The Phantom Shuffle

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It’s been rough couple of months for CS:GO. Lately it feels like every week we have a new gambling site scandal on reddit, but this one may be the worst we’ve seen yet.

Richard Lewis released a video that exposed popular streamer James ‘PhantomL0rd’ Varga as a possible owner of the skin gambling site CSGOShuffle. The video shows multiple screenshots of a Skype conversation between the sites coder ‘Joris’ and PhantomL0rd. Many eyes have seen these logs, and we collectively agree that they appear to be authentic.

Breaking it down:

The log is approximately  1800+ messages long, and is mostly talks of website analytics and how they can improve the site, but many hidden truths behind CSGOShuffle have come to light. The document was acquired by an unknown hacker whose intention was to steal from the site. After accessing Joris’ Skype account, he monitored it for 6 months until Joris changed his password. He later sent the logs to Richard Lewis.

The log goes into vast detail about much of the inner workings of CSGOShuffle. Conversation topics included: daily revenue, advertising strategy, sponsorships, rigging gambling on their site, and peoples roles in the company.

PhantomL0rd, cAre, and Joris are all co-owners of CSGOShuffle

We can deduce that these 3 men are the primary stakeholders in CSGOShuffle from the logs.

Below is a log that talks about them running into problems with Shuffle bots being full and unable to take anymore transactions. cAres job within the company was to make sure skins got from the bots to OPSkins to be sold for company profit. It indirectly references cAre being a 30% stake-holder, and that he wasn’t doing his job.

careownership

Next is a log that shows PhantomL0rd telling Joris that he has sent a payment to him. When you hire a coder to create a site for you, typically it is a predetermined one time fee. Even if you were to keep the coder on hand to maintain and upgrade the site, you certainly wouldn’t be paying him in $20,000 increments. The logs also later reference how they built this company together as they worked out some company struggles.

phantomownership

PhantomL0rd being the piggybank for Shuffle tells us that he is likely a primary owner of this company and controls the incoming revenue. None of these men’s ownership in the company are explicitly stated, but anyone of sound mind and body would accept this as the most probable scenario given the facts.

Maintaining Anonymity

Every measure was taken to deceive the public about PhantomL0rd’s involvement in CSGOShuffle.

PhantomL0rd would ensure his associates cAre and Joris never used his name when dealing with outside companies. He would  routinely spam his skype with random characters to clear the logs in the event he accidentally put his Skype on stream, and even went as far as lying to his closest friends when confronted about his ownership of the site. Even as they dealt with a possible merger/buyout of Shuffle, PhantomL0rd insisted his name not be mentioned because the conversation could be recorded.

Joris was the face of CSGOShuffle as far as anyone was concerned. He made all the deals and dealt with public affairs for the company. As we’ve come to learn, however, is that PhantomL0rd is the steam that powers this engine. Joris keeps the site updated, throws in his two cents every now and then, stands as a figurehead to the public.

partneredbuyout

Rigged Gambling

There are a numerous sections of these logs where Joris gives PhantomL0rd winning percentages for pots on Shuffle. From July 31st 2015 till September 3rd 2015 PhantomL0rd was requesting winning percentages from Joris while live on stream. Unlike the scandals before this, such as mOE and Tmartn/Syndicate, no one had any proof that these site owners were stealing from it’s users. Below are examples of these exchanges from August 2nd 2015.

percent1 percent2
Considering these logs are only from July 2015 till January 2016, it’s unknown to us how many rolls PhantomL0rd has received winning percentages for. The potential cost of items stolen from Shuffle users could range anywhere from the tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands.

Daily Profits, Seismic Proportions

Skin gambling sites profit by taking a piece of every winning transaction off the top of each winning pot. The standard seems to be around 5-10%. Shuffle was on the lower end of the spectrum but with so many transactions going through every hour of everyday it begins to add up. The logs show us that Shuffle was making anywhere from $20,000-$125,000 in profit everyday from this 5% fee.

dailyprofit

I had to pull out the old TI-86 calculator for this one, but that is a potential 7.3 million – 46.6 million over the last year alone.

Disclosure, Deception

As is with all recent scandals, a lack of disclosure now plagues PhantomL0rd. The entire Tmartn/Syndicate ordeal was based solely on lack of disclosure, and informing their followers of their true stake in the gambling sites they we’re playing on and advertised. This differs from PhantomL0rd’s case dramatically. He never disclosed his involvement in the site, as well as gambling against his patrons while knowing winning percentages.

Nowhere in his Twitch profile, YouTube videos, or social media accounts, does he mention he is sponsored by CSGOShuffle let alone a primary stakeholder in the site. As of writing this he still hasn’t made the mad dash, as the others before him, to speedily update his video’s information sections regarding his involvement either.

Sponsorships & the Paperless Trail

Like many other sites, when CSGOShuffle sponsors streamers they’re paid in skins. Some sites give out monthly salaries instead for promotion. Depending on the audience you’d attract and the online presence you had would determine the value of skins they would send each week. Shuffle paid out anywhere from $1000 to $20,000 in skins to it’s sponsorees each week so they could gamble on their site.

Other companies will pay a monthly salary to their star promoters for advertisement as they gamble on their site while streaming. By only paying it’s sponsorees in skins it reduced their paper trail that could lead back to it’s owners. Another measure of anonymity.

Fake subscribers, Botched Numbers

In a Twitlonger sent to Richard Lewis by the user named @BlBLLBLBB it’s suggested that PhantomL0rd may have also been using bots to subscribe to him. At a frequency of around every 20-30 minutes, a new person would subscribe to him despite his stream being offline. This typically may not arouse suspicion, but given the current circumstances, along with the fact that each of these new subscribers have zero followers and aren’t even following PhantomL0rd, it’s raised some red flags.

The logic behind such a successful streamer possibly padding his own numbers may confuse some.  PhantomL0rd has undoubtedly lost many subscribers in these past few days because of the allegations against him. The benefit of using an automated service to keep subscribers flowing in could potentially deter him from being cut as a partnered streamer with Twitch.

Despite the recent drama, Twitch has still not spoken out about this matter, nor did they with regards to mOE, Tmartn, or Syndicate. The only action Twitch has taken in light of these scandals has been to thwart streaming gambling. They did this by enforcing their policy to uphold Valve’s terms of service. This states that using their API to send automated web calls to make gambling transactions goes against their user agreements and use of their API.

DingleDerper Knew

A slightly lesser known face, but a party-to all the same, is PhantomL0rd’s fiance Tory or ‘DingleDerper’. As a frequent streamer and YouTube personality herself, she was aware of and complicit in CSGOShuffles success.

She has frequently used the site, and was provided skins in the same quantities as James to utilize for her stream entertainment and site promotion. In the logs you will find how Jaris set her up her own personal bot to refill with skins as needed, as well as her having access to the back-end of the site. These are pulled from chat on August 5th 2015 and December 1st 2015.

dingleaccess dingleaccess2

Hotted’s (Lack of) Involvement

Due to their close ties and long standing friendship, it was brought into question as to whether or not Alan ‘Hotted’ Widmann was involved in this charade.

Alan sat down with me to talk about the CSGOShuffle scandal and gave me some insight into how it all happened under his nose. He says that he had approached PhantomL0rd numerous times throughout their extended period of living together about his rumored ownership of Shuffle but he “denied it every time”. If not for cAre stepping in and revealing his ownership, as well as PhantomL0rds’, he may have never known.

I took to the logs to corroborate this and it seems to check out. Joris references Hotted “starting to ask for too much” and that he wanted to cut him from being a sponsored streamer. As the conversations progress eventually, PhantomL0rd gets onboard that train as well. It makes no mention of him being given percentages, but it’s only right to assume his innocence in light of no evidence. In January 2016 he was released from CSGOShuffle’s sponsorship program. His Twitlonger statement can be found here: http://www.twitlonger.com/show/n_1soti33

Conclusion

Gambling presses on. Although many sites have preemptively shut down either to avoid legal action from Valve or to hide their own scandal, many are still very much alive and thriving.

Unfortunately for PhantomL0rd this one won’t likely blow over anytime soon. The legal repercussions for not disclosing ownership while promoting a site or product can be harsh. The insistence on keeping his name off the records and his PayPal balance plump brings into question as to whether or not he’s claimed these profits on his yearly taxes as well. Many seek justice for their money lost, and the government never sleeps.

CS:GO has seen better times, and the immediate effect of these few individuals has already started to surface. ESL One Cologne had significantly lower viewership than the last major. CS:GO viewership on Twitch has declined dramatically as well now that you can’t stream gambling anymore. It is true that a significant portion of our community was in it for the thrill of prospective riches, but they left as quickly as they came. Still, our community stands.

Counter-Strike has survived it’s fair share of drama, broken patches–including 24 hours of R8 mayhem. Another gambling scandal won’t sink this ship.


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