Friday, March 23, 2007

Shocked and Appalled

Please check the addendums. This story ain't over, and it appears something that I thought was so, might not be. More very soon, promise --- hh

A surf of several poker-related posts on Bloglines last night uncovered a couple of poker blogs announcing their registration into a curious freeroll on Full Tilt Poker. Called the SEO Poker Tournament, this $5,000 freebie is being run by whatever king-sized asshat is behind the site

"SEO," should you be unaware, is short for "Search Engine Optimization," and a "black-hat SEO" is one of those people who typically scrapes your site and steals your content, putting his affiliate banners on the top of it, or litters your comment boxes with all sorts of unwarranted spam. Of course, that's just the start of it, as you can see by this neat list as shown on the site:

Now, that list isn't about things that are bad, it's about how to do them and get away with it. As an example, here's the lead-in for the "Scrapers" category:

"Borrow content from other sites," my ass. Basically, these guys traffic in theft, and if you create content, then you're one of the victims. Matter of fact, if you have a web site at all, then these guys victimize you, by manipulating meta code to mess with Google and Yahoo! search algorithms and get to the top of the list; in that instance, they're cutting in line, and they're not even doing it on their own dime.

These guys violate copyrights and ToS agreements by the thousands. Another of these sites proudly notes that "Yes, all these things are against the rules, but rules are made to broken." Don't step in front of my car, black-hat SEO guys; I guarantee you I won't brake.

So it's on to shocked and appalled time.

Shocking, that at least three recognizable poker bloggers have signed up for the event. Have you no pride, folks? No sense of worth for what you create? Shameful. One of them submitted an entry to my own puzzle contest a month or two back, but he won't be welcome to enter my future giveaways: I do not cater to thieves, nor those who would do business with them. As for this disgusting display, first prize is getting a bunch of other links to your site, but those three bloggers, who I previously listed, have been yanked from this site. They're on "-1" so far.

On to appalling. Not only does Full Tilt apparently think that site scrapers, spammers and link thieves are okay types, but they are actually donating $5,000 to the goddamned freeroll. I've fired off a complaint to Full Tilt, which they're in the process of shuffling from department to department until the event actually occurs, at which time they'll likely send me an empty, do-nothing apology.

It'll rank right up for there for meaningful value and sincerity with the apology Absolute sent to Pauly when his site got hacked. Absolute's way of dealing with that was to give the thief a brand new landing page, which remains operational to this day. If you think I kid, guess again; I saved the affiliate code from the thieving site and it's fully intact, right here. Then again, I do tend to be cynical; let's just say I'm seldom disappointed that way.

As to why this is so important, if you don't know, my screaming about it is unlikely to convince you. I'm way-y-y peeved, but I'm not going to call for a boycott, though the thought has crossed my mind. I'm just voting with my feet. I don't play at Absolute, and I won't be playing at Full Tilt anymore, either.

So be it.


Two of the three blogger sites I blind-referenced above pulled themselves out of the tournament after hearing about this post, one with the admonition that, frankly, I could have been a bit nicer about it. As in sending private e-mails. Umm, yes, but these tournaments tend to have a rush in late registrations, and I don't feel a nanny-type responsibility to keep chasing down any and every blogger who might register for something like this without thinking about the consequences. My aim is to tear that $5K bad boy down and leave a smoking crater in its wake. I doubt I'll be successful, but this thieving crap has gone on way too long and is too endemic. It's war.

The same writer tossed a small bomb my way, I guess for having an erstwhile link to Dutch Boyd's sad site. Besides the fact that I think Dutch's site is great for unintentional comic relief, there's still a huge distinction. Dutch maintains his innocence in a bizarre display of paralogical thinking, while these black-hat guys are not only proven thieves, they're willing and proud of it. And a site I give good money to is giving them more money, money that comes from people like me?

Seriously, I have made some friends in the blogging community, but I write what I think is important and what I believe in... and that comes first. For the rest of you, should you disagree, head on over to In the meantime, I'm putting my neck on the line trying to get things done. I'm no saint, I don't live in a white castle, but goddamnit, I'm better than these black-hat thieves.

If the tradeoff is that a lot of people are more aware of these issues, and a lot more people dislike me for forcing the issue, I can live with that.

* * * * * * *

Addendum 2: Gee, you'd think if I'd wrongly accused someone, they'd correct me. That didn't happen here, and while I am issuing an apology, pending further news, I'd like to bring y'all up to speed.

Short-Stacked Shamus over at Hard-Boiled Poker, which is a blog I've neglected to link up properly for far too long, has also been tracking this issue. Shamus sent off two different inquiries to FTP about this matter. He got nothing of worth on the first one, tried again, and got this back on the second one: "The prize pool of private freerolls is always supplied by the people who have requested the private tournament not us. Also Full Tilt Poker does not actively administrate private tournaments, we only host them."

Okay, but over on the black-hat site, there was this:

That pretty clearly says the opposite. Now far be it from a black-hat SEO site to lie, I know, but here we have $5,000 that no one now wants to take credit for or accept, except for that Tom dude in the comments. Nor, last time I checked, was your typical black-hat-SEO type in the habit of giving away five grand. And this isn't just any site; it is a trackable FTP affiliate (see below).

So you tell me, what gives?

I'd like to say that I jumped the gun on going off on Full Tilt, but I waited more than a day before making my post after notifying them of the tournament. Shamus's second try also included this text, and I'll just toss it out in his words:

I also asked whether FTP exercised any sort of discrimination when it came to allowing groups or organizations to use their site for private tourneys. I even gave the Ku Klux Klan as an example, asking would they
be allowed to host a tournament. In response to this question, FTP
says "We hold the tournament on our site to the specifications of the
person or group that has requested to hold it on our site. So it is open
to those who they want to participate in it."

--- Short-Stacked Shamus

I'm actually in agreement with that stance, though I note with a bit of a wry touch that Full Tilt's own in-house content is among the most commonly stolen in the poker world. I guess they're being paid not to care. But --- and this is a huge "but" --- it still doesn't answer where the money came from. I'm going to remain infernally curious about that one. If Full Tilt wants to disavow that site's claims, I'll be happy to print it here. I'd guess that making false statements about a poker site might violate an affiliate contract, and if Full Tilt has any interest in the matter, here's the seoblackhat site's affiliate landing page at FTP:


There, Full Tilt, I've done your work for you. What say you?


TenMile said...

To which I agree - except the way sites are closing to Amies, I'm not sure I can leave a site that still lets us play AND will get our money to us.

Another great job of investigative reporting. Congrats.

Short-Stacked Shamus said...

Another terrific post, Haley. Every one gives us something original & worth considering.

I'm wondering if Full Tilt really donates the $5K here. Or does the sponsoring organization supply the funds? (I don't know how the private freerolls work.)

Pauly said...

Thanks for keeping an eye on the Absolute mess. They have yet to make things right for me.

facty said...

I appreciate the points you make in your follow up. I also admit that my post was a mini-tantrum, I felt put on the spot with no time to confirm the charges you made.

I withdrew my entry and thought that was that.

About 8pm GMT I received an email from a player on FTP that I was enrolled in the tourney and being blinded off. I decided to play out the tourney and see what happened - I was hoping something good could come of this mess.

But of course it couldn't. I finished 10th - just out of the final table - but thats karma for you.

Some interesting (read sad) things that happened during the tourney:

It started an hour before it was advertised. About half the players showed up at the advertised time only to find they were playing with half a stack.

At least three players who had signed up on the website were not entered in the tourney, and yet I, who had unregistered, was still in.

Finally, I don't hate you. I don't hate anyone - even Dutch Boyd. My post was pure frustration in this whole situation.

factually (and friendshiply)

Haley said...

Thank you, Facty, for the followup. Same to the other blogger who contacted me as well. I'll have those links back to you both in the near future.

I'm sort of hoping the tempest-in-a-teapot gets back to the other side as well. The more people that fight them, the faster they go scurrying back to their ratholes.

peacecorn said...

I nearly registered for this damn thing. Thanks for raising awareness.

Anonymous said...

I nearly registered for this damned thing. Thanks for raising awareness.

Anonymous said...

I'm not complaining, considering I took 2nd place and won $2,000. Maybe instead of whining, you should have entered the tournament where legitimate sights with page ranks competed for incoming links. Who cares who put the tournament on and who sponsored it, it was supposed to be a fun event, with some high stakes.

Haley said...

Legitimate "sights," eh, Tom? Of course, "legitimate" is the bigger laugher of the two. Legitimacy is measured by a helluva lot more than page rank, kid. Clearly, though, that concept is beyond you.

I expected that Tom would be a college student, a business-wannabe type trying to parlay a smattering of computer skillz into a business edge. I was correct. His web site didn't disappoint, blah thing that it is. Then again, at least he deserves credit for serving up his real name, unlike these "legitimate sites" --- that's S-I-T-E, Tom --- running the event. A fine web sight designer he's going to be.

But seriously, Tom, you have your standards, and I have mine. Mine tend to exclude profiteering from theft. Yours don't. Buh-bye!

KajaPoker said...

I think we missed a golden opportunity to show these ass-hats how etiquette really works, or doesn't. We should have mobilized an army to sign up to this thing by giving away the password and then gone ahead and ruined it for everyone by slow-playing, talking about hands in play, colluding and just being a nuisance in general.

I almost signed up for this thing before I knew what it was.