BY RUSS SCOTT
FEBRUARY 3, 2009
WAS THIS STUD PLAYER CHEATED, OR JUST A CYBER VICTIM?
I’m having trouble deciding if what I saw during a recent online seven-card stud tournament was blatant cheating, horrible etiquette, or just the breaks of playing computer poker.
Since the same thing could happen to you, I’d like to know your reaction.
Here’s the scoop:
The $24 buy-in stud tournament at Full Tilt Poker drew 89 players, creating a $2,136 prize pool with $672 for the winner. After busting out in sixth place for $96, I decided to rail (just observe) the event’s conclusion.
When action was down to the final two, a player who calls herself “Aces” held a three-to-one chip lead against an opponent also using a female screen avatar. We’ll call her “Queen.”
Aces, a 40-year-old part-time waitress in Montana, was playing from her hotel room on vacation in Acapulco, Mexico. She pleasantly conversed with players in the text chat box during the event and, as it happens, was the one who captured the last of my chips by hitting a full house on the river to beat my trip queens.
Heads-up play began with the ante at 500, the bring-in (low card opening bet) at 1,000, and structured betting limits of 3,000 and 6,000. There were 178,000 chips in play.
Queen staged a rally and had pulled nearly even in chips when disaster struck for Aces. She was disconnected.
In online poker, action doesn’t stop when a player is disconnected, even heads-up. Queen, seizing on Aces’ misfortune, clicked “raise” each hand as fast as possible. Because Aces was offline, her hands repeatedly were folded and her automatic ante and bring-in bets went into Queen’s stack in rapid-fire sequence.
Although Aces was reconnected about two minutes later, she missed 15-20 hands and the damage was done. At that point, Queen held what proved to be an insurmountable three-to-one chip lead and went on to win first-place money. Aces collected $440.
“What happened?” Queen typed in the chat box right after Aces was reconnected. Seeming rather unperturbed, Aces replied, “Sucks getting disconnected this late in a tournament. Price I pay for being in paradise.”
When I tracked Aces down by e-mail a week later, she told me she didn’t think Queen cheated or played unfairly but agreed her actions might have been “bad etiquette.” She said what happened was just part of the online game and that she probably would have done the same thing to Queen had the circumstances been reversed.
“If it’s the player’s connection problem and not the host site, that is a risk the player takes,” Aces said. “In addition to the challenge, the whole point is to make money.”
But did Aces’ disconnection happen at the hotel or on Full Tilt’s end? She wasn’t sure.
“There were two different wireless connections available and the signal strength would change. However, if one were to disconnect, the second one would pick up and connect. I could be convinced to change my mind if I knew for a fact that it was the host site’s problem,” Aces said.
“I believe Full Tilt needs better monitoring software or actual people to be aware of disconnects because of their ongoing disconnect problems,” she added.
Curiously, just a few days later, a similar heads-up incident had a different ending on Full Tilt during a much bigger tournament. Well-known pro Justin Rollo held 91 percent of the chips when the site’s server disconnected him for 20 minutes — time enough for his opponent to nearly wipe him out. Full Tilt eventually halted the tournament.
After presenting his case via e-mail to site administrators, Rollo reported in his blog that Full Tilt awarded him a payout of $99,683, representing full equity based on the chip counts at the time of disconnect.
But Aces, a successful live stud player for more than 20 years who also shows a computer-tracked profit after two years of online play, wasn’t too worried about the additional $232 she might have won without the disconnection.
“I am pretty easygoing and laid-back. Besides, it doesn’t do any good to get angry and have it affect future play.”
How would you react if the same thing happened to you?
E-mail your poker questions and comments to email@example.com for use in future columns. To find out more about Russ Scott and read previous LuckyDog Poker columns, visit www.creators.com or www.luckydogpoker.com.
COPYRIGHT 2009 RUSS SCOTT
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