The Ongame Network publicly committed to improving their security measures to detect bots on the network in an unexpected and unprecedented statement that admitted current measures were “not enough.”
The announcement came in response to a thread on 2+2 that unearthed a serious bot rings that were successfully beating mid-stakes and high-stakes no-limit games: Allegedly over $500k was won by the bot programs in 2011 alone. The network of bots is thought to be part of a wider operation that has been plaguing multiple European poker networks.
Responding to these specific concerns, Ongame stated that, thanks to “comprehensive analysis” provided by players that “[highlighted] characteristics, tendencies and patterns of [these] suspected bots,” the Fraud department had found “variations in specific parameters” that can be used to detect a certain type of bot.
“We are now conducting more studies to take action against matching fraudulent accounts,” it continued.
But the statement did not stop there; it added that the closure of these specific accounts “was not enough,” and the network was committed to tackling the root-cause of the problem. A task force has been set up to attempt to find a technical solution, steps are to be taken in an effort to prevent bot-runners creating multiple accounts, and the network will strive to promote communication with competitors to curtail the proliferation of bots in the industry:
We are looking into a number of ideas that will make bot play very hard on Ongame network and we are confident that we will find ways to strengthen our ability further. Ongame also actively takes part in and strives to expand industry collaboration with partners and competitors to jointly work against the industry-wide problem that fraud, bots and money laundering poses.
The announcement certainly comes as a welcome breath of fresh air to players; it is uncommon to hear a poker network admit that bots pose a serious problem that deserves real solutions, and a Security and Fraud department active in the pursuit of cheating.
The use of bots has become a hot topic recently, with heads up bot rings discovered on Merge Gaming and on 888, multiple serious allegations at iPoker (masked by an iPoker rep mistakenly stating they ran house bots on the site) and on other Euro networks. Furthermore, a marked increase in skill level means that bots are no longer relegated to lower stakes and more “simplistic” games such as HU Limit, short-stacked cash games and SNGs, but now demonstrably beat high stakes NL cash games and beyond. It was one of the main topics discussed in Tuesday’s subcommittee hearing set up to discuss proposed legislation of online gaming, surprising many commentators.
Although Ongame’s statement certainly demonstrates a desire to move in the right direction – first accepting the serious risk posed by bots and secondly rethinking the approach to combating the issue – only time will tell if these words will covert into successful action. Since the statement, players have reported that the NL bots at Ongame are still playing – and winning – in the games.