Lawsuit Filed Against Winamax Over Poker Bot Failings

Lawsuit Filed Against Winamax Over Poker Bot Failings

French poker operator Winamax is the target of a lawsuit by players who feel that the company did not maintain a safe environment for play because bots were present at the tables. As a result, sixteen customers of the online poker room have now banded together to seek damages and compensation for their losses.

About Poker Bots

A poker bot is a piece of software that has been preprogramed to make decisions at the virtual poker tables by itself. While these types of programs have been around for more than a decade, today’s versions are a lot more sophisticated than the ones from a long time ago. In fact, bot owners can even derive a decent income from unsuspecting opponents without having to learn how to play poker profitably themselves.

Nevertheless, almost every internet poker company has language in its terms of service barring the use of such poker bots, and Winamax is no exception. Furthermore, running bots is defined as a form of cheating, and those caught doing so risk having their accounts terminated and all their funds seized.

About the Alleged Bots

The bots in question are supposedly active in the site’s Expresso games, which are a hyper-turbo form of lottery SNG wherein three players compete for a prize pool that is determined by a number chosen randomly at the start of the match. They’re similar to the Spin & Go contests found at PokerStars.

In November 2017, a Two Plus Two member by the name of Dontsaycat subsequently expressed his concern over the presence of bots on Winamax after drawing attention to the antics of a player called  “twopanda” who had been competing at the €100 ($115) Expresso tables. As his post read:

“He is playing 12 hours a day, every day, 8 tabling and chatting on tables like he is on pool drinking cocktails. Now seeing that Winamax was not punishing him, he added other players with the same bot, who are playing in different hours than him and together they are owning totally the rankings of promotions and the tables.”

French poker pro and coach Maxime Lemaitre was instrumental in gathering information about “twopanda” and another suspected bot account connected to “VictoriaMo.” He analyzed their play in the €100 and €250 Expressos, the highest buyins offered by the site, and posted his findings on French-language poker forum ClubPoker this June.

Both of the suspected users were able to multi-table six to eight games at a time for hours-long sessions, and moreover, their poker strategy was virtually perfect. After running their observed play through cutting-edge analysis software, Maxime found that “twopanda” and “VictoriaMo” adhered almost precisely to game theoretically optimal decisions with much fewer mistakes made than other big winners.

The detailed statistics collected and shared by Maxime Lemaitre sparked outrage among other Winamax customers, and many of them contacted the site demanding action.

Winamax Takes Action

Faced with a mass public outcry, Winamax had to do something. The site proposed that “twopanda” and “VictoriaMo” travel to the online poker room’s Paris offices and play while site employees watched them. This would verify whether or not they could reproduce their stunning results in a controlled environment.

“twopanda” did not choose to cooperate, and his account was therefore closed down and his real money balance confiscated. Winamax said that they would refund users who had played against him, including recalculating the results of leaderboards in which this player had won prizes.

“VictoriaMo” did show up at Winamax’s office to play. He got through about 400 Expresso games, during which Winamax said that his pattern of play was consistent with his historical in-game decision-making and timing habits. He was confirmed as being a real player by the poker room. However, recognizing “the suspicion surrounding this player and the general climate of mistrust,” Winamax decided to end his playing privileges while allowing him to keep all the money he had already made.

Community Reaction

Almost every commentator was unimpressed by the results of Winamax’s investigation. Most of them claimed that because hand histories from the test were not released to the public, there was no way to know if Winamax did the job competently. The decision to ban “VictoriaMo” while allowing him to keep his winnings was also widely criticized. It was seen as an attempt by the site to have it both ways without really clarifying anything.

Further anger followed when affected customers received the refunds for the games they had played against “twopandas.” The sums paid were trivial and in many cases much less than the recipients felt they deserved. Maxime Lemaitre, for instance, got a credit of just €25 despite having played 270 Expressos with “twopandas.” When asked to elaborate on the formula used to calculate these refunds, Winamax declined to provide further info, citing privacy concerns.

Lawsuit Launched

Sixteen of Winamax’s disappointed customers have banded together in a class action lawsuit to collect the compensation that they believe they are due. They’re basing their arguments on Winamax’s obligations under French gaming law to “guarantee the integrity and transparency of gaming operations.”

Each customer is seeking redress in an amount between €10,000 and €50,000 (about $11,560 – $57,800). They are being represented by Ms. Justine Orier, a lawyer with considerable experience in business law.

Outlook received a license from the regulator ARJEL to operate in the French market back in June, 2010, and has since grown to become the world’s fourth biggest internet poker room. According to latest data released by PokerScout, the site currently has a 7-day average of 1,400 cash game players, and a 24-hour peak of 2,518 players.

Regardless of the outcome of the lawsuit, Winamax will likely lose some credibility in the eyes of the public. It may therefore attempt to reach a mutually agreeable settlement with the players who are pursuing legal action in order to avoid any further damage to its reputation. If the matter does go to trial, however, it’s anybody’s guess how the judges will decide because there has never been a similar case involving poker bots in French legal history.