Well-known nosebleed stakes online pro Brian Townsend came forward on his blog Tuesday with an admission that he has operated multiple accounts on both PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker for the last six months.
"I wanted to have come forward and make this public sooner, but unfortunately because of certain business relationships I could not do that," the CardRunners pro wrote Tuesday. "What I did was wrong and I am going to be punished by Full Tilt Poker by having my red pro status revoked for six months. I am unsure what action, if any, PokerStars will take."
Townsend's "red pro" status on Full Tilt Poker earned him an hourly rate and rakeback while playing under his normal account, perks he didn't enjoy while playing under the anonymous accounts.
In addition to the change in his red pro status, Townsend is also donating $25,000 to a charity to be chosen later as an act of "good faith" towards his business partners.
"The reason why I created these accounts was because I enjoy anonymity when playing smaller and am very prideful in what I do," wrote Townsend. "The past two years I have made a lot of money playing poker. This year I have been breakeven. For me it's correct to play smaller when things aren't going well. I am smart enough to move down when things aren't going well; I was just too prideful to make it public."
"I hope that people can look to me and not only learn about poker and bankroll management, but also how to do the right thing and be a good person," he continued.
"Poker isn't about luck or how you are running. It's about the work and effort that you put into it. I have not had good results this year because of my poor play and lack of focus, not because I have run below expectation. I want to prove that to everyone."
Question and Answer
Townsend's public apology on his own blog was accompanied by a thread on the popular 2+2 forums in which the CardRunners pro opened himself up to any and all questions the forum readers might have for him about the situation. The signal-to-noise ratio was low thanks to typical forum chatter, but some prodding questions in the 18-page thread did receive answers from Townsend.
One of the accounts Townsend used during the six-month stretch, Stellarnebula, apparently belonged to his assistant, who was being crushed in $1 sit-and-go tournaments in 2006. "My assistant isn't a very good poker player," was his explanation.
Some posters wanted to know if Townsend believed his image was at risk if people saw him playing smaller stakes than usual. Curiously, Townsend's reply was, "Partially, but I think the main reason was I felt like playing 25/50 and 50/100 stakes meant that I wasn't a good poker player."
When asked why he waited to publicly apologize for his violations of the Full Tilt and PokerStars Terms and Conditions, Townsend wrote that he had to "discuss the situation and right thing to do with all parties involved before I made any statement. That was only fair to Full Tilt and CardRunners."
Others questioned whether the loss of red pro status was a fitting punishment, finding the irony too hard to swallow. "The punishment is the remove of benefits he personally discarded during the time of his infraction?" wrote poster Poker_is_Hard. Fellow posters agreed and asked whether he really cared about having those benefits revoked for six months.
"Yes I do care. I embarrassed not only myself but my company," wrote Townsend. That's a big shift from his previous mindset if his answers are taken at face value; when another poster asked if he would have stopped if no one had caught him, he replied, "No I would not have been forth coming. I was naive and thought this would all blow over."
One of the most interesting posts in the thread came not from Townsend, but from Lee Jones, the former PokerStars poker room manager turned CardRunners COO. When a poster questioned the portion of Townsend's punishment that involved giving $25,000 to charity, Jones posted his only response in the entire thread.
"I will argue that a donation to (e.g.) Habitat for Humanity does good for a lot of people - much more so than the donor," wrote Jones. He added that the charitable donation was not Townsend's idea.
"I think we can agree that CardRunners was harmed by his actions," wrote Jones. "We, the CardRunners managers, felt that we needed to convey a clear message that we didn't approve of what he had done. We considered a straight fine (loss of normal company distributions), but ultimately chose the charitable donation instead. The fine is being debited from Brian's distributions but will be sent to a still-to-be-decided charity."
Not a New Problem
Townsend might be high-profile, but he isn't the first figure to be implicated in a multi-accounting scandal.
Justin Bonomo was caught using multiple accounts in tournaments in 2006. Much like Townsend, he offered himself up to the public with contrition, declaring that he realized his actions were wrong and asking for forgiveness. Since that time Bonomo has repaired his reputation enough to find himself a sponsorship with Bodog.
Josh Field, the teenager known online as "JJProdigy," was also outed last year as a tournament multi-accounter; he had been caught multi-accounting in the past but continued to do so anyway. Field eventually admitted his guilt but was less repentant than either Bonomo or Townsend.
Aside from his sponsored status with Full Tilt and his reputation with CardRunners, the biggest difference in Townsend's case is that he used his second account in cash games, not tournaments, making any edge he got over his opponents much more difficult to quantify.