Can we remove the specter of online poker ghosting?

Kat Martin
Published by:
Posted on 07/27/2021

Online tournament multi-accounting and ghosting were back in the news this week, with WSOP.com’s $7,777 runner-up ‘CherryHillPd’ drawing ire and accusations from other competitors in the event.

As reported by Dave Consolazio, this dormant account had returned to life for the big buy-in events during the current WSOP online series, and the player clicking the buttons was showing plenty of poker talent.

The storm abated when the official results identified the account as belonging to Charles Hook. The Hendon Mob database locates him in Pennsylvania and credits him with nearly $1 million in live tournament earnings. According to Ryan LaPlante, Mr. Hook is a high-stakes cash-game reg, usually plying his trade in the Houston area.

Despite the happy resolution to this story, the initial pile-on illustrates a growing unease within the online MTT community about multi-accounting, ghosting, and other forms of cheating. Katie Stone’s Twitter thread from last week seems particularly prescient in this context, while Tim Reilly’s response is typical and worrying.

It should be noted that any thread questioning the integrity of online poker will inevitably receive a stream of anecdotal horror stories. The bulk of these typically involve players astounded that they got overflushed three times in an hour, and other wholly unremarkable events that arise through the immutable laws of statistics.

However, what is notable about the above thread is the presence of so many high-profile pros affirming that online poker has a problem.

I asked Katie Stone if she saw any solutions on the horizon.

“No idea how to fix this without the sites stepping up massively,” she replied. “I think it’s super evident though that poker players need to continue to self police, as we’ve become accustomed to over the last many years.”

Ryan LaPlante is also deeply concerned about the situation:

“Cheating online is a massive issue right now in a handful of different ways. MA [multi-accounting]/Ghosting/Colluding have always been problems, but now also have easy-to-use RTA’s [Real-Time Assistance].”

However, he seems more upbeat that something can be done:

“It just requires the poker sites to listen to players and be more willing to have open dialogue. It can be prevented, but not if the sites aren’t willing to put in the work required.”

While multi-accounting and RTAs may have technological solutions, analogous to those employed by chess sites to avoid engine use and other forms of cheating, ghosting appears to be a tougher nut to crack. How can one be sure that the player behind the avatar is the registered account owner, and not their more-skilled coach?

Maybe we’re heading for webcams during high-profile online poker series?

Featured image source: Twitter