Whenever a scandal hits the headlines, it’s important to know what is really going on.

ACR Poker’s reported near-$10,000,000 loss to a group of bot programs is disastrous – if proven to be true. A 2+2 user broke the news in early January after studying bots and “bot farms” (a term for groups of bots controlled by the same users). The programs play poker with solid strategies and are a massive threat to human players, who often lack the same consistency and skill. The bot groups can be repopulated, adjusted for new strategies, and are quite tough to eradicate.

Let’s examine the evidence, hear from ACR, and talk about what this means for you, the player.

February 2024 Update: There was another wave of accusations a month after we covered this story. If you'd like to read that next, follow the link below:

Yet again, TylerRM took to the forums and spoke about bots on the WPN rooms. We talk about the report and compare to the reports that came before it.

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The ACR Bot Situation: Explained

On January 3rd, 2024, the user TylerRM posted his findings to the 2+2 forum. The post showed a massive near-$10,000,000 loss on the Winning Poker Network, all of it from alleged bot accounts, not real human players. The winnings came from MTTs and cash games, though tournaments brought most of the roughly $10,000,000 total.

Before we show you the submitted evidence, let’s remember one important detail. Despite how comprehensive the reports are, getting 100% confirmation is going to take time – if it ever comes at all. At this point, we’ve got strong assertions and evidence from the poker community. We’ll post updates once the involved parties take action.

Here's the original post from TylerRM: https://forumserver.twoplustwo.com/29/news-views-gossip/botfarm-won-10-million-wpn-1830157/

How Bots (Allegedly) Cheated Their Way to $10,000,000

The forum post alleges that bots, part of a bot farm, managed to rake in nearly $10,000,000 from WPN (ACR’s network).

The Hand2Note reports show over $3.7 million in MTT profits in 2023, and over $200,000 profit from NL400+ cash games. In theory, all it took was a fundamentally sound strategy played by bots, which never tilt or tire. It's likely that the bots are regularly updated and tweaked to maximize the win rate, which became a 14.% ROI in MTTs.

Here are some important details from the report:

  • First reported activity: 12/18/2015
  • Poker formats affected: MTTs and No-Limit Holdem cash games
  • Bot’s 2023 profits on WPN: Over $3.9 million, not including rakeback from cash games.
  • Percentage of the player field: In some games, the report alleges that 5% to 15% of the accounts are bots.

A spread of MTT and cash game hands were also included in the report for anyone to download and examine. The post’s author encourages everyone to verify the data, and then, draw their own conclusions.

A list of usernames was also included, though many of the accounts are inactive.

The uncertainty in the poker world is justified, but asking professionals (like GT+ Support) where to play is a solution. We'll direct you to sites that have a reputation for being scandal-free, not scandalous.

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ACR Responds with The $100,000 Bot Challenge

Two days after the report on 2+2 hit the web, ACR Poker had a response.

The WPN’s flagship skin came out swinging and addressed the issue on Twitter, but the tweet and video were seen as a massive misplay by many. Chris Moneymaker and Ebony Kenny were the messengers. After two minutes of sympathizing with players and giving assurances, the pair dropped a bombshell offer.

Ebony started it off. “We’ve come up with a challenge for the community because we want you all to be on the same page and we want you to be inspired by what we have come up with – and I think it might just do that!

Chris took over, saying, “So, you know, it’s the community that has supposedly found the bot farm, found the superusers, whatever, and so, we’re going to reach out to the community. I’m going to offer $100,000 and a job with WPN, if anybody – the first person, can make a bot and make it operate on WPN. Make it operate for 5,000 hands and show us.”

“If you can make a bot, put it on WPN, and make it operate for 5,000 hands – bring it to us, show us. We’ll give you $100,000 on the spot and we’ll give you a job.”

The video could have ended there – and still caused a similar uproar, but Chris wasn’t finished yet.

I don’t think anybody can create a bot and break our security, but we could be wrong. I would love for you to prove us wrong – actually, I don’t want you to prove us wrong, but we’re going to lay it out there and we’re putting our money where our mouth is, essentially. We’re saying that we don’t have a problem and if we do have a problem, we’ll stand up and say we have a problem. We gotta find out if we have a problem, so, what do you think? $100,000 gets it done?

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The Reaction to ACR’s Bot Challenge and Response

Like a swarm of piranhas that just saw a wagyu steak fall into their pool, the commenters descended on ACR’s post.

As if realizing their mistake, on the morning of January 6th, ACR clarified the rules of the “Bot Challenge”:

  1. Create a bot that could pull money out of the player ACR economy.
  2. Complete at least 5,000 hands without being detected by ACR’s security protocols.
  3. Provide information to ACR to improve protocols in the future.
  4. Publicly identify yourself in order to provide transparency and credibility in the community.

To many poker players watching this saga unfold, ACR was just moving the goalposts and changing the terms of their challenge.

At Least One Player (Almost) Completed the Bot Challenge

“I woke up with a little inspiration to build a bot,” said Matt McElligott, aka. RangeTrainerDev. He’d heard the challenge from ACR and knew that he could build a program to play 5,000 hands.

It took me about 30 minutes to make,” Matt noted. “It wasn’t very sophisticated

Matt asked for clarification, with his bot already running on the site. What kind of proof did ACR need for the 5,000 hands?

This important detail hadn't been made clear yet, but then, ACR changed the terms of the challenge, specifying that the bot must be profitable. Just as Matt McElligott finished version two of his bot, the one that met the new terms, ACR canceled the challenge.

It was literally like, the minute I finished that version two, that was working. They announced it was canceled completely…”

And… The ACR Bot Challenge is Canceled

On the evening of January 6th, ACR canceled their own Bot Challenge, because obviously, it was a terrible idea to ask players to use assistance against ACR’s own player base. The company even admitted that:

“.. we now realize that pitting individuals against our player base to create and deploy bots was not the right path…”

Chris Moneymaker tweeted out soon after, claiming that he had “zero idea what has transpired” and that he was going to “lean on fellow team pros and staff at ACR to work through the mess”.

What is the Poker Community Saying?

Before the challenge was shut down, the poker world had a chance to weigh in. Phillip Nagy (aka. @WPN_CEO) was rather quiet, with no tweets or replies directly following the incident. We’ve collected some notable responses from the big names of the sport, plus anyone who had a great point to make.

The tweets range from astonished ACR players to pros chiming in.

JNandez (@JNandezPoker)

After spending a couple of hours checking, JNandez, ex-Upswing poker coach, found “11 suspected bots” and thinks there must be more.

He also noted that “$100k and a 9-5” wouldn’t be enough to get anyone with a working bot to step forward.

Patrick Leonard (@padspoker)

“They (the ambassadors) put their face on the site, they put their referral link, they do whatever, they post, they retweet – and then we get cheated out of millions and we hear nothing.”

Will Jaffe (@dankness3)

About ACR’s Bot Challenge, Will Jaffe had this to say:

A few days ago, a very scathing report comes out alleging that these bots have stolen almost $10,000,000 dollars out of your ecosystem, and what do you do to respond? You issue a challenge to the community – like it’s a challenge for a Triton package or something.”

Shaun Deeb (@shaundeeb)

Deeb’s thoughts about ACR’s approach.

Barry Carter (@Barry_Carter)

Poker journalist and author Barry Carter makes a great point, mentioning the GGPoker superuser scandal a week prior.

More Notable Tweets on the ACR Situation

Here’s one that didn’t age well, though Charlie Carrel couldn’t have known. Would the vote still be the same if it began today?