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This Week in Online Poker History: September 16th – 23rd

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September 2004: Poker Bots Already Causing Consternation

In recent years poker bots have become increasingly problematic in the poker world as the technology has been improving at a rapid pace, and bots have now been uncovered beating games as high as $1/$2 and $2/$4 No Limit games –check out this recent New York Times article to see just how far they have come and where they are going.

But poker bots are not a new problem at all, as this 2004 NBC article demonstrates.

A quick read through the article shows the overall sentiment of the time –casual players were already pointing to bots as a serious problem, while winning players were only too willing to turn a blind eye to poker bots as they were seen as nothing more than another losing player, as the following quote from the article indicates:

“If I were a player I think I would like to play against a bot. … I would take the bot’s money.”

And that came from the mouth of the General Manager of Party Poker, Vikrant Bhargava! Could you imagine a spokesman for a major online poker site saying something like this today?

It would be disingenuous to argue that bot usage could have been curtailed as long as a decade ago, but it goes without saying that the “small problem” bots posed back in 2004 has become a serious issue in the year 2013.

Here is a timeline of mainstream articles on Poker Bots for anyone interested in seeing their evolution:

September 18, 2008: NBC Runs Story on Ultimate Bet Cheating Scandal

In 2008 the poker community was already knee-deep in two insider cheating scandals; one at Absolute Poker and the other at Ultimate Bet, but the mainstream press took a bit more prodding to investigate the matter. So you can imagine how happy poker players looking for answers and getting stonewalled felt when an in-depth article on the Ultimate Bet Super-User scandal landed on NBCNews.com.

Not long after this article appeared on NBC, 60 Minutes ran their now infamous segment on the Ultimate Bet Super User scandal, and remarkably, another five years on we are still uncovering more information on the depth of the cheating and cover-up that took place.

Also this week in online poker history

September 21, 2011: FTP Ponzi Scheme Allegations First Surface

The Ultimate Bet Super User scandal was the mainstream media’s first real foray into online poker stories, but after April 15, 2011 (Black Friday) the topic of online poker become a mainstay for the press.

Black Friday may have occurred on April 15 but it was in late June that Full Tilt Poker suffered what is known as an “Epic Fail” in Internet parlance, and September when the government expanded their case, adding Howard Lederer, Chris Ferguson, and Rafe Furst to the list of indictees, and this is also when we got the first usage of the term “Ponzi Scheme” in relation to Full Tilt Poker.

Ponzi scheme is such a loaded term that the allegation managed to find its way into just about every media outlet imaginable, including an NPR Radio discussion, in a segment that lasted about 2:30. Don’t expect much in the way of in-depth discussion from the segment though, as the roundtable had what I would call a cursory understanding of the story… Cursory in this case meaning someone handed them Cliff’s Notes of Cliff’s Notes of a press release.

The Ponzi scheme allegation touched off a heated debate in the poker world (which eventually was chalked up to semantics and the difference between the “classical” usage of Ponzi scheme and its new “all-encompassing” usage) and was the point in time that players realized that there was a good chance they would never see their Full Tilt Poker money again –which fortunately did not come to fruition.

Image credit: Leif-K BrooksCC BY-SA 2.0.

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Steve Ruddock
- Steve covers nearly every angle of online poker in his job as a full-time freelance poker writer. His primary focus for OPR is the developing legal and legislative picture for regulated US online poker and gambling.