against each other – and sent me two hand histories that showed it.

PokerStars has a reputation for providing first class support to players and they’ve yet to disappoint me.  Ideally I wanted my $16 back, but I can accept their findings.

I had forgotten that after this hand I wasn’t able to keep my mouth shut at the table, and their response also went on to reprimand me because of this:

On a related note, I noticed that you accused these players of collusion at the table. Three problems exist when you make an accusation at the table:

1) You may be accusing two perfectly innocent people of being dishonest. If they are innocent, then you have sullied their reputations amongst other players at the table without cause.

2) If they are guilty, you have just alerted them to your suspicions. This allows them to come up with cover stories and alter their play all of which makes it more difficult for us to confirm the suspicion.

3) In an environment where there is already concerns about cheating in different forms, making such an accusation only serves to propagate the existing fears. Our support staff works extremely hard investigating collusion complaints and dealing with the integrity of our site. A lot of that work is undone with an accusation of this nature.

Please understand that accusing a player of cheating at a poker table is extremely serious and should never be done. If you have concerns regarding the play of two or more individuals, we encourage you to notify us immediately so that we can investigate. Include as many details as possible including their player IDs and where they are playing.

As you can see, we have a lot of tools at our disposal which help us keep our games honest and fair. In addition, the thousands of honest, vigilant players who point out situations that merit investigation are an important part of our arsenal. Thank you for doing your part to protect the integrity of our games.

Well, that’s me told.

But I have to admit I had never thought about this in so much depth. Kudos to PokerStars, it’s a good point well made.

Even if it is a cut-and-pasted standard response, it’s a damn good one and I wanted to share it.

3 comments to Thou shalt not accuse, falsely or otherwise

  • Folded by accident my arse.

    The problem is that people who have come up against each other earlier in the tournament may have developed an affinity, especially if they respect each others play. I’ve been in a situation where I (with a chip lead) have decided that I wanted one guy to make the bubble and not another because the other guy had made a bad call and got lucky (not even against me). That’s perfectly allowable and not cheating at all, but (to a casual observer) my behaviour would seem highly suspect.

  • An interesting point.

    If you were selectively choosing which players you attempted to knock out because you felt you had a bigger edge by trying to keep the fish alive, or if you declined to call an all-in on the bubble because you felt you could win more chips by abusing others who are playing scared, these are certainly valid tactics which could still look like unusual play to an observer.

    As you say, this is indeed what could have happened to me, although it’s extremely difficult to build any kind of rapport with the other players, or make any play that could gain you respect in a 30 minute turbo SNG shove-fest.

    However, in the situation you’ve described, it sounds like you’re playing God. You’re showing favour to one player over another by making decisions differently to how you normally would and with no strategic benefit to yourself.

    To be honest, I’m not sure how I feel about this. On the one hand, you won those chips, they represent your money and you can do whatever you like with them. If you choose to play this way, that’s fine as long as you’re OK with giving up equity to play out a personal vendetta.

    On the other hand, you have to remember that in a tournament every decision affects _every_ player, not just those involved in the hand at the time. You’re not only having an effect on the fortune of the player you’re picking on, but also the other guy stuck in the middle, who should have already had a shot at making the money.

    It’s technically allowable, but it’s not exactly gentlemanly.

    imo, obviously.

  • I’m not sure about “with no strategic benefit to yourself”: I don’t want to be playing at the final table with some donkey who is likely to make a horrible call against me and suck out.

    But yes, in that particular instance it was mainly because the first guy had been playing well and had got a bit unlucky and the second guy was a complete donkey and it was one of those rare occasions where I had enough chips to play God. 🙂

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