What’s one of the problems with trying to take a vaunted live-poker operation online? As the WSOP has discovered, it’s not so easy to set matters straight when improper behavior by players is discovered. Want to multi-table an online bracelet event? Recent history suggests that you’re likely to get away with it. You might get banned if you take down a big score, but you’re likely to be able to keep the money and the bracelet, if the big score is an outright win.
It’s the top end of a transparency issue that hinders the WSOP.com US-based online events, especially on platforms where anti-cheating security may not have caught up to the levels of international operators.
The transparency issue plays out in two parts. On multiple occasions in recent weeks and months, evidence has emerged that an online bracelet winner or high finisher was, in actuality an extra account being played by cheater or cheaters unknown. The cheating account itself might be identified and the stooge in whose name the account is registered might be banned, but the WSOP and parent company Caesars Interactive haven’t attempted any clawbacks of already-awarded prize money, despite acknowledgements that something irregular occurred.
The whole thing then becomes a freeroll of sorts for the would-be cheaters. It’s only a problem if you win and are caught, but even then, you’ll get to keep the winnings. And it really shouldn’t be that way.
Foxen’s allegations begin series of intriguing situations
One of the most noteworthy instances of untoward play in a WSOP.com online bracelet event surfaced last October with allegations from high-roller pro Alex Foxen, who posted on Twitter that he was suspicious about his heads-up loss in the $7,777 online high-roller to a relatively unknown local, Jared Strauss.
Ausmus took a lot of heat for the above Tweet, but in January, he offered an update:
Strauss, it turned out, had indeed been banned some time after the event took place, though he was allowed to keep his winnings. Strauss has also defended himself vigorously online regarding the unusual pattern of his live and online tourney buy-ins, and it’s still possible that he’s telling the truth and didn’t cheat, despite being banned by WSOP.com.
That’s how strange these stories and circumstances have become, in that one of the most cited instances may or not be legitimate, despite the all-but-certainty that a lot of multiaccounting has been taking place.
And it turned out that Ausmus wasn’t the only to share such allegations or news that cheating in an online bracelet event had been uncovered.
Linde shares similar tale
Mixed-games standout Dylan Linde was one of the first to respond to Ausmus’s disclosure, and he had news of his own to share:
Linde, as it turned out, was referring to two online events in the 2021 WSOP Online series. Though Linde didn’t name names, it was easy enough to determine that he was referring to Jacob Neff, a player from Pennsylvania. Neff has had occasional live-tournament cashes for the better part of two decades, but his bink of the 2021 WSOP.com event remains his only recorded online cash.
Linde also shared news that his and Ausmus’s situations may have been connected:
It’s unclear exactly who the supposed big-name pro behind the multi-accounting and/or ghosting was. Some situations take a long time to emerge fully into public view, and these are such instances.
The transparency issues — no prosecution nor recovery
Ausmus’s follow-up Tweets more closely outlined the problem swimming just below the surface. With cheating having been discovered (notwithstanding Strauss’s denials), what was the WSOP going to do to make the cheated players whole? As it turned out, not much:
I don’t think a “bravo” is warranted. Instead, the WSOP appears to have gone part way down a one-lane road and then stopped. If a site is going to ban a player in such a high-profile spot, it says here that it has the responsibility to either claw back the cheated winnings or go out-of-pocket itself to make the other players whole.
Poker is a player-vs.-player game, and the house’s responsibility is to ensure the game as offered is fair. It’s not a situation where a cheating player has taken money from the house, and that’s a crucial difference.
Ausmus’s assertion that such cheating is too easy to do is spot on. A top player wanting to multi-account just has to find a willing accomplice who plays little or no poker or isn’t much into casino gambling. Even in Nevada, such people are plentiful. Then, the top player helps the stooge create the account and funds it (though the stooge uses his own bank account). Then the pro sets up a wholly separate internet connection and computer from which to play on that account. There’s a little bit more to it than that, but in a technical sense, it’s just that easy.
Worse, in these instances, unless the stooge player turns on whoever has funded the account, as Neff seems to have done, there’s almost no way to prove the multi-accounting, except for the sort of circumstantial evidence involved in the above examples.
So what’s to be done? At some point, such cheaters have to be named, and either sued by the WSOP and Caesars or referred to various state gaming commissions for public prosecution. Leaving the door ajar, as the WSOP has done, creates a continuing gateway for cheaters. It needs to stop.