History of Absolute Poker
How Absolute Poker Started
Updated May 31, 2010 – Updates located at bottom of page.
Absolute Poker (AP), which works off the Cereus Poker Network, is one of the prominent online poker rooms around for a number of reasons. While the site invests significant amounts on marketing and promotions, the site actually became a household name after one of the biggest cheating scandals in the history of online poker was exposed in 2007 and catapulted Absolute Poker, along with its sister site, Ultimate Bet, into the limelight.
Establishment of AP
Absolute Poker was launched by Joseph Tokwiro Norton’s Tokwiro Enterprises in 2003. The company has its headquarters in the Kahnawake Mohawk Territory, on the south shore of the St. Lawrence River, nine miles south of Montreal, Canada. The online poker room is licensed by the Kahnawake Gaming Commission. Tokwiro is a private company.
One of the co-founders of Absolute Poker was Scott Tom, who acted as the site’s president from 2005.
The Absolute Poker Scandal Begins
The scandal involving Absolute Poker was one that rocked the online poker world and threatened to destroy the very existence of the site. There are several versions of the story, but most agree that the actual facts are these:
When Absolute Poker began to develop its software in 2003, test accounts were created to check the efficiency of the program. In general, test accounts cannot be used for real money play and they are only created to keep an eye on whether pots are distributed correctly on the site. User account #363 had features that allowed it to see the hole cards at any table at the site, again for testing purposes only.
When the program completed its testing stage, Absolute Poker final launched in 2003 and investigators into the cheating scandal say that at some point during this year, four unrelated, unsuspecting individuals opened accounts with the new site, played for a while, and then left them largely unattended and forgotten over the years. The four players in question were Graycat, Streamroller, Potripper and DoubleDrag.
Cheater in Action
During 2007, Absolute Poker went through a major upgrade and hired several outside programmers from around the years to develop and test the new program. At this point, it is alleged that an outside programmer hired for this purpose came across the #363 test account and saw the potential of having full access to the hole cards played out at tables on Absolute Poker’s site.
Using the four defunct accounts opened by players in 2003, the villain managed to play against family and friends, losing to family controlled accounts and building up a stockpile of winnings.
By September 2007, rumors began to circulate that something fishy was happening at Absolute Poker and that collusion was involved. In a bid to cover his tracks, the cheat lost intentionally to throw amateur sleuths off his tracks.
The turning point in the scandal came during a head to head game between a poker player, Marco Johnson and the cheat using the Potripper account. Johnson lost the $1000 buy in tournament match and demanded a hand history of the final table from Absolute Poker.
At this point, buckling under the pressure that has been placed upon the site by poker message boards, Absolute Poker decided to freeze and suspend the accounts of the four suspicious players.
The Excel sheet sent to Johnson with the hand history was soon shared with others who were now convinced that there was something more than met the eye at Absolute Poker, despite the fact that an official statement released by the site said that said that they had “determined with reasonable certainty” that nobody had access to the hole cards.
Nevertheless, the hand histories were examined and it was instantly clear that the player using the Potripper account could see the hole cards of the other players. Players at poker portals 2+2 and Pocket Fives managed to trace the email address used by Potripper to a model cable in Costa Rica owned by Tom Scott, co-founder of the site.
It was then revealed that the account now belonged to Scott’s best friend, AJ Green, former Director of Operations at the site.
Absolute Poker rushed to distance itself from Scott and announced that the co-founder had not been employed by the company for over a year.
Absolute Poker Reacts to Information
In an official statement issued by Joe Norton, the owner of the site said that the integrity of Absolute Poker had been compromised by “a high-ranking trusted consultant employed by AP whose position gave him extraordinary access to certain security systems. As has been speculated in several online forums, this consultant devised a sophisticated scheme to manipulate internal systems to access third-party computers and accounts to view hole cards of other customers during play without their knowledge.”
Absolute Poker promised to repay all losses incurred and, in an interim report in November 2007, said that it would refund $1.6 million to all those players who had been affected by the cheating scandal.
Kahnawake Gaming Commission Issues Findings
In January 2008, the Kahnawake Gaming Commission announced that it had completed a month long investigation into the affair and had reached its conclusions. Among the most important findings was that there was no evidence whatsoever that Absolute Poker as a business entity benefited from the cheaters and the board was satisfied with the efforts made by the poker site to reimburse all affected players.
The report found that Absolute Poker would be subject to random audits of logs and records over the next two years and continuous compliance program had to be implemented. All those who were responsible for cheating had to removed permanently from Absolute operations and the site was ordered to pay a $500,000 fine.
No specific individuals were named in the report. The Quebec police are still investigating matters.
60 Minutes Report
In November 2008, the mainstream investigatory program, 60 Minutes ran a feature on the scandals that rocked Absolute Poker and its sister site, Ultimate Bet. The program interviewed a wide number of people, including professional players and Todd “Dan Druff” Whitteles who was one of the main figures involved in unearthing the Absolute Poker scandal. The report quoted Whitteles’ comments games played against “Graycat”: “He was playing in a style that was sure to lose, but he was killing the game day after day.”
AP Becomes part of the Cereus Poker Network
In December 2008, major efforts were made to distance Absolute Poker away from the scandal that had so shaped the last years of its operations. Tokwiro Enterprises launched the Cereus Poker Network in December, incorporating Absolute Poker and Ultimate Bet.
At the launch of the new network, the Chief Operations Officer of both sites, Paul Leggett said: “I am so excited to announce the launch of our new poker network CEREUS. This is a huge landmark for our company and online poker. I’m confident that Absolute Poker and UltimateBet customers will be thrilled by the new platform and we look forward to welcoming many new players from around the world.”
A week later, Cereus blocked players from the State of Kentucky, following attempts by the state’s governor, Steve Beshear to seize the domain names of 141 internet gambling and poker sites.
It took Tokwiro Enterprises over a year to plan the Cereus Network, with both sites on the platform able to retain their own unique features but players able to have a game against someone from the sister site, for example. The aim of the new network was twofold – to create a new brand image for Absolute Poker, and to increase traffic at both sides. The two sites have a shared tournament structure, shared promotions and a shared player pool.
In June 2009, Absolute Poker added a new downloadable poker client for Mac users, making it the first Mac friendly product on the Cereus network.
In recent years, Absolute Poker has gone all out to promote its new brand through non stop tournaments and marketing campaigns.
The site regularly runs plenty of free tournaments, ranging from small to medium sized prize pool. Seasonal freerolls with higher prize pools are also run.
Regular tournaments have buy ins ranging from $1 to thousands of dollars, at all different levels. The site runs weekly guaranteed tournaments with prizes of up to $150,000 being given away. Weekend tournament guarantees sometimes reach a total of $500,000.
In addition, qualifiers to unique land poker events through low buy in satellites are also offered.
In November 2009, the site added synchronized breaks at its multi table tournaments, allowing players to enjoy five minutes breaks at the 55th minute of every hour.
There is no doubt that in the past year or so, Absolute Poker has been devoting all its energy into recreating its industry standing that took a battering in the cheating scandal. The site stresses its commitment to integrity and fair gaming and seems to have put the past behind it. The focus on the future is now bringing players one of the best poker experiences on one of the ten largest online poker card rooms in the industry. You can see the continued traffic trends of Absolute Poker by the following Google Trends.