We’ve recently seen it suggested that there should be a global blacklist for poker cheaters. The idea is good, and we should be working towards a world where cheaters are not only banned from the site they cheated on but from all other online poker sites. Personally, I would also apply the ban to live poker. While the idea is theoretically good, there will be a significant number of practical challenges on the way to making this a reality. Let me talk about a few of them.
Firstly, as we know, poker is played between individuals from all around the world and each country (or jurisdiction within a country) has its own rules and regulations regarding online poker. For example, partypoker’s international.COM network has licences from 14 different regulators. Trying to get a universal set of rules in place will be a legislative mountain in practice but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try, though. An even bigger challenge will be complying with the EU’s GDPR regulation. It may be that due to regulations such as this, that the whole idea is dead in the water before it even starts.
Another challenge that I see could be around setting thresholds regarding “what constitutes as serious enough of an offence to lead to a global ban from poker?”. For example, if you are found to be using RTA or colluding, it’s probably an easy decision, but what about offences such as buttoning or bum-hunting? Bum-hunting isn’t cheating in the same way using RTA is, but it’s still against the terms and conditions on some poker sites. While buttoning and bum-hunting can’t be ignored, I don’t think they are serious enough offences to warrant a global ban. To start with, we’d need to define exactly what constitutes RTA use or bum-hunting before we could even think about moving forward. Not only would this have to be aligned with regulators, but we’d need to get the different poker sites involved and aligned as well.
There is also the possibility of any new system being ‘abused’ by the poker sites themselves. Hypothetically, a poker site could state that a player will be globally banned for reasons specific to that site, such as an individual dispute with that player. As such, you would most likely need an independent third-party governing body overseeing and managing all the submitted bans for the system to be realistic. Whilst a governing body could take care of ensuring each ban is legitimate, and that there is sufficient evidence documented before any bans go live, it would still require a lot of resources to be spent just to oversee any bans, especially from poker sites that lack proper tools and personnel to manage Game Integrity issues.
Similarly, the sad truth is that Game Integrity is not a priority on many poker sites. Many sites lack proper controls even against the main Game Integrity issues such as bot use and collusion. Therefore, the new system could theoretically be exploited by some operators who do not have their own team to handle Game Integrity issues, but they’d just simply be banning any players highlighted by other operators. “Freeloading” such as this should be considered as well while designing the new processes.
Now, obviously the above is me talking mainly about potential issues with very little about potential solutions when implementing a system to prohibit cheaters on all sites. You might be asking what it is that partypoker and Entain* are already doing and what could we do more?
Currently, if you are banned for cheating at poker on the partypoker network, your accounts on all Entain brands are closed. You are also not welcome to any of the live events that partypoker LIVE organises.
We could do more and be proactive when it comes to setting up the proposed process with other operators regarding a universal ban. I did touch upon the subject in a previous blog post and I do think all poker operators (both live and online) should be co-operating regarding this subject and personally, at least I’m ready to contribute to the cause.
I’m looking forward to more discussions around this topic.
Head of Game Integrity – partypoker network
*partypoker is part of Entain Group, which comprises several betting and gaming brands.