PokerStars invests heavily in its Game Integrity operations to ensure players are protected by industry-leading processes, capabilities and expertise. If you’re new to PokerStars Game Integrity then take a look at the introductory page, which provides an overview of what PokerStars does to protect the game.
The following information provides a deeper dive into some of the more frequently asked about areas of Game Integrity.
The PokerStars Game Integrity team aims to update this page on a regular basis to ensure that concerns, questions and queries are addressed.
The Game Integrity team is focused on policing section 5 of the PokerStars terms of service (5. PROHIBITED USES) to make sure that attempted collusion, multi-accounting and bot use is detected, investigated and acted upon. To back this up, we concentrate on creating enforceable and sustainable policies to ensure that players who do follow the rules are not at a disadvantage.
When a member of the Game Integrity team identifies suspicious behaviour an investigated player’s account is frozen, meaning that they can’t play or withdraw funds. If found in breach, they can ultimately be banned and their funds redistributed to affected players. Minor first time infringements may be addressed by warning the player and educating them on the content of the PokerStars terms of service. In many cases, the player is simply not aware they’ve crossed a line and once informed they stay on the straight and narrow.
The number of collusion, bot and multi-accounting cases at PokerStars is relatively small, especially when compared to the number of players on the site. However, we consider any cheating to be a problem and that’s why we spend millions of dollars every year safeguarding against it. Given the technological capabilities we have - and the effort we put in on a daily basis - we aim to raise the bar so high that the likelihood and penalty of being caught acts as a severe deterrent. You can’t stop people trying to break the rules, but you can certainly catch them and make things right with those negatively affected.
PokerStars finds the vast majority of cases proactively, regularly as much as 95% in any given month, using a combination of market leading proprietary tools, human expertise and machine learning. Even though we have high proactive detection rates, PokerStars always values reports from players and ensures every single one is investigated.
PokerStars has been successfully combatting poker bots for years and continues to develop its own proprietary AI tools and machine learning systems. PokerStars uses these systems to combat the threat of bots through the analysis of hand histories and other data points using real time monitoring and alerts. We use vast amounts of data to see patterns that fall outside the norm and use these to initiate bot investigations. Our Game Integrity capabilities flag suspicious patterns of play and are constantly evolving. You can see an overview video on the Game Integrity landing page here.
Detection essentially works by analysing huge tracts of data and our systems flagging alerts based on a wide variety of connected factors, focusing on data points which are reliable indicators of possible breaches. PokerStars automated systems run 24/7 and flag accounts for investigation, which are then subject to closer analysis by specialist teams.
Accounts that win large MTT or Spin & Go prizes undergo routine investigation, which has occasionally resulted in significant payouts being passed to other players in the tournament/s in question. Although PokerStars keeps those payouts locked at such times, all funds are ultimately returned to the player pool. PokerStars does not keep any player funds.
The PokerStars Game Integrity team has a number of KPIs (Key Performance Indicators), which either relate to detecting and acting against people breaking the PokerStars terms of service or on response times and quality of review. The KPIs do not relate to broader commercial goals.
PokerStars remains focused on and confident of taking the right steps to provide a fair and level playing field for online poker. The Game Integrity team’s KPIs are exclusively targeted at detecting and preventing illegitimate play and have always been kept separate from commercial goals. They are reviewed on an annual basis to ensure they remain directly relevant to current challenges. Without context some Game Integrity numbers could be misleading, but we aim to create and share a regular infographic that details some key numbers around our investigations.
Game Integrity investigations are based on a peer review system. All investigations are initially conducted by one team member (using the range of tools at their disposal). Once an initial decision has been reached, the case is passed with a recommendation to a colleague who then conducts their own thorough review. If the reviewer arrives at a different decision the case is passed to a third member of the team. They will liaise with both colleagues to arrive at a final decision.
All infractions and suspected cases of cheating are investigated thoroughly. PokerStars has put in place a number of thresholds that determine the level of seniority needed to review and sign off on cases.
The Game Integrity team is hugely experienced with several specialists having been on the team for more than a decade. Every month a sample of cases are reviewed by an expert internal QA team to ensure consistent high standards. Every member of the Game Integrity team will have a sample of their cases scrutinised and graded annually. Low scores are followed up on.
The Game Integrity team keeps track of its monthly and annual performance primarily, but not exclusively, through the following statistics:
A fully automated bot (FAB) is bot software that makes choices independent of human control, i.e. it’s automated to ‘click buttons’ by itself. A push this button bot (PTBB) is a piece of software that informs the user what action to take, rather executing it independently.
It’s always been PokerStars policy to confiscate the balance of someone found to have purposefully broken the rules and to distribute those funds back to affected players as fairly and quickly as possible. We also add funds where appropriate. Larger refunds are signed off by senior members of the Game Integrity team. While we won’t be able to go into the details or identify the specific games/player(s) to ensure we adhere to data protection legislation, PokerStars conducts fair and thorough investigations (as detailed under ‘How do I know Game Integrity investigations are carried out fairly?’).
All major tournaments undergo review to ensure that they have been played on a level playing field. The added level of security looks for instances of account switching during the later stages of a tournament, among other things. It can be frustrating for a player to be investigated and temporarily not be able to withdraw funds, but the PokerStars Game Integrity team is focused on the wider fairness of the game. PokerStars never retains confiscated tournament winnings. They are distributed back to the players in the tournament.
As detailed here, PokerStars has developed a policy that is designed to be an appropriate compromise between allowing the use of tools and services that might enhance the playing and learning experience for the user, while prohibiting tools and services that give the user an unfair advantage. Feedback from our customers is encouraged and constructive feedback is taken into consideration in future updates to the Third Party Tools and Services Policy.