Poker World Sees Cheaters Suspended, PokerStars Tournament Halted Due to DDoS

Despite how far the poker world has come, it still has its demons. Two regular faces are notably absent from a popular, long-running tournament, and PokerStars is once again experiencing technical difficulties during events.

Ali Imsirovic
Ali Imsirovic
Ali Imsirovic after winning the $25K NLH Event at the 2018 Poker Masters. He’s missing from this year’s Poker Masters tournament, along with Jake Schindler, over allegations they both cheat at poker. (Image: Drew Amato)

A few days ago, as the Poker Masters was getting started, Daniel Negreanu noticed that Ali Imsirovic and Jake Schindler were absent. It was a little surprising, given that both have been regular fixtures at big-ticket tournaments.

Negreanu forecast on Twitter that the two players wouldn’t arrive, and he was right. Poker Masters organizer PokerGO later confirmed that it had suspended the two grinders over allegations of cheating.

No Room for Cheaters

In a press release, the PokerGo Tour (PGT) announced “the indefinite suspensions of Ali Imsirovic and Jake Schindler, effective immediately. The suspensions will extend through at least the 2022 PGT season, at which point a review will take place.”

Imsirovic and Schindler are causing an uproar in the poker community. Multiple players have accused the pair of colluding in live poker tournaments and using real-time assistance (RTA) tools in online tourneys to game the system.

Neither has publicly addressed the allegations, adding to the suspicion that they’re guilty. After Schindler won his WSOP bracelet last summer, he refused to discuss the subject when the media approached him for comments.

Both players are among the best tournament grinders in the world. Before the cheating accusations, Negreanu had dubbed Schindler one of the best players of today.

The two have combined earnings of about $53 million in live tournaments, according to the Hendon Mob. If they cheated to get there, however, their status as elite players will disintegrate.

Last year, Imsirovic, one of the favorites to top this year’s PGT leaderboard, won 14 major tournaments. With that, he also earned the GPI and PokerGO Tour Player of the Year awards.

For now, the suspensions will run through the end of the year. It isn’t clear if PokerGO will take it any further than that, but it’s possible. This is the first major poker circuit to take action against the two embattled pros, and others could follow suit.

The poker ecosystem is taking a zero-tolerance approach to cheating, driven by the new GGPoker-led Poker Integrity Council. That group hopes to bring transparency and honor to poker, and wants to see the entire poker community back an industrywide blacklist for violators that would cover both live and online events.

PokerStars Suffers Attack

Sunday was the big day of PokerStars’ World Championship of Online Poker (WCOOP). Among the 25 tournaments on the calendar were six Main Events, along with a number of other tournaments.

Anticipation was high as players dreamed of the cash they could win when, at around 8:30 PM, Flutter-owned PokerStars announced on Twitter that things weren’t working out. It had been forced to pause all tournaments on the .com client due to technical issues.

After an hour with the tournaments paused, PokerStars announced that it was still working to resolve the technical problem. Then, almost two hours later, the platform announced the cancellation of all tournaments. It added that the prize pools would be distributed according to the site’s cancellation policy.

PokerStars had become a target of a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack. Someone, or some group, deliberately set out to sabotage the day’s events, leaving the poker platform with egg on its face and thousands of players more than a little frustrated.

DDoS attacks are relatively common occurrences – in the second quarter, there were 78,558 attacks globally, according to Kaspersky. There are plenty of tools and sites available that make launching one simple.

It’s unclear as to what tools Flutter has in place to counter a DDoS attack. While PokerStars indicated that there was no breach and it didn’t lose customer data, the forced shutdown was still embarrassing.

The WCOOP Main Events that should have taken place on Sunday are back on the calendar. Players can try their hand again on November 6, provided PokerStars doesn’t run into any more issues.

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