GGPoker details plans for Poker Integrity Council (PIC) at WSOP presser

Haley Hintze
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Posted on: July 5, 2022 8:14 pm EDT

GGPoker has offered additional details on its new Poker Integrity Council (PIC), the new online poker anti-cheating initiative that intends to crack down on the many illicit activities that continue to mar fair play throughout the online game. In a Tuesday press conference at the ongoing World Series of Poker (WSOP), four of the five player-members of the PIC council — Jason Koon, Andrew Lichtenberger, Seth Daniels, and Fedor Holz — along with GGPoker’s Head of Poker Operations, Steve Preiss, and WSOP vice president Jack Effel. The conference touched on numerous topics involved with PIC’s launch and its planned role in making poker better and cleaner for everyone. PIC’s fifth member-player, Nick Petrangelo, was unable to attend the conference.

One of PIC’s leading initiatives is a planned global blacklist to which players judged to have cheated in significant and ongoing ways will be added. For example, players who have committed severe cheating online at GGPoker and are banned there will also be banned from most of the world’s largest poker series, including not only the WSOP, but entities such as the World Poker Tour (WPT), Triton Poker, Poker After Dark, Kings Casino, Asian Poker Tour (APT), and more than a half dozen additional tours and venues.

As the WSOP’s Effel explained, “The Poker Integrity Council is a fantastic idea. And I wish it was done sooner. The World Series of Poker is 100% supportive of this initiative and the efforts in trying to clean up online poker, make it safer for consumers, and hopefully, eventually get to a place where this is the council that has has to rule on bad actors that are playing poker in general. I think it’s a great initiative, and we’re fully supportive.”

PIC’s creation was announced just three days ago, but the broad support evidenced at Tuesday’s press conference shows the plan has been in the works for many months. (For another take on the important issue of controlling cheating throughout the online-poker world, check out A5 Labs’ just-published white paper on how the game can be improved.)

Panel members detail council’s functions and operations

PIC is perhaps best described as a high-level clearing house consisting of the five elite pro players, who will be provided with cumulative evidence in cases where any of several forms of cheating appears to have occurred. Certain pieces of evidence will be withheld so as not to prejudice the council’s members, who will then decide independently of each other, using their own methods, whether some form of cheating has occurred. Any form of cheating can become a PIC matter for investigation, from botting at lower stakes to collusion to the use of banned real-time assistance, which can occur at any stakes.

Jason Koon explains how the new Poker Integrity Council will function during PIC’s launching presser at the WSOP on Tuesday. (Image source: Haley Hintze)

If three of five PIC member players vote that a player alleged to have cheated has indeed done so, then some form of penalty will be assessed. The penalty can be as light as a warning — a “hand slap,” according to Koon — to confiscation of funds, closing of accounts, and players being denied not only the chance to play on that site, but at live events hosted by PIC’s allies, which encompass a majority of the world’s major live events.

“That means if you’re if you’re a scumbag, online, and you keep coming back, and you’re doing the worst, most egregious kind of cheating, we’re not only going to ban you for GG, we’re going to take away all the stops,” Koon rather colorfully emphasized.

Deviation from established play to be an important marker

How the PIC members can establish whether real-time assistance (RTA) or cheating forms such as team-based soft play are in use is intriguing. GGPoker has long had the ability to grade a given player’s actions over very large numbers of hands and compare that player’s choices against what GGPoker considers to be “optimal” play.

For instance, GGPoker might grade a player as having made the right choice over hundreds of thousands of hands at, say, 92, meaning the player selected the best option 92 percent of the time. If that player suddenly jumps to a different threshold, perhaps playing 97 percent correctly over a long stretch, it’s a leading indicator that RTAs have been put into use.

Similarly, a player who deviates to a lower score in certain events or against certain opponents is very increasingly likely to be participating in some form of team-based cheating, and GGPoker can calculate that deviation as well. These two are just two of many examples in which GGPoker’s internal security and statistical analyses will be forwarded to the PIC members for additional review.

Other online networks welcome to join PIC initiative

Though the Poker Integrity Council is closely affiliated with GGPoker, it’s important to note that two of the five PIC member-players represent rival sites. In line with that, GGPoker confirmed that other online sites and networks are welcome to ally themselves with PIC, thus making the council even more global, especially as it pertains to creating a blacklist of the worst offenders.

GGPoker’s primary online rival, PokerStars, recently created its own anti-cheating initiative. PokerStars also operates its own Stars-sponsored international series and tours, and anecdotal reports indicate that Stars is also forbidding certain players from participating in Stars-affiliated events if they have been found to have participated in long-term and ruled-breaking online play.

Olive branches for prior GGPoker cheaters

In one of the day’s most interesting disclosures, GGPoker confirmed that players who have been previously banned on the site for cheating will be provided with a chance to return to the site if they’re willing to play by the rules. GGPoker banned several dozen prominent pros in 2020 in a site-wide move to clean up its network, and it will at least consider given some of those banned cheats a second chance on the site.

“With these new blacklist initiatives,” Koon explained, “it’s absolutely changed the game. The stakes are so much higher now for cheaters than they’ve ever been. This is the first time where you just get wiped, if you do the nasty stuff. So a lot of the guys that were cheating on GGPoker, or were in the gray area — I mean, like using too many preflop charts and they weren’t thinking for themselves, they may have received a warning, and GG found out about that.

“All of those people are welcome to apply back to GG starting August 1. We will accept it and review every application. And if we think that people are willing to improve, you know. Two years [is a long time] to be banned from a poker site, which is how long these guys have been banned. So we’re going to review the applications. And sure, a lot of the people will be welcomed back to the site. Now that being said, if we catch you a second time, thanks a lot, bye!”

Featured image source: Haley Hintze