Lawyer Poker Pros Helped Solve Online Betting Scandals
Posted Dec 1, 2008 12:20 PM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss
Two lawyers who became poker playing professionals helped crack cheating scandals at two online websites.
The lawyers were among players who decided to investigate after regulators and managers at the websites were slow to act on complaints, the Washington Post reports in an investigation conducted with 60 Minutes. "No one would listen to us," said one of the lawyers, 28-year-old Serge Ravitch, a graduate of the University of Michigan law school.
Ravitch plays about 20 hours of poker each week, and devotes another 10 hours to studying a database of hand histories to identify competitors’ tendencies. He used his analytical expertise to analyze hand histories of a suspected cheater with the help of a former auditor who briefly attended Emory Law School, the story says. They identified betting patterns of a winning player who called himself Potripper that suggested he was able to see his opponents’ face-down cards.
They posted their results online, along with suggestions on possible identities of the cheaters. AbsolutePoker later acknowledged that an internal security breach had compromised their systems, but said it had been resolved, according to the story. The company said the cheater was a "consultant with managerial responsibilities" and it refunded $1.6 million to players who lost money in the games played with the consultant.
The company said it fired the consultant, but it did not take further action in exchange for a full explanation of how he cheated, company officials told the Post.
Another lawyer helped uncover a $20 million cheating scandal at UltimateBet.com. He is 29-year-old David Paredes, a New York University law graduate and hedge fund employee who started playing online in 2005. His online winnings helped pay off his law school loan and rent a Manhattan apartment, but he lost $70,000 to a player who called himself NioNio, the story says.
Paredes and another player analyzed hand histories and found NioNio was racking up win after win while rarely seeing a loss. They later found seven other suspicious accounts that may have been cheaters. Some of the poker detectives found that several of the suspect accounts were linked to property owned by former World Series of Poker champion Russ Hamilton, according to the Post.
UltimateBet later found that former employees had tampered with the software to allow them to see players’ cards. It has issued $6.1 million in refunds. The Kahnawake Gaming Commission has since announced a finding of "clear and convincing evidence" that Hamilton "was the main person responsible for and benefiting from the multiple cheating incidents" at UltimateBet, the Post says.
Hamilton’s lawyer denies the allegations.