The story started with a seemingly innocuous story at ESPN.com, where Hastings talks about taking $4.2 million from Isildur1 during a session earlier this month.
Hastings had played Isildur1 three times previously, so he, Townsend and Cole South conglomerated their hand histories, allowing them to study the mystery man’s playing style.
“We’ve done quite a bit of studying of his habits,” Hastings reflected. “Honestly, I give most of the credit to Brian Townsend here. I mean, Brian is honestly the hardest worker I know in poker. He analyzed a database of heads-up hands that Isildur1 had played and constructed ranges of what Isildur1 was doing in certain spots. In a way, I feel bad that it wasn’t Brian who got this win instead of me. Obviously I’m happy and I’ll take it, but Brian did a ton of work. The three of us discussed a ton of hands and the reports that Brian made, so I’m very thankful to him and to Cole as well.”
The story then started percolating on the internet forums, as people realized what Hastings was talking about was actually a violation of FTP’s terms of service. From FTP’s site.
Shared hand history databases and “data mining” software, including subscription services and the exchange of personal databases:
The use of shared hand histories provides detailed information on opponents a player has little or no personal experience playing against, and is deemed to be an unfair advantage. Violating this policy is subject to the maximum penalties for prohibited software use.
Judging from that passage, it appears that FTP is going pretty light on Townsend, as a month suspension doesn’t appear to be a “maximum penalty.”
The latest news is this blog entry over at cardrunners.com by Townsend, where he talks about his suspension. He says Hastings, Cole South and himself never technically “colluded”:
Of the three I was the sole one to break the T&C of FullTilt. The three of us never shared hands where mucked hands were shown besides a few hands I posted on weaktight.org, and in fact all the information I received could be taken from watching the game. This is not saying what I did wasn’t wrong as FullTilt is very clear in its T&C, rather to clear up they type of wrong doing I partook in.
He also says there was no ghosting, nor did any of the three players play on each other’s accounts. Although there is the rather ironic typo where he calls Hastings “Cole Hastings.”
This is actually the second time Townsend has had his status suspended; previously he had been playing on second accounts on both FTP and PokerStars.
Obviously, Isildur1, a high-stakes pro who has been on a massive downswing, can’t be very pleased about this information. We’ll have more information on the situation as it becomes available.