In the wake of the high-stakes online poker action featuring Isildur1 on Full Tilt Poker, CardRunners instructor Brian Townsend has found himself in hot water. The world’s second largest online poker site has revoked his Red Pro status for one month, according to a recent blog entry on CardRunners. The reason is that Townsend purchased hands to examine Isildur1’s play, a violation of Full Tilt Poker’s Terms of Service.
In a recent interview with ESPN’s Gary Wise, CardRunners instructor Brian Hastings revealed that a potential infringement of Full Tilt’s Terms of Service may have occurred. Speaking on his $3 million day against Isildur1 on the virtual felts, Hastings told Wise, “Honestly, I give most of the credit to Brian Townsend here. I mean, Brian is honestly the hardest worker I know in poker. He analyzed a database of heads-up hands that Isildur1 had played and constructed ranges of what Isildur1 was doing in certain spots.” Although discussing hands with friends may not be expressly frowned upon online, the interview led to deeper speculation that something else may be awry.
On December 19th, Townsend posted a blog entry on CardRunners.com that read in part, “The only person to break the T&C of FullTilt Poker was myself. I had about 20k hands of play on Isildur and I acquired another 30k hands. This is against the T&C of Full Tilt Poker and because of this violation I am going to have my red pro status suspended for one month.” Where Townsend procured the extra 30,000 hands from was not discussed, but he explained, “All the information I received could be taken from watching the game.”
Full Tilt’s Terms and Conditions state, “Players are not permitted to use the hand histories for hands that they have not personally participated in. Software designed to collect hand history information from games that the player did not participate in is prohibited.” Examples given include Poker-Edge, Poker Crusher, SpadeEye, IdleMiner, and HandHQ. These poker software programs are commonly referred to as “data mining” tools and are against the Terms and Conditions of many of the world’s largest online poker sites.
The reaction on the PocketFives.com online poker forum was mixed. “JoGentleman” questioned the fuss: “Don’t understand why ppl make such a story about it. The game goes about millions and the swings are so huge. all the ppl are good and you want to get the biggest edge on your villain as possible.” Others questioned whether posting hand histories in the forums constitutes data mining of sorts. “AYBABTU” chimed in, “When we post a hand in the hand advice forum without concealing the other players ID’s, can that be considered datamining if other players share in the discussion. Should we be editing out other players Screenies?”
Hastings took $3 million off Isildur1 in just a few hours’ time. Townsend, meanwhile, won $1.6 million against the mystery Swede according to PokerTableRatings.com, good for the fourth most of any player online. Townsend trails only Hastings ($3.8 million), 2009 World Series of Poker Main Event November Nine member Phil Ivey ($2.9 million), and Patrik Antonius ($2.2 million) in terms of money won against Isildur1. The Swede is out $2.6 million, but won $5.5 million at the expense of Tom “durrrr” Dwan to keep his bankroll afloat.
Another fallout of the Townsend one-month ban is what is permissible given the vague language of online poker sites’ Terms and Conditions. PocketFives.com poster Special_K explained the dilemma: “The pokerdb, OPR, tableratings, sharkscope and other similar sites get their information in some form of datamining… So if you’ve ever utilized any of those sites to gather information on your opponents, you are guilty of violating FTP’s TOS the way I read it. Am I wrong?” Let the debate begin!