Inside the Alleged Betting Scandal

ploguidic3 2015-02-10 10:07:42

 On Febuary 8th Olivia Wong shook the foundation of the StarCraft scene when she claimed that many smaller tournaments were funded by Korean bettors seeking to take advantage of smaller streamers naivete in order to turn a profit. This scandal which if true, is perhaps the largest one StarCraft has experienced since the 2010 matchfixing incident where it was revealed that Ma “sAviOr” Jae Yoon was helping match fixers work with players, arrives hot on the heels of two games of Korean StarCraft where sports betting site Pinnacle voided all bets due to suspicions of match fixing. The two scandals are both based around circumstantial, but strong evidence. This article will seek to review the evidence present and allow the reader to draw their own conclusion.


Before looking at how this Korean benefactor found his way into the foreign scene I'd like to provide an overview of how the benefactor was allegedly able to gain unfair advantages when betting. The benefactor would provide sponsorship of the event and would demand an abnormally long delay (up to ten minutes of real time which equals 13.8 minutes of game time). The sponsor would also demand that they be allowed to observe the game. This in itself is not an unreasonable request, Rifkin of BaseTradeTV offers it as a perk for his Patreon supporters, but creates a clear way to place bets with a predetermined outcome when the live observing is coupled with the long delay.

I was able to speak to Robert “Pughy” Pugh, one of the tournament organizers that Ms. Wong implicated in her initial flurry of tweets. Pughy's tournaments were cited twice by Ms. Wong, more than any other organizer, except for one Korean former pro-gamer, one Jeong “Dragon” Yong Soo. Pughy told me that his involvement with the Korean benefactor began with a request to broadcast Dragon Invitational 3 on his own stream. Dragon allowed Pughy to broadcast the tournament as long as he used the same ten minute delay that Dragon himself was using.

Pughy (taken from his Twitter)

At this time it should be noted that Dragon is not new to controversy, when he was still a competitive player he came up against accusations of map hacking and or stream cheating, ultimately resulting in a promise to Brood War legend Lim “BoxeR” Yo Hwan that he would never play another competitive game of StarCraft II.

Following the Dragon Invitational, Dragon reached out to Pughy and arranged for the benefactor to sponsor a tournament which would go on to become PughCraft. The tournament organizer had similar demands, a longer than would be typical delay even for a WCS stream as well as a requirement that he be allowed to observe in game. The benefactor went by the name Minsu Lee and had an account that was in Diamond League on the Korean server. He seemed at this time to be genuinely interested in StarCraft, between his relatively high level account and his desire to actually correct replays of select games afterwards it seems reasonable enough for Pughy to have believed that his new benefactor was simply an enthuisastic fan with a large wallet.

After casting one of Pughy's tournaments, “Over,” a caster at the Connecting Slovenia organization, was also contacted by the benefactor going by the name of Minsu Lee. The formula should be familiar at this point. Minsu approached Over via Skype and offered to sponsor a relatively large prize pool as well as providing top level Korean players. This tournament would go on to become the ConnSi.Christmas tournament.

Jonathan “Wardi” Ward also co-casted the Conn.Si Christmas tournament, and true to form the mysterious benefactor reached out to Wardi. Wardi accepted the sponsorship and began organizing the SC2 Improve Winter Series. When the scandal broke Wardi decided to run the tournament with a lower prizepool out of his own pocket. His full statement can be found here.

The SC2I Logo

There are other organizers that were implicated in this betting scandal, but I stopped reaching out to tournament organizers as it became clear that there was nothing left to learn. This mysterious benefactor “Minsu Lee” followed a modus operandi to a tee. Whenever he came in contact with a new tournament organizer he would reach out, and offer a large prize pool as well as a pool of top tier Korean players seemingly without strings attached.

The benefactor would appear to be tied into the Korean pro scene for better or worse. On top of the fact that Dragon is considered “Patient Zero” for this benefactor, Pughy told me that when one of foreign his players had trouble receiving payment, Ryoo "SeleCT" Kyung Hyun acted as a middle man, eventually providing the payment to the foreign player in question. It does not appear that SeleCT was involved in any meaningful capacity, and considering the fact that Pughy constantly cited language barrier as an issue SeleCT may have simply been acting as a bilingual middle man as a favor to the foreign player. These two players involvment coupled with the fact that the benefactor was able to provide top-tier Korean players would suggest that they have some kind of connection to the scene.

If Minsu Lee is in fact a bettor it would make sense that he would be a former pro or semi-pro player. The additional insight provided by his experience would allow him to make far greater use of the up to ten minute delay that he asked of various organizers.

Ultimately there is not proof that Minsu Lee was anything more than an enthusiastic benefactor. At this point he would most likely be found not guilty, but not guilty is not the same as innocent, it simply means there is insufficient proof to convict at the time of a trial. Over the coming days and months it is likely that more evidence will surface providing clarification on this incident. Yet even if this evidence shows that the Minsu Lee was more than a wealthy fan, realistically speaking it seems unreasonable to hold the tournament organizers he worked with accountable. If they were not aware of any unethical behavior then how can one claim that their hands are unclean of anything worse than naivete? The eSports industry is young and in many ways unregulated, and although this is likely to be one of the more memorable alleged scandals, it is unlikely to be the last.

The original SC2I logo used was that of the SC2I Team League, a league that is not linked to the Korean benefactor. eSports Heaven sincerely aplogizes to the entirety of the SC2I team for this oversight and would like to make clear that SC2TIL has nothing to do with Minsu Lee, the only affected league is SC2I Winter Series. 

For more breaking news and great eSports content follow Joe on Twitter @ploguidic3


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