A few days after PokerStars announced that they will be seriously implementing strong measures to prevent cheating amongst players, a bot-scandal suddenly reared its ugly head at the final table of Event #8 of its high-profile tournament festival, the TCOOP (Turbo Championship of Online Poker).
Even if these suspicions have not been thoroughly confirmed, a series of odd events that transpired during the final heads-up deal negotiations have implied that something fishy may be going on.
Based on the chat log posted on the 2+2 forum, it showed that both players were able to pause the tournament by clicking on the "make a deal button" with the intent to divide the remaining prize pool.
During the chat conversation, player ‘LuckboxStami' was the first one to type and asked to view the ICM numbers. After giving out the figures, the moderator made it clear that he will receive $40,393.85 while his opponent ‘IvanHaldi' will get $39,450.15
Satisfied with the deal, ‘LuckboxStami' replied quickly, stating that he agrees with the arrangement. However, there was no response whatsoever from the Russian player ‘IvanHaldi' even though there were several private and public messages being made to him by the moderator.
After 30 minutes passed by with zero response from him and hoping that the tournament must be resume as soon as possible, the moderator even asked another colleague who can speak Russian to contact ‘IvanHaldi' via the telephone number registered on his account, to no avail.
An hour later and still no response from the Russian player, the moderator decided to resume the tournament, sparking a community-wide assumption that the opponent did not respond mainly because a real human was actually not in control of the account.
Despite the uproar, the event hosts of PokerStars were quick in their response, and after a comprehensive investigation on bot detection, they have released a statement saying that they are confident the player bearing the account name ‘IvanHaldi' is genuine, as mentioned in the chat history, "But only human players can tick the deal option as far as I know."
The hosts carried out the following measures: collected interaction and chat history, scanned for prohibited third party software, looked at playing sessions, hand tendencies, and probable human errors made in the past. Though they don't have a concrete explanation as to why ‘IvanHaldi' did not participate in the discussions even if he clicked the "make a deal" button, their investigation led to the conclusion: the player account is indeed human, albeit just a quiet one.
Even if ‘Luckboxstami' wasn't able to close the deal, instead of getting $40,394 plus a chance to get another $4,000 for the winner, he won the tournament for a much bigger amount, which is $48,042.