The purpose of this blog post is to inform you, the poker enthusiast out there, about the game integrity team working for the partypoker players and about any game integrity-related changes in the network in the recent past.
Background and the important numbers for the past 12 months
I discovered poker in 2004 while serving the mandatory military service in Finland. Episodes about the WSOP Main Event and other live poker events became available. The game attracted me instantly. Math, statistics and card games had always interested me. Like many others, I initially played for fun before realising all the opportunities around poker. Fast track 15 years and 7 million hands of poker later, I am now managing an extremely efficient partypoker poker game integrity team, which includes ex professional poker players, GTO experts, data scientists and programmers, supported by the marketing/management team who wants the partypoker network to be the safest poker site out there.
While partypoker has always had a fraud team, we realised that we needed to do more specifically on poker game integrity related issues. Automated bots and other live assistance tools were getting more advanced and we were not moving fast enough. About 18 months ago we started a journey to address this issue. We expanded the team by hiring the right experts who would be responsible for updating and developing the tools and processes necessary to bring the poker fraud controls to the levels required to combat all forms of unethical behaviour.
12 months ago, we wanted to become more transparent by sharing information about the number of bot accounts we close, the processes we follow when investigating accounts and by giving more detailed feedback when players report suspicious activity. We’ve now reported the bot closure numbers for 12 full months. During these 12 months, we have closed 768 bot accounts and confiscated and subsequently redistributed back to the players almost USD$1.4 million from those closed accounts.
A month-by-month breakdown of the numbers can be found on our Safer Poker page.
What else has changed in the past year?
partypoker “turned off” downloadable hand histories about 6 months ago. In practice, turning off hand histories meant that hand histories were no longer written to players’ hard drives. At the same time, we forced everyone to change their screen names so that no one would have any data on any of their opponents, with the exception of our sponsored pros who kept their screen names. The changes were made to level the playing field, forcing players to decide their action based on the history they have with the opponent, instead of datamined and pre-analysed data that no human could calculate while playing.
Understandably, some players were not happy about the decision to turn off hand histories. The changes meant that players were not able to 1) use third party tools to track their results 2) use third party tools to get information about their opponents (by using a HUD) and 3) analyse, detect and report anyone they found suspicious, based on the poker gameplay statistics.
As someone who used to do all three, I had my reservations about these changes. Using a HUD with complex stats to exploit my opponents was my approach to the game as well. Any player who used stats as part of their strategy would also have learned their relevance and value.
However, as of November 2019, we altered our approach slightly to allow players to once again download hand histories through our in-house poker training tool, MyGame. The hand histories are anonymised to ensure that players are only able to get data on their own game, not on their opponents. We will not be providing any statistics on the opponents a player has played against. Players should rely on their memory and notes on any of their opponents, with statistical data analysis of the opponents’ gameplay prohibited. For the last point (3), I trust that the content of this blog post alleviates some of these concerns.
Live event presence – Caribbean Poker Party & MILLIONS UK
The poker fraud team was present for the duration of the 2019 Caribbean Poker Party in Baha Mar, Nassau, Bahamas. The CPP is one the many stops during partypoker LIVE MILLIONS tour.
While at CPP, we had the pleasure of meeting several of our players, including a number of our regulars who play all different game types. To our delight, most of the players we met were happy with the job that the security team at partypoker are currently doing. Understandably, there were also players who had concerns.
As a team, we found attending this event to be of great benefit to us. One of the hardest things about running a poker fraud team is public perception and being able to meet our players face-to-face and attempt to alleviate any concerns that they may have not only benefits the players themselves but also us as a team. To be able to explain first-hand to players that we genuinely both have the same end goal – to create a fair and safe environment for everyone to play online poker – really provided us with an opportunity to get our point across and it’s something we hope to do regularly going forward.
In January, during the MILLIONS UK in Nottingham, anyone attending the event can come meet the poker fraud team and discuss any topics that may concern you. We’re happy to meet anyone and everyone, low-stakes players or high stakes players, confidentially or with everything on the table, on any topics you wish to discuss. If this is of interest to you, please just ask for a member of the Live team to point you in our direction.
I already shared a little bit of background about myself. I’m not alone as I’ve got a number of experts supporting me in the day to day tasks. As online poker runs 24/7, we are also working 24/7 in four locations around the world to keep the games clean.
For example, the person managing the processes and tools for SNG bot and collusion detection has claimed to me he has played more 6-max turbo SNGs than anyone else in the world (although I have not verified his claims!). The results based on his input have been great and already the majority of collusion cases are detected by the tools he has created.
I’ll be introducing more team members in future posts.
Cooperation between poker operators on poker fraud and game integrity issues
Previously I mentioned that all of us at partypoker want to make the network the safest poker site in the world. While the marketing teams are working hard to get customers to play on partypoker, I’d like to see the poker fraud and game integrity teams of all operators cooperate in the fight against cheaters in the online poker world. I don’t see the poker fraud teams working for other operators a threat nor do I see them as competition.
While we can’t ignore them, if we put the legalities aside for a moment, I don’t see any downsides if operators were able to share information and get cheaters banned universally, once detected on one poker site. The reality is that this while the idea may sound good in theory, in practice it would be very difficult to achieve, due to all the privacy and data protection laws we have in place today. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying these laws are bad. They are definitely there for a reason. But for this specific issue, they’ve taken the flexibility out of the equation.
How to get in touch
In this post, I previously shared a link to the Safer Poker page, containing the monthly breakdown of the bot closure numbers. The page also contains the third-party tool policy for the partypoker network and a form players can use to submit reports about any suspicious activity they encounter. Players are also able to reach the poker fraud team directly by emailing us at email@example.com. Any concern or report will be investigated, and feedback provided where possible. Malicious reporting is not tolerated.
Poker Fraud Manager – partypoker network
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