Thursday, August 16, 2007

The Schism is Coming, Part I: NeverWin Tossed from PokerStars

[Canada Cal here, still on Haley's soapbox...]

We all know that Bob Dylan sang that "The times, they are-a changin'." Overworked cliche or not, the phrase still applies in an odd way to online poker. Over the next few days, we'll examine a few signs that there's a sea change afoot in the online poker world. The greater issue is the overrunning of the online game by a few hundred players who have been rather free and loose with how they play. In many ways, these largely younger players have given little more than a nod and a wink to the Terms of Service theoretically in place at the online sites.

It seems the online sites are fighting back. Here's the link to a exploding thread on Neverwin Poker, exploring the recent expulsion of well-known online player Dustin "NeverWin" Woolf from PokerStars. The thread, titled "Pokerstars is closing neverwin's account permanently," confirms the banning of Woolf from Stars, even if it isn't exactly quite clear yet what the specific offense was. One note in the the thread is that Woolf reportedly mentioned that he was playing "incognito" (meaning using another person's account), while railing Bryan Micon in a big event on Stars a few days ago.

It's important to know that at least some portion of online specialists are in essence trying to cheat the system both ways, both in using extensive software programs to provide real-time information on their opponents while playing, and to use these anonymous "incognito" accounts to hide themselves from the same type of searches done by others. Add in the fact that at least a couple of soft-playing, cash-swapping cliques (not including Neverwin) are rumored to exist, and it's clear that the online sites have the incentive to tighten and make sure the games are clean.

Think Woolf was the only one to bend the rules? Here's what he posted, a bit into the thread: "yeah im real interested to hear why my account was banned and everyone elses was simply frozen, i never did anything different than anyone else."

And of course, Micon had chipped in earlier with this: "If this is for real, of course NWP will dig up 500+ 'Stars accounts that we know ppl have played on." The same 500 number was also mentioned by Woolf in another post, again giving a possible measure to the scope of the situation.

For what it's worth, Woolf has had some questionable spots in his past two, including his very public falling out with Mark 'newhizzle' Newhouse over a sizeable debt that Woolf has reported to have reneged on. But is Woolf being made an example of, or is there more to the story? And even if there isn't any more than this, there is on related matters.

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