Absolute Breached by 'Trusted Consultant'

22 October 2007

New information has surfaced with regard to the hazy internal goings-on of Absolute Poker (Absolute), currently under investigation by the Kahnawake Gaming Commission (KGC) following allegations of fraud and collusion that began on the 2 + 2 poker forum in late September.

On Friday Absolute reneged on earlier written statements, acknowledging it had indeed suffered from an internal security breach.

"The cause of the breach has been determined and completely resolved," the statement read. "In addition, all necessary resources, both internal and external, have been engaged to ensure this does not happen again."

The forums, often scoffed at by journalists as less-than-reliable sources of veracity, indicate however that Absolute patrons are overwhelmingly unhappy, most especially with the way the company seemed initially to dismiss the allegations out of hand.

Serge Ravitch, a 27-year-old New York lawyer turned poker player and 2 + 2 moderator, was among the first to cry foul. Ravitch told MSNBC the company’s response to the initial posts was "essentially to stonewall and deny any cheating had ever occurred or that the described events were even possible."

In a citizen's investigation of sorts, Ravitch and other fora members began keeping tabs on players using the screen names "Graycat," "Steamroller" and "Potripper," all of whom seemed to exhibit uncanny abilities at the table--precognitive play characterized by timely raises, calls and folds, resulting in an absurdly high winning percentage.

The effort culminated in the creation of a model demonstrating how Potripper fared, hand-by-hand, against opponents in a $1,000 buy-in tournament on Absolute's Web site. The model was based on a "hand history" requested by one of the players Potripper allegedly defrauded. Interestingly enough, this particular hand history is believed to have shown all participants' hole cards, rather than those belonging solely to the requesting player, as well as their IP and e-mail addresses.

Experts consulted by MSNBC--including Roy Cooke, former head of security for Planetpoker.com, and Michael Shackleford, a former actuary with the Social Security Administration--came away convinced that Potripper's winning streak, as demonstrated in the model, was very likely not the product of luck.

Ravitch, with the help of Nat Arem, another player involved in creating the model, and others traced the IP address of a questionable observer, "user 363," to Costa Rica, subsequently determining that the account was an internal account developed during an early phase of Absolute's development. The investigation determined that user 363 shared the same IP and e-mail address with Scott Tom, a current or former part-owner of Absolute.

Absolute later confirmed with online poker community PocketFives.com that Tom was not the insider; rather, according to a written statement released Sunday, "a high-ranking trusted consultant" was behind the breach, his position giving him "extraordinary access to certain systems."

Sunday's statement, prepared by Joe Norton, owner of Tokwiro Enterprises Enrg., which holds a 100 percent stake in Absolute, called the breach a "horrendous and inexcusable offense."

"As has been speculated in several online forums, this consultant devised a sophisticated scheme to manipulate internal systems to access third-party computers and accounts to view hole cards of other customers during play without their knowledge," Norton said. "As this consultant was aware of the details of our fraud detection process, the likelihood that the scheme would be uncovered through our normal procedures was minimized."

Norton added that the issue is currently being investigated by the KGC in conjunction with third-party auditor Gaming Associates.

According to Absolute, affected players will be fully reimbursed with interest on their accounts.

Chris Krafcik is the editor of IGamingNews. He lives in St. Louis, Mo.