As my faithful readers know, I’ve been playing no limit hold’em for a while (since August 8th) at JonWoodGaming (henceforth JWG), a relatively new online flash poker room, and have been doing relatively well. I started with a $5 no deposit bonus and last week I was up to about $146. You can read about my exploits at JWG in previous posts (here and here and here). And then two days ago the most UNBELIEVABLE thing happened. I noticed a major bug in the JWG poker program, a bug with serious $$$ implications.
I noticed that at certain no-limit tables (both real money and play money) the amount of money that players bet is not always the same as the amount of money that the poker room gives these players credit for betting. But what’s simply amazing, unbelievable, makes me think that either someone is hacking into the site or there is a scam going on, is that this mistake benefits the player, not the poker room.
Let me give one example of this error. At the $.25/.5 no limit tables, if there are three people playing a hand and each one puts in $.5 into the pot, then after the flop the house credits the pot with $3.8, instead of $1.5. I did some quick calculations and it seemed that on average the house was losing between $5 and $10 a hand at the $.25/.5 no-limit tables.
Given this problem, it is possible for all the players to come out winners at the end of a game, as was the case two nights ago when I played at the $.25/.5 no-limit tables. In a matter of a few hours I had “won” $250 and my two opponents also won, one of whom won over $600.
It was a joke how easy it was to “win” money because of this glitch. If I had played at these tables when I first noticed the problem, I would have easily been up over $1000. God only knows how much I could have won, er, stolen if I had played at a higher stake table. I imagine that JWG has already lost thousands of dollars because of this mistake, assuming that
they actually will let people cash out, something I am not so certain of (see below).
Before I won the $250 I called my brother up and told him about the problem and he initially thought that a poker room would never make such an egregious mistake. He thought that perhaps the $s that one uses to play with are not real $s, but rather have a smaller monetary value, and that JWG was merely giving the impression that it was giving extra money to the players.
In part because I find it so difficult to believe that an online poker room could have such a significant bug in their program, I initially thought that there was considerable plausibility to my brother’s explanation. But I didn’t fully understand it, so he decided to chat with support and ask them about the discrepancy. As soon as he mentioned it, the person with whom he was chatting said that the technical people were working on it, which meant of course that there was a problem and that his theory was incorrect and that my theory was correct.
The next day I decided that the right thing to do was to notify JWG about the problem, as I believed (with my wife’s encouragement) that it was unethical to cash out any of the money that I had won because of the problem. Not only did I explain about the glitch, and the fact that some of the money that I had recently won was not legitimately won, I explained that some of the money that I won was kosher. I assumed that JWG could easily sort out the kosher from the traif, and that in no time my balance would be smaller, but still above $100.
As of yet, two days later, I haven’t received any response from JWG. No thank you. No change in my balance. Of course, I was hoping for a Charlie and the Chocolate Factory sort of ending to the story. But I’m not holding my breath.
The day after I won $250, I went back to the original .$.25/.5 table. And the problem was still there. Unbelievable!!!! Could it be the result of an inside job, some greedy or disgruntled employee doing some mischief? I discussed the problem with two other players in the room and they said that this problem had occurred in the past and that the technical people would “fix” it, but in a few days the problem would reappear. They also agreed with me that it would be wrong to take the money out before the problem was fully resolved. I assume this was true, as poker players never lie.
I won around $50 playing at this table. Why so little, you may ask, given that the problem had not yet been fixed? Answer: I was playing against checkraisa, a player who is extremely loose against tight players like myself, making it much more difficult to limp in and try to hit hands. He is a real nice guy, but can be a serious threat to my winnings, as I show
In the middle of our three-player game a message appeared saying that the room was being shut down. No explanation was given. We all assumed that they were now going to fix the problem, and so we moved to another table, $.5/1 no limit. Although I’m not comfortable playing for these stakes, and the problem didn’t seem to be manifesting itself at this table, I felt that my bankroll was large enough for me to experiment. I won a little bit of money, and when I had decided to stop playing, I was up $466. Unbelievable!!!!
Last night I decided to go to bed early, because the night before when I had won the $250 I had stayed up late and couldn’t get much sleep because I was so pumped thinking about the mistake. I was trying to construct a reason for why it would have been ethical for me to keep all the money. The best I could come up with was the analogy that if you win money in a casino from a broken slot machine you’re entitled to the money. But I had doubts about this analogy, and my wife, whose ethical intuitions are stronger than mine, immediately said that it would be immoral for me to take the money from a broken slot machine. So I deferred to her righteousness.
I still suspect that what counts as stealing in a casino or online poker room may not count as stealing in some other venue, say, a supermarket. Ethical judgments can change depending on the context. For example, a lie on the show Survivor may not be unethical, where it would be unethical in everyday situations. So I haven’t come to any definite conclusions about the JWG case. If anyone can think of a good justification to take the money, I’d like to hear it. Perhaps another post will examine the ethics of such a sistuation in more detail.
As I was saying before I digressed, I was trying to get to bed early last night because I didn’t have much sleep the night before. So what’s the best remedy when you can’t sleep? Why, of course, play poker.
I go straight to JWG and see that there are only two tables that are active in the real money no-limit section, one for $.02/.04 blinds and the other $1/2. Guess which one I chose? You got it. The higher stake game. And guess who was playing? Right again. Checkraisa. But what the hell, I’m up $466, much of which I’m thinking I don’t deserve. How much can I really lose if I play my normal tight wad game? Well, how about $50 in the first 20minutes? And then another $50, and then another $40. was I going to lose it all? Not so fast. I finally hit some decent hands, and in no time I’ve climbed out of my hole and I’m actually up $50. I quickly learn that the money goes quickly – too quickly for me – in both directions when you’re playing at these stakes.
It’s getting late. I’m getting tired and I’m thinking about quitting ahead. But I make the fatal decision to play just a little onger (damm greed). And I get dealt hand that does me in. It’s against checkraisa, and since he’s so loose, I figure there’s a good chance he’s bluffing. I’m holding an Ace, no hearts, and the flop shows three hearts, one of which is an Ace. After the river I have two pair, Aces and Queens. I don’t remember much more about the hand, but it doesn’t matter, because checkraisa was dealt the 3 and 5 of hearts, and his flush kicked my two pair’s ass. And I lose $250.
Surprisingly, the $250 loss didn’t hurt that much, even though I did lose it in one hand and obsessed over it and my stupid playing for a while (I didn’t follow my advice that one should not go all-in unless one is %90 confident that one has the winning hand). I also have to give credit to checkraisa because his loose style of playing tricked me and sucked me in. I learned that I need to stay away from these stakes for a while, at least when checkraisa is playing.
So where do I stand? I’m thinking seriously about depositing $25 and playing 4x this amount of raked hands to that I can cash out some, if not all, of my money, which is presently at $266. My friend (MKS) thinks that I will never see any of the money that I’ve won. Perhaps the “mistake” was a ruse, an attempt to get people like me to deposit, and then say that the problem prevents the house from paying out any winnings. Although I value my good friend’s worldly advice and I’m highly suspicious of any online poker room, I tend to think that my friend’s doubts are unwarranted.
First, I’ve asked people I’ve played with at JWG and some have said that they have gotten money out. Remember poker players never lie. second, I’ve gotten money out of other poker rooms, such as Party and bodog, albeit bigger rooms, and ones that don’t have bugs. Third, I’ve never seen any discussion on the web about how JWG is a scam site or makes it difficult to withdraw cash. Fourth, I’ve been told by other players that JWG was primarily a sports booking room and only recently has included the poker room. So this may account for their technical problems, not some intentional ploy to trick the customer. Finally, JWG’s customer service is pretty easy to reach either by phone or online. So if I had to bet, I’d bet that I could get my money out.
And so I shall do it! I resolve to make a $25 deposit to JWG in the next few days. I shall let the chips fall where they may….most likely in checkraisa’s stack.