Joe Ingram on Pulled Ads, Other Fallout From WPN Videos
Joey Ingram thought he was going crazy.
Fans of Ingram's popular YouTube channel already knew he might have a little crazy in him, but this time he really thought he was losing his mind.
As an American trying to play online poker, he was forced to pick his poison, as it were, between a host of unregulated online poker sites if he wanted to enjoy the game he loves from the comfort of his home. He chose to give the Winning Poker Network a lot of his action, best known for its America's Card Room skin.
For a while, he experienced smooth sailing. Some part of him, though, always suspected things weren't always on the up-and-up. Bots? Collusion? Cheating? Whatever it was, it wasn't stopping him.
"I knew stuff was happening, but I was still winning," says Ingram. "I think my vantage point was, whatever's happening I have to find a way to overcome it."
Perhaps he stopped winning, or perhaps the clues simply turned from small blinking lights in the distance to bright, flashing neon. Whatever the case, Ingram became fed up with what he perceived as rampant cheating on the network. He released a series of scathing videos damning the site and its CEO. In those videos Ingram presented evidence he believed strongly suggested the site was willfully ignoring the disaster unfolding under its nose, especially when the CEO didn't deign to respond to Ingram's concerns.
TwoPlusTwo Takes Action
If Ingram hoped to spur the poker world into action against the network, he's succeeded on at least one front. Poker forum titans TwoPlusTwo announced in the March edition of TwoPlusTwo magazine they were pulling all WPN ads from the site until further notice.
"Two Plus Two Interactive LLC is a corporation which is required to make a profit," explained publisher and famed poker author Mason Malmuth. "However, we also are concerned with the well-being of poker and because of that have not allowed some potential advertisers to run their ads here even though they would have gladly paid our rates.
"Two Plus Two Interactive LLC will not accept any more advertising from Winning Poker Network and their sub-forum will be closed."
Malmuth estimated WPN had been an advertiser on the site for 15 years.
Ingram is well aware of the gravity of the move, and it's a bittersweet moment for him. He's happy something is being done, but he also understands this might be a big hit to the bottom line for a company that has supported his career from square one.
"I know how hard it can be to pull in new advertisers," says Ingram. "But, they're always looking out for the players. Whether it be books they publish, supporting discussions, or even just allowing conversations to take place... I'm happy to see that they're trying to have an impact."
Ingram's Charges and the Response
In Ingram's video series, he charges WPN with operating a site overrun by bots and tournament collusion. He even presents evidence of possible super-using, pointing to the stats of a few players sporting impossible win rates.
As he saw what was happening around him and competed daily against what he suspected were bots, he began to get a sick feeling because of all the people who might have been playing on the site based on recommendations in his popular videos.
"They care about paying players and that's a big thing, but they don't care at all about the security of the games," he says.
Immediately after releasing the videos, he received a flood of messages from poker players. A few — likely players still winning on the site, he said — were disappointed he'd thrown out bad press for the site and possibly provided a hit to the gravy train. However, most were happy he'd turned the whispers of impropriety on the network into a shout, Ingram says.
A number of poker sites also reached out. They wanted to consult with Ingram about how they could improve their own security measures, something Ingram remains more than happy to discuss with any operator in an effort to improve the poker ecosystem, especially in regards to bots.
Bot rings have been uncovered before on major sites, so it's no stretch to imagine they're operating with ease on the unregulated sites.
As for any response from WPN, Ingram maintains there has been "pretty much nothing." He spoke with a contact in the company and was assured things are being worked on, but Ingram takes that with a healthy mound of salt after what he's seen.
ACR CEO Responds to USPoker
While PokerNews attempted to send out some emails to ACR and did not receive a response, another site contacting CEO Phil Nagy did get in touch.
Nagy spoke to USPoker via Skype and maintained that ACR is approaching the situation seriously and that many of Ingram's criticisms are unfounded.
While Nagy admitted the tournament exploit that Ingram highlighted was a legitimate problem, he claimed the problem has been patched over with a software update. He also said that his door is open any time Ingram or another concerned player wants to discuss security concerns, directing players to contact the site via phone or live chat.
Nagy said the security team has caught bots and colluders before, subsequently banning their accounts, and they'll continue to do so in the future.
"More and More F***** Up by the Day"
In fact, as Ingram continues to search for answers, he's finding more and more reason to question the legitimacy of the games.
Ingram said his digging has uncovered some curious pieces of information. For one thing, he found out that among WPN's numerous skins is a site where players can only deposit via "agents." These individuals handle deposits and cashouts in lieu of going through regular procedures like checks and cryptocurrency. Agents, Ingram claims, can open unlimited accounts, which in turn opens up easy multi-accounting.
Another skin, Ingram said, is owned by the same individual who owns the software on which WPN's poker client operates. Many suspected bot accounts originated on that skin, according to Ingram, raising questions about a possible inside job.
"It gets more and more f***** up by the day," he said. "Every time I get a new message it's some f***** up information."
One interesting piece of news was added to the story over the weekend. According to Ingram on Twitter, a number of people have reached out and told him they received refunds from ACR after playing low- to mid-stakes PLO on the site. One player who received nearly $1,500 shared his email with Ingram.
"The Winning Poker Network Game Integrity Department has investigated and recently uncovered unfair gameplay practices carried out by a player on the WPN that breached our terms and conditions," the email said. "While we cannot publicly disclose the name, specific activity, or account associated with this offense, we have closed access to this player's account."
While the news pleased Ingram, he already said he's looking for other options for online poker. When speaking with PokerNews, he said he can no longer recommend his community members play on the site.
"If you don't know one of your skins is having unlimited accounts, [and] you don't know about the tournament loophole, how can you definitely tell me there are no superusers?" asks Ingram. "When you don't know obvious collusion, bots, etc., there's no way you can ever say that."
"It's just an unfortunate situation because Americans have so few options to play online poker."
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