Friday, June 27, 2014

James Thackston’s Underpants Gnomes

The infamous ipoker-troll James Thackston has finally released his new “4-way collusion software” and a “fuzzy video” (the images are blurry on purpose, but the logic is equally fuzzy).  It has yet to be trumpeted by Sheldon Adelson’s Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling - but give it time (Cheri Jacobus has already done what she does best - retweeted JT’s original thoughts).  With the software and the video, Thackston purports to show that players can collude and see each other’s hole cards, and that this activity can go undetected by the online casino (more on this later), thus gaining an advantage, and thus allowing cheating and money laundering and other nefarious crimes, therefore, all online activity is suspect and sucks and can’t be trusted, nyah-nyah-nyah.

I mentioned that I felt his logic fuzzy - like the profit motive of South Park’s “underpants gnomes.”  
I will only briefly talk about the “detect-ability issue” - the remainder of this post will discuss Step 2, using the “James Thackston’s 4-way Collusion Underpants Gnomes software” model:
1.  See other colluders’ hole cards.
3.  Profit!

Can the software be detected?  JT says no.  He says the casino would have to act as their own anti-virus company, and this would “break the ipoker business model” (but he doesn’t say how - expense, I assume).  He adds later that “some colluders may get caught but the vast majority will succeed.”  He doesn’t say how they would get caught using his undetectable software.  Later, he says that “greed is a deadly sin.”  He mentions that abuse of the system will likely result in the cheating team’s capture.  My analysis:  Since money is the object, and it is assumed that cheaters cheat because they want money, and this can be considered greed (versus wining money the old fashioned way with quality play), anyone who cheats is greedy and might get caught using this “completely undetectable” (his words, not mine) software.


Enough of that.  Oh, wait, one more thing.  If Thackston hasn’t provided enough caveats for you here, go to his software website and “try” to download the software.  I say “try” because (a) you really don’t want to, and (b) you don’t need to, to see my next point.  Normally, when you attempt to download software, you get a screen with the usual boilerplate warnings and the infamous “I accept” button you have to press before the software will download (you give up your rights to litigate, and your first born, or something).  Thackston makes you go through SEVERAL of these…I did all five, and then my computer had a bit of throw-up in its mouth (no, I didn't download the stuff).  Here’s a screen shot:

Oh - I did a “view source” screen shot to look at his HTML, and noticed this blurb: “Some browsers may show warnings about the safety of this software.”  Fun stuff.

Now, to what I really wanted to talk about.  Step 2.  The missing step.  You can see some other hole cards (of your fellow colluders).  Nice.  This does give you a statistical advantage.  I concede that.  But…there are six other players at the table, and you CAN’T see their cards, nor determine how they will act.  If you have pocket Aces, you also have a statistical advantage, and tell me the last time you saw someone shove against your Aces holding 5-9 offsuit and watched as they hit two pair on the flop and bust you (for me, it was Wednesday, which is why I picked that particular example, thank you).

You can collude, but you may not succeed.  Collusion doesn’t guarantee anything.  Anytime one steps outside the lines, there is additional risk involved.  The idea that a team of poker players could set up such a system and go after “profit” using such a system is believable, as I’ve worked in money businesses all my life.  ANY business where “money” is involved invites criminal activity.  Banking, sure.  Radio (money laundering is easy if you control access to some accounts).  Retail (those $20s are just sitting there in the cash register).  Cops on the take (making $30K but driving expensive cars, etc.).  You get the idea.

But many criminals get caught.  They get greedy.  They get sloppy.  And, because they are “outside the line” people notice.  There is risk involved.  Duh.  Collusion for money laundering?  Too much time, too much effort, too much risk.  Is Al Qaeda sending new recruits to Poker School (they only learn 3-betting, being TAG, and all-in, and never learn folding)?  Gimme a break.

If the software is all it’s cracked up to be, do it.  Show us.  Don’t post a blurry video of some play money game and tell us, “…knowing 4 out of 10 sets of hole cards gives the colluding team enough information to manipulate the game in very subtle (my emphasis) ways.” Go get the info and manipulate.  Post THAT.  Show us, not that it COULD be done, but that it HAS been done.  Then we can have a rational discussion.

Otherwise, quit stealing our underpants.

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