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Net sleuths spot poker site cheat code

UltimateBet.com bares hole card

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The former operator of a popular online poker site faces a $75m claim after internet sleuths presented evidence that for more than three years it offered rigged games that allowed cheaters to win hands at astronomically unlikely odds.

According to a special report published last week on msnbc.com, scammers were able to manipulate the software running UltimateBet.com, one of the top 10 online poker sites. The unauthorized software code allowed certain players to see the hole cards of their opponents, according to the report, which cited a report from Tokwiro Enterprises, a company that claims ownership of UltimateBet.

The scam was unearthed by some of the players who got burned. They noticed that certain players in the highest-stakes games were winning at a rate that seemed to defy statistical odds. Two of the players, who went by the handles "trambopoline" and "dlpnyc21," eventually closed in on a particular account as a prime suspect. Using the screen name "NioNio," the player netted $300,000 in profit in just 3,000 hands. They later discovered that NioNio had won 13 of the 14 sessions recorded on MyPokerIntel.com, a website that tracks high-stakes online tournaments.

Australian poker player Michael Josem compared the results to 870 other accounts with 2,500 or more hands recorded and calculated that NioNio's win rate was less likely than winning a one-in-a-million lottery four days in a row.

The tale is reminiscent of allegations leveled last year against AbsolutePoker.com, UltimateBet's sister site. In both cases, the suspicions of fraud only came to light after players smelled a rat. Forums like this one from the Two Plus Two poker website show the players unraveling the scheme.

Tokwiro Enterprises blamed the alleged cheating on individuals who worked for the previous owners of UltimateBet, who sold the business in 2006. If true, that would mean the unauthorized code was running Tokwiro's system for two years before it was finally dismantled in January of this year. The site has been known for its glitzy television commercials and advertisements that trumpet the security of its software.

The $75m claim was filed by Blast-Off Ltd. of Malta, a private company that currently has an ownership interest in Ultimate Bet. A representative with the liquidator for UltimateBet says the claim is being taken seriously. Many more details from msnbc.com are available here. ®

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