ACR Poker bans all virtual machines as part of security upgrade

Haley Hintze
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Posted on: August 8, 2023 6:29 am EDT

ACR Poker, the Winning Poker Network flagship site formerly known as Americas Cardroom, has banned all use of “virtual” machines, such as secondary computers being linked to a primary device. The ban was announced on Friday on ACR Poker’s “Big Blind” blog after having been incorporated into a Terms of Service (TOS) update the previous day.

According to ACR, the ban means that all players will have to run the ACR Poker client software from the player’s “native” hard drive, meaning the drive that is directly connected to the Winning Poker Network. Secondary computers and smart devices that are connected to ACR Poker through a player’s primary device will be blocked.

The security enhancement necessarily covers many legitimate training programs that could unfortunately be adapted or used for more nefarious purposes. ACR specifically mentioned the popular TeamViewer tool, which shares content among multiple devices, as an example of software that will no longer be allowed. In overblocking any such content-sharing or content-viewing software to such an extent, ACR is acknowledging that the best, and perhaps only, place to police the use of illicit software and various cheating practices is at the computer that is in direct contact with ACR Poker’s gaming servers.

Small number of dedicated cheaters

Separately, ACR Poker issued a corporate statement further detailing the rationale behind the increased security and the network-wide ban on all virtual devices. ACR explained, “In July, ACR Poker sent direct warning communications to all the players known to have been using such devices (some for legitimate training purposes), informing those players that ACR Poker will no longer allow such use in conjunction with running ACR Poker….”

While many players’ use of virtual devices had legitimate purposes, other players simply used the virtual devices to cheat, which most often involves running real-time solvers or collusion between players sharing hand holdings with one another.

According to ACR, “One recent investigation spurred by player information revealed evidence of multiple accounts involved in coordinated violations of ACR’s terms of service. As a result, eight accounts were banned for collusion, and an additional 25 related accounts were banned as a precaution due to suspicious activities and their ties to the eight banned accounts.” As is standard in the industry, none of the banned accounts were named publicly.

“ACR Poker has already taken appropriate measures to address any harm caused,” the statement continued. “A total of $184,000 has been reallocated, and tournament results have been corrected to ensure fairness among impacted players. ACR Poker sincerely apologizes for any inconvenience caused and continues to invest heavily in technology and processes to proactively detect and investigate any potential violations in order to deliver enhanced player security.”

Though the investigation resulting in the 33 banned accounts originated with one or more player complaints, ACR Poker declared that much of the cheating the site uncovers is first found through its own security measures. According to the site, “ACR Poker engages sophisticated artificial intelligence and machine learning programs to identify bad actors, enlists dozens of game security and integrity specialists working full-time, and also leverages the input of hundreds of players when they report suspicious activities by players on the site. Combined, these efforts match those of the other major online poker sites and provide the best assurance that ACR Poker is among the safest and most secure sites.

Moneymaker offers quotes on bans and security upgrade

ACR Poker even brought in its highest-profile brand ambassador, Chris Moneymaker, to add a personal touch to the situation. Moneymaker said, “While we understand that it is disconcerting to learn of collusion rings, we want to assure our players that the integrity of our platform remains strong. The swift actions we have taken, as well as the upcoming changes to our playing terms, demonstrate our significant investment in, and commitment to, maintaining fair gameplay and a secure environment that will ultimately benefit all poker players.”

In a separate statement, Moneymaker added, “I’m sad that we have to engage in this high-tech game of Whack-a-Mole, but it’s important for us to try to stay ahead of the bad guys. I’ve been playing online poker for more than 20 years now, and just as the cheaters get more sophisticated, so have the poker rooms. ACR invests heavily in technology and people to deliver as fair a game as any of the major sites.”