An upside-down, inside-out, back-to-front place
Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There (better known as Through the Looking-Glass) was published on December 27, 1871 by author and mathematician Lewis Carroll. It is the sequel to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and follows the fantastical journey of the eponymous heroine into a world where everything is reversed. Nursery rhyme characters and inanimate objects are alive. To get to the house, you must aim for the hill. To run, you must stand still. The logic of everything is turned on its head.
an uncanny world that is both familiar and strange
Since the book’s release, the phrase “through the looking glass” has become a metaphor for any time the world suddenly appears unrecognizable, almost as if things were turned upside down, or as if you were looking out from inside the mirror to find an uncanny world that is both familiar and strange. Applied to poker, you would have to imagine a world in which the worst hand wins, the limit games have no limit and the first person to be eliminated wins the tournament. You would need to conjure in your mind a world in which Daniel Negreanu had fired the fewest number of WSOP bullets in the past decade, but won the most bracelets.
You might also envision a world in which a major poker site responded to allegations that its network was riddled with poker-bots by incentivizing the community to create poker-bots, presumably giving amnesty to those who try to cheat for the period of the “competition’” Of course, this begs the question: who would the site use as the face of this promotion? Well, in this upside-down, inside-out, back-to-front place that you are now visualizing, they would have to send out the single most inspirational figure in poker history, a model ambassador whose name is synonymous with poker’s golden era.
TwoPlusTwo poster TylerRM blows the whistle
On January 3, 2024, TwoPlusTwo forum member “TylerRM” posted his “findings” related to bots on the Winning Poker Network (WPN). While acknowledging that monitoring the development and profitability of poker bots has become an increasingly challenging task, he nonetheless does a comprehensive job in laying out the case that WPN has a big problem with cheaters who deploy pre-programmed poker-playing machines on multiple accounts.
evidence that GGPoker and Ignition are also compromised
TylerRM lists hundreds of rogue accounts, claiming that the Botfarm “creates 100+ new accounts per month,” and that their game style “evolves approximately every 3 months,” updating its exploitative approach towards maximally beating the population. He also states that this issue is not exclusive to WPN, insisting that there is evidence that GGPoker and Ignition are also compromised.
GGPoker is currently in the process of sweeping a confirmed cheating scandal under the rug, so no doubt the community will leverage some pressure on them to investigate these allegations. Patrick Howard was one of many who took to Twitter to voice his concerns about Ignition:
Moneymaker and Kenney respond
During the GGPoker scandal last week, it was noteworthy that not a single ambassador for the site spoke out. The silence was deafening. This week, in response to the allegations, WPN and Americas Cardroom (ACR) decided that the best form of defense was attack and they sent their ambassadors Chris Moneymaker and Ebony Kenney out to make a statement on behalf of the company.
Presumably guided by the top brass at the company, Moneymaker and Kenney denied the existence of a bot farm on the network and threw down the gauntlet, challenging the community to create a bot that could penetrate the firewall created by their security team. They even offered a $100,000 reward for the first person to do so.
The entire gambit is preposterous. Let’s pretend for a moment that ACR doesn’t reverse course on this silliness in the coming days. Let’s presume that it allows the topsy-turviness of this ethical standpoint to play out. Let’s imagine that a person was to successfully create an equivalent bot to those that are alleged to be part of a cheating system that has won over $10m from the players. Well then how tempting is a one-time $100,000 bounty?
A looking glass is also a magnifying glass
Chris Moneymaker is a good guy who cares about poker. He was terrific in his Team Pro role at PokerStars for 17 Years and he now represents Americas Card Room where, given its greyer nature, he has a more challenging job. Ambassadors are often the first port of call when it comes to customer service and in this instance, he has been deployed by ACR to be on the frontline while they dispute the prevailing narrative within the community that bots are undermining the integrity of the games on that site.
raise broader existential questions about the viability of online poker
The problem is, ACR’s chosen line here is bizarre. Its response is provocative rather than calming, its tone petty rather than concerned, its proposal indecent rather than deliberate. The poker community is not pettifogging here nor is its expressions of apprehension picayune. It has legitimate issues with WPN and ACR which raise broader existential questions about the viability of online poker moving forward.
The looking glass is also a magnifying glass and right now, the various security and game integrity teams at a number of poker sites are under scrutiny. Frogs do eventually jump out of the boiling water. Poker players do eventually vote with their feet. We are at a crossroads and we need the powers that be at ACR, GGPoker, and Ignition to meet our concerns with more than token gestures and sass. We deserve better than this.
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