The GG Network's policy of "protecting recreational players from regs" has been shaping the landscape of online poker for several years. High rake, strict warnings, bans for alleged bum hunting, and lottery-style rakeback – these are the realities that professional cash game players face today in the world's largest network.

Until now, MTT regulars have been largely unaffected by GG's policies, but it seems their time of tranquility has come to an end.

PokerOK, the GG Network's Russian-language skin, made a surprisingly aggressive move on Telegram. Uncharacteristically, they publicly declared war on poker stables, blaming training sites for all the problems in poker ecology and labeling them "hands down, the greatest threat to the purity, integrity and equality of poker today":

Here is the full translated post:

🔊 Dear PokerOK players!

We have long been monitoring and collecting information about the activities of certain funds and poker schools – the so-called “stables”, which we have noticed using unlawful training practices and violating the rules of the platform.

Organizations of this type systematically violate the rules of our platform: we are talking about teamplay, softplay, collusion, ghosting, bumhunting, multi-accounting and mining of databases, notes and strategies.

Stable activity is, hands down, the greatest threat to the purity, integrity and equality of poker today. Distortion of the balance, erosion of trust in the community, unfair advantages – “stables” become an absolute evil, killing the very essence of poker.

We are starting an active struggle. We have a huge database of accounts of “stable” participants, and we will do everything possible to prevent such organizations from existing and developing in PokerOK. We intend to strictly protect the gaming atmosphere we have created – one where every participant can feel comfortable, secure and play for fun, regardless of their experience, skill, level and skills.

We have already introduced restrictive measures for some players. And this will continue.

We have no illusions regarding the positions of the owners of the “stables”, and are ready to blackmail them. But we won't stop. We have taken the path of protecting our players from the harmful influence of “stables” and maintaining a healthy gaming ecology.

We do everything to preserve the inviolable right of poker players to play fairly in our favorite room.

Reports of PokerOK freezing the accounts of stable players for "verification reasons" started surfacing a few days before this announcement. The head of the RSB Team stable, Ilya "pokanuktus", wrote in a Russian forum post that 38 of the stable's players had their accounts "frozen."

Since then, that number has grown to 50.

Players are gradually regaining access to their accounts, but with significant restrictions on deposit and cashout methods, as well as a ban on transfers.

One of the first to provide a detailed commentary on PokerOK's initiative was the most well-known advocate against unfair play in our community, TylerRM. He's also well-known and regarded for his multi-year crusade against bots at poker tables and for breaking the story about ACR Poker's multi-million dollar situation.

To top that off, Tyler wrote a guide on finding bots at online tables.

Here are Tyler's main points (translated and shortened):

Soft play. Stable players usually don't have pieces of each other in tournaments, so they have no incentive to engage in soft play. In practice, stable players often play looser against each other – because they know one another, and often feel compelled to prove which one of them plays better.

Team play. Stable players have no incentive to help each other win. For this reason, there is no collusion between two players from the same stable.

Ghosting. In Russian-language stables (the ones affected by PokerOK's declaration), instances of ghosting are quite rare. This was achieved by condemning the practice in the public space. Now, all stable and training site leaders base their coaching on the principle that players must rely only on themselves at the table. Furthermore, the best players who rise from the bottom become coaches and founders of their own stables – and convey a similar stance to their students.

Bum hunting. In MTTs, bum hunting can be divided into two parts. The first is selecting tournaments with the maximum number of weak players. As a rule, players from stables and training sites are primarily interested in playing tournaments with the highest number of entrants, because the more players in the tournament, the greater the likelihood of getting a weak player at their table. The second is playing a wider range against the weakest player at the table. When a weak player is at the table, it is advantageous to play as widely as possible against them in order to go to the flop more often, where they will make the most mistakes. Bum hunting in MTTs is not a violation of the rules.

Multi-accounting. In stables and training sites, each player has a personal account where they show the stable administrator their balances and data from the poker rooms. The administrator ensures that the player does not have two accounts on PokerStars, six accounts on GG, and eight accounts on WPN. Therefore, when such a violation is discovered, the accounts will be blocked, the money confiscated – and the stable will suffer losses from this.

Mining databases and strategies. A good stable needs all the hands in the world to do quality work, build relevant strategies, or improve them. Buy everything available on the market and collect everything that can be collected from the players. This accusation is certainly relevant – if we assume that the use of hand histories is prohibited. But this way, any high-quality coaching work also falls under the ban – and we disagree with such a ban.

Comments from Poker Stable Representatives

We reached out to the heads and representatives of several stables for comments and asked them 4 questions:

  • How justified are PokerOK's claims against stables regarding ghosting, team play, and the use of data mining?
  • Do you think that stables and training sites pose a threat to the poker ecology?
  • Do you combat potential fraud among your players?
  • Do you have players with recently blocked accounts on PokerOK?

Fiat, FiatLab:

On claims against poker stables: Over the 2 years of FiatLab's existence, we have exactly 0 players blocked for violating the rules of the room – and not just PokerOK, but any other room. Look at open arbitration topics from before 2014, for example. At that time there was no sign of large stables yet, but there were already plenty of options for poker crimes. Participation in a stable does not encourage breaking the rules. You don't need to be in a stable to engage in dishonest behavior. Stables mean high-quality training and professionalism, not criminal activity, as PokerOK is trying to portray.

On stables threatening the poker ecology: The question is interestingly phrased. Do you think winning regulars pose a threat to the poker environment? Do those who play sober pose a threat to poker ecology?

In other words, the question is not about software or tournament structures, but about certain players. Stables are players and coaches who study together. Is that bad? It's clear that PokerOK is simply fighting against winning regulars, hiding behind the guise of "evil" stables. Today it's players from stables, tomorrow all winning regulars, and the day after that, amateurs who have been winning for two months straight. The idea that every winning player is a villain undermines the concept of poker as a game of skill.

Alexey "Fiat" Vandyshev with director Roman Mikhailov on the set of the film "Let's Go to Macau With You", filmed with the support of FiatLab

On combating fraud in stables: "Potential fraud" is straight out of PokerOK's rhetoric. As if every stable player is a potential fraudster.. It reminds me of the movie "Minority Report" with Tom Cruise. But PokerOK doesn't have any psychics who can accurately predict the future. I suggest that it's not the stables that should fight potential fraud, but rather PokerOK that should combat real fraud.

Recently, at least one super user was discovered on the GG network who exploited a software vulnerability and saw players' equity in a hand. Due to the inaction of the security team, he took money from everyone in his path (both in cash games and MTTs).

According to GGPoker, one of their users was banned and thousands of dollars were confiscated after a new cheating scandal broke. Here's the latest.

Read

Another investigation earlier this year revealed that an entire organized crime group of bots was operating on the WPN network – literally hundreds of accounts.

In MTTs, according to the most conservative estimates, bots dishonestly won over 10 million dollars. The damage is real and tangible.

A 2+2 post at the start of 2024 alleges bots are being used on ACR Poker and have racked up nearly $10,000,000 in profits.

Read

The security team initially denied the existence of this problem altogether. Eventually, most of the bots were banned – primarily due to irrefutable evidence presented by analysts from, you guessed it, poker stables. The face of this story was TylerRM, who had previously seen success in identifying bots on other sites. So, if we operate with facts and not speculation, we can say that stables actually perform contrary to PokerOK statements. They function as an external control over game fairness and the quality control for the security teams' work.

On recently blocked accounts: Around 3-4 players have been blocked and it's still unclear why. Apparently, it's because they're "from a stable." But I heard that other stables have more blocked players. And there will be even more soon. I would like to see some evidence of fraud from PokerOK. In reality, players have had their cashouts restricted (or frozen) for trying to make money from poker. There are currently thousands of players in stables.

If this arbitrariness continues, where is the guarantee that players outside of stables won't be targeted? Or even amateurs who play well and run good? How will you, the reader, prove that you're not from a stable? If PokerOK is going off the rails now, then wild things that can't even be imagined at the moment will happen.

In general, I suggest that professionals be dealt one card instead of two in Hold'em. For the sake of the ecology.

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Pokanuktus, R.S.B.

On claims against poker stables: Ghosting, team play, and data mining are problems that exist independently from stables. Moreover, a stable that has crossed a certain threshold in terms of membership essentially becomes a public space. For example, we have about 150 people on our server. There are training sites with 1000 people. Do you think this format of public space is conducive to the flourishing of fraud?

In our stable, everything that can be classified as fraud is condemned, regular disclaimers are posted, and upon joining, each player receives information about what is and isn't allowed within the framework of fair play.

On stables threatening the poker ecology: To say that stables and training sites pose a threat to the ecology is the same as saying that any winning player poses a threat to the ecology. Stables train people, which means they will accumulate winning players. Therefore, if PokerOK does not admit its mistake now and does not meet the needs of the poker community, then in the future, the same unlawful freezes will await any winning player on the site.

On combating fraud in stables: This question was partially answered in the first paragraph. Yes, of course. Purely in theory, there may be isolated cases that occur within a stable and escape management's attention. But in general, training sites monetize the transfer of knowledge. They are not interested in players breaking room rules, as this jeopardizes their reputation. In the poker community, literally everything depends on reputation.

But bot farms are what monetize the exploitation of room rules and the faces of PokerOK's security team. And in the matter of fighting bots, the community as a whole, including stables, shows greater effectiveness than PokerOK and GG overall. PokerOK is apparently currently trying to blur the difference between these concepts – but, of course, we won't allow this to happen.

On recently blocked accounts: We already have about 50 players who have been subjected to account freezes. Most of them, after unlocking, cannot withdraw more than $250-1000 per day (and in fact, it takes three days, given the withdrawal speed), but there are also those who receive their cashouts with more fair withdrawal limits.

Well, you can read more about my account on my blog. I still haven't received the money from PokerOK.

VeA, SV poker

On claims against poker stables: Not at all justified. Separate groups of scumbags cheat. Stables monitor ethics. Foul play is shameful to us.

On stables threatening the poker ecology: The development of professional poker training has followed the path of forming stables, which are essentially poker schools. So the real question is: "Is teaching poker a threat to poker ecology?" From the rooms' point of view, the ideal scheme is to grind players' deposits to zero with their tools. For example, rake + house players (bots) = profit. In this scheme, professional players are not needed at all. This is an approach to poker as a casino and people as resources. We believe that poker, and MTTs in particular, are first and foremost an intellectual game/sport. Saying that we are hurting poker is akin to saying "Professional football is hurting football in general."

On combating fraud in stables: We fight by our own example, first of all. Stables also actively counteract bots. And quite successfully, especially when the rooms meet the players halfway. PokerOK is consistently destroying such mechanisms.

On recently blocked accounts: There are players with blocked accounts on PokerOK, but I'm not sure they are related.

Artyom wrote another comment in the official PokerOK thread on the forum. Here is a fragment of this text:

I will state my personal vision of the situation:
1. PokerOK is against the existence of poker regulars as a class
2. PokerOK is against teaching poker on a professional basis
3. You can't put minced meat back through the meat grinder. PokerOK's decision has been made and, with the current configuration, is irreversible.

strawnij, KOT-MTT

Let's start with the understanding that every poker room is, first of all, a business seeking to protect its interests. Sometimes these interests coincide with the interests of the players, but more often they diverge. However, I am convinced that many issues can be resolved through dialogue rather than through unilateral actions.

Particularly perplexing is the rhetoric used to describe poker stables, declaring them "absolute evil." This ignores the development of this ecosystem over the last 5-10 years, which has helped popularize poker. Thanks to training in poker schools, many amateurs become stronger, and some even begin to win.

On claims against poker stables: Tyler already has a position on this issue, which we agree with. It is crucial to emphasize that all teams actively oppose any form of unfair play, introducing strict rules and forming blacklists. Cooperating with players who violate these rules is unacceptable to us.

On stables threatening the poker ecology: Over the past 10-15 years, foundations and poker schools have become an integral part of the poker ecosystem. They are no different from any educational platform, except for the model of mutual settlements and risks for the team. We are actively working on developing the industry, creating content on YouTube, in telegram channels, and on streams, and attracting new players, which benefits all market participants, including rooms.

On combating fraud in stables: We carefully check our players and do not cooperate with those who have a dubious reputation.

On recently blocked accounts: Currently, only one account in our team is blocked – Sasha's account AlexZA3. Recent events raise questions about blocking policies. We would like to have clear criteria and transparent rules for all participants.

By the time the material was published, the recent Triton attendee's account had already been unblocked.

Natasha Ego1stka interviewed Alexander Zubov, who recently scored $278k from his first Triton final table in Jeju, South Korea.

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BeHeartless, DreamTeam

On claims against poker stables: Any violation of the room rules is a direct violation of the contract with our team. We do not encourage such actions. The main goal of our project is to provide players with truly high-quality training. Everything here is like in big sports: in order to get to any serious competition and win, you hire a coach and work on your game. Only a few can walk this path on their own.

On stables threatening the poker ecology: Speaking about poker ecology, I cannot ignore the current problem of bots and superusers. I think everyone has heard about the player Moneytaker69 in GG and the scandal in the WPN network. When the room itself cannot catch bots and superusers, after spending a couple of hours and finding a certain set of stats in the sample (although this is the basis for any novice researcher), poker schools come to the rescue.

Thanks to the funds, hundreds of bot accounts have been blocked – in fact, poker schools often do the security work of poker sites.

Now let's return to the issue of ecology and the fight against profitable players. Such a fight is contrary to the rules of poker, where there is a winner and a loser at showdown. The cancellation of winning regs is formally a cancellation of the current rules. Is poker no longer a game of skill? Is it impossible to win against those who make mistakes?

Imagine that you decided to participate in a marathon, you prepared and trained for a long time, but before the start, the organizers "conducted a big research", found out that you were running faster than the others, and decided not to allow you. In other words, the very concept of competition was abolished.

On combating fraud in stables: The backing industry is based on the reputation of the players. One of the effective ways to combat dishonest players is the inter-fund database of fraudsters and arbitrageurs (IFB). There is a server in Discord and a website where the so-called "grey list" is located. Any player who is caught in ghosting, multi-accounting, or teamplay immediately ends up on this list, and no project will take him on for a contract. What is also important is that all data from the IFB is available for casinos in Sochi so that the transparency and fairness of the game is maintained even offline.

On recently blocked accounts: We have had several players and partners blocked for no reason; all of them (coincidentally?) are streamers – and stream mainly PokerOK. The cashier also had extra restrictions..

At first, cashouts were only available on a card. Then, in one case, it was possible to achieve the return of Skrill (at a 3% commission). A couple of days later, cashouts for crypto were returned to streamers. But transfers are still not available.

The room, of course, did not provide any evidence and limited itself to a standard unsubscribe. I would like to see a detailed explanation of what exactly our guys violated.

PokerMove

On claims against poker stables: A fund is always a project for the future, for which it is important to work honestly and for a long time. Violations of room rules cause great damage to relationships both with the rooms themselves and with the players. Therefore, funds are interested in fair play and make sure that their players comply with all the rules. And those who do not comply are expelled.

Cheating in some tournament in order to get your players a few page jumps is stupid and unprofitable. "Earning" ten to twenty buy-ins is a meaningless risk that will bring colossal losses over the long term. Fraud in the fund is almost impossible to hide, and as soon as something like this is revealed, it will most likely simply kill the project in a couple of days.

We take a responsible approach to complying with the rules and are confident that most of our competitors do the same. If someone systematically visited, teamplayed, or mined, everyone would quickly know about it. Because the players communicate with each other outside the funds, they move from one team to another. Such information cannot be hidden either from funds or from players.

The fund does not work in order to take money from someone in droves. Each participant plays against everyone, including those with whom he discussed strategy yesterday. This is a fair and just approach that we support and promote.

On stables threatening the poker ecology: We do not believe that stables and funds have a significant impact on the poker environment. The professional community existed long before such projects appeared. People in it actively exchanged information, helped each other master current strategies, shared risks through backing, and, of course, supported their colleagues.

This is part of any game, not just poker. There are always people who are willing to spend time and effort to become better than others. And there are those who spend time pleasantly and without stress. Both are honest and legitimate participants in the process.

In theory, you can get rid of "stables" as projects, but you will not get rid of them as communities of like-minded people. People will still have a desire for progress. The players will also train each other, consult, look for mistakes, and engage in backing. Yes, in a less centralized and organized form, but all this will remain. And it doesn't matter whether it continues to take place on your platform or on another.

And if someone wants to prohibit people from striving for victory, he, in our opinion, is doomed to failure. Because the desire to beat someone and become better is not only the nature of poker but also the engine of progress in general. An independent regular, a fund player, an amateur, even a person who has not yet heard of poker, have a desire for success.

A game of poker is not a casino; players a priori cannot be equal in a game that in itself is of interest precisely because of competition. This is not roulette, not slots, or other games in which nothing depends on the player. Poker is first and foremost a sport and a competition. We already know one room that fought for "poker ecology" – and we see what this fight led to.

On combating fraud in stables: Yes, we look after the players and provide instructions within the fund. We introduce and monitor compliance with the rules of the rooms where the guys from our team play.

On recently blocked accounts: No, so far, fortunately, there have been no such cases.

Maxim, New Age

On claims against poker stables: In our team, ghosting and teamplay are strictly prohibited, up to and including immediate expulsion. And this has always been the case, from the moment the team was created. We have always been for fair play.

On stables threatening the poker ecology: We do not believe that funds are harmful. Not everyone can learn and not everyone wants to learn. But everyone should have the right to professional development in any field. Not everyone is able to pass at least the micro or medium limits, despite our training efforts.

On combating fraud in stables: Of course, we have never supported any kind of fraud – both in the public sphere and on a personal level "behind the scenes" of the team. We expel players for any type of fraudulent activity.

On recently blocked accounts: We have frozen two accounts so far, from one of them we sent money at the request of players. There was no ban, they simply lowered the limits on transfers to $1 and forced them to win back money to withdraw balances without explaining the reasons.

In conclusion, we present a translated fragment of writing by Fedor 'Lorem' Truntsev, who was not constrained by our questions:

My main problem with the "poker schools are evil" narrative is that it's just the truth turned inside out. Poker schools have given thousands of people the opportunity to earn money with their intelligence and hard work. Without dads and moms. Just play poker, study, and live the life that an ordinary hard worker from Ust-Zalupinsk could only dream of.

Of course, you can play minus and earn money solely thanks to a contract with the room, but is this the poker dream? Naturally, one can imagine a world in which no one works on the game, no one is trained or backed, and everyone plays with minus rake or nano-plus. But whose dream is this really? Players? Or rooms that just let them remove winning regulars?

Professional players will always strive to play better and win more. And the only way to deal with this is to ban winning players. No "declaration of war" on poker schools will help with this, it will all just come down to how much these schools will be "scorched."

If schools are outlawed, then there will only be more ghosting, because there is nothing left to lose. Accordingly, the current position of the PokerOK management, no matter how good their intentions are, is simply short-sighted.

In the same way as the ban on trackers, they fool ordinary people who sit and worry for nothing, and nothing prevents anyone who wants to watch mining on their opponent from doing it on a laptop. And since you put the laptop next to it, you can open GTO Wizard.

I believe that prudence can prevail. Personal grievances and squabbles between PokerOK management and RSB representatives should not determine how we will all coexist in the future. I personally am all for the fight against cheaters, for banning those who are visiting or who are being visited, and that's all. Moneytaker, for example, was caught first by Tyler, like many bots. Therefore, let's admit the obvious – we are in the same boat here, and not on opposite sides of the barricades.

There is no point in starting a war between rooms and schools, no one will benefit from this. Schools will not disappear, there will be no fewer regs – unless, of course, you simply ban positive regs. In my opinion, PokerOK still has the opportunity to change its record. And change the focus from schools that help hard workers win at poker, to cheaters, whom we ourselves are happy to help you catch as many as you like.

At the moment, it was mainly RSB that came under the hammer. In my opinion, this reflects the real essence of what is happening – the conflict between Pokanuctus and the management of PokerOK. Yes, Pocanuctus tried his best, I don't mind. But the RSB players are not to blame for anything; in fact, they simply got handed away as part of settling personal scores.

Do not do it this way.