After getting caught for colluding over hand-history sharing, the punishment that has been handed down to Brian Townsend and Brian Hastings is not nearly strong enough.
The two Brians had their Full Tilt poker pro status suspended for a month after admitting to gaining an edge over Isildur1 by sharing their own individual hand histories against the feared opponent.
This flagrant breach of the rules, which enabled the pair to work out Isildur’s betting patterns, helped them win over $4m off the mysterious online player – whose identity remains unknown.
The rules state the prohibition of the following: “Shared hand history databases and “data mining” software, including subscription services and the exchange of personal databases: The use of shared hand histories provides detailed information on opponents a player has little or no personal experience playing against, and is deemed to be an unfair advantage. Violating this policy is subject to the maximum penalties for prohibited software use.
“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.”
The fact is that, as poker professionals, these guys should be setting an example to the rest of us as to how to play the game, as opposed to using fancy software, smokes, mirrors or whatever other unfair advantage they can conceive of to win millions of dollars. Essentially, they have abused their standing as hand-picked Full-Tilt representatives to cheat the very customers that support them.
What’s more, although Townsend and Hastings got caught this time, they only did so because the latter let it slip in an interview a few days ago that Team Cardrunners (Hastings, Cole South and Townsend) shared up to 30,000 of hand histories.
“We’ve done quite a bit of studying of his habits,” Hastings told ESPN.com. “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.
“In a way, I feel bad that it wasn’t Brian who got this win instead of me. Obviously I’m happy and I’ll take it, but Brian did a ton of work. The three of us discussed a ton of hands and the reports that Brian made, so I’m very thankful to him and to Cole as well.”
That being the case, you have to question how long this sort of thing has been going on – i.e. whether collusion is standard practice.
At a time when we are hoping for the legalization of poker in the US the last thing the game needs is a scandal like this to give more ammunition to the anti-legalization lobby.
Townsend has already found himself in hot water before, in the summer of 2008, when he was banned for six months for playing under “2nd aliases” on both Full Tilt and Pokerstars.
Full Tilt should have thrown the book at Team Cardrunners and chucked out these cheats for good.