Earlier this week, Valve suspended several North American players and their associates after finding they had been involved in a match fixing ring. It seems the specter of global Counter-Strike: Global Offensive match fixing isn’t going to go anywhere soon, however. While the North American scene is still reeling from the events, which saw some of its best players effectively permanently banned from competition, it seems they weren’t the only ones involved in suspicious matches.
The leading skins betting website, CS:GO Lounge, has continued its investigations into alleged match fixing on the heels of our own reports. The site has found several other dubious matches that it believes were influenced by the same match fixing ring. Today, the site said it would no longer host any games from U.K. organisation Team Hyphen.
Hyphen isn’t so much an organization as a collective group for U.K. players. It doesn’t have an active website or any sponsors of note. CS:GO Lounge, however, has found one game that had questionable ties to the same North American match-fixing ring.
On Dec 16, a squad of Hyphen players comprised of four U.K. players and Joshua “Steel” Nissan—one of the banned players, who had a long-standing habit of playing with U.K. organizations due to his time spent living in London—entered a small online cup called the CS:GO AOC U.K. Challenge Winter #5. Hyphen were favorites to win the competition, which comprised only four teams, and those odds were reflected in CS:GO Lounge’s betting system.
In their match against a competent U.K. mix team called “Jesus Christ,” Hyphen lost 16-11. Jesus Christ admittedly contained competent players who had represented U.K. organizations, such as FM eSports and Infused, in the past. And given the nature of the U.K. scene and the fact neither team were full-time squads, little mind was paid to the result.
However CS:GO Lounge employee Courtney “Honey” Timpson looked at the betting patterns around that game and found that one of the ex-IBP players (and Netcodeguides.com co-owner) who was recently banned, Sam “Dazed” Marine, had placed a maximum value bet for the team to lose across three accounts. In addition, Duc “cud” Pham, the person named as a conduit for players to place “untraceable” bets on fixed matches, also placed a maximum value bet on at least seven accounts that were identified. One of the players also placed a small bet on his team to lose through his main account.
With the chances of winning only rated at 26 percent, the return was a value of $2.84 for each $1.00 staked, with a maximum value bet in the region of $681.
Given the people involved and the betting patterns, Timpson believes that the match was thrown. He did note, however, that there is no way to absolutely discern which individuals were aware of the benefits for losing the match. Since CS:GO Lounge could only identify one player who directly profited from the game, the best course of action was to remove the team, in whatever form, from the site.
It was more than just that match that influenced CS:GO Lounge’s decision, however. Just yesterday, Jan. 27, the team played against a squad made up for former Counter-Strike: Source European Nations Championship winners, Henry “HenryG” Greer and George “hudzG” Hoskins, at the ESL U.K. ran CS:GO AOC U.K. Challenge Winter Finals. Though semi-retired, those two players represent two of the most experienced and accomplished players that U.K. Counter-Strike has produced. Hyphen were considered underdogs.
While one of Hyphen’s players, Roger “paynt” Paynter, was streaming the match, a spectator noticed that one of his teammates, Ben “B3n” Wood, linked to a bet on his team winning. He said it was placed by a friend. In addition, Paynter was also drinking during the game, and the players didn’t seem to take the outcome too seriously. Paynter, known as something of a “party-animal” at U.K. events, dismissed the concerns by saying that, since he worked weekends, “Tuesday is my Friday.” In another Reddit comment, he added that his team didn’t believe they could win as most of them had been focusing their time on World of Warcraft.
According to ESL Rules, playing while inebriated is a potentially dismissible offence. But those rules didn’t apply to this competition, according to Patere Mather, ESL U.K.’s community manager. “As this was a community competition, the professional rule sets used in our major tournaments such as ESL One were not in effect,” Mather said.
The bet itself would only have yielded a return of $25, making the idea that it was a throw incredibly unlikely. However, after the matter made the front page of the CS:GO subreddit, were ESL prompted to investigate. And CS:GO Lounge decided that, with the evidence gathered for the previous match, it had to pull the trigger and no longer host the matches. CS:GO Lounge did confirm, however, that the bet was not placed by Wood himself.
ESL U.K. has said it will conduct a full investigation into what it deems a “serious matter,” but it has declined to comment on any findings thus far. Mather did provide the following statement, however:
“We agree that the behaviour shown by certain members of Team Hyphen was unprofessional, and are currently investigating what rules they actually broke before making a final decision later today.
We’ve had an amazing season, showing off some great U.K. talent, and unfortunately the actions of one or two individuals has tainted an otherwise successful competition.”
Meanwhile, Wood, who many still believe placed the bet, wanted to clear his name:
“As ESL/CSGL will confirm neither did I nor any of my teammates bet on last nights game. It is a moronic thing to bet on a game you are involved in, let alone a few days after the recent scandal was revealed. I would also like to say that paynt can rightfully do what he pleases to do, he was not representing an organization nor anything else.”
Though it’s highly unlikely the Jan. 27 match was fixed, players and teams competing in an unprofessional manner are going to raise questions from the community in the current climate. This is especially true when betting is raised in tandem with teams having a seemingly laissez faire attitude towards winning. For CS:GO Lounge, however, the association between Hyphen and the people in the match fixing ring in that earlier match—as well as the betting patterns on past losses—left them with no choice but to remove the team’s games.