Tuesday, December 07, 2010

On Reid and Online Poker

I'll be serving up various and sundry comments over at the KAP blog regarding this highly important topic. While most of us have highly charged opinions on the matter, there's really very little we can do at this point, because the plans have been set in motion by forces beyond poker players' control. We'll just have to continue hanging on to the tiger's tail at this point and see what the next week or two will bring.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Been Playin' a Bit... For a Change

True 'nuff, I've been playing quite a bit of cards the last two or three weeks, mostly poker but with a little bit of cribbage mixed in.

Poker's been resurgent mostly because of a hot day last Saturday in which I made six final tables and took down three of the six, along with a nice handful of SNG showings throughout the day; I fire those up continuously to keep the screens full. None of the scores were individually noteworthy but they did puff the old BR up to a more playable level.

Of course, the Curse of the Flambeau lives on: Whenever I try to play poker live at the Lake of the Torches Casino in northern Wisconsin, karma craps on me. The latest ridiculous beat was building a $150 buy-in up to about $220, then getting it all in with A-A against A-K on a K-Q-x, two-spade flop. He had the king of spades, and duly hit his 1-in-26 runner-runner, though since two other kings were out I was only something like a 91:9 fave when the money went in. At least getting aces cracked there is worth $25, consolation pittance that it is.

Doom. Doom. Doom-de-doom-doom. Thanks for da bad beat. Goodbye, $430 pot.

But, it could be worse. I returned home Saturday after a Turkey Day half-weekend in the northwoods and basically won it all back, so we'll chalk it up to variance. Two more final tables in better tourneys, though just a tenth and a third to show for the runs. (I'll take 'em.)

And an interesting start to today. I fired up the computer and played a handful of small tourneys and SNGs, and ran into a couple of French players blatantly colluding in a 6-player SNG. Never playing big pots against each other while taking turns jamming against me and other players with crap, that sort of thing. I'm slow at times, but I figured it out after about the twelfth straight move when we got down to three-handed, me against the two cheaters. We'll see if the site does anything about it, since the overall pattern could not have been more blatant. I still lasted long enough to beat one of the two before losing a race against the other.

As for the cribbage stuff, I've settled down into a pattern of taking one weekend a month and floating off to some locale within a four- or five-hour drive and playing a full ACC-sanctioned event, which generally means playing 50 or so games between Friday night and Sunday afternoon. Between that and my local grass roots league I've been on a solid run for about six months. That can be variance, too, but cribbage is about as complex a two-person card game as there is, and I've studied hard the last year or so to try and improve my game. Millions of people know how to play cribbage, but there are only a few hundred really great cribbage players, and I'm trying to join them, a process that probably takes several years. (Besides, it serves as a break from poker on the rare occasions that that world gets to be too much.) One problem is that unlike in poker, there are no great cribbage books from which to study. There is one pretty good one (Colvert), a few so-so ones, and some that are just junk.

Therefore, onward. Folks notice I continue to write this and that and the next, and I'm also looking for a few better sites to do some link exchanges with regarding the two new sites I'm writing for, both of which I believe offer distinctive content. Send an e-mail if you have interest in this.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Review Site Now Up

Hey, all, we're live at last! As I've previously mentioned, I've been working on a series of poker reviews for a revamped site specializing in just that -- serving up reviews of the best poker books around. My work is now appearing at thepokerbookstore.com, where a dozen or so of my reviews can already be found.

The site's focus will be poker strategy books, though we'll sneak in the occasional non-strat book as well. We will continue to add new reviews to the site at the rate of two or three per month, along with other special features and items of interest.

We've started things off with a list of "Poker Essentials" -- a sampling of poker books that any self-respecting poker library ought to contain. In the future we'll be adding more and newer books, though we'll continue to go back and sample the worthy classics, of which at least a few dozen are worth revisiting. And we won't be afraid to warn you off of bad books, either, with one of the new reviews already on the site dealing with a recent offering that should never have been written.

Questions? Comments? Link inquiries? Books for reviews? Feel free to contact either the site or me directly.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Where I'm Hanging Out These Days

While I continue slowly pulling together pieces for the next several installments of my "Just Conjecturin'" series, the blog itself must go on. But of course I've been busy, playing not too much poker and that little bit not too well, and such stories aren't very interesting, hence the lack of wordage. I've been working on this and that and the next as well, also occupying my time, and some of that is now starting to appear publicly.

One new spot where you can find my irreverent postings these days is on the revamped Kick Ass Poker blog. Jason and Brad and the gang have been good e-friends over the years, and I'm happy to have a chance to once again contribute some content to what's always been an entertaining site. Visit the home page, surf around, and of course bookmark the blog. You'll find me sounding off on something there roughly four times each week, as I have been for the past six weeks.

The book-review project continues as well, and as soon as that site goes live, I'll drop a link here. We'll be starting that one off with reviews of ten of the best books poker has served up over the years, then moving on from there.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Checking in from Hammond

The WSOP Circuit stop at Hammond, Indiana (not far from Chicago) winds down this week with a $10,000 "high rollers" event today. I'm definitely not a high roller, though I did stop in on Friday and Sunday and play a bit. I hadn't seen a number of industry friends in over a year and I wanted to check in and say hi, and I did that, seeing TD's Nolan and Steve and Charlie and dealers such as Rich and Thomas, all long-time poker friends, plus Donnie Peters and FerricRamsium and others. I missed Kat Liebert and a few other players but did catch Alex Outhred playing in the same $350 Sunday event I took a stab at, so that was good, too.

My poker went iffy. I won my first $130 sat on Friday night so I picked up enough lammers to play the rest of the weekend, but I had no more success. First was the 7pm Friday night tourney, with a weird structure that lets you play for fun for the first hour but guarantees you'll be microstacked by 10:00. I did and I was, and I ran sevens into nines at that point. I went downstairs and bubbled another sat (drat!), then came back late Sunday morning to play the Event #8.

Sunday's tourney had 468 players, starting with 10,000 in chips each. I made the top 200 and lasted 11 or 12 levels but never had any cards. Up until the last hand, I had only one hand higher than 6-6, and that was an under-the-gun J-J with which I took down a no-action pot. In my last hand, I had Q-Q -- under the gun again -- and was called by the player behind me and reraised by the next player, a young player new to the table who had already repopped me off a different preflop hand when I tried to steal the blinds. He gave every indication of being LAGgy.

With only about 12,000 left at this point, and me already in for 2,000 (blinds 300/600/50), calling all-in was a no-brainer. I turned up my Q-Q and he turned up A-Kx, and the ace flopped.

At least I got to watch most of the Packers-Vikings game.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Just Conjecturin', Volume 26: Who or What is Riviera, Ltd.?

Some new documents connected to the ongoing Excapsa/Cereus/AP legal maneuverings have popped up over on the wsbg.com liquidation site, and I'll return to the topic of Avione soon enough. Just note that business name for a bit; it's important. It is, however, just one important element in the net of shell companies surrounding all things Cereus. Today we'll post a bit on other matters, mostly because I already have this post largely written and I haven't published anything of note in a couple of weeks.

One of the difficulties I've encountered in researching various aspects of the scandals is deciding when to release certain pieces of information, balancing the information itself against the need or promise to protect many sources' identities. It's that which makes me agonize at times over releasing various items. I believe there will come a time when all can be told, but I also believe that patience in some matters is best, knowing that there are internal pressures afoot that continue to slowly force these entire stories into public view.

There are three dynamic groups presently battling over Cereus assets and control. Two of the three are aggrieved shareholder blocs -- one each on the Excapsa (UltimateBet) and Absolute Poker sides -- with the inner core group currently in control at AP euphemistically referred to as the "Toms and Tatums" (plus a few privileged others), which may now include a select few eWorld players who came along for the ride, post-acquisition. It seems clear that the power brokers at both companies left the rank-and-file shareholders grasping air back in late 2006, only to see the whole pyramid totter when the reverberations from the multiple cheating scandals came clear. The scandals combined with the UIGEA fallout left significantly less revenue to play with, leaving these various groups to fight for whatever was left.

I have many, many e-mails and anecdotes about certain people's involvement, but perhaps a bit of hard evidence is needed today as a change of pace. Both UB and AP were crafted in layered, obfuscating ways, and as indicated above, Cereus's structure today is another slathering of layers over the top of what previously existed, made even more obtuse by the recent paper sale to Antigua-based Blanca Games. The Blanca sale seems to have been put together in early July, a very rush-rush deal, perhaps precipated -- and this is my opinion only -- by Joe Norton no longer wanting to be tied to the Cereus stink. To think this is anything other than a shell sale designed to hide assets is folly. As one of my trusted friends wrote to me a few weeks back: "Re: stupid... Stuart Gordon is your knight in shining armor??"

Gordon has been alleged to me to be a friend of one of the AP frat boys, closely tied to the Costa Rica scene. 'Nuff said. (With apologies to Stan Lee, natch.)

Today, though, let's drift elsewhere. Before one can fully grasp the state of Cereus present, one needs to flesh out a better picture of Cereus past. The old bones are still there if you look in the right spots.

People may remember that when Nat, I and at least one other person honed in on the importance of the infamous "scott@rivieraltd.com" address in CrazyMarco's spreadsheet, the folks at AP seem to have gone into a panic to change things and cover them up. Mind you, this was late 2007 -- meaning the operational people who then set out to cover things up were the same people, by and large, who remain working at Cereus today.

I haven't gone back and pulled the chat logs and e-mails Nat Arem and I had, because by themselves they're of little importance. Without even looking at those, though, I can tell you that it was late the night of October 15, 2007 when the search got this breakthrough; I was on chat with him that night a couple of different times. I knew he had the greater tech capability and asked him to look closer at "rivieraltd.com," and Nat is the one who pinged the domain, did some other checking and found the direct link to the Mohawk server farm. Here's how Nat typed in his findings back then on 2+2:

10-15-2007, 11:32 PM #517
N 82 50 24
Pooh-Bah

Join Date: Mar 2005
Location: Las Vegas
Posts: 5,024

Re: lolz super accountz
Wow, I just found something else that I think is huge. This whole thing could run reallllly deep.

Okay, so, the email of the 2nd guy (ie, NOT user 363) is at the domain "rivieraltd.com" -- that is the domain registered with Domain Discreet.

I don't know why I didn't think of this earlier, but I pinged rivieraltd.com to get the IP at which it is hosted (going to the website doesn't show anything except the email login). The IP address is 66.212.244.147.

I then ran a traceroute on 66.212.244.147 to see where it is hosted. That IP address traces back to "po12.dr4.kdca.mohawk.ca" ... which is obviously connected to Kahnawake.

Simple explanation for those who don't understand:

The guy who was on the same IP as the user 363 had his email set to an email that is hosted by Kahnawake Gaming Commission.


But that's not at all the story. What happened was that the uncovering and recognition of the rivieraltd.com domain seems to have set off a frantic coverup of both the domain itself and the people behind it. "They're changing things!" is how I remember Nat relaying this, even as 2+2 participants discussed the findings and their significance in this thread. Among other things, the whois for the domain ownership record was immediately changed, locked and sealed in such a way that these days I think it'd take a court order or action by government investigators to uncover it in its original form. The internet records show that it had swung over to October 16, 2007 as these changes started to be made, time calculated by whatever or wherever location officially tracks such matters.

However, the act of covering stuff up leaves its own distinctive footprint, much the way that using bleach to destroy a bloodstain gets rid of the DNA but tends to leave big bleachy residue stains where none ought to appear. The people responsible changed stuff repeatedly over the next several days, as shown by the historical whois, which simply notes the dates changes are made and which is public record:



At least one change was made to the site each day on those shown above, all starting on October 16, when the corporate coverup shifted into panic mode. Note that the above screen only shows those days when changes were made; in all likelihood, multiple changes to the records were made on one or more of those days as well.

The rivieraltd.com domain, in case you're wondering, was created in February of 2007, and it was at the time of its public outing a gateway to a mail server. Rivieraltd.com, in addition to whatever role it had/has, seems to have been the mail hub of choice for AP executives, managers, owners, etc., and I'm in possession of several e-mails showing AP VIPs using rivieraltd.com addresses for corporate matters. I choose not to publish these at this time, for multiple reasons, but may in the near future.

Still, the rivieraltd.com domain remains interesting, and it is still associated with AP and Cereus today. Soon after the discovery of its connection to Absolute Poker, the domain information was changed and blocked. However, either the information has been changed again, or the company just got lazy about keeping the information hidden between some registrar's anonymous hosting service. Today a public view of rivieraltd.com is again visible, though surfing to the site itself shows nothing but air:



The listed registrant, Diana Hunt, is a confirmed AP shareholder. More importantly, she has multiple connections to the inner ownership group, being another U of Montana graduate, and she's spent time in Las Vegas, Portland and elsewhere. She has (or has had in the past) connections on social networking sites with other AP notables, and is reputed to be close friends with Tom Wenz, who is also an AP shareholder and currently believed to be #3 in Cereus's present chain of command.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Now Doing Reviews -- Poker Books Wanted

A little bit of work comin' my way, it seems, as an under-renovation poker site wants yours truly to do an ongoing, extensive series of book reviews. Once the site is reworked and operational I'll post a link to it here. It's not for a whole lot of pay, but it least it gives me something new to write about.

While we're going to start out with many of the classic of poker literature and strategy -- such as they are -- I plan to review just about anything that comes my way. This includes books past and present, eBooks, and just about anything you could name, if all goes according to plan. Therefore, if you've got a book or books you'd like me to consider for review, please contact me for mailing instructions. (Random donations of old poker books will also be accepted.) I own perhaps 40 poker books already, which is not a largish library by any measure, but obviously those 40 I'd have no need to receive again.

Friday, September 03, 2010

Just Conjecturin', Volume 25: Flotsam, Jetsam and other Errata

While I'm waiting for a few hotter leads in the ongoing scandals to work themselves out, I've decided to go back and correct a few of the things I've gotten wrong in previous posts. From Post 1 of this entire series, when I didn't know nearly as much as I do today, I said I'd be willing to get things wrong and fix them later if that's what it took to force the full stories out.

That's why I named this the "Conjecturin'" series way back when. From yourdictionary.com:

Conjecture:

con·jec·ture (kən jek′c̸hər)

noun

1. an inferring, theorizing, or predicting from incomplete or uncertain evidence; guesswork: an editorial full of conjecture
2. an inference, theory, or prediction based on guesswork; guess
3. Obsolete occult divination


Definition #3 is cool, but a bit off track. Moving on....

It wasn't until after the first half dozen posts or so that new facts and evidence began to emerge, but by then it hardly paid to change the series' title. I even said this, back in that JC #1: "Note that I could be full of it on some of the details, but here's the start of my best guess as to how it all unfolded."

Way back in that JC #1, I theorized incorrectly that it was 2001 when UltimateBet came together. It was actually 1999, and the genesis of it may have been back in 1998. Though the date was wrong, my theories of how and why it came together seem to have been more or less on the mark, even if I now know those thoughts were very incomplete and described only a small part of the greater picture.

Probably the place where I went most off course was in JC #6, where I attempted a mathematical exploration of what happened to 2.6 million shares that were forfeited as part of the initial scandal developments at UB. It was clear that 4.3 of the 6.9 million shares that were forcibly seized belonged to Russ Hamilton, but the other 2.6 million's ownership was anybody's... conjecture. I attempted a complicated mathematical explanation that hinted that these shares might have been Fred David's, as David was a known key member of the operations staff and was indeed the person whose name was connected to the much-publicized "-fred-" internal transfer account, one of at least five such transfer accounts that existed. Those transfer accounts had no purpose for existing except to shuffle money around, sometimes legitimately, sometimes not.

But it now appears that Fred David was just the loyal soldier/company worker following orders from ownership, though of course time will tell all. The -fred- account may not even have been under his unilateral control. Moreover, his shares were not among those seized as part of the remainder of that initial 6.9 million cancellation, nor were his shares among those surrendered in the second round of share annulments, though those of three others were. I've held back from publicizing those three names because at least one of those was also innocent of the cheating, but was seemingly caught in some legal trickery. There have been some dirty lawyers afoot. Lots of them.

Also, the early JC posts that looked at hand histories were simply a false lead. The UB hand histories as released were nothing but a complicated attempt to obfuscate the real truth while attempting to justify the refunded amounts as being a whole and fair settlement. But it was always a shell game, and I wasted a couple of days back then trying to find examples of cheating that simply didn't, couldn't exist in what was provided. I won't delete those posts because I wrote them back then in good faith (and misguided effort), but except for exposing the bogus and chopped-up nature of the hand histories and how they were parceled out to players, the content within the hands themselves is pretty much worthless.

The reason why complete UB hand histories have never been released is very simple: Doing so would expose other accounts and different avenues of cheating and theft not already publicly acknowledged, even if in relatively smaller quantities than the $22 million or so accounted for in the one massive family of cheating accounts already partially exposed. There's more to it than that, but that's the bottom line.

That's enough for today, I think.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Year of the Doomswitch Continues

As in life, so at the poker table. I fired up three SNGs to see if my 2010 malaise has abated. What a fucking joke of an idea that was.

First one, I made an isolation preflop re-raise with QQ and encountered a donkey jam by the BB, someone I already had notes on. This was an easy call, even though he turned up the expected AK. K on flop, IGHN. Checking back through recent tourney histories shows me at 3-for-19 the last six weeks when I've gotten the chips in with QQ against AK lately. Run-goot lolaments.

Second one, I get my chips in with AT against KT. Flop 89J, turn Q. IGHN.

Third one, I double up early after getting rid of some limpers with a raise to 300 (25/50) with TT. I get one caller. Flop 678. I bet, he jams, I call. He shows T7. What sort of idiot puts a fifth of his stack at risk preflop with ten-seven??? But whatever. Despite the odds of the nine coming for the chop being about 50:50, I somehow double up. I pick up another thousand when my QQ miraculously holds against 44, all in preflop.

But then, down to four players, I make the mistake of taking KK up against AJ. A on flop, of course. Next hand I have AT, moving in on a player who has me just outchipped but I think he's stealing light (and he indeed shows A7), and Mister AJ calls both me and another player... with K8. Flop KJ8. IGHN.

Enough, I tell ya. Just enough.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Just Conjecturin', Volume 24: Tying Together Some Leads

I added in the following thoughts in a 2+2 thread on these matters, and wanted to toss in a little bit more here:

Honestly, I don't know quite how to add up each and all of the pieces myself; I think I have it and then I rethink it again. Unless something hinky was going on, it just does not make sense. The original nacion.com story about the crash included what appeared to be a nod and a wink about the passengers stating that they were flying to the Caribbean when the flight's registered destination was Cartagena. A Sabreliner's cruising range is 2500 miles, and it can get anywhere in the Caribbean with ease from Costa Rica. So -refueling- at Cartagena is out as a possibility, which is what I think the nacion.com piece was winking at.

Look at this from both sides and you'll see the problem. Side A is that the money rumors had some truth to them. The persistent rumors involve money skimming and laundering, and if that were true, then a flight to somewhere like Antigua makes sense, because that's a little bit of a nexus (as is Netherlands Antilles) for some shady corporate banking practices. Panama has some of that, too.

Please keep in mind also for this that the amounts of money rumored -- if in American bills, the world's smuggling currency of choice -- would have filled up at least one duffel bag and maybe more if bills smaller than $100s were used. Such smuggling usually involves secretion inside the fuselage or similar subterfuge.

Now, if I were carrying a large quantity of cash and were moving it elsewhere, I'd be making an unnecessary stop in Columbia about when hell freezes over. So this line of reasoning ends in a big question mark, because there's clearly something false or wrong or missing or whatever among all these published tales.

Side B is that the rumors of large amounts of cash are wrong, and that the flight was indeed a wholly innocent, vacation-only trip. If that's true, and there was nothing wrong with the plane or no evidence of it being doctored in some way for use in smuggling, then why did the company owning it choose to abandon it after waiting two and a half years? That line of reasoning doesn't pan out either. The engines and electronics were barely or not damaged at all and were easily salvageable.

But all this really misses the point of the posts. No one has ever come up with a reason why the PotRipper cheating on September 12 was done so recklessly and with such wild abandon. All the stuff I've laid out, the timelines and stories and such in #22 and #23, point to at least one plausible theory: The person or people behind the PotRipper account needed money in a hurry to clean up a mess. That it turned into a bigger mess and brought down a cheating operation is just an indicator of how reckless it was.


* * * * *

One of the points raised in comments is very valid -- as noted in the first comment (and so far only) comment on the previous post, there may have been other legitimate reasons for the subsequent abandonment of the plane. The counterpoint to that is that there were a whole of strange happenings going on all at once, and when too many coincidences pile up, it's time to keep digging.

First, the PotRipper tourney was the first cheating done after the cheating accounts' operator(s) returned from St. Lucia/Antigua. It was also tournament cheating, as opposed to cash-game cheating; lower initial investment for a proportionately higher payout. It doesn't mean that other tournament cheating wasn't done at some previous point, but it does support the hypothesis that there was an urgent need for money, and let's not forget things like these withdrawals (and cancelled withdrawals) for the house-run Graycat account:



Notice all the cancelled withdrawals on September 8th, 2007, which happened while the cheaters were off in the Caribbean somewhere. The cheater(s) returned on September 12 and immediately cheated on a relatively new account, PotRipper. Four days later, on September 16th, there's a verified withdrawal of $150,000 from Graycat, just before the presumed remaining $30,000+ is seized and the account shut down.

The plane crash may or not have a direct bearing on some of these other things, but the "needed some money in a hurry" theory as it relates to the desperate method of cheating exhibited in the PotRipper tourney is not a concept that can be dismissed with a wave of a hand.

* * *

This image is unrelated -- I just can't connect to my free image-hosting site this morning, and need a spot to upload a miscellaneous doo-dad. Please ignore:

Friday, August 06, 2010

Just Conjecturin', Volume 23: So What Happened to the Plane?

Last post, I reprised the history of the non-fatal 2007 plane crash of the rented jet carrying AP executives Scott Tom and Hilt Tatum and their spouses, showing how the crash and a possible resumption of the intended vacation by the two executive couples corresponding with a brief gap and subsequent Caribbean island-hopping jaunt by one or more of the people behind the AP insider cheating scandal, showing that the dates offered some interesting circumstantial connections.

Not included in that post was the fact that the crashed Sabreliner was flown over to Costa Rica from Panama, picking up at least one passenger in San Juan (if not all of them), and its subsequent destination from Costa Rica as reported here was Cartegena, Columbia, not St. Lucia or Antigua.

Those same forums and stories I linked to in the previous post included many wild rumors and allegations, including one that someone on the crashed plane was carrying $2-3 million in cash, hence rampant speculation about the planned Cartegena flight.

That stuff is rumor. The following is far more factual: The Panamanian company that rented the plane, Jet Lease Corp., Inc., decided to abandon the lightly crashed plane at the Juan Santamaria airport in Costa Rica, despite significant salvage value estimated at $350,000 of the plane's original $1 million worth. It's more curious because parts from the plane are now showing up on the Latin American black market for airplane parts, as detailed in this piece.

Why would any company abandon a third of a million dollars in plane parts that can easily be sold, as has now started to happen?

Just Conjecturin', Volume 22: It's the Plane, Boss, the Plane!

With a tip of the hat to the late, great Herve Villechaize...

... as well as one to 2+2 poster TookURCookie, for reminding me about the plane crash involving Absolute Poker executives back in 2007. It occurred at 12:50pm on September 3, 2007, at the Juan Santamaria International airport in Alajuela, Costa Rica, just north of Costa Rica, wherein a rented private jet blew a tire just prior to takeoff and left the runway, skidding to a stop. No one was injured in the incident, but in leaving the runway the jet's landing gear collapsed and its fuel tank ruptured, closing the airfield for about six hours. There are some nice photos of the plane, the accident and its aftermath here.

Some of the earlier reports said that in addition to the pilot and co-pilot, two passengers were aboard. Other reports said there were four passengers, and those reports were correct: The passengers were AP executives Scott Tom and Oscar Hilt Tatum IV (two of the four Montana frat brothers who founded the firm), and their wives. Hilt's wife was five months pregnant at the time so she was transported to the hospital for a brief examination, but was quickly released.

(By the way, if anyone starts posting wedding photos on 2+2 again after reading this, I hope the mods permaban them.)

What the crash did was start off a whole series of lurid posts and stories, including some of the wildest allegations levied in all of the AP affair's aftermath -- up to $7 million in stolen funds from the AP site, Tom and/or Tatum having $2-3 million in cash on the crashed plane, allegations of cocaine use, and of course the reputed "American Beauty"-style portrait of reputed scandal kingpin and AP operational exec AJ Green (Allan J. Grimard) lying naked on a futon, mostly covered in $100 bills. That's just the start of it.

Looking back, did or do any of these tales have legs? That is, besides the reputed legs of AJ on the futon? In a future post we'll look at some of that stuff, and at least try to separate the pure rumor from what is known or can be discerned from mainstream media reports.

For now, though, it's about the crash itself, and its timing in relation to other events.

A couple of days ago, an anonymous poster on 2+2 using the handle CantStayQuietAnymo posted some usage logs and timestamps, as mentioned in my previous post. I did not have the DoubleDrag usage info, so let's put that in here, with another hat tip, and follow it by once again showing the user info for Graycat and PotChopper:

DOUBLEDRAG: Registered with IP 200.91.72.29

Shared computer with account names: PAYUP, SOX, GRAYCAT,
STEAMROLLER, POTRIPPER, BIGGTIME, DB9007

Only used one Computer, Device ID 11451887

IP's Used
9/6/2007 206.48.58.10 Location: ST. LUCIA
9/6/2007 thru 9/9/2007 204.188.174.201 Location: ANTIGUA
9/10/2007 209.59.103.108 Location: ANTIGUA
9/11/2007 206.48.58.10 Location: ST. LUCIA
9/13/2007 200.122.181.104 Location: COSTA RICA
9/16/2007 200.122.181.104 Location: COSTA RICA

And the two usage logs for Graycat and the one for PotRipper (click to enlarge).

Graycat:




PotRipper:



PotRipper, for all its infamy, was a brief-lived and seldom-used account. It was Graycat that by all indications was the chief inside cheating account, and look at its usage history, where it was logged into on September 2, 2007, not at all on September 3 or 4, briefly on September 5. We can see DoubleDrag present in St. Lucia on September 6, and then that account corresponds with Greycat, which turned up in Antigua on September 8 and St. Lucia on September 11 before returning to Costa Rica on the afternoon of September 12, where Doubledrag also shows up the following day. Wednesday, September 12, 2007, for those of you paying attention, was also the day of the infamous PotRipper/CrazyMarco tourney that eventually exposed all the cheating.

Back to the plane crash, and an original quote from a Teletica news report:

"Los ocupantes del avión eran el piloto Mario Quesada y el copiloto David Vos, además de 4 pasajeros: 2 parejas que iban de paseo hacia el Caribe." Yahoo's BabelFish translation is wretched, but what it's saying in addition to listing the pilot and co-pilot is that the passengers were off to start a Caribbean vacation, which it reiterated a few paragraphs later on.

If one surmises that after a day or two of dealing with the airplane mishap and its aftermath, then perhaps the Toms and Tatums -- continuing under the presumption that either Scott or Hilt or both were involved in the cheating -- went ahead and rebooked a flight and tried to enjoy the rest of a Caribbean-hopping vacation.

See, if any of the accounts Graycat or PotRipper or Doubledrag were in active use at about 2:50 pm on September 3rd, it would go a long way toward exonerating Scott Tom and/or Hilt Tatum IV. Such is not the case. Even though the evidence is circumstantial, it points in the opposite direction and keeps the fingers of blame pointed squarely in the same direction, at Scott Tom and those immediately surrounding him at the top of the AP operational heirarchy.

CantStayQuietAnymo added this in his recent post:

"Now what does all this mean? Were 2 fratboys hopping islands superusing the (sh)it out of customers. Or was their only one person traveling alone using two computers to commit the crime. The latter is my guess."

He'd guess the latter? I wouldn't. The cumulative timestamps indicate that it might very well indeed have been two fratboys island-hopping and superusing the shit out of customers, with or without AJ Green's contributions, at least in the days immediately prior to the Potripper affair.

More on the plane crash later.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Just Conjecturin', Volume 21: Graycat the Traveler

Every once in a while the news peppers us with one of those feel-good stories about a cat that goes off on unintended journey of thousands of miles, hitching a ride in an airplane's cargo hold or climbing up inside a nice, warm engine compartment of an auto, only to wake up and start mewling a couple of time zones away.

Famed Absolute Poker house cheating account Greycat did that, too, seemingly, as did PotRipper. Since they'd resurfaced in different form in a recent thread on 2+2, I wanted to return to some of the information I first published regarding Graycat, Potripper, Doubledrag and the other cheating accounts, as published back in Conjecturin' 11 and 15. These images verify what's recently been published there.

Again, here's part of how Graycat traveled throughout Latin America and the Caribbean during the main cheating period. Clicking on them shows the larger version:





And here's similar for PotRipper:



Now, I can't yet find the related posts, but when the story first broke and AP peddled their original cover-up press releases, one of the tales being floated about supposed mastermind AJ Green (Alan Grimard) was that he was house-sitting at Scott Tom's Costa Rica house, thereby also attempting to explain away how the key IP residence was traced to Tom's residential address. If someone can point me to those posts or has reason to correct my memory, please contact me and I'll be happy to add it in here.

As with AP's claim about no cheating funds ever leaving the site, the evidence suggests the contrary about the whole "house sitting" tale. The reports I've heard are that AJ was one of the high-level office/operations managers, not the one doing all the traveling (even if he did some), though if an Interpol-type investigation ever dug into those Castries, St. Lucia resort registrations for the period in question, we'd know for sure, not that that's likely to happen. There aren't a lot of hotels and such there, just three or four, the largest of which seems to be the Sandals Regency complex.

About AJ Green: While it seems as though several top-level AP people were involved with participating and/or covering up the AP cheating shenanigans, AJ stands out because he's not a shareholder, to the best of my knowledge. That made him the logical choice to take the public heat, since when the fire's big enough, someone always has to get burned. There's a reasonable chance that he was paid a good chunk for doing so and was shuffled off to a parallel position with another AP division or connected company, perhaps also alleviating some of the antagonism between AJ and Costa Rican office statements that also surfaced at the time. Statements that I have received support the possibility that AJ, as with Scott Tom, remains firmly ensconced within the AP/Cereus family and related operations.

Graycat, as previously shown in this post, was an AP house account. It was originally Phil Tom's account, though Scott Tom has been reported to have used it at length as well. Phil had (perhaps still has) two cats, a gray one and a black one. They were named Graycat and Blackcat, respectively. Queue up the mouse jokes, everyone.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Just Conjecturin', Volume 20: The Carpenter Connection

It's been a while since I wrote about the Absolute Poker cheating scandal, but as I return from a brief hiatus today that seems like a good place to resume. Sometimes it's best to wait to see the effects that certain other releases of information have caused, and several factions connected to the whole that is Cereus continue their machinations behind the scenes. Some day, perhaps, I'll create a visual representation of all the companies involved, to better illustrate how the interlocking pieces of these entities have fit together over time.

Nothing so grandiose today, however. Just a specific publishing of information, the first of many on a handful of related topics. Remember the details behind the infamous "PotRipper" hand history, which I delved into back in Volume 12 of this perhaps neverending tale? That went into how Absolute Poker CEO Scott Tom was tied to one of the cheating accounts. But what I did not know at the time was that the other cheating account inextricably linked to the PotRipper affair was also tied to a very real person.

That account was "coffb@msn.com". I originally allowed some leeway concerning the address, thinking it perhaps a made-up or disused account, but that turned out to not be the case. As you can see from the below screen grab (reprised here from Conjecturin' Vol. 12), it was the coffb@msn.com account which carried the significantly low account number, 363. That low number suggested that this account dated from the very earliest days of AP, and was perhaps even used during testing before the site itself went live. Again, here were the key accounts hiding within CrazyMarco's PotRipper hand-history spreadsheet:



So who was this coffb@msn.com person? Other evidence and e-mails now in my possession confirm that the coffb@msn.com account belongs to someone heretofore unmentioned in connection to the AP scandal, Brian Coffey. Coffey is a minor AP shareholder, owning 30,000 shares, and has deep ties to the core owners and founders of the company. Coffey is a carpenter / general contractor by trade, and there will be more on him and his AP connections in future posts. A quick screen grab from a document showing Coffey's minor ownership stake, edited from a list of hundreds of other AP ownership entities:



* * * * * *

Before publishing this, I sent it off to Brian Coffey for comment, as I have been able to discern contact information for many AP individuals. Coffey's response follows, which I will reprint verbatim here, including his confirmation of his connection with this account. In addition, I have received statements from other people affiliated with AP regarding these matters; some of what Coffey states is confirmed by these other statements, while other areas remain a source of contradiction and continue to be investigated.

Coffey's response:

Hi Haley,

I have read your article and was the owner of that account. I have been a friend of Phil Tom, Scott's father, for about 25 years. I also oversaw some construction work for him in the past. A few years back I was hired by Scott to manage a construction project at his house in CR. I stayed at his house frequently, played online tournaments on AP, and did receive transfers of money into my account for some of the construction expenses. Later, I learned of the cheating scandal that happened at AP and that my account was apparently linked to the cheating.

I have never been happy with the explanations I got but I do know that both Scott and AJ had access to my computer and account. I understand that AJ confessed to being the cheater and that both he and Scott no longer work for the company.

I am very upset that my name was dragged into this mess and I'm sorry if I don't know much that can be of assistance.

Sincerely,

Brian

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Just Conjecturin', Vol. 19: The Real Problem with the UB Hand Histories

Sorry for the bloggus interruptus, folks, but between the part-time gig and an emergency family trip to Wisconsin for ten days in mid-June, this stuff had to take a back seat. I also wanted to give Chops at Wicked Chops Poker a chance to publish Part 1 of his planned series on the UltimateBet scandal, and that was interesting, if a bit of an empty tease. Here's hoping there's more to come in future posts.

As I expected would happen back in April or May, the interference factor over at 2+2 has increased due to a couple of nasty trolls, one of whom seems to have intentionally sabotaged some of Chops' efforts in trying to speak to former and current UB employees. It's a shame that some people don't realize that the proper way to investigate a story is to listen to everyone, whether that person is presumed, innocent, guilty, insane or whatever, then compare the stories one receives and explore the differences therein. Unfortunately the tale behind the scandals is almost too big; too many people have things to hide, and thus efforts by good writers to explore the tale honestly are being messed with by people with hidden agendas.

But please don't feed the trolls, folks. I've done a little bit of that but am swearing off everything in that area except the exposing of lies, which unfortunately has to be done. Think about why the trolls might be doing what they're doing, and keep an open mind to all possibilities. Don't exclude the chance that certain factions involved in the behind-the-scenes struggles involving Cereus and its earlier component companies might even be willing to self-administer a flesh wound or two to throw others off the correct path. It's all quite Machiavellian, and it pays to keep that in mind as one attempts to learn from the unfolding saga, but all that is grist for a future post.

This time, it's back to those confounded, messy hand histories that UB sent out over the past several months in response to ongoing requests and complaints from players. The problem was that the hand histories were all but incomprehensible, often broken down into files that contained individual hands, rendered in Notepad file format. Barry Greenstein, one of the better souls in poker, posted the HH's that he received here, and many months ago I did some digging around in those files to see what I could find, first deciphering the formats and then trying to find instances of shady play.

The first part I accomplished pretty well, the second part not so much. It was only after I made the attempt to find "cheating" hands that the poker world learned that the UB hand-history batches that were sent out were pre-edited; the powers that be at Cereus had only included hands where the already-identified hands gave action against the players requesting the hand histories. And in Barry's case, he had not received a refund, meaning that the possible cheating hands were nothing more than... oddly played hands.

This was probably the same conundrum that a former WSOP world champion not affiliated with UB encountered when he agreed to examine thousands of possible cheating hands in conjunction with settlement talks between the current and former owners of UB. Except for the most obvious forms of cheating, such as when a cheater's K-K is folded to another player's A-A pre-flop or when a ridiculous bluff or call of a bluff is made (such as what happened at the end of the infamous PotRipper tourney), a lot of supposed cheating is indistinguishable from the variance in playing styles that is the hallmark of poker. It takes long-term patterns and unusual win rates to determine more subtle forms of cheating, and it's possible that outside of an internal expose, the methods undertaken by Michael Josem and others might have been the only viable way to uncover the cheating seen in the UB scandal.

But about those UB hand histories: Why exactly are they so messed up, so useless for any real analysis?

Given that Cereus has shown no interest in sending out complete hand histories for the affected players, one has to dig further. Company officials have floated claims that the older hand histories are on a different server, in another format, and are just generally difficult to access. It's been reported to me that UltimateBet's first few years of hand histories were saved in MySQL format, and that they ported over to Oracle in 2005 or 2006, but for programmer Uri Kozai to be able to access all supposed cheating hands in the 2003-07 time frame and derive a financial solution to the supposed cheating based on net wins and losses by the known cheating accounts, the company was clearly able to combine all hand histories into a coherent whole for examination.

And yet that ability seems to have disappeared when the players want their complete hand histories? Sorry, that one doesn't fly, despite the general incompetence demonstrated by Cereus's technical and support staff in recent months.

Let's assume a different starting line. Let's begin with the wholly plausible argument that Cereus could send out complete hand histories to players, but they just don't want to. Is there any evidence to support this hypothesis?

Yes. In this video interview, no less an UltimateBet persona than Annie Duke stated that publicly-named-as-cheater Russ Hamilton had 88 accounts at UB, as pointed out by 2+2 supermod Kevmath in this thread.

If one assumes that Duke's "88 accounts" story regarding Hamilton is true -- and it jives with what's been alleged to me by other sources -- then there's a ready-made explanation for why the hand histories as sent out are fractured and incomplete. Only 23 accounts and over 100 screen names, including multiple name changes, were identified. Most of those, but not all, have been traced to Russ, but even if every single one of those was a Russ account, it still leaves as many as 65 Russ Hamilton-controlled accounts that are unnamed and unaccounted for.

While it's possible that none of these other accounts were involved in the cheating, it's more likely that at least some of them were. Cereus probably did locate the largest among the cheating accounts, the ones that would be most likely to be uncovered by cheated players' analysis, but Hamilton by all reports did not provide the account names, the same way his share holdings had to be forcibly seized. In addition, Cereus and the KGC have provided no evidence that they investigated any accounts beyond those named within player complaints, nor did they submit to a truly independent audit, claims to the contrary notwithstanding.

Therefore, it's likely that hundreds of thousands or a few millions more in cheating went undiscovered when compared to the numbers officially released. Don't forget to add in the fact that the methodology used in determining refunds accounted only for action given between players and cheating accounts, and had no way to account for action wrongfully denied, as in the made-up K-K versus A-A example above. As massive as the total cheating amount was, it was almost surely underestimated.

And that returns us back to the bollixed hand histories. The real reason they're messed up is because Cereus likely does not want players looking at additional hands where some of these other still-hidden accounts may have played. A settlement between the new and old ownership groups was already reached, additional shares belonging to three others besides Hamilton were forfeited, and there's no way for the cash-strapped "new" Cereus to go back for a second helping of settlement funding. Given the other financial struggles and massive debt load Cereus faces, there's no way they can afford the risk of additional millions in refunds themselves.

The corporate answer, then, is just to obfuscate. Joe Sebok's good-faith efforts notwithstanding -- and despite my disagreement with his choices, he still did what he did in signing with Cereus in good faith -- I expect we'll see a fire engulf the MIT server farm before full UB hand histories ever see the light of day. Joe's efforts in that regard were fruitless and frivolous; he technically achieved his goal of getting out the hand histories... but not really. That's the sad and the short of it.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Holloway Killing Suspect at LAPT Peru?

I just caught this on the Yahoo! newswire, via an AP feed:

[By FRANKLIN BRICENO, Associated Press Writer Franklin Briceno, Associated Press Writer]

LIMA, Peru – A young Dutchman previously arrested in the 2005 disappearance of Alabama teen Natalee Holloway is the prime suspect in a weekend murder of a Peruvian woman, police said Wednesday.

Joran van der Sloot is being sought in the Sunday killing of 21-year-old Stephany Flores in a Lima hotel, Criminal police chief Gen. Cesar Guardia told a news conference. He said the suspect fled the country the next day by land to Chile.

The Dutch government said Interpol has issued an international arrest warrant for Van der Sloot.

Guardia said the 22-year-old Dutchman, who was in the country for a poker tournament, appears with the young woman in a video taken at a Lima casino early Sunday....


I'm gonna guess the guy was a no-show for the tourney if this is true. Maybe Otis or Shamus can check it out?

Friday, May 28, 2010

Just Conjecturin', Volume 18: Fakes a-Plenty Among the KGC 31

I'm jumbling my planned order of posts this fine Friday morning to address the news that Wicked Chops Poker is planning on releasing what is believed to be a partial list of 15 names/accounts associated with the online poker cheating scandal at UltimateBet spanning several years last decade. In its laughable "official" final report, the Kahnawake Gaming Commission cited Russ Hamilton as the chief perpetrator, and claimed there were 31 other people involved, without naming any of them. It was suspicious, to say the least, that the KGC would neither name the 31 nor provide any evidence to back up its claim that it had provided the list to law-enforcement authorities.

In the early part of 2010, a partial list containing 15 accounts was leaked out from Cereus. This leak was also suspicious, though an investigation into the accounts listed therein, done by me, showed that the accounts themselves were very real and were indeed part of the cheating scandal. I obtained this list just a couple of weeks ago. This may be the list WCP is planning on releasing, or they may have since then obtained a more complete list via the same source, due directly to the pressure I've been exerting.

The 15 accounts include 14 separate names, with one name (a real person very close to Russ Hamilton) being listed on two different accounts, but with different addresses and the addition of a middle initial in one of the names. The list does include either three or four real people, but the huge problem here is that most of this list is fakes: fake accounts with made-up names or phony addresses allegedly created at Russ Hamilton's behest, later to be used by Hamilton in the cheating.

Today it's time to publish the fakes, noting that all these names are supposed to have been included on the Kahnawake Gaming Commission's official list of 31 people connected to the cheating. The fact that many of these fakes are obvious casts even more suspicion on both the source of the leak and the KGC itself, since either, with even a modicum of effort, could have deduced the fakes and eliminated them from the list. (Or, conversely, published them with a grand proclamation of how things were being done in regard to the scandal.)

So here are the ten fakes:

Bill Gordon

User Id – 40018
Address: 1221 windbrook San Diego, California
Tele - No Number
Undetermined – 1221 is an invalid street number, but 11221 would be legit, no zip.

This is a play-money account, perhaps even of a real person, that was converted into a cheating account internally at a later date. All such low-ID accounts on the KGC list are of similar origin.


James Brunson

User Id - 966687
Address: 1444 Wagner Las Vegas, NEVADA 89134
Tele - No Number
Fake address (would be in the middle of I-15), wrong zip for street

Confirmed fake. If you’re going to have a lot of fakes, you may as well toss a “Brunson” in there for verisimilitude, right?


Jason Plunto

User Id - 1676953
Address: 2480 W. 99th Chicago, ILLINOIS 60402
Tele – No Number

Confirmed fake. Google sat maps show a house at this general location, but “Plunto” does not appear as a name in all of Chicago white listings and the houses in this vicinity front on a side street.


Frank Dursley

User Id - 1676958
Address: 2549 Maple Humeston, IOWA 50123
Tele - No Number

Fake address , confirmed fake


Rufus Black

User Id – 2422566
Address: 73 W 53rd Biloxi, MISSISSIPPI 39530
Tele - No Number

Confirmed fake.


Carol Plizga

User Id - 2510148
Address: 7006 grouse road las vegas, NEVADA 89134
Tele – 7023969970

Probable fake – Grouse St. (not "Road") w/ same zip code exists, but numeric addresses not in same range


Jason DelMonte

User Id – 2561615
Address: 78 Grainger Rd Evanston, ILLINOIS 60427
Tele - No Number
Fake address – zip wrong for Evanston, no such road

Confirmed fake


Thomas King

User Id - 2561621
Address: 301 Appleton Miami, FLORIDA 10234
Tele - No Number
Fake zip, fake street

Confirmed fake


Eli Argo

User Id - 2561631
Address: 604 e 23rd st grand rapids, MICHIGAN 70469
Tele - No Number
Fake address, fake zip

Confirmed fake


Spencer Price

User Id - 2641649
Address: 4044 Billings Canton, COLORADO 11111
Tele - No Number
False zip code, Canton, Co barely exists, and roads are numeric county roads

Confirmed fake

* * * * *

These are presented in ID # order for a reason. Notice the tight grouping associated with some of these IDs:

Jason Plunto: 1676953
Frank Dursley: 1676958

Jason DelMonte: 2561615
Thomas King: 2561621
Eli Argo: 2561631

It's no coincidence. These accounts were almost certainly created during two sessions when multiple accounts were being created via Hamilton's directives, and accounts near to these in numeric order could easily be checked to see if more fakes are unearthed. One they'll find for sure is the "Dan Francis" account associated with "ShaqTack" and others, which numerically fits right in with the Plunto/Dursley run:



The Francis grab comes from a 2+2 poster who saved the original "brainwashdodo" screen grabs; I'd love to acknowledge him but I cannot find his message this morning. (Contact me, please.) How the Francis account was missed or not included within the above list of 14-15 names remains beyond me, but it has been alleged to me that many fake accounts used in the cheating have not even been uncovered, and I now believe this claim. Again, it calls into question both the motives of the person who leaked the list and the laughable way in which the KGC report was constructed and presented to the public. It is true that most of the dollar value in cheating attributed to the fakes is probably accounted for by the names in this list, but the fact that the list itself is both so blatantly stuffed with the fakes and so obviously flawed makes its origins and motives suspect.

I'd love to see WCP release the full 31-name list next week, if indeed they have it; they may not. They can release the four real names on this list if they wish, or I can do it at a later date. I'm still researching to see if (a) all four are indeed real, and (b) exactly what benefit(s) they may have received from the cheating.

I know of approximately ten more of the real people who are supposed to be on the full KGC list of 31, but it is likely that the list will be as much a tool of business and political convenience as it is an attempt to get to the truth, and the complete list may well contain parties guilty of the cheating, parties guilty of other things, and perhaps even an innocent party or two.

And of course, it has parties that don't even exist. You now know about these.

(I hereby give permission for the list of ten accounts above and the Dan Francis screen grab to be distributed freely. -- HLH)

* * * *

P.S.: Phil Hellmuth is innocent in the cheating. He remained clueless about the entire scandal until it blew up behind his back, and to the best of my knowledge he still doesn't know jack about what really transpired. Has he been a silly frontman still looking to make a buck off his name? Sure, but that's just Phil.

* * * *

P.P.S.: Okay, so I can't count late at night after working all day. This is Volume 18, not 17. Any bets that the over/under on this series tops 40?

Friday, May 21, 2010

Just Conjecturin', Volume 17: The Real Story of the UltimateBet Refunds

By the time all was officially said and done in the UltimateBet scandal, two waves of refunds had been issued, for a combined total of over $22 million. That number alone is staggering, and the exact number of players to whom refunds were issued has never been released. It was, by any definition, an industry-changing episode.

How the $22 million amount was determined and how it was distributed to cheated players is something that's been answered only in overly general, often inadequate terms. The more specific answer begins with a court deposition given by onetime UB programmer Uri Kozai, who was the man finally tasked with developing a refund method for players after other options fell through. Despite being a programmer (and therefore automatically being cast under the general net of suspicion surrounding the UltimateBet affair), Kozai appears to have had no connection to the cheating itself. [Kozai does remain connected to secondary firms still pursuing interests related to Cereus and the old Excapsa matters, and is of course among the many Excapsa shareholders outed through the efforts of a major Excapsa executive seeking leverage, back in the day.]

The cheating, more specifically the surreptitious code that allowed its users to spy on other players' hole cards in real time, was known internally as "God Mode", not the more official-sounding "AuditMonster1" and "AuditMonster2" tags listed in the final Kahnawake Gaming Commission report.

Not only did the hidden God Mode exist long before Kozai entered the scene, but Kozai himself was reported to be "livid" after being clued in as to the code's secret location. Kozai was tipped off, allegedly, by legal counsel to one of the other UB parties ensnared in the affair, this as pressure from the outside for a complete explanation continued to mount.

Ever more cheating accounts were uncovered and the amount needing to be refunded grew and grew, and this was the crux of the $81 million lawsuit filed by official purchaser Blast-Off Limited against Excapsa, the original UB owners, on the basis of Blast-Off having purchased "damaged goods". One round of refunds totaling about $7 million had already been issued, though that was clearly inadequate in the face of additional uncovered cheating accounts.

The scandal's scope grew ever wider, and as the larger second wave of accounts was acknowledged, the span of time that the cheating included was stretched back all the way to 2003. The $22 million was a very real number as estimated by Kozai, based on his examination of the suspect accounts, and is likely the exact figure Kozai himself listed in his deposition in the Blast-Off/Excapsa battle. The deposition is buried deep within the many documents connected to the liquidation of Excapsa. The figure within Kozai's deposition suggesting the total refunds needed was redacted from publicly available documents, meaning it might not match to the penny the $22 million that was refunded, but since Kozai's figures were those used both to compute the refunds and to resolve the "damaged goods" legal battle between Blast-Off and Excapsa, the two can be presumed to match.

In one light, one could say that the $22 million returned over both rounds of refunds was an honest, good-faith effort to compensate all the cheated players -- not forgetting, of course, that Blast-Off expected Excapsa's shareholders to pay for it. [As it turned out, an additional 24 million shares of Excapsa stock were annulled as part of the final legal deal. The owners of those shares and the annulment's relationship to the earlier, more publicized stock forfeiture connected to Russ Hamilton is a topic for a future post.]

In another light, however, one could also say that the whole $22 million in refunds was a giant, approximately-shaped band-aid slapped on the scandal in the hopes that it was enough to make the pressure go away. Not quite a sham, but not quite true, either. It's best described as a desperate measure employed to give all the shareholders -- on both sides -- at least the chance to move forward and continuing collecting revenue from players.

The real story is this: Despite the enormity of the amount refunded, the individual refunds could not possibly be correct, in whole in or in part, and there is likely no affected player who ever received the exact refund that he should have received. Many players received nothing or not enough, while there must be others who received too much.

Kozai's formula involved looking at the net long-term profit of each of the cheating accounts known at that time, adding those accounts' profits together -- which is where the $22 million figure came from. The matching funds, thus secured, were then distributed on a flat-line percentage basis to all player accounts that showed a net loss in action against those cheating accounts.

Kozai's method, as mentioned, was a last resort, and it involved no specific analysis of the hands themselves. It was utterly impossible for Cereus to determine what hands involved cheating by a God Mode-using account, and what hands didn't which isn't to say they didn't try. Cereus even enlisted the help of a World Series of Poker Main Event world champion -- one not named "Hamilton" or "Hellmuth" -- who looked at thousands of hands and finally gave it up as a lost cause. At that point there was nothing left to do but use Kozai's calculations.

So why was it impossible to go back into the records and determine more specifically who was cheated, when, and for how much? Because of this: The God Mode tool was written early on in UB's history, and it was written in such a way that it stood outside of UB's standard cache of auditing tools. Neither UltimateBet in the days before the merger with AP, nor Cereus today, have ever had any capability to track exactly when God Mode was being used. Worse, there were accounts that were used both for cheating and for innocent, straight-up play, and the real play and the cheating play within these accounts were intertwined over months, even years of action. The end result was a morass that defeated all detailed attempts at a hand-by-hand or session-by-session reckoning of the affair.

Players who still hope to receive a to-the-penny accounting of the cheating that took place at their tables will be perpetually disappointed, because no such accounting is possible. Cereus COO Paul Leggett stated, in a recent interview, "[E]verybody got every penny back...." While a huge amount of money was refunded, the fact that the God Mode play could not be tracked internally makes Leggett's statement a frivolous claim. Other factors weaken the claim even more, including the probable existence of additional cheating accounts never included in the calculations, along with entire secondary cheating episodes not acknowledged to date.

Next time out it's a re-visit to the topic of the hand histories provided to cheated UB players.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Just Conjecturin', Volume 16: The Curious Case of 'brainwashdodo'

"Dodo is a former UB employee. He was a $4 hr CS agent with a brain. He knew he had the goods to blackmail. He went to AP first and they said so what. Go tell. They didn't realize what he had. He is being paid off now, which is why you haven't seen any more." -- Source withheld

One of the most intriguing episodes in the annals of the UltimateBet scandal was the appearance on the 2+2 poker forums in late 2007 of a poster named "brainwashdodo", a poster who shared, via screengrabs and anecdotal tales, a tantalizing helping of inside information connected to the cheating. Information posted by brainwashdodo at the time was vital to the wronged poker players' investigative efforts in covering some of the user accounts and possible money trails used in the scandal, and in fact directly contributed to the uncovering of Russ Hamilton himself. Hamilton may well have been outed via other lines of inquiry that were also underway at the time, but the information brainwashdodo provided all but removed any doubt in the matter.

What was perhaps most intriguing, however, was that brainwashdodo himself disappeared from the scene, as abruptly as he first appeared. Even stranger was that many of the screen grabs this poster served up on a file-sharing service were quickly deleted as well, leading onlookers to question brainwashdodo's motives in posting about the matter in the first place. Brainwashdodo posted 14 times between June 30 and July 8, 2008, disappeared for almost five months, then served up three more quick posts on December 2, 2008 before vanishing forever into the electronic ether.

Here's a quick visual overview of brainwashdodo's posting history on 2+2. [While the forum's owners retain proprietary rights to content in its entirety, the nature of this tale involves 2+2 itself, and because there is another part to this, these images fall under "fair use" for editorial purposes.] The list is presented in reverse chronological order (most recent posts at top), and clicking on any of these images should bring up a larger version:







Brainwashdodo's final December posts on 2+2, in fact, were little more than a wish for happy holidays for posters amid what might have been a veiled threat: "Anyway, more cht to hit t fan, will be back tmrw." In a July post, with much more gravitas, brainwashdodo had written this: "Out of curiosity, I have started my own audit within, since I saw no KGC or any other investigator coming or going. All the results will be shared with you soon, a website is coming together." However, Brainwashdodo's first series of posts ceased that very day, and after the no-new-information return in December, brainwashdodo never posted again. The hosted images were long gone as well, with nothing more than unreadable Google thumbnails to hint at the account information that once was opened to all.

It was in those earlier summer posts, of course, that other hard information was presented, with scathing and lengthy account-transfer histories that directly implicated Russ Hamilton at the heart of the cheating scandal and to many of the accounts later included in the Kahnawake Gaming Commission's "official" final report on the matter. Those histories had been posted in text format on 2+2, an independent site, and were thus no longer so easily removed. The transfer and play histories ran many hundreds of lines and included entries such as these, taken from an internal transfer account called "-Fred-", which was allegedly solely controlled by UB employee Fred David, but which was in fact under the direction of one or more top-level UB people, including Russ Hamilton. A second internal transfer account, "-russh-" (standing for Russ H[amilton]) was also directly tied via the -Fred- account to many of the proven and acknowledged cheating accounts, in transactions such as these:

377361587 40000.00 Transfer From -russh- 2006-SEP-03 05:40:03 PM customer req
377269310 -10000.00 Transfer To ShaqTack 2006-SEP-03 04:26:02 PM customer req

33412309 70000.00 Transfer From HeadKase01 2006-MAR-19 02:30:16 PM
31566264 50000.00 Transfer From RussHamilton 2006-MAR-18 04:02:45 PM customer req


The reason the -fred- account was used is that it was already a familiar account internally for high rollers to swap money back and forth for big games. Many of these big players were and are peripherally tied to the scandal despite being wholly innocent of the cheating. Since the -fred- account had lots of high-dollar swaps running through it, it would have served well as camouflage for similar-sized, illegitimate transfers. These transfers to cheating accounts were done amid this larger sea of far more legitimate swaps, which were done to help get big games running. It's possible, perhaps even likely, that the majority of the cheating transfers weren't done through the -fred- account at all, but rather the -russh- one.

These transactions first appeared via brainwashdodo's posts, and brainwashdodo himself disappeared within days, all but without a trace. So what was up with that? The comments in July about doing a personal audit implied a good motive, but the subsequent removal of associated screen grabs and the veiled threat in December -- "Anyway, more cht to hit t fan, will be back tmrw." -- instead lent credence to the blackmail theory, the one since confirmed by a confidential but proven source. It's been alleged to me that brainwashdodo was paid off, for some $80,000, by an important figure long since implicated in the matter. Brainwashdodo has even been reported to have made a second, more recent attempt to obtain additional funds for remaining quiet.

Brainwashdodo's real name has been provided to me, though I'll refrain from publishing it here on the very slim chance (perhaps 1 in 1,000) that the blackmail tale, though reported to me with specific names, was somehow altered along the way. It's not the only such tale to come out of the UB and AP messes, though the others can wait for future telling.

As for brainwashdodo, it's easy enough for a 2+2 owner or moderator to do a quick IP check and verify that the account did indeed post to the forum from somewhere in Costa Rica. This actually wasn't my first guessed location for the account, though I suspected all along the posting was done with less than altruistic motives.

Though the money involved may not seem like much, the brainwashdodo episode deserves a historical footnote. It will likely go down as the first time that a poker forum (2+2) was itself used as a tool of blackmail. Such a revelation should be of interest to 2+2's owners and to interested followers throughout the poker world.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Just Conjecturin', Volume 15: The Graycat File

Last time out, I relayed screen grabs connected to the 2007 cheating incidents at Absolute Poker that confirmed the hypotheses that the primary cheater at AP was Scott Tom and that much of the information contained in official releases, even that issued by the KGC, was incorrect.

I also reported that while cheating accounts such as the infamous "PotRipper" and "doubledrag" were relatively new, the history of known cheating account "graycat" was much older, being an account controlled primarily by Scott Tom and dating back to the early days of AP itself. The following series of images shows the transfer history for the "graycat" account, presented in reverse chronological order, newest to oldest.

A thoughtful examination of this account shows that the cheating may have been the final stage of a much longer process of losing control. While the large transfers to fellow cheating accounts "payup" on 8/20/07 and "doubledrag" on 9/02/07 are further evidence of the interrelated nature of these accounts, they're far from the only curious transactions. One can presume, that the money transferred in came from some internal AP general-funds account, which makes the many in-transfers noted as "overlay reduction" seem odd: Why would an overlay reduction involve transferring funds from a general account into a private one, even one controlled by a top management player? (Update: one possible explanation has been offered by a blog commenter.)

Also curious is the single transaction marked as an affiliate transfer; it could certainly be a legitimate transaction, but its timing (during the 2007 WSOP) and solo nature could've raised at least a red flag to double-check for any accounting-style inquiries.

In any event, the images speak for themselves:








Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Just Conjecturin', Volume 14: More Snared Images from Absolute

When last we left the topic of Absolute Poker's 2007 scandal, readers were presented a handful of screen grabs obtained from internal 'ieSnare' glimpses of account activity. The capability to these ieSnares originated on AP's sister site, UltimateBet, and when the two sites were merged the ieSnare software was adapted to detect fraud on both sides of what would become the present-day Cereus.

This time we return to two more of the top-level images of cheating accounts, to hammer home the point that there was a coordinated, perhaps even frantic cover-up of the cheating taking place at AP in the days immediately following the PotRipper tourney in September in 2007. Weeks of denials and cover stories followed, until the company finally conceded to the statistical evidence demonstrated in Michael Josem's won-loss charts and acknowledged the affair. But as to responsibility, disinformation has been disseminated for weeks, months, even years. It's high time it stopped.

Presented next is the account overview for "doubledrag", another acknowledged cheating account. Here's the snared image:


(Larger version of image available at http://img220.imageshack.us/img220/764/doubledragacctinfo.jpg)

Included just in that are: Another warning to general customer-service workers to not touch the account on the orders of management; a couple of irate calls from customers about the doubledrag cheating; and the September 17, 2007 closure of the account itself, by "AJ" -- referring to AJ Green, the member of the inner circle who took the hit when the bus of public opinion had to run over somebody. The cover-up, however, clearly extended across top management. The following image shows that when the doubledrag account was shut down, some $34,000 had been pulled back from the account:


(Larger version of image available at http://img443.imageshack.us/img443/8485/doubledragacctbals.jpg)

Remember that the Potripper account was blacklisted at the same time:


(Larger version of image available at http://img80.imageshack.us/img80/3180/scottom6.jpg)

And then there was "graycat" (a reference, I've been told, to Phil Tom's cat). First comes the overview, another one that features AP's own customer-service number in the phone field, along with plenty of other phony information:


(Larger version of image available at http://img443.imageshack.us/img443/9256/graycat1.jpg)

Here's the account balances overview, showing the final adjusted cash after certain adjustments had been made, leaving a nice round $15,000:


(Larger version of image available at http://img153.imageshack.us/img153/3910/graycat3.jpg)

The problem, though, was that graycat was an older and well known account, prompting another probe into the details of graycat's then-recent history. Here's what another glimpse into the graycat transaction file provided:


(Larger version of image available at http://img153.imageshack.us/img153/3910/graycat3.jpg)

There was another blacklisting and forced withdrawal on this account, with the funds moved off into the online wallet service ePassporte, to the account "SPTOM", likely short for Scott Philip Tom, his full name. That withdrawal went through on late 9/16 or early 9/17 (the screens likely track different aspects of the transaction) but was tied to the 9/16 blacklisting. Then, later on 9/17, a second withdrawal or series of withdrawals was denied, per AJ Green's (Allan Grimard's) request.

However, it's a secondary look into the transactions file of graycat that offers a clearer glimpse into that last tangle of transactions:


(Larger version of image available at http://img404.imageshack.us/img404/7961/graycat4.jpg)

The image indicates that a majority ($150,000) of the money that was in the account was moved off the site, with a smaller amount -- a bit over $30,000 -- remaining when the account was blacklisted. Again, published claims that no money left the site are false and are a further indicator of the larger cover-up.

At some point, $15,000 remained in the account, when the earlier screen was snared. It's important to note that as of 9/17, graycat was one of only several accounts under suspicion, and denials were still the order of the day. It would be several more weeks before even the most generalized admissions of insider cheating were acknowledged.

Still, it may have been necessary to keep the graycat account functioning, since it was an important house account at Absolute. Next time out, a historical look at graycat, the little house account that could.

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Just Conjecturin', Volume 13: Absolute and the Snared Screen Names

In its official report of January 18th, 2008, the Kahnawake Gaming Commmission identified seven accounts that were connected to the online cheating at Absolute Poker during August and September of 2007. According to that report, these were the cheating accounts:

GRAYCAT
PAYUP
STEAMROLLER
POTRIPPER
XXCASHMONEYXX also known as SUPERCARDM55
DOUBLEDRAG
RONFALDOXXB also known as ROMNALDO

Each of these accounts, per the KGC's report, was directly and inextricably tied to the cheating through analysis of hand histories, including impossible win rates and blatant chip-dumping between the accounts. The problem, though, is that no outsider truly knows how much other cheating might have occurred. The KGC, elsewhere in the same report, admitted that other gaming logs had been intentionally destroyed.

Meanwhile, the vaunted ieSnare software program implemented by ieLogic at UltimateBet as an anti-fraud detection tool had also been in use at Absolute Poker. One aspect of ieSnare's capabilities, as it was represented to me, was shown in the first handful of screen grabs presented two posts back. Another was the program's capability to develop more complex inter-relational matrices between various accounts, and thus fine-tune the connections between these accounts. ieSnare's capabilities were highly touted in a number of industry pieces, and indeed, the software was an effective anti-fraud tool.

As generalized earlier, a snare of the PotRipper cheating account at Absolute was done sometime shortly after it became the focus of attention, and it indeed showed connections to other cheating accounts. However, the list snared as directly associational to PotRipper and the list of cheating accounts published by the KGC differ a bit. Here's what the PotRipper ieSnare seems to have shown:





(Larger versions of images also available at http://img100.imageshack.us/img100/339/potrippersnare1.jpg and http://img98.imageshack.us/img98/3340/potrippersnare2.jpg)

Clearly, those account names present in the PotRipper snare but absent from the KGC list would be the logical targets into any further investigations. (One additional account from the lengthy list below, "baller", shows a high correlation to each of the other known cheating accounts and should also be upgraded for additional scrutiny.)

The PotRipper account, however, had a very brief lifespan as an AP account, as previously shown in that earlier post. Another of the cheating accounts, "doubledrag", was similarly short-lived. By comparison, cheating accounts "graycat" and "steamroller" existed for much longer, and as a result, generated their own longer lists of associated devices and accounts when those screen names were similarly snared.

It's one of those open-ended questions one must ponder when considering candidates for other possible cheating accounts. The farther one chases down a given tree branch, the less likely any single link would be to be involved in the scandal, yet it seems first-level associations with known cheating accounts beg for more detailed investigation. That list is quite extensive, even if most or all of the new screen names presented below may turn out to be uninvolved in the cheating itself.

However, when one combines the direct device-usage correlations between PotRipper, PotChopper, graycat and steamroller against all directly associated accounts, as many as 147 other AP account screen names emerge. Showing complete imagery for all of these snares and screen names would kill this post's readability, but I'll upload the images for public scrutiny as opportunity arises. Here's a sample or two, though, to illustrate the snares' existence:




(Larger version of images also available at http://img594.imageshack.us/img594/4827/graycatassoc1.jpg and http://img594.imageshack.us/img594/8228/steamrollerassoc1.jpg)

While many of these accounts were likely used for testing purposes, or are innocent altogether, it's possible that some among these may have had illicit use in either known or unknown cheating affairs or related chip-dumping, hence their inclusion here. The total list of accounts meriting examination is closer to 150 than 10, including both the screen names already acknowledged by the KGC and a handful of probable duplicates in this list, likely caused by system-data mismatches in processing capitalized and uncapitalized letters. With those duplicates accounted for and that original KGC list added in, it's around 145 or 150 screen names, all told. Readers can sift it if desired.

Again, note that the inclusion of a screen name on this list that follows does not necessarily mean that the account was used for cheating. One such account bearing special mention is the "chairman" entry, which has been alleged to me to be associated with Scott Tom's father, Phil, who has in turn been alleged to be a primary investor at AP's inception. The inclusion of such an account in the ieSnare may have been caused through something as simple as a log-on from a different computer, but the account was snared, nonetheless, in both lower-case and ALL CAPS versions. To repeat, inclusion here does not necessarily equal cheating; inclusion is merely an indicator of an account probably needing another look. Likewise, since two of the accounts acknowledged by the KGC to be involved (SUPERCARDM55 and ROMNALDO) are not on the combined list, the ongoing issue of still other accounts possibly used for chip-dumping remains an open question.

One also has to chuckle at the names made up in imitation of many well-known players or real-life people, including "negreanu", "jen harman", "dave barry", "lou kreiger", "ted forrest", "andy beal", "humberto." and "mikemizrachi". All fakes, to the best of my knowledge; these are not connected to the real players of similar name. Poor Lou, his name wasn't even spelled right, and I checked with him -- he's never played on AP anyway.

Anyway, here's the list:

(KGC entries)

GRAYCAT
PAYUP
STEAMROLLER
POTRIPPER
XXCASHMONEYXX also known as SUPERCARDM55
DOUBLEDRAG
RONFALDOXXB also known as ROMNALDO

Additional ieSnare entries:

PotChopper

sox
chairman
annaash2day
STEAMROLLER (ALL CAPS version)
pmckenna

chickenliver
cashslasher
innocoman4009
fatraiser
billznik

chipripper
philskitten
CHAIRMAN
ANNAASH2DAY
happy chappy

innocoman4025
slapchipstac
chipslammer
baller
leroy

SOX
ramramram
potsmasher
playonap
mikemizrachi

wowowaj
goodfella
busta
drhuynh
biggtime

db9007
doubledrag
p0kerher0
gballerbcp
BALLER

vegasballer1
eddognj
bigwwoorrmm
negreanu
benmag

rivergod
innocoman4003
paraglider
ari179
astro179

kaisersoze
dave barry
guinndexter
kirgo
lister

kyle gass
heinlein
jenharman
a
xxx

lita
its on!!!
up with ap!
apupgpdn
guinn

abdullah
school of glen
gphunter
pfhamilton
ohhh snap!

kill me!
alcoholicaa
bj03
bj010
heduzhavit!

ap fan
room watcher
please sir!
gosh!
omahamaster

zenmaster.
stevesux
diego$5
humberto.
ohhhsnap!

gotmy$20gian
theshadow
APFAN
OHHHSNAP!
THESHADOW

crtchsnfr-->
h20-u-up-2
dave barry^
^%$(&%(*
roomwatcher

dexter.
trnydirector
super grover
come on!!
otchbay

andy beal
lou kreiger
a.e. neuman
nice catch
bountysteve

takeshi.
omahalic
miltonwaddam
poker
what the%&*#

steve...$50?
x
q-bert
ohhhhsnap
diestevedie

let's see
on tilt
oy vay
dubyaisgay
sigh!

no mrniceguy
rainmaker.
imsum1sbich
ivey who?
good grief!

iq at zero
hotty
BIGPIMPIN
ted forrest
apbj01

bigpimpin
blackbetty1
durden1
DONBROAF
jannelle2

goalballer
ramcharger
ballznmouf
onlinefun
innocoman4015

bj014
bcpballer2
brentdotnet
asman
innocoman4001

innocoman4011
panama red
1dollarbill
scheissenein
VEGASBALLER1

GBALLERBCP
chestr0ckwel