The PS Collusion Scandal & How to Detect Foul Play

I have written before on the collusion scandal at PokerStars: China-based players worked together at the online rooms’ Double or Nothing Sit & Go tables with buy-ins from $52 to $108. dug up the story but they don’t seem to be able to uncover much more details.

Poker Stars

The scandal started with poster ‘Jane0123’ complaining on 2+2 about their account frozen and eventually closed earlier this year. PokerStars informed them that “In reviewing hands it is clear that you routinely made team plays to create situations where you were supposed to benefit. You and your friends routinely played four and five players deep, and squeezed the blinds between two or more cooperating players. After reviewing several hands, for several players, it became obvious that this was part of some kind of agreed-upon strategy.” PS suspects that about 46 other Hangzhou-based players are involved. Formerly about $500,000, the pool for the compensation of the victim players now exceed $2 million, but they still remain unsatisfied and matters are even worse as the investigation is taking all too long.

Meanwhile, PND also released a quick guide to spot the most common types of collusion at online tables. Collusion involves two or more players “communicating their hole cards to one another and discuss cheating strategies,” which is actually easier online than to do it live. With hand histories being easily retraceable, however, it does take skill to cheat and remain unnoticed.

The three main types of collusion are softplaying, squeezing and chip dumping. Softplaying means the players involved are not playing aggressively against each other: they hardly raise when heads-up and check more even with value cards. Squeezing means making a third (fourth, etc.) player fold, possibly after they called the colluders’ raise or raised themselves. Chip dumping is a way for a player to double-up by acquiring the stack of another, who deliberately loses it to his partner.

Some of these techniques are less harmful for the other players than the others and effects can depend on the game type (i.e. cash game or tournament) as well. You shall not suspect every single weird hand to be foul play, but you should be on your guard. For starters, you can read the full article here.