In the fight against cheating in online poker, PokerStars.com struck a massive blow this week to the online community. In a statement confirmed for ESPN.com by sources within PokerStars, the online poker room announced that "TheV0id," the winner of the recent World Championship of Online Poker, had been stripped of his title and the $1,228,330.50 prize.
PokerStars released the following statement:
"The investigation into the WCOOP Main Event has now been concluded. We have determined, based on the totality of evidence, that the tournament winner 'TheV0id' was in breach of the PokerStars Terms of Service.
In the interests of Game Integrity, 'TheV0id' has been disqualified from first place.
"All other WCOOP Main Event prizewinners in addition to the player who originally bubbled in 415th place will therefore advance one place in the prize pool. The necessary financial adjustments to reflect the revised tournament places will be made within the next 24 hours. Please note that we are unable to release further details of this investigation, for reasons of confidentiality and privacy.
Manager, PokerStars Game Security."
PokerStars would not elaborate on what the violation was. However, several players, including WSOP Europe main event champion Annette Obrestad, believed that "TheV0id" was multi-accounting, or playing more than one handle in the tournament. Multi-accounting gives the offender an unfair advantage, because it gives him additional information about the action at the table.
"I think Stars made the only decision they could, and I support this 100 percent," Obrestad said. "They needed to set the standard and show people that multi-accounting will not be accepted anymore. The ones who do it have an unfair advantage by using more than one account and also deceiving their opponents who think they're playing against another player. I think this will lead to less cheating since people will realize the risk they're taking by doing something that is against the rules and that it will have consequences if they get caught."
Taylor Caby, better-known as "Green Plastic," agreed.
"I completely agree with the decision. I think it's important that they maintain the integrity of the games," he said. "The sites need to make sure things are fair and on the level and that people can enjoy playing tournaments. These things are generally fair, and the sites need to monitor things to make sure they stay that way. In cases like this, they send a message to people saying they can't do those things in the future."
Tom "Durr" Duan, known throughout the online world as one of the best high-stakes players, also questioned why players feel they need to go above the rules.
"It's unfortunate that so many good players seem destined to break the rules when they could make plenty of money by abiding by them," Duan said. "However, people also focus far too much on the slight edge that is gained by multi-accounters instead of far bigger problems."
The biggest beneficiary of PokerStars' announcement appears to be the player "ka$ino," who initially finished in second place. The owner of the account stands to receive somewhere in the vicinity of $500,000 for moving up one spot in the standings.
Although many players support the decision, and feel PokerStars has acted responsibly, Jimmy "gobboboy" Fricke believes this incident has struck a major blow to the online community.
"It's horrible for everyone," Fricke said. "PokerStars can't reveal the details of the investigation [due to confidentiality agreements], so the players aren't happy. Meanwhile, they don't want everyone to know that the biggest prize in online poker has to be given to someone else because [a cheater] won the tournament. 'V0id' is out a million, amateurs won't like it because they'll think PokerStars isn't safe to play at anymore and the pros don't like it because that makes the amateurs leave. I mean, 'ka$ino' will get credit for winning now, but he'll never get public acceptance for that, because he really didn't."
"It definitely took a lot of [fortitude] for Stars to do it," Mark "newhizzle" Newhouse said, "and I don't disagree with their decision to do it. The penalty was harsh, but he knew he was breaking the rules and shouldn't have put himself in such an obvious spotlight. I think it will deter people from doing it again in the future."
Many players said the fact that PokerStars did not ignore or try to downplay the issue is a clear sign that steps are being taken to protect the unknowing players who become victims in this situation.
But players like Shane "Shaniac" Schleger aren't so convinced.
Schleger, a veteran of both the live and online game, voiced the concerns that linger for many.
"My problem is we don't know enough, which is frustrating," he said. "I can't say if PokerStars made the right decision because they haven't given us information about what the player did to get disqualified. This should act as a deterrent to multi-accounting, but I don't know if it will since we don't officially know if he even was multi-accounting. I'm not any more satisfied with their ability to police multi-accounting than I was before they addressed the [2007 WCOOP main event]."
Gary Wise covered the WSOP for worldseriesofpoker.com. You can hear him on his podcast, Wise Hand Poker, Wednesday nights at 8 ET at www.roundersradio.com.