Inside Bet

Timeline: Catching the Cheaters

The scandals at Absolute Poker and UltimateBet only erupted after several frustrated players began investigating the cheating on their own. A look at the players' investigation and the response by online poker officials follows. Also: Internet Poker and the Law »

June: Absolute Poker, based in Costa Rica, receives a license from the Kahnawake Gaming Commission, an arm of the Mohawk Tribe near Montreal.

[Joe Norton] October: Former Kahnawake Grand Chief Joe Norton (right) buys Absolute Poker and UltimateBet and folds them into his holding company, Tokwiro Enterprises ENRG.
August: Players report suspicious betting patterns on Absolute Poker but managers deny cheating. Frustrated, a handful of players begin their own investigation, identifying improbable winning hands.
Oct. 19: After weeks of pressure from players, Absolute Poker acknowledges it has found a breach in its software and is investigating. About the same time, Joe Norton issues a press release disclosing for the first time that he is the owner of Absolute Poker.
Oct. 24: Absolute Poker informs players that a high-ranking consultant in its Costa Rica office breached its software and spied on competitor's hands, cheating them out of hundreds of thousands of dollars. It began refunding $1.6 million. But in a move that angers players, it refuses to identify the cheater or turn him over to authorities.
The Kahnawake Gaming Commission
Jan. 11: Kahnawake Gaming Commission issues results of its Absolute Poker investigation in a four-page report. It confirms cheating but also refuses to identify the cheater. Poker site is fined $500,000 but keeps its license.
Jan. 12: A new cheating scandal surfaces at sister site of Absolute Poker, UltimateBet.com. Players report suspicious betting and cheating similiar to Absolute Poker. Once again, a small number of players begin their own probe.
February: UltimateBet confirms "abnormally high winning statistics for the suspect accounts."
May: Players post results of their investigation on a popular poker forum. Shortly thereafter, UltimateBet acknowledges cheating and begins making $6.1 million in refunds.
[Frank Catania] July: As Tokwiro concludes its investigation, the Kahnawake Gaming Commission appoints Frank Catania (right), former New Jersey gaming official, to investigate UltimateBet.
September: Catania confirms cheating over several years totaling about $20 million and recommends suspending UltimateBet's license. The Gaming Commission rejects the recommendation but fines UltimateBet $1.5 million and gives it until November to make millions more in refunds. It then issues a press release saying there is "clear and convincing evidence" that former World Series of Poker champion Russ Hamilton was behind the cheating. Hamilton's lawyer denies the accusations.
November: Tokwiro Enterprises issues statement in response to the CBS/Washington Post investigation into the cheating scandals, claiming to have done "the right thing in every instance."

Compiled by: Gilbert M. Gaul | Sources: Washington Post reporting; company press releases and statements; Kahnawake Gaming Commission press releases; twoplustwo.com; Frank Catania. | Photos: The Montreal Gazette, Gilbert M. Gaul, CBS News/60 Minutes

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