In late 2007, Joe Norton, owner of Tokwiro Enterprises, the company that also owned the online poker site, Absolute Poker, released a statement acknowledging in which he was forced to acknowledge that
the integrity of our poker system was compromised by a high-ranking trusted consultant employed by absolute poker whose position gave him extraordinary access to certain security systems. As has been speculated in several online forums, this consultant devised a sophisticated scheme to manipulate internal systems to access third-party computers and accounts to view hole cards of other customers during play without the knowledge.
Scandalous? Very. In particular, because it strikes to the epicenter of consumer concerns about online privacy and the supposed security of their banking and personal details in the digital ether. It's tricky enough encouraging consumers to divulge their details to a third party operator – how much trickier to restore their faith not only an Absolute Poker but in the whole industry at large.
What actually happened?
Any serious software provider will take great pains to test their applications before use. It's part of quality control, front- and back-end verification, and reliable product testing. At Absolute Poker, a test account – number 363 – was created to perform this kind of testing. This account allowed its user to see the hole cards of every hand at the table. Obviously, such an account was never intended for real monetary use. It existed simply to ensure that pots were distributed correctly upon a successful win.
In 2007, some four years after Absolute Poker opened, a major software upgrade was performed on the system. Absolute Poker hired programmers from a number of countries. One of these programmers, alive to the possibilities that account number 363 offered him, devised a way to use his development-level access to score enormous amounts of cash online. Here's how he did it:
- the programmer sourced accounts at Absolute poker that were currently inactive
- He changed the passwords of these accounts, activated them, and opened account number 363 on a new computer, permitting him access to all the hole cards at the table
- the programmer then gave access to the inactive accounts that he ha just made rehabilitated to his friends, family and anyone else with him on the scam
- he begans playing on tables comprising a mixture of genuine customers and his own scheming compatriots; at all these games he had visual access to everyone’s hand
- after he had won sizable amount of cash, he kept playing and now intentionally lost all his cash to his friends and family
- these of friends and family cashed out their winnings.
Absolute poker was fined $500,000 by their local gaming commission. They also gave a $500 restitution to all those who watched some of the more infamous tournaments, as well as an immediate refund of $1000 to all those who actually participated in the tournament and who unwittingly lost their cash in an unfair game.
If the Absolute Poker saga teaches us anything, it's that the reliability, reputation, and security of the company you choose make use of for your online gambling adventures is paramount. Don't be fooled only by attractive sounding payouts, outlandish bonuses, and special offers – ensure that your casino is well respected within the industry and takes every measure to ensure that your online experience is safe and fraud free.
More Poker related articles