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October 18, 2007

Absolute Poker scandal revealed

The Absolute Poker Cheating Scandal Blown Wide Open - Freakonomics - Opinion - New York Times Blog

Some opponents became suspicious of how a certain player was playing. He seemed to know what the opponents’ hole cards were. The suspicious players provided examples of these hands, which were so outrageous that virtually all serious poker players were convinced that cheating had occurred. One of the players who’d been cheated requested that Absolute Poker provide hand histories from the tournament (which is standard practice for online sites). In this case, Absolute Poker “accidentally” did not send the usual hand histories, but instead sent a file that contained all sorts of private information that the poker site would never release. The file contained every player’s hole cards, observations of the tables, and even the IP addresses of every person playing. (I put “accidentally” in quotes because the mistake seems like too great a coincidence when you learn what followed.) I suspect that someone at Absolute knew about the cheating and how it happened, and was acting as a whistleblower by sending these data. If that is the case, I hope whomever “accidentally” sent the file gets their proper hero’s welcome in the end.

Then the poker players went to work analyzing the data — not the hand histories themselves, but other, more subtle information contained in the file. What these players-turned-detectives noticed was that, starting with the third hand of the tournament, there was an observer who watched every subsequent hand played by the cheater. (For those of you who don’t know much about online poker, anyone who wants can observe a particular table, although, of course, the observers can’t see any of the players’ hole cards.) Interestingly, the cheater folded the first two hands before this observer showed up, then did not fold a single hand before the flop for the next 20 minutes, and then folded his hand pre-flop when another player had a pair of kings as hole cards! This sort of cheating went on throughout the tournament.

So the poker detectives turned their attention to this observer. They traced the observer’s IP address and account name to the same set of servers that host Absolute Poker, and also, apparently, to a particular individual named Scott Tom, who seems to be a part-owner of Absolute Poker! If all of this is correct, it shows exactly how the cheating would have transpired: an insider at the Web site had real-time access to all of the hole cards (it is not hard to believe that this capability would exist) and was relaying this information to an outside accomplice.

October 17, 2007

Drug-resistant staph infections an epidemic in Virginia

Staph Infections Reported at Schools Across the Country - New York Times

RICHMOND, Va., Oct. 17 — A high school student hospitalized for more than a week with an antibiotic-resistant staph infection died on Monday, as schools across the country were reporting outbreaks of staph infections, including the antibiotic-resistant strain.

The student, Ashton Bonds, 17, was a senior at Staunton River High School in Moneta, Va., and Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA, was diagnosed in him, his mother said.

Officials shut down all 22 schools in Bedford County for cleaning today in an effort to keep the illness from spreading, after students at Staunton River organized a protest overnight Monday, using text messages and social networking sites. On Tuesday, the student organizers led the Bedford County schools superintendent, James Blevins, on a tour of the Staunton River school to show him the state of its sanitation, particularly in its locker rooms.

Pirate attacks on the rise worldwide

Pirate attacks increasing worldwide - Breaking News - World - Breaking News

Maritime pirate attacks worldwide are increasing, with Somalia and Nigeria showing the biggest rises, an international watchdog says.

While Africa remains problematic, Southeast Asia's Malacca Strait, one of the world's busiest waterways, has been relatively quiet, the International Maritime Bureau said in a report.

A total of 198 attacks on ships were reported between January and September this year, up from 174 in the same period in 2006, the IMB said.

It said a total of 15 vessels were hijacked, 63 crew kidnapped and three killed.

Jaws caught in Florida

'It was like 'Jaws'' — 844-pound shark caught - Other Sports - MSNBC.com

DESTIN, Fla. - Six friends went to a fishing tournament looking to catch some grouper. They caught an 844-pound shark instead.

The fight by Adlee Bruner and friends to pull the 11-foot mako shark onto the boat from the Gulf of Mexico took more than an hour on Saturday. But when they made it back to land, it was a record for the decades-old Destin Fishing Rodeo.

“It was tense,” Bruner, 47, said about the fight to land the shark, which has a mouthful of huge, fearsome teeth. “I’ve fished for 40 years. I’ve never seen one that big.”

(Thanks, Cheese!)