Valve have banned seven individuals from all the events Valve sponsor as a result of the recent Counter-Strike: Global Offensive matchfixing scandal. If you weren't following the story here's what happened:
A top American team called iBUYPOWER lost a match to NetcodeGuides.com. The match was part of the CEVO Professional Season 5 and featured a lot of bizarre decisions and odd play from iBUYPOWER. Jetlag and lack of map familiarity were the reasons given by the team but a Daily Dot investigation pieced together text and chat messages along with betting behaviour from the CSGO Lounge to put together a convincing case that iBUYPOWER threw the match on purpose.
(If you're unsure, CSGO Lounge is a site where you can bet virtual items like guns on the outcome of particular matches. Some of these items have an incredibly high value on the Steam Community Market and elsewhere due to their rarity. You can read Rich's in-depth account of his experiences using CSGO Lounge here.)
Valve have been digging into the accounts of the accused players and intermediaries to look at the items won in the bets – CSGO Lounge connects to your Steam account so it can access your items and inventory – and state:
We can confirm, by investigating the historical activity of relevant accounts, that a substantial number of high valued items won from that match by Duc “cud” Pham were transferred ( via Derek “dboorn” Boorn ) to iBUYPOWER players and NetCodeGuides founder, Casey Foster.
cud had, according to the DD report, placed around $10,000-worth of bets using nine separate accounts. Texts from the phone of Derek Boorn (a player on a team called Torqued which also contains former iBUYPOWER players) suggest Boorn received and redistributed $7,000-worth of skins on behalf of the players. The texts also state "I even told Dazed [Sam 'Dazed' Marine – iBUYPOWER's then captain] while they were playing to make it close and it was too obvious."
You can see the whole match below but if you're looking for "too obvious" head to 11 minutes and watch Steel refuse to take a double kill.
The individuals affected by the ban are:
Duc "cud" Pham
Derek "dboorn" Boorn
Casey Foster (NetcodeGuides founder)
Sam "Dazed" Marine
Braxton "swag" Pierce
Keven "AZK" Larivière
Joshua "Steel" Nissan
Professional players, their managers, and teams’ organization staff, should under no circumstances gamble on CS:GO matches, associate with high volume CS:GO gamblers, or deliver information to others that might influence their CS:GO bets.
It hasn't been a good few months for the Counter-Strike: Global Offensive competitive scene. On the high-profile side of things Fnatic dropped out of the Dreamhack CSGO tournament quarterfinals after rivals LDLC filed a complaint about the use of boosting, but not before filing a complaint of their own. That was the same tournament the teams Titan and Epsilon were disqualified from after a wave of bans from Valve's Anti-Cheat system hit several pro-players.
Cheating and match-fixing are slightly different, although the behaviours involved may overlap considerably. Cheating is about advantaging yourself in the contest usually by committing rule violations. Match-fixing is about gaining an advantage outside the contest – usually financial – by altering your behaviour to get a particular result. Both undermine trust in the competition and have a huge impact on how an eSport is perceived.
Bans are one way of dealing with the problem and help demonstrate a zero-tolerance attitude towards players who cheat or match-fix. But when the issue came up on the Dota 2 scene it also pointed to problems with the financial rewards of eSports. As Dennis Schumacher of joinDOTA said "it's sometimes possible to earn more money by betting than you can by winning."