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Date Posted: December 18th, 2009 (4:09pm)

I can honestly say that I've visited 2+2 less than 30-40 times since I got into poker.  From the moment I first visited the site, to this day, the same elements bothered me.

1. I didn't like its organization, layout and look.
2. I despised the hating, inane comments, and challenge of determining credible from non credible replies.
3. It was too big. The typical threads are much too long to make sense of with the time I had available

They seem to have a 98% rule in effect at 2p2, that you can discount 98% of what is said as fluff, idiocy, inaccurate, and unhelpful.  Most post devolve into arguments for the sake of arguments, sophistry and various tangents. The remaining 2% are strategic gems or very entertaining.  But honestly, I don't want to work that hard, or waste that much time finding those gems.  I will give credit to the fact that when you have that much energy going into a forum, some positive elements come forth (e.g. advancing the superuser cheating scandals or very entertaining photo shops).

Today, I visited 2+2 for the first time in a couple months.  The times I do visit it's always because someone has linked a particularly epic or controversial thread on the CR forums.  Today's thread was concerning the Townsend/South/Hastings vs. Isildur1 matches.  I don't want to rehash the whole episode, but in essence some people were claiming the CR guys violated FTP's TOS (terms of service).  As is typical, the thread was 65 pages long, and most people don't have the time or interest to get that involved in the various arguments.  I spent one hour perusing the various perspectives and here's my take.

1. Online poker is still a new landscape.  The dynamics are constantly shifting and evolving.
2. Terms of Service by all the poker sites are not fixed and have shifted many times over the years.
3. FTP is largely responsible for this mess, by not more clearly defining what it considers is acceptable or not acceptable.
4. I have sympathy for each of the perspectives shared.

Any business that deals in the online realm has to be responsive to the constant shifts in technology, software etc.  Poker players have access to poker tracking software (e.g HEM, PT, HUD's), hand history database sites ( e.g. chatting by AIM, ventrilo, phone, screen sharing software), training sites, hand history replayers, extensive strategy forums.  Every poker player is looking for an edge.  The ethical ones are looking for every legitimate edge.  So they need a clear understanding of what is acceptable.  If there is a gray area, or one that isn't clearly explained they will likely interpret it to their favor. 

I want to be clear that I am not hear to defend or accuse any of the parties of any wrongdoing.  That is not for me to decide.  What I am emphasizing is that it is from the perspective of a poker player, it is a murky environment that needs more clarity.

For example, here is an email from Full Tilt.

xxxxxx: Hello,

Thank you for contacting Full Tilt Poker Support.

Full Tilt has a strict policy of one player per hand.  It is not permitted for you to receive advice from any other person during the course of the hand, however, if the coach discusses that hand with you after the conclusion of the hand that is acceptable. 

For Poker Tracker and other 3rd party programs also, you can only import your own hands.

If you have any other questions, please let us know.


Poker Specialist
Full Tilt Poker Support

To be fair to Full Tilt, I don't know the specific questions asked of their support in the original email, but that explanation isn't clear enough for me.  Next, let's look at the TOS clause the objectors were referencing:

Not Permitted Under Any Circumstances:

2. 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. Some specific examples include:

•community shared hand histories
•exchanging hand histories with a friend

I understand Full Tilt's efforts to reduce the influence of data mining and shared hand history databases, because they have given unfair advantage to players utilizing them.  I understand that they want to emphasize that you analyze hands that you have played in only.  But what good is a rule if you can't evenly and fairly enforce it.  Are they really saying that you can't exchange or share hand histories with a friend?  Isn't that what every poker strategy forum does?  Would that make us all guilty?  Some high profile high stakes matches have most of the major hands documented and discussed for the public on various forums.  Is that illegal?  What number of hands constitutes a database? Does watching a training video where instructors walk you through hundreds of hands, showing the play and results also fall into this same gray area?  What if you were to analyze your own personal hand histories, but then shared your findings, not the hands, with others?

I haven't bothered to mention the live poker parallels, but the ethics shouldn't change.  If you can freely watch TV poker, or discuss hands ad nauseum after they are played, what is fair for the online world?  If the 'FTP corporation' as represented by Phil Ivey, Howard Lederer and the others can essentially take down Andy Beal for $16 million in a live setting by working together in similar fashion, why is it not reasonable online?

I sympathize with those that want a fair and even playing field.  I sympathize with those that want offenders of the rules properly punished, because we don't need more disrepute brought to online poker.  I also understand player's desires to gain any legal edge they can gain to profit from poker.  I even understand is isn't easy for Full Tilt to anticipate and explain every possible situation.  But for a billion dollar online business that is constantly evolving, it is necessary to more clearly define what is acceptable and what is not.   The intent of the law and the letter of the law can be two very different things. That is why I feel it is ultimately Full Tilt's responsibility to better define their TOS for all players.

As for the 2p2 thread, I found this comment summed it up best:

"People on 2+2 getting upset about a group of people getting together to analyze poker and go over hand histories seems strange to me." - manwithbrisk

For the other 98% percent of stuff there, my lifetime isn't long enough to bother with your negativity.


*link to the original thread


Saturday addition -

I thought I would add the official FTP response from FTP Sean (Brian Townsend also added his own remarks in his blog today)
Sorry for the delay in posting, I just wanted to make sure I had all the facts together prior to doing so.

First, to clear up some of the current confusion about the current state of the rules at FTP:

There is absolutely nothing wrong with discussing hands, discussing opponents, or discussing strategy with other players while away from the table. I think most people are aware of this, but I just wanted to ensure that was clear from the beginning.

We have rules (quoted many times in this thread) about collusion, datamining and sharing hand history databases. I only make mention of collusion here to emphasize that nobody involved is suspected of collusion. If we were talking about collusion, we’d be seeing a much different outcome for this case (since in the poker world, there are very few rules as important).

Importantly, our rules apply to our Red Pros just as much as any of our players. In fact, we often have to be tougher on our Red Pros than our players because not only do they represent our site, they are looked up to by players as role models.

After doing an investigation and speaking with Brian Hastings, Brian Townsend, and Cole South, the Fraud and Security team have come to the conclusion that the statement taken from the ESPN article describing the three combining their hands into a shared database was inaccurate. Further, Brian Hastings and Cole South were found to not have breached our rules in any way. They did discuss hands, an opponent, and a strategy for that opponent, but it was all done away from the game. While they were playing it was always one player to a hand.

A breach of the rules did occur by Brian Townsend, and was related to datamining. Normally we wouldn’t share that information (for privacy reasons), but due to the fact it was a Red Pro who represents the site, we feel it’s important to clarify the situation.

As for the punishment:

On the spectrum of rule breaking, datamining, while serious, isn’t at the top of the list. Contrary to popular belief, we almost never close an account for a first datamining offense. We understand that not all sites have the same rules, and there is definite confusion surrounding datamining specifically. For this reason, we try to give our players the benefit of the doubt in many cases and allow them a warning to make sure they’re now aware of the rules and agree to follow them moving forward.

However, like I said above, we have to hold our Red Pros to a higher standard. So in addition to the warning, we’ve stripped Brian of his Red Pro status for a month. I understand this won’t feel like enough of a punishment for many of you. Many options were considered, but at the end of the day we felt this punishment best fit the offense.

It’s certainly embarrassing to all of us that this has happened and upsetting that the facts of the incident were not reported correctly. We will ensure that all our Pro’s understand that they are under the utmost scrutiny and are held to the highest standards of all of our players when it comes to the integrity and promotion of our brand.

We apologize for the delay in responding, and for the confusion that resulted from that delay

JackDogWelch Added 12/20/09 11:53am
This is not Mr. Townsend's first "conviction" for unethical behavior. And Brian seems willing to bend the rules whenever he feels it is to his advantage. - JDW
XPOKERCHIC Added 12/19/09 2:06pm
Interesting information Zimba. This caught my eye:Could isildur1 get his money back because of Hastings + co 'cheating'? No more likely than durrrr getting his back due to martonas/isildur1 multiaccounting/"cheating".
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